Thursday, December 31, 2009

A Joyful New Year

When icicles hang by the wall,
And Tom bears logs into the hall,
When blood is nipt and ways be foul,
Then nightly sings the staring owl,
Tu-whoo! Tu-whit; tu-whoo!
-- Shakespeare

We are starting to develop quite a nice collection of 19th- and 20th-century greeting cards here at the Historical Society. This is one of the most elaborate. It measures five by seven inches, and is a double-sided card made up of two cards pasted back to back surrounded by silk fringe. The scenes are printed in beautiful detail using the color lithograph process; on one side is a Christmas greeting and on the other side is a New Year’s greeting. At the very bottom in letters too small to read without a magnifying glass is the name of the publisher: Wirths Bros. & Owen.

The Wirths brothers, Colvert and Robert, were engravers. In the 1850s they emigrated from Hanover, Germany to the United States. From the 1860s to the turn of the century the brothers designed and produced greeting cards, calendars, and small illustrated books. By the time this card was published in the 1880s, they had offices in New York at 12 Bond Street, and in London. Their cards, however, were printed in Germany. This was common for cards and postcards produced before the first World War, since German printing methods were considered far superior to American.

The Boston printer Louis Prang had introduced English-style Christmas cards to the United States in 1874, and the Wirths brothers began designing their own cards soon after. In the 1880s, Christmas cards were still a novelty, and each December the cards of the season were reviewed in popular magazines like The Literary World and Athenaeum. Wirths brothers’ painted satin cards and cards frosted with glitter were praised as “dainty and attractive” and “much superior to the common run.” Cassell’s Family Magazine admired their sunsets and snowy landscapes. And in 1887, the London magazine Punch confirmed the popularity of Wirths Brothers cards in its supposedly humorous verses on new Christmas products:

Wirths Brothers cards we like, and for this reason
They are in keeping with the Christmas season
Of Christmas Cards, you will ask, well, where on
Their point? Quite so, but here’s your money’s wirths.

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Thursday, December 24, 2009

Volumes of Good Wishes from the Historical Society

In 1982 Algernon Gordon Smith, known to his Hastings friends as Gordon, gave the Historical Society a small scrapbook of greeting cards, two of which you see here. Gordon was a third generation Hastings-ite, and he and his wife were charter members of the society when it was founded back in 1971. He was the first editor of the Hastings Historian and the second president of the Historical Society, and his historical notes are some of the oldest in our files.

Gordon compiled his scrapbook in the first grade – that would have been in 1911. One of the cards in the book actually has a copyright date of 1909, so Gordon had probably been collecting these cards for a few years. He gave his little scrapbook as a present to “Mrs. Smith,” presumably his mother. And today we share it with you – with volumes of good wishes this holiday season!

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Thursday, December 17, 2009

Speed Demons of Hastings

Gus Wagner's goat cart with Ed Rohrbach at the reins, ca. 1910

By now you will have received your new Hastings Historian with the lead article by Bob Russell on the 1950s Hastings car club called the Driftin’ Shifters. The young mechanics in that club rebuilt and souped up old cars to race on the Dover Drag Strip in Wingdale, New York.

The racing spirit has a long history among Hastings residents of all ages. But while automobiles absorbed the attention of adults, kids had to take what they could get. At the turn of the century, the transportation of choice among the young racing set in Hastings was the goat cart.

In 1974 Albert Shaw Jr. described the sport of goat-cart racing in a letter to the Historical Society’s Gordon Smith. Albert Jr. was born in 1898 and his family lived on North Broadway, the stage for many hotly contested races between goat-cart owners John “Jack” Zinsser and Stanley Halle. Jack was the son of Col. Frederick G. Zinsser, owner of Zinsser Chemical Company, whose house once stood in Zinsser Park. Stanley was the nephew of the Sidenbergs, who lived on North Broadway near the Dobbs Ferry border. In their races, Albert Jr. observed a pattern – Jack always won when they were coming south and Stanley always won when they were going north. The goats, it seemed, were always willing to put on a little extra steam when heading in the direction of their own barn and feed bag.

Alfred Jr. was clearly a sporting young gentleman, following in the footsteps of his neighbors. According to an article in our files, Alfred Jr. won the local soapbox derby in 1908. This race was run on the grounds of Mackenzie School in Dobbs Ferry (now the site of Cabrini Nursing Home). Albert Jr. called his car “Isotta-Fraschini” after the make of the car that had won the popular Briarcliff Cup stock car race in Westchester that year. Our hero might not have been able to enter the race at all—he had broken both his spare wheels (they were express-wagon wheels made of wood)—but the chauffeur of another contestant lent him an extra wheel. The course ran steeply downhill along the border of Dobbs Ferry and Hastings and included at the end a hairpin turn onto Broadway that a later newspaper article described as “something of a killer-diller.” But Albert Jr. and his mechanic, a youngster from Ardsley named K.B. Conger, were clocked as the fastest and took home the prize against a field that included the fiercest competition from all the local villages.

Jack Zinsser in his pre-racing days, standing by the head of a goat cart ca. 1900; photograph lent for copying by Jack's son John A. Zinsser

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Thursday, December 10, 2009

Hastings’ Model Orphanage

Children from the New York Orphan Asylum in Hastings-on-Hudson with their donkey cart pulled by "Jack", the school donkey. (All the pictures in this post are from Dr. Reeder's 1909 book on the orphanage.)

One hundred years ago, in the very southwest corner of Hastings, there was a model orphanage. In 1910, the Review of Reviews described it as “one of the best examples of the cottage system for the care of orphans to be found anywhere in the world.”

The “cottage system” was invented by reformers at the end of the 19th century to counteract the evils of what they called “institutionalism.” In the early 19th century, philanthropists thought they could rescue children from the unsanitary and dangerous conditions of cities like New York by removing them from their homes and placing them in charitable institutions. But many of these were overcrowded and far from the sanitary and orderly places that the philanthropists had envisioned. They were institutions where, as Hastings R. Hart wrote in his book Preventive Treatment of Neglected Children, “children are kept in uniform, with shaved heads; where they do not have individual clothing, but have clothing distributed to them promiscuously from week to week; where lice and bedbugs prevail; where food is meager and of inferior quality; … where sleeping rooms are insanitary; where thin straw beds let the tender bodies down upon hard wooden slats; where cuffs and abuse are more freely distributed than kind words.”

The “cottage system” tried to create an environment that was more like a real home. Different ages of children lived together in fairly small groups with “cottage parents.” The ideal cottage system was also outside the city, where the air and water were clean, and where children could spend part of their day out of doors. This was what the New York Orphan Asylum had in mind when they bought their property in Hastings in 1869.

"Where We Live and Learn." The New York Orphan Asylum in 1909. On the left are the "cottages" and on the right are the administrative buildings.

But it was not until 1899 that the orphanage board decided to begin the move to Hastings, a move that was completed when the buildings were finished, in 1902. To help them carry out their plans, they hired a new superintendent, Dr. Rudolph Rex Reeder. Dr. Reeder is described in the 1913 Who’s Who in America as a “social worker,” a new profession that had developed in the 1890s. Reeder had started his career as a school principal in Illinois and completed his doctorate in education at Columbia Teacher’s College in 1900, the year he was hired by the New York Orphan Asylum.

Reeder was an enthusiastic champion of the cottage system. He wrote books and articles on the subject and spoke at conferences. He described with horror orphanages he had seen where children’s individuality and creativity were stifled. “The life of the child in most of these institutions is so dreary, soul shriveling, and void of happy interests, the daily routine of marching and eating and singing and of lining up for whatever is to be done so stupefying, as to inhibit the child’s normal development.”

Girls from the orphanage caring for a family of chickens.

In Hastings, Reeder tried to create the complete opposite of this kind of institution, and to Hart, who visited the orphanage and wrote about it in 1910, Dr. Reeder had succeeded.

“The ideal of an orphan asylum has been very nearly attained in the New York Orphanage at Hastings-on-Hudson, under the direction of Dr. R.R. Reeder. ... The institution is established on the cottage plan, with cheerful sitting rooms, well-ventilated dormitories, small dining rooms and a separate kitchen for each cottage, partly in order that the older children may assist in the care of the younger ones and partly in order to create a homelike atmosphere.

A class in a greenhouse.

Around the different cottages will be found flowerbeds, chicken coops and pets. Nearby will be found vegetable gardens, beehives, rabbit hutches, stables, etc. …

The school rooms are spacious, affording twice as much room per child as is found in the ordinary public school. This plan permits proper ventilation, exercise in the school room and comfortable seating. The schools are only an incident in the training of the child. The whole life of the child is made to articulate with his education; farming, gardening, grading, building, domestic work, play, environment of every sort, are skillfully wrought into educational material.

At the foot of the bluffs flows the Hudson River, where a bathing place is enclosed, allowing boys and girls alike to learn and practice the joyful art of swimming. ... The evils of 'institutionalism' are practically absent from this beautiful institution, and already its influence is being felt upon the orphan asylums and children's homes of the United States.”

Boys swimming in the Hudson.

Reeder wrote his own book about the Hastings orphanage in 1909, and you can read it online at Google Books, or by clicking here. Reeder was so well thought of that in 1921 he was hired to head the Oversees Child Welfare Association of America in Serbia. In 1929, following a long tradition of orphanages trading the name “asylum” for “school”, the New York Orphan Asylum changed its name to the Graham School in honor of its original founder, Isabella Graham. During the 1950s, the Manhattan branch was reorganized and renamed the Windham Society. In 1977, the Graham School and the Windham Society were consolidated into the current Graham-Windham.

Christmas in one of the cottages in 1909.

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Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Open House This Saturday, Dec. 5th

Now that Thanksgiving is over and the last slice of pumpkin pie has been eaten, we can turn our attention to the next set of holidays! We don’t often open the cottage on a Saturday, but in honor of the season we are going to have an open house this coming weekend.

Come by and visit us at 407 Broadway between 10AM and 2PM on Saturday, December 5th. It will be your last chance to catch our 2009 exhibitions, including the displays on the Hudson-Fulton Celebration of 1909 and on John William and Henry Draper’s contribution to celestial photography. You can also help to support the good work of the Historical Society by stocking up on our t-shirts, postcards, prints, throws, and maps, buying yourself a copy of the Arcadia Press book on Hastings, or renewing your membership. They all make wonderful gifts. If you can’t make it to the cottage, take a look at our “Emporium” on the web site. It includes pictures of all our offerings and a mail-in order form. Give us a call if you have any questions.

We also have some lovely note cards with Hastings scenes that make perfect Season's Greetings cards. Our best seller since 1982 is this lovely little watercolor painting by Jasper F. Cropsey showing a sleigh flying down Ravensdale Road.

In Cropsey’s day, Hastings was much less built up than it is today, and his many paintings of our town show an area where the presence of human beings had not yet disfigured the natural landscape. And it was the natural landscape that inspired Cropsey, as you can tell from this letter that Cropsey wrote to John Wickliffe Kitchell in November of 1897.

“Some years ago, one winters day, I felt like having a little recreation—and a tramp in the snow—which lay freshly fallen, and very tempting in the sun-light. It did not seem cold—the air was so soft, and glorious; although a biting frost prevailed and with buttoned up overcoat I wended my way nearly knee-deep, out, and along the Farragut Avenue, here, near my place at Hastings-on-Hudson till I came to a turning called Ravensdale Road. This struck my fancy as being delightful, picturesque, and artistic. I immediately turned in, on this lovely road. By this time the sun had warmed the sky, and an afternoon glow had begun to prevail. A little further tramping and I entered a bit of wood, in which the snow lay pure and soft, and untrodden; tinted with gleaming sun light that flitted in, and out through the stately tree-trunks warming the branches with roseatic light, while it deepened every little hollow in the more obscure parts of the woods, with a cool shadow. Thus, I tramped along, admiring the beauty of the soft blue in the sky overhead—the warmth and glow in the fresh snow besplattered tree trunks: when turning to take a moments breath, I had before me, ... just as the sleigh came dashing along, the subject of your picture, cool and tender, as no language can describe.

It is needless to say, I went no further but then and there made notes which I embodied in the picture which was produced on my return home of which I think you are to be congratulated as the happy possessor.”

Cropsey is referring to the fact that Kitchell had recently purchased one of his paintings entitled “The Ravensdale Road in Winter.” Kitchell’s painting and the painting on our note card are two of Cropsey’s variations on the same theme. Not all are dated, but they must have been produced after 1885, when Cropsey first moved to Hastings.

Another of our Cropsey note cards, "Winter on the Hudson," painted in 1887. The original painting is in collection of the Newington-Cropsey Foundation

John Wickliffe Kitchell was a mid-westerner who had made his little fortune in developing coal mines and farming land in Illinois. In the 1890s he retired and began to enlarge his art collection. His favorite artist was Jasper F. Cropsey. Between 1897 and 1900, Kitchell purchased twenty of Cropsey’s paintings through the St. Louis dealer Alfred Newhouse for a sum in excess of $5,000. This must have seemed like a fortune to an artist who spent the last years of his life in poverty.

Kitchell liked to have a “pedigree” for his paintings, and Newhouse encouraged Cropsey to send Kitchell notes about the paintings he bought, giving him some description of the subject—whether it was Greenwood Lake, Niagra Falls, or Storm King. It was perhaps from these letters about Kitchell’s purchases that a friendly correspondence developed between Kitchell and Cropsey. Kitchell urged the artist more than once to visit him at his home in Pana, Illinois. But Cropsey, worried perhaps about the cost of the trip, always excused himself, explaining that he simply had too much work.

Kitchell’s painting, along with his correspondence with Cropsey, is now in the collection of the MacMurray College in Jacksonville, Illinois. The painting on our note card is in the collection of long-time Historical Society friend and supporter Barbara Newington. And there are several other versions of the Ravensdale Road theme in other collections, in watercolor and oil. One of these, a watercolor entitled “Winter—Ravensdale Road,” sold at auction at Christie’s in 1995 for $45,600.

And yet another! "The Ravine at Hastings," a watercolor painted by Cropsey in 1895 and showing a view down the Ravine only a few years before the Warburton Avenue Bridge was built, with the pond in the center, a few of the houses near the railroad tracks, and, in the distance, steamships and sailing boats on the Hudson. The original painting is in the collection of the Newington-Cropsey Foundation.

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Thursday, November 26, 2009

Thanksgiving – Hastings Style

Cover of Hastings House Restaurant's Thanksgiving menu, ca. 1974

With money as tight as it is these days, wouldn’t it be nice to be able to step into a time machine that would take you back to an era when you could have a full Thanksgiving dinner in a restaurant for $6.25? Well, that’s what you would have gotten at the Hastings House Restaurant in the mid 1970s. Not so long ago, was it?

Hastings House, a true Hastings institution, spent many prosperous years patronized by employees of the waterfront industries who would come in for a quick drink after work. When Anaconda Wire & Cable Company was still in operation, the bar opened at 8AM to accommodate the workers coming off the third shift. Anaconda left in the mid 1970s, but though at least one Hastings resident likened the patrons at the bar to waxworks, Hastings House remained a local favorite until it closed in September of 2006.

The building on the corner of Spring Street and Warburton Avenue has a long and interesting history. It was commissioned in 1915 by two brothers, Samuel and Morris Kaufman. Thanks to Morris’s son, we know something of their early history. As young men, Samuel and Morris had travelled up from Yonkers to work at their uncle’s saloon on Spring Street. (This building became Dunn’s Bar in the 1920s.) The boys’ parents spoke Hungarian, Yiddish, and Polish, and they got along well with the Eastern European workers at Zinsser Chemical and the National Wire & Cable Company. The brothers eventually bought out their uncle, and then decided to build themselves a larger building, which they referred to as a hotel.

Postcard printed ca. 1920, showing the Farragut Inn on the left

The building was designed by Hastings architect Foster L. Hastings (who also designed the Hastings movie theater building that now houses the Moviehouse Mews), and the construction was supervised by William Schmidt, a builder who lived on Farragut Avenue. The “Kaufman Bros. Farragut Inn,” named after Admiral Farragut, one of the most famous of Hastings’ residents, opened for business in 1916 or 1917.

As with many local “hotels,” the Farragut Inn also served food and drink. One source in our files includes it in a list of the most popular speakeasys in Westchester during prohibition, and Morris Kaufman himself was jailed after a raid where a large amount of liquor was discovered on his premises. Morris’ son remembers meeting many famous actors and politicians at the Farragut Inn, as well as Babe Ruth, who was a regular customer. When the Babe visited, the news passed quickly around the neighborhood. By the time he had finished his steak, young fans would be lined up around the block, waiting to get a glimpse and an autograph of the famous man. The Farragut Inn's banquet room on the second floor was a popular place for all sorts of celebrations – testimonial dinners for local VIPs, like Fire Chief Melville Haines and Col. Frederick G. Zinsser, and banquets for the fire department and the Southside Social & Athletic Club.

The banquet room, from a photocopy in our files of a ca. 1920 postcard. Does anyone have one of these postcards that we could borrow to make a better copy?

Fashionable as the “speaks” may have been, prohibition was hard on places like the Farragut Inn and, to make matters worse, Sam Kaufman died in 1932. Around 1935, the business passed into the hands of Joe Falcaro, who changed the name to Falcaro’s Restaurant. Joe described himself in a 1937 advertisement as an “undefeated match game bowler,” and it may have been Joe who installed the “new up-to-date bowling alleys” in the basement.

Farragut Inn returned under new management in the early 1940s and did not close until 1960. (Can anyone help us fill in the ownership during this period? Historical Society Sleuth Bob Russell thinks it might have belonged to the Leith family for a time in the late 1950s.) Bernie Hoffman reopened the business two years later as the Hastings House Restaurant. Hastings House continued the tradition of hosting large groups, including class reunions and wedding receptions, and also served special Easter and Thanksgiving dinners, like this one. If you aren’t hungry yet, just read through the menu.

Happy Thanksgiving from the Hastings Historical Society!

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Thursday, November 19, 2009

Mystery Photo: Anaconda's Weatherproofing Department

One of the departments at Anaconda Wire & Cable Company that employed women was the weatherproofing department. There, the women operated the machines that covered copper cable with cotton braid impregnated with a weather-proofing substance.

In these photographs, however, the ladies are having some kind of party -- complete with spaghetti and meatballs! From looking at the background of the photographs and matching them with other photographs in our collection, we know they are still at work, in the Anaconda caffeteria. And we know the names of two of diners: Sophie Karschmidt Hoss is in the plaid shirt and cap and Louise Capuano is wearing the checked shirt and vest. Who are the others? What is the celebration? We'd love to know!

Click on the photographs to look at them in Flickr (use the All Sizes link to enlarge the photograph). If you have any ideas, pass them along to us! If you don’t know, but are curious about the answers, come back to the blog and check this post. We’ll attach comments with any information we receive.

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Thursday, November 12, 2009

In Honor of Veteran’s Day

Parade on Main Street during or just after World War I, possibly on Armistice Day, November 11th, 1918

Parades matter. And Joseph Semberger reminds veterans why in the “Commander’s Message” from a booklet produced in 1969 for the 50th anniversary of the James Daley Post No. 200 of the V.F.W.:

“Each of us has an important role in this celebration. As you march up Warburton Avenue with your visiting delegations and military units, remember one important fact – your presence will help to rekindle that spark of patriotism which has been slowly vanishing in our modern society. We hope it will leave a lasting impression in the minds of the spectators, young and old, who will line the route of the parade. If by our actions we can generate the feeling of pride in being Americans, then our efforts will not have been in vain.

Certainly you must remember when you, as a child, stood in the sidelines and watched similar parades, that vibrant feeling of pride running up and down your spine as each band went by. How proudly you stood at attention to salute the Flag borne by the color guards of each contingent… Remember?”

World War II veterans in the Memorial Day parade on Warburton Avenue in 1949

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Thursday, November 5, 2009

Between the Chrystie Estate and the A&P: Bob Russell’s Brook

Editor’s Note: Bob Russell, a regular contributor to this blog and to the Hastings Historian, left a fascinating comment on Judy Chamberlain’s post last week about the history of the local A&P. I asked him to tell me more about what he remembered of the former Chrystie property, and he reminded me that he had sent a letter on just that subject to the Historical Society in 1999, which was printed in the Hastings Historian. We present an edited version of his letter here, illustrated with color slides from our collection taken of the Chrystie Estate in the 1940s.

Looking north from Five Corners up Broadway, toward the old Chrystie house on the site now occupied by the Hastings Terraces at 555 and 556 Broadway.

During the late 1950s and very early 1960s, just before the A&P excavations began, my friends and I would regularly play soldiers, or just plain explore the area, on the northwest corner of Main Street and Broadway known to us as “The Brook.” This land was originally part of the Chrystie Estate. The house I grew up in was on Whitman Street. So as the crow flies, I could, with a good head of steam, be at “The Brook” within five minutes by crossing through St. Matthew’s School playground.

I spent a lot of time there as a kid and knew the area pretty well. At the base of the slope, down from the top of the hill, just after the land leveled out, there was a circular pool. It appeared to me to be some kind of fountain or man-made pond, perhaps for growing watercress. It was somewhat overgrown but not stagnant, and I suspected it to be spring-fed and self-effluating, eventually meandering its way to the brook. Although it was fenced in, there was an opening just wide enough to squeeze through. But once inside, you had little room along the edge to stand on and had to be careful not to fall in.

The gardens of the Chrystie Estate, looking west toward Whitman Street.

Not far from the circular pond, there was a curious and relatively deep hole. It was roughly four feet square and six to eight feet deep. It was lined with stones so it was constructed as a square dry well. At the bottom were some rotted boards covered with weeds and brush. Perhaps this had been an old cover that had rotted over time and ultimately caved in. Nevertheless, I always stayed away from this pit as it was scary looking.

Then one day a friend came to us and said he and another lad had been down there and that it was O.K. to explore. One kid couldn’t go down without someone to help him get in and out. With the help of my friend Eric Likhonine, I got down to the bottom and began to snoop around.

The gardens, looking north from Main Street.

Underneath the boards and brush I saw iron balls, perhaps a half dozen or so, stuck in the dirt at the bottom. With a stick I pried one loose. I scraped it off, and it looked like an iron softball. For an 11 or 12 year-old, it was somewhat heavy and must have weighed between 10 and 20 pounds.

At that moment I just wanted to get out with my find. I passed it up to my friend, who then helped me get back out. We started off for my house, taking turns carrying the ball as we walked. My mother became upset when she saw it and asked where we had gotten it. She he told us to take it back. Eric laughed because he knew we’d have to haul it back—that all our hard work had been in vain. Eric, whose parents owned the Denise Gift Shop across from the Hastings Theater, now lives in Ashville, North Carolina, and remembers the incident very well.

So what happened to the cannonball? We went back to the brook and dropped it back into the dry well. We often talked about going back in again, just to get one or two to hide somewhere, but we never did.

Bob Russell’s next Hastings Historian article will be on the Cup ‘N’ Saucer restaurant that once occupied the spot that is now Comfort Lounge. “We’re sure that many of you have fond memories of the Cup ‘N’ Saucer that was previously Lang’s,” says Bob. “Does anyone have photos of the Langs, or of the Carusos, or any shots taken in or outside the store? Kindly e-mail them to us at hhsblog[at]hastingshistorical[dot]org.”
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Thursday, October 29, 2009

Happy Anniversary A&P!

By Judy Chamberlain

During a recent trip to the A & P, I purchased some house blend coffee that came in a commemorative tin. The can’s copy heralds the dates 1859-2009 because the self-service chain is celebrating 150 years of service. The photo imprinted on the can reminded me of the small and simple A & P we once frequented, and the date triggered my memory back to 1960, when the new A & P supermarket finally opened its doors.

According to its website, nearly 150 years ago The Great American Tea Company opened a store on Vesey Street in New York City and began selling tea, coffee and spices at value prices. Soon stores sprang up all around the metropolitan area and salesmen took their wares on the road in horse-drawn carriages bound for New England, the mid-west and the south. In 1869 the Company was renamed The Great Atlantic & Pacific Tea Company, in honor of the first transcontinental railroad and hopes of expanding across the continent.

The original Great Atlantic & Pacific Tea Company in Hastings began selling groceries in the 1920s, and it was located on the west side of Warburton Avenue. Although I don’t remember much about the interior at this location, I do remember the strong aroma of coffee that wafted from a large coffee grinder that was located near the cash register. And I also remember the pincers, a long handled device that the clerks used to manipulate and grab items off the top shelves, Although the A & P was generally self-service, both the grinder and the pincers required an assistant’s help; watching these tools in operation made going to the grocery store a more interesting experience.

Two photographs of Warburton Avenue from 1936 spliced together show the Great Atlantic and Pacific Tea Company's first home on the west side of Warburton Avenue, in the spot occupied today by Hastings Coin Laundry.

Many years of discussion and review went into building a modern supermarket in Hastings. It started in 1955 with a proposal by A & P to build on the site of the former Chrystie estate flower and vegetable gardens at the corner of Main Street and Broadway. It was a hot topic for debate, and differences in opinion escalated into a great supermarket battle that divided residents. Was the convenience of having groceries, meats, produce, baked goods, health and beauty aides, and other household items under one roof, worth the traffic and congestion that would result? Other sites were considered, but the supermarket was finally built on the originally proposed lot.

The supermarket opened to great fanfare on October 25th of 1960. Now why would I, still in middle school, remember the opening? Orchids. My girlfriends and I walked down after school on the opening day because word got around that they were giving away Hawaiian orchids to all the women customers. We were curious. Would they give a group of preteen girls exotic flowers from our newest state? They did--a small, lavender blue beauty for each. While inside, of course we explored, bought snacks, checked out the record department, sampled bakery treats, and browsed through the shelves of items at reachable heights. This new A & P was pretty fine.

The "new" A&P grocery store on the corner of Main Street and Broadway. When this photograph was taken, in the 1980s, A&P faced Main Street.

Author's Note: If you would like to learn more about “The Saga of the Supermarket,” stop by the cottage and read Mary Allison’s wonderful article in the Fall 1995 issue of the Hastings Historian.
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Thursday, October 22, 2009

Hastings Powers the Atomic Age

On September 21st we posted an article about Robert Fulton’s submarine called the Nautilus, which he built in Paris in the year 1800. Here is an article about one her descendents, the USS Nautilus, the world’s first operational nuclear-powered submarine, commissioned in 1954. Like Fulton’s ship, the new Nautilus was very much an experimental vessel, used to test new equipment and set new records in underwater speed and endurance. In 1958, she became the first ship to reach the geographic North Pole, travelling under the Arctic ice cap. The Nautilus was decommissioned in 1980 and, in 1982, designated a National Historic Monument. You can visit her today at the U.S. Navy Submarine Force Museum and Library in Groton, Connecticut.

The Nautilus’ reactor was made by Westinghouse, but the special cable that powered that reactor was developed by Hastings’ own Anaconda Wire & Cable Company. The following is an edited version of an article describing the cable that appeared in Anaconda Wire & Cable Company’s employee newsletter, the Anaconda Leader in the August-September 1957 issue. The Historical Society has a complete collection of the Anaconda Leader from 1950-58.

Atom Sub’s Reactors Wired with Anaconda “Top Hat”

A new era in transportation has been opened with the successful construction and operation of atom-powered submarines by the United States Navy. The USS Nautilus, first of this new breed, recently completed two years of record breaking operations during which time she traveled over 60,000 miles, more than half of which while fully submerged. On completion of these first two years of operations she returned to her home port at Groton, Connecticut to have a new uranium reactor core installed and a general overhaul to correct any “bugs” that had turned up.

At that time the standard Navy cable wiring in the Nautilus’ reactor was removed and replaced with newly developed Anaconda “Top Hat” cables. …

Anaconda is producing “Top Hat” cables in three basic types:

PS: Power Supply cable, which is used to drive control rod positioning motors and to power heaters on the reactor.

PI: Position Indicator cable, which is used to transmit electrical signals from the reactor to the control room indicating position of control rods in the reactor.

TC: Temperature Control cable, whose main use is to transmit electrical signals from the reactor to the control room indicating the temperatures in various parts of the reactor. …

The story of “Top Hat” cable is an interesting one in that it once again shows that Anaconda is the organization that gets the job done.

Tests by the Navy proved that the standard cable constructions employed in the submarine’s nuclear reactors would be unable to withstand the extreme heat of emergency operating conditions. A cable capable of withstanding temperatures of up to 500 degrees Fahrenheit was necessary as a precaution against possible breakdown of the reactor cooling system. Ordinary copper constructions then in use could not withstand these possible temperatures since the temperatures were high enough even to oxidize the copper conductors.

The Navy came to Anaconda with a set of performance requirements for “Top Hat” cable … and asked if we could make it.

Anaconda accepted the challenge to produce this new cable and went to work. Within three months of the initial query Anaconda had a workable sample of the cable in the Navy’s hands; and the first run of cable made and shipped from Hastings is now functioning in the reactor of the Nautilus.

Difficulties encountered in making this new cable included the newness of working with a silicone rubber sheath on armored type Navy cables. The specifications required that the cable be watertight longitudinally, and watertight shielded pair construction had never before been made. Specifications further required that no organic materials be used in order to make a more stable high-temperature cable. The originally specified overall diameter was also decreased to offer greater ease in using the cable in the confined space for which it was designed.

Anaconda worked closely with outside suppliers to develop a nickel plated copper wire which would be capable of withstanding the extreme heat. Nickel clad wire had been used before, but for this application it was necessary to develop a nickel plating that provided adequate protection to the copper without porosity. …

The Navy has standardized on the type of cable developed by Anaconda, and other manufacturers will be asked to bid on future requirements but, to date, Anaconda is the only organization that has delivered this type of cable to the Navy for use in their atom-powered vessels.

A new era has been opened up and, as always, Anaconda is in the forefront in supplying the products necessary for the advancement of this era.

Brochure from Anaconda Wire & Cable Company showing the Hastings Mill in about 1960. This brochure was digitized for us by the Westchester County Historical Society.

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Monday, October 19, 2009

Meet the Author: Helen Barolini visits the Historical Society on October 25th

The Palisades in winter, 1947, from the Historical Society collection

Ice on the Hudson,
frigid winds toss up white gulls,
sun sweeps the sky.

from Hudson River Haiku by Helen Barolini

As our final Hudson River Quadricentennial event, The Hastings Historical Society will open up Draper Observatory Cottage this coming Sunday afternoon, October 25th, between 2 & 4 PM. Refreshments will be served.

Come and see our exhibition on the Hudson-Fulton Celebration of 1909 and help us celebrate local author Helen Barolini’s newest publication, Hudson River Haiku. This collection of haiku poems about the Hudson River is the latest in a series of chapbooks from Slapering Hol Press in Sleepy Hollow. The press, housed in the old railroad station at Philipse Manor, is dedicated to supporting and publishing poetry.

Historical Society trustee Helen Barolini (center) working with historian Roger Panetta and Historical Society archivist Mary Allison on the waterfront oral history project in 1988.

Draper Observatory Cottage is located in Draper Park. Our address is 407 Broadway, Hastings-on-Hudson, NY 10706.

From the Editor: Due to time constraints, this will be our last Monday blog post. Watch for more mystery photos and articles about our collection in our Thursday posts!

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Thursday, October 15, 2009

Mystery Photo: First Grade at Hillside, 1965

Here is one of our most recent acquisitions, a fabulous photograph loaned to us for copying by Katy Artel Pietrogallo. It shows the bright and shining faces of Margie Kunze's first grade class at Hillside School in 1965 (described on the letter board as "Year 1"). The girls in the middle row show off their favorite books, including Green Eggs and Ham and Gertie the Duck. Katy's brother, Alexis, is in the back row, fourth from the right. Do you recognize any of the other kids? Click on the photograph to look at it in Flickr (use the All Sizes link to enlarge the photograph). If you have any ideas, let us know!

If you don’t know, but are curious about the answers, come back to the blog and check this post. We’ll attach comments with any information we receive.
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Monday, October 12, 2009

The Historical Society Blog Takes a Holiday

Our advice to you: Go to the movies!

A recent donation from former resident Roy Weldon -- a 1942 Hastings Theater flyer.

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Thursday, October 8, 2009

The New "Hastings Historian" Mails Today!

"Babe" Ruth and Hastings mayor Thomas F. Reynolds

Your next issue of the Hastings Historian contains many fascinating articles -- articles about how Hastings got its name and about Hastings’ first ambulance, plus a wonderful reminiscence on gym class in the early 1960s. It also contains a plea from Frank Domchek for a photograph of Babe Ruth. And not just any photograph! As you can see, we have three of them. But Frank is looking for a very specific image.

It was in 1927 that George Herman “Babe” Ruth came to Hastings. The local Rotary Club had invited him to speak on the opening day of the Boys’ Summer Twilight League, which they sponsored.

“Babe Ruth is coming here!” exclaimed the Hastings News the week before his arrival. “Yes, he, George Herman Ruth, the Home Run King, the Sultan of Swat, the Prince of Ball Players, is coming in the flesh, in his own proper person. He will appear right out in the open in broad daylight, where every boy will be able to get a good close-up of him, free of charge.”

On the 16th of June, Babe Ruth drove himself up to Hastings in his eight-cylinder sedan and met Hastings’ mayor, Thomas F. Reynolds, at the acclaimed Longue Vue restaurant (now the site of the Andrus Memorial Home). After dinner, Hastings’ motorcycle policemen escorted the two back to Reynolds Field. “Every small boy who was not already at Reynolds field,” the paper reported, “could be seen scurrying as fast as immature legs could carry him to the scene of the appearance of the idol of the American youth.”

The Boys’ Band of the Children’s Village played the National Anthem. Then, as the paper put it, “there were the usual pictures.”(And how glad we are now that they were so usual!) Coach LeRoy Cochran took the stand and explained the important purpose of the gathering. Superintendent of Schools John L. Hopkins presented the mayor. And Reynolds presented Mr. Ruth, who, he announced, had just that day hit his twenty-second home run at Yankee Stadium.

“I suppose everyone wants to know how I hit them out,” the Babe began, after the cheers had died down. “About twenty kids have asked me that. Well, I’m going to ask ‘Lindy’ how he flew across the ocean. … Some home runs are luck and on some you out-smart the other fellow. That’s what I want you boys to do, try and out-smart the other fellow, and play the game for all it’s worth. I’m coming up some night to see how you get along.”

Among the “sea of young faces, every one of which bore the rapt expression of absolute idolatry,” was young Frank Domchek. He remembers distinctly a photograph taken of himself, “the Babe,” and a few other boys sitting in the back of a pickup truck. Frank would love to track down this photograph. If anyone can help the Historical Society out with this request, please let us know!

The Babe poses at Reynolds Field with local Hastings boys, officers of the Rotary Club, school officials, and village officers. The photograph shows, left to right, front row: William Steinschneider, Henry Cochrane, Charles Andres, Jim Leddy, Mayor Tom Reynolds, Harold Ulmer with son Harold, Jr. in front, Fred Charles, Harry Murray, Superintendent of Schools John L. Hopkins, and Coach E. Leroy Cochran; second row (behind man with boy): Laken Owens (behind the Ulmers), Norm DiChiara (boy), and Foster L. Hastings; top row: H.H. Murphy (bow tie), two unidentified, Jimmy Croke, William J. Russell Sr. (taller husky boy), unidentified, Kirby Brown, Babe Ruth, unidentified, Warren Reynolds, three unidentified, Dom Raimondo (from Irvington in open-necked shirt), unidentified. If you recognize any of the unidentified boys or men, let us know!

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Monday, October 5, 2009

Cutting Edge Technology in Hastings: The Phonograph

If you are a frequent visitor to this blog, you probably have some sense of how many unidentified photographs we have in our collection. In order to identify a photograph, we have to find the right person with the right knowledge, but sometimes that knowledge is not of names and faces.

The photograph you see above belonged to the late Margaret Woodrow of Hillside Avenue. It has no name, no date, no marks of any kind on it. Our resident costume expert, Kenneth Loyal Smith, was attracted by the young lady’s gorgeous sleeves. That kind of sleeve, he says, became popular in 1897, and the tight collar narrows the date of the dress down to right around 1899 or 1900. Kenneth also recognized the machine at her elbow as an early phonograph, the kind that played wax cylinders.

Some online research turned up the following advertisement for a machine with a similar silhouette. It was produced by the National Phonograph Company, a company founded by Thomas Edison.

The ad belongs to Neil Lerner, a collector of early Edison phonographs who lives in North Carolina. Neil was kind enough to look at our picture, and in his opinion the phonograph in is one of Edison’s “Home” units. You can identify the model, he says, by the clips on the side of the case. These clips were used to attach the lid of this “portable” (25 lbs.) machine. Behind the woman’s elbow is a hole in the case into which a crank would have been inserted to wind up the phonograph. Only a dozen seconds of cranking, and then you could sit back and listen to an entire 2-minute cylinder -- a song, a speech, or a story.

In the 1850s, several inventors had toyed with ideas for a sound recording machine, but it was Thomas Edison who developed the first machine that could reliably record and play back sound. He demonstrated his new invention in 1877 and patented it in 1878. At the time, the phonograph was seen as an almost magical device, and was the first of Edison’s inventions to bring him international fame. Edison went on to work on other projects and came back to take up the commercial manufacture of phonographs in the late 1880s. His earliest machines were leased for business use, but in 1896 he started the National Phonograph Company specifically to manufacture phonographs to be sold to home owners.

Edison’s first domestic machine was the phonograph in Neil’s ad, the “Home” model A. It was originally priced at $40, but competition with The Columbia Phonograph Company’s “Gramophones” reduced the price of Edison’s unit to $30. As the advertisement claims, the phonograph could both play and record. Undoubtedly a bargain. In 1901 this model was restyled and the clips removed, and this allows us to date the machine that appears in our photograph to between 1896 and 1901. If the picture was taken, as the dress suggests, around 1900, the phonograph would certainly have been a new and exciting addition to the household.

The woman in the photograph remains a mystery, but we can make a guess. Margaret Woodrow was born in 1904, and this young lady looks about the right age to have been Margaret’s mother. It does seem unlikely that Margaret would have had in her possession a picture of a woman of the previous generation, taken before she herself was born, unless that woman was a relative. Margaret’s mother was Frances McConnell, daughter of Benjamin McConnell who built a house for his family at 65 Washington Avenue in about 1860. We may be looking at the interior of that very house, and the woman may be Frances or Frances’ sister, whose name was also Margaret.

This is a photograph of Margaret Woodrow taken in 1923, the year after she graduated from Hastings High School. Is there a resemblance?

Of course, we can’t say for sure. The photograph at the top of the blog may show an older friend or mentor of Margaret’s who didn’t even live in Hastings. But, even if that is the case, photographs of domestic machines and household appliances are rare, and it is exciting to discover in our collection an image of one of the earliest phonographs.
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Thursday, October 1, 2009

Mystery Photo: Riverview Manor Hose Company, ca. 1945

Here is a great photograph of the Riverview Manor Hose Company No. 3 filling up at the Gulf station on Main Street. We have a 1947 photograph showing the Gulf station in just this location on Main Street, in the spot that is now the Boulanger Plaza parking lot, before the station moved to a new location further up Main Street. Behind the truck you can see signs for Riolo’s Meat Market on the left and the Green Tavern on the right, where Slices is today. We don’t know the names of any of the men in the truck. The photograph came to us through the Shreve family, so someone from that family may be in the picture. Does anyone look familiar? Click on the photograph to look at it in Flickr (use the All Sizes link to enlarge the photograph), or look at the details of the men’s faces at the bottom of this post. If you have any ideas, let us know!

If you don’t know, but are curious about the answers, come back to the blog and check this post. We’ll attach comments with any information we receive.

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Monday, September 28, 2009

Houdon in Hastings: The Life Mask of George Washington

As soon as we had finished writing the previous week’s post on Jean-Antoine Houdon’s bust of Robert Fulton in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, we realized that that eminent French sculptor is actually represented in Hastings, in our own collection.

In our small but select library, in a glass case, is a copy of the life mask that Houdon made of George Washington in 1785. At the time, Houdon was working on a commission for the Virginia Legislature. Two years previously, America, France, and England had signed the peace treaty that finally ended the Revolutionary War, and General George Washington had retired as commander of the Continental Army and returned to private life. The Virginia Legislature decided to honor Washington for his courage and patriotism with a full-length marble statue that would stand in the capitol building in Richmond. The governor asked Thomas Jefferson and Benjamin Franklin, the United States’ ambassadors in Paris, to suggest the best artist for the commission. They both recommended Houdon. “I find that a Monsieur Houdon of this place possesses the reputation of being the first statuary in the world,” wrote Jefferson, using a term for a ‘sculptor’ that has since gone out of fashion.

Houdon was delighted with the commission, which he considered the most important of his career. The American artist Charles Wilson Peale painted a portrait of Washington and this was sent to Houdon as a guide for his work. But Houdon insisted on taking Washington’s image from life. He accompanied Franklin back to the United States and arrived at Washington’s Mount Vernon residence in October of 1785. During his two-week stay, Houdon followed Washington around, observing his posture and expression. He also took detailed measurements of his body and created the life mask to serve as a model for Washington’s face. He applied grease to Washington’s skin, put quills in his nostrils so he could breathe, and then covered his face with wet plaster. This impression created a mould that, once dried, could itself be filled with plaster to create a positive image of Washington’s face. Because Washington necessarily had his eyes closed, Houdon had to hollow out the pupils of the plaster mask to give the face a life-like expression.

Houdon took the mask back to Paris with him and used it to create the likeness of the final statue, which was erected in Richmond in 1796. Jefferson, the Marquis de Lafayette, and many of Washington’s relatives praised the statue as the most lifelike representation of Washington that had ever been made. By 1796, General Washington had become President Washington, and was just finishing his second term. He had become, if possible, even more famous than he had been in the 1780s, and Houdon’s statue drew national attention.

The mask itself was prized as the most authentic likeness of America’s first president. In order to make the positive mask, the mould had to be broken, so only one mask was ever made from the original mould. This mask is now in the collection of the Morgan Library in New York City, most likely purchased by financier and art collector J.P. Morgan on one of his many trips to Europe.

Ours is but a humble copy, made at least a century later. It was on display here in the Draper Observatory Cottage in the 1950s when the cottage housed a public reading room, but it certainly may have been purchased long before, probably by one of the Draper family. The round plaster pedestal that is part of the mask is unusual and may someday help us identify when and where our copy was made. Masks and busts of famous men and women were popular library accessories at the turn of the century, and there are many copies of Washington’s mask in libraries around the United States. In fact, you can still buy one today -- on eBay.

The Draper Reading Room as it appeared ca. 1950. Washington's mask is not visible in the picture. It may have been where it is now, in the Transit Room, which you can see through the doorway in the center of the photograph.

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