Monday, August 31, 2009

Cutting Edge Technology in Hastings: The Automobile

The Society's earliest photograph of a car, probably taken before 1907 (click on any photograph for more information)

On Memorial Day of 1896, Hastings residents were thrilled by an event that had, until then, only been witnessed by residents of Paris, London, and Chicago – a horseless carriage race! The race began at about 2PM at King’s Bridge and passed along Broadway through Yonkers, Hastings, and Dobbs Ferry, with the finishing line in front of the veranda of the Ardsley Country Club. The judges waiting on the veranda included John Jacob Astor, Chauncey Depew (President of the New York Central & Hudson River Railroad) and Frank Thomson (Vice President of the Pennsylvania Railroad). Here is how this momentous occasion was described in a 1929 article from the Hastings News:

“John Brisbane Walker, then editor of the Cosmopolitan, living at Irvington on an estate near what is now the Chevrolet factory and in a house built by Stanford White, offered ... $1,000 to anyone who could ride from New York City to Irvington in one of the new-fangled “horseless carriages.” No time limit was stipulated. All the contestants had to do was to get to Irvington. People from miles around … gathered in anticipation of the momentous ride.

All Hastings jammed its way along the road. From New York seven [according to the New York Times, there were only six] determined riders started out. Riding before them on horse back were couriers who were to clear the way and to see that no on was hurt by the speeding monsters. Hours passed. People on the Handy porch [at Broadway and Warburton] craned their necks. There was a tremendous noise, as if a dozen threshing machines were in action. Around the bend two puffing, steaming horseless carriages were coming at a terrific rate of 8 miles an hour. Cheers broke out.

Eventually one of the two got to Irvington. The Columbus got Mr. Walker’s $1,000.”
The winner of the race was Frank Duryea. He was driving one of his company’s Duryea Motor Wagons, which were among the first “motor-vehicles” powered by gasoline. Frank covered the 13 miles from King’s Bridge to Ardsley in one hour, five minutes, and forty-two and two-fifths seconds. A year earlier, Frank had won the Chicago Times Herald race with an even better speed -- 7.5 miles an hour.

In 1895 the horseless carriage was called “a pack of French nonsense,” which could never replace a horse. In 1910 a series of photographs were taken of the lively Hastings - Dobbs Ferry Auto Club, documenting the first stirrings of Hastings’ addiction to the newfangled machine.

The Hastings - Dobbs Ferry Auto Club on Broadway near the Hastings - Dobbs Ferry boundary in 1910. Many Hastings residents were members, including Irving Smith, Frederick Charles Sr., Thomas F. Reynolds, Walter Keys, Henry Collins Brown, and the actor Walker Whiteside. These were some of the wealthier members of our community, and it’s not surprising to find them all in the auto club, since they were the ones who could afford to purchase automobiles.

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Thursday, August 27, 2009

Mystery Photos: The Youth Center in 1947

Making posters

Here is a neat transition from the last post on the subject of ice cream. Take a look at the background of the first photograph and you will see an ice cream vending machine – ten cents each! This entire set of photographs was most likely taken in 1947 and shows kids at the Youth Center when it was at 8 Dock Street (now Southside Avenue) in the store front just downhill from the Con Ed building.

This is a shot looking over the ping pong table toward the front of the building

Remove the ping pong table and there was plenty of space for dancing

Or for chairs set up in front of the brand new television set

Click the photographs and look at them more closely in Flickr. If you need to enlarge them, click the “All Sizes” link above the photograph. Do you recognize anyone?

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, August 24, 2009

Ice Cream Memories

By Judy Chamberlain

The soda fountain at Todd's Drugstore ca. 1910 (for more information on any image, click on the photograph)

Now that summer days are finally warming up, ice cream has become the snack of choice for children of all ages. Though many consider it an all-year-round treat, I enjoy ice cream, sorbets, and popsicles most in the summer. Really, who can ignore the bells of an ice cream truck as it swings into a neighborhood? As a child, I know that I couldn’t.

Ice cream was always deliciously special when I was growing up. Today we can readily buy pints of Ben and Jerry’s, Edy’s fruit bars, and Carvel flying saucers, but back in the 1950’s, most home refrigerators had small, inefficient freezer compartments with little extra space for frozen treats. If my parents brought home a quart of ice cream or some ice pops, we were forced to consume them immediately.

The solution to this dilemma was the Good Humor truck that seemed to come by at just the right time each day. Decked out in a white uniform with a silver coin holder on his belt, the Good Humor man was a kid’s summer hero. Gathering a crowd around him, he’d open the magic door that offered cool relief for all those who came running. He’d take an order, pluck out the frozen bar or cup, and deliver heaven to the waiting hand. Ah, the simple pleasures of childhood.

August J. Bruning behind the counter of his ice cream parlor ca. 1925

Because our apartment was on the fourth floor, as soon as I’d hear those bells enter the neighborhood, I’d quickly run to my building and start calling up to my mother to ask if I could get something. She too heard the bells, but didn’t want to walk down those four flights. So she would open a window and toss some money down. Though she usually wrapped the coins in a napkin or a hanky, they often scattered on impact and left me hunting in the grass for a glistening nickel or dime. And the next year, when I’d moved to Clunie Avenue, I was delighted to hear the bells of summer and discover that the Good Humor truck came to this street too, arriving just after dinner, the perfect time for dessert.

If you were in the village and wanted ice cream, nothing was better than August J. Bruning’s homemade. It was here that I ordered my first banana split and discovered that it was way too much of an ice cream treat for one little girl. Future visits brought me back to my favorite -- strawberry ice cream. Bruning’s eventually turned into the Cup and Saucer and remained a town favorite for years.

Jacobson's Pharmacy in 1929. The white signs in the windows read ‘Good Chocolate Soda’ and ‘Chocolate Malted Milks’. The sides of the main sign above the shop carry the Hydrox Ice Cream logo.

Ice cream parlors and soda fountains have always been popular in Hastings. If you found yourself at Doc Todd’s in 1910, you might have had a sarsaparilla or a dish of peach ice cream. From the late 1930s into the 1960s it was known as Joe Algeo’s Pharmacy. My Dad spent a summer working behind the counter as a “soda jerk,” whipping up cherry cokes and chocolate sodas with vanilla ice cream. Or maybe you went into Jacobson’s Drug Store in the 1940s and were tempted to sample the pineapple sundae or have a coffee ice cream cone while spinning on a fountain stool.

In 1924, Charles Liede operated an ice cream parlor at 2 Main Street. I think that had turned into The Sugar Bowl by the time I was growing up. This location may have also been the site of Adam’s Ice Cream Parlor. During the 1920s Billie Burke would often treat the local children to ice cream there, and not just to a one-cent size cone. The Historical Society records indicate that she would spring for the larger, five-cent serving. And the favorite new flavor back then was tutti-frutti. Now how special was that!

Of course, there were the neighborhood spots to stop in for something cool and creamy. Pantelemon’s, south of the Warburton Avenue Bridge, had a nice soda fountain, and so did Lambert’s on Farragut Parkway. Or you might go into Whitey’s market, near the bridge, and find the most flavorful ice pops around. There were many choices, many flavors, and many memories made each summer day in Hastings.

Sam Caruso mans the soda fountain in Jacobson's Pharmacy in 1946

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Thursday, August 20, 2009

Mystery Photo: Zinsser Girls, 1942

Isn’t it fun to dream about winter in the middle of an August heat wave? Well, today we take you back to the Christmas of 1942. The photograph you see above was part of a Christmas card produced by Zinsser & Company to send to its employees and to those men and women who had been employees and were in the service in 1942. The type under the photograph reads: “Girls of Zinsser & Co. / Thinking of you and sending you Christmas greetings.” Below is a list of names, but with only the first initial: H. Bednarchak, H. Wells, R. Dann, J. Ramsey, E. Crotty, F. [Florence?] Crotty, K. Devlin, E. Irvine, R. Paul, A. Teekle, G. McKernan, and N. Prince.

Everyone who got the card would know who they were, of course! We are not so lucky. If you can fill in any of the first names and match the names to the faces (the names may be listed in the order in which the women are standing, but we’re not sure), please let us know! Click the photograph and look at it more closely in Flickr. If you need to enlarge it, click the “All Sizes” link above the photograph. Do you recognize anyone?

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, August 17, 2009

Admiral Farragut: Legends of a Hastings Hero

Part III: A Hero’s Welcome

The Battle of New Orleans, April 25-May 1, 1862 (click on any photograph for more information)

Farragut’s victories at New Orleans in 1862 and Mobile Bay in 1864 made him a national hero. He returned to New York in December of 1864 only to find himself caught up in two weeks of banquets, luncheons, parades, and interminable speeches by New York City dignitaries.

On a snowy Saturday in January (the exact date is uncertain), a little after 4PM, Farragut’s train finally pulled into Hastings. An 1865 biography of Farragut written by P.C. Headley speaks of the admiral and his wife Virginia alighting calmly at the Hastings train station to a grand reception. But William McConnell, William Ward Tompkins, and others who were there at the time remembered things a bit differently. According to them, the Farraguts wanted to avoid the kind of welcome they had had in New York City. Upon seeing the crowds waiting for them on the platform, the couple remained on the train. They had it stopped a little further down the track and got out, determined to walk back home from there.

But Hastings residents have always been clever and resourceful. They caught up with the Farraguts at Broadway, where the admiral cheerfully agreed to return to the train station for a proper welcome. In those days the plaza in front of the station (approximately where the station parking lot is today) was called Union Square. Here the villagers had erected a triumphal arch made of evergreen branches and decorated with a huge American flag. Banners hanging from the station and from nearby buildings displayed the names of the cities where Farragut had fought his famous battles: “St. Phillip,” “Jackson,” “Gaines,” “Morgan,” “New Orleans,” and “Mobile.” At the top of the arch was the inscription “Welcome to Admiral Farragut.” (Fifty years later, George Archard still remembered being tickled at the way the sign painter had signed his name. The signature was so prominent that the inscription seemed to read “Welcome to Admiral Farragut – Phillips.”)

Beneath this arch the ceremonies began, with Farragut shaking the hands of the welcoming committee of prominent citizens, including William Few Chrystie (who became the first president of the village in 1879) and Edmund S. Mills (our second president).

The original Hastings train station ca. 1900. This station was slightly to the south of the spot where the current station now stands.

The crowd then followed the VIPs to the First Reformed Church for the official reception. It had been snowing heavily all day, and Farragut and his wife were driven up to the church in sleighs. As they rode up Spring Street and approached Warburton Avenue, they passed under another evergreen arch. Directly in front of them, on the gate to what is now the V.F.W. property, was another sign reading “Honor to the Brave,” with the initial ‘F’ above it, surrounded by a pine garland.

At the church entrance, the Farraguts walked under a canopy scattered with roses (presumably made of paper or silk) and flags. Two ladies offered the Farraguts bouquets as a band struck up “See, the Conquering Hero Comes.” More flags decorated the interior of the church, and over the pulpit was an inscription in pine branches that read “May God Bless and Preserve You.” The church was filled to capacity. People had come from Irvington, Tarrytown, and even as far away as Peekskill to see the hero of Mobile Bay. At the pulpit, Mr. Mills, an elder of the church, welcomed the admiral on behalf of the entire village. Headley’s 1865 biography gives Farragut’s reply:

“My friends and fellow citizens, it gives me great pleasure to meet you all once more at your happy home. When, nearly four years ago, I came to this village, unknown and without means, a voluntary refugee from my country… I was received with open arms, and with a warmth of friendship and a sympathy of patriotic and social intercourse that have ripened into attachments and associations which can never be effaced wherever I may be or whatever may be my future lot. Here also when absent on distant duty in a service dear to my heart, my family have found a quiet and agreeable retreat where the hand of friendship and the kindest attentions were ever extended to me. … I have been given many receptions by people throughout the country but none of them do I appreciate so highly as your warm greeting to me here in the village which is my home.”

Admiral Farragut then shook the hand of every person present. This apparently took several hours as the line moved up one aisle and back down the other. At the end of the day, the sleighs delivered the Farraguts to their dwelling on Washington Avenue.

Headley described the day, no doubt correctly, as “a scene that will be long and gratefully remembered by the inhabitants of Hastings-on-Hudson. They will dwell now and in aftertimes upon the coming of Admiral and Mrs. Farragut as among thier most cherished New Year's gifts.”

The interior of the First Reformed Church in 1900, their 50th anniversary year.

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Thursday, August 13, 2009

Mystery Photo: Uniontown Hose Company in 1959

This photograph, dated 1959 and showing the Uniontown Hose Company in full dress uniform, was donated to the Historical Society by the Rivertowns Enterprise. The firemen are standing in front of their brand new firehouse on Rose Street, which was dedicated on Saturday, December 6, 1959. This photograph may have been taken at the dedication ceremony. But apart from Chief Aresta Aluisio, second from the right, we have no identifications. Do you recognize anyone else? Click the photograph and look at it more closely in Flickr. If you need to enlarge it, click the “All Sizes” link above the photograph.

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, August 10, 2009

Admiral Farragut: Legends of a Hastings Hero

Part II: I Sailed With Farragut

Admiral David Glasgow Farragut (for more information about any photograph, click the image)

Last week’s post included several stories about David Glasgow Farragut’s early days in Hastings in 1861. But the reminiscences of Civil War times that were printed in the local papers in the 1920s and ‘30s also contained more personal memories of Farragut. William McConnell must have been a great storyteller in those days, because many of his childhood memories found their way into print -- memories of swimming in the Saw Mill River and of being chastised by the master of the local “little red schoolhouse”. In the 1930s, the Hastings News carried a story of his acquaintance with Admiral Farragut’s family.

“For a year or more the lad had been carrying two pails of drinking water a day to the cottage on Washington Avenue. The spring at the northwest corner of Washington and Broadway provided drinking water for the neighborhood. Young Willie McConnell received a quarter a week pocket money for the carrying of a heavy pail each morning and each evening to the Farragut door. He still remembers the southern mammy who presided in the kitchen and who took the pail from the boy’s hands.”

But of all the stories told in Hastings about Farragut, the most exciting must be the one about James Hitchcock. In 1933, a Hastings News reporter got the story from James’s younger brother William, who was seventy-seven at the time.

“Young Jim Hitchcock, reckoned the village’s boldest blood, who was reputed to be able to spit tobacco farther than anyone in Hastings, was a close neighbor of the Farraguts. Perhaps it was during the inactive summer of 1861 that the Captain first took an interest in the boy. Probably the lad worshipped the old Captain and listened by the hour to tales of the sea. At any rate, when Captain Farragut was sent to the Gulf Squadron, Jim Hitchcock went with him. The captain had promised the sexton [Jim’s father] and his wife to find a berth for the lad that would not take him into direct action.

Hastings' Admiral Farragut Post of the American Legion posing with a model of the "Hartford" presented to President Roosevelt ca. 1938.

‘Jim was many years older than me. …I wasn’t born when Jim went off to the Spanish waters with the Captain,’ Mr. William Hitchcock told the representative of the Hastings News who called upon him the other day. ‘Yes, that’s what we called those parts at the time – the Spanish waters. I’ve heard my father and mother tell about it often, how Jim went with the captain, and how the captain made him a sailor...’

‘Yes,’ Mr. Hitchcock went on, ‘Jim was on the Hartford with the Admiral, and Jim fought at Mobile Bay. I’ve heard him tell the tale many a time of how three men at the wheel were killed by a shot that went clean over his head because he happened to be stooping down at the moment. The Admiral’s promise to my father and mother? It wasn’t his fault he didn’t keep it! It was Jim’s. The Admiral told my father when he came back that he had tried to put Jim on another ship, but Jim had coaxed for the Hartford. ‘You’ll get your damned head shot off you then, Hitchcock,’ said the Admiral to Jim, ‘and it won’t be my fault either.’ ‘Yes, sir,’ said Jim and he stayed with the Admiral. I’ve heard him tell that story many times.’ ”

And where was Jim Hitchcock in 1933? Nobody knew. “He came back to see us every few years,” William told the Hastings News. “Every few years until thirty-five years ago, and then Jim never came again. I went down to Snug Harbor a few years ago looking for him, but his name wasn’t on their lists of old sailors. Jim must be dead by now.” The Sailors’ Snug Harbor on Staten Island was the first home for retired sailors in the United States. It opened in 1833 and lasted into the 1960s. That property is now the Snug Harbor Cultural Center and Botanical Garden.

The USS Hartford, on which Jim sailed, was one of the last wooden warships and had been commissioned in 1858. She was set on fire during a battle in 1862, but was saved by Farragut and his crew and continued to be Farragut’s flagship for all his major naval victories. The news of their neighbor’s exploits no doubt thrilled the villagers of Hastings. But they had no opportunity to show their tremendous pride and admiration for their local hero until the Admiral’s return to Hastings in the winter of 1865. That spectacular homecoming is the subject of next week’s post.

Decorative stamp showing the "Hartford" organized by local residents for Hastings' 1936 Farragut Day, celebrating the 135th anniversary of Farragut's birth

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Thursday, August 6, 2009

Mystery Photo: Theatrical Performance with a Nautical Theme, ca. 1935

Detail of central section. For entire photograph, see bottom of post.

Here is a real mystery. We know nothing about this photograph except that it includes Augusta Rieke (later Buckes). If you look at the entire photograph, below, you will see her in the front row, third from the right, next to the man dressed as a sailor.

There were so many organizations that mounted theatricals in the 1930s, and this performance could have been produced by any one of them. In our pamphlet file, we have programs from variety shows, plays, and musicals sponsored by the VFW, Riverview Manor Hose Company, the Woman’s Cub, the Tower Ridge Yacht Club, St. Matthew’s Lyceum, the Police Benevolent Association, and even the Holy Name Society of St. Matthews’s Roman Catholic Church. Generally, these performances were fundraisers, either for the organization that sponsored them or for a specific charity. But they gave plenty of opportunities for star-struck village amateurs to show off their singing, dancing, and acting skills. Sometimes there would even be an appearance by a local celebrity, like Jonathan Winters or Billie Burke.

This is a wonderful photograph, and we’d love to know something more about it! Do you recognize the show? Does anyone in it look familiar? Let us know! Click the photograph and look at it more closely in Flickr. If you need to enlarge it, click the “All Sizes” link above the photograph.

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, August 3, 2009

Admiral Farragut: Legends of a Hastings Hero

Part I: How Farragut Came to Hastings

"Damn the torpedoes! Full steam ahead!" Admiral Farragut in the rigging of his flagship, the 'Hartford', at the Battle of Mobile Bay. (Click on any of the photographs for more information.)

Before Billie Burke arrived to dazzle the village with the glamour of the theater, Hastings’ most famous resident was Civil War hero, David Glasgow Farragut. The Farragut family lived in Hastings for barely five years, and for most of that time Farragut himself was at sea. But those years, 1861 to 1865, spanned the Civil War, during which Captain (from 1862 Rear Admiral) Farragut became an American legend.

“Interest in and appreciation of Admiral David Glasgow Farragut increases at Hastings from year to year,” wrote a local reporter in the early 20th century. “There is no place in this broad country that has a better right to claim his citizenship and reverence his memory.” The Historical Society is full of memorabilia and articles about the great man and his time in Hastings, enough to fill many blogs. We have selected a handful of these stories to share with you over the next couple of weeks.

The verifiable facts about Farragut’s time in Hastings can be stated in just a few sentences. Before the Civil War, Farragut, who was a captain in the Navy, lived in Norfolk, Virginia. But he was a loyalist, and when Virginia seceded from the Union in April of 1861, Farragut moved with his wife and son to Hastings-on-Hudson. For a time, they lived at 60 Main Street. Farragut also rented from John William Draper half of a two-family cottage at the corner of Washington Avenue and Broadway. Over time, the number and order of these residences has become confused. Perhaps they lived in two houses; perhaps it was three. In 1865 the war came to an end. At about the same time, the city of New York presented the Farraguts with money to buy a house in town, and the family moved into Manhattan, ending their brief connection with Hastings.

A.C. Langmuir's 1939 photograph of the Draper cottage occupied by Farragut. In the 1910s, most of the locals claimed that this, and not the house on Main Street, was where the Farraguts spent most of their time while in Hastings.

But having an American hero in Hastings, even for a short time, fired the local imagination. 60 Main Street became known as “the Farragut house.” An oak tree on Main Street became “the tree under which Admiral Farragut used to sit.” In the early 20th century, reporters sought out Hastings old-timers and wrote up anything they could remember about Farragut. Many of these old-timers had been children during the Civil War, and their stories often appear to change from one article to the next. The Society has two scrapbooks, one compiled by journalist J. Otis Swift in the 1910s and 1920s, and another by A.C. Langmuir in the 1930s, that include such articles. Are they “memories” or “tall tales”? After all this time, it’s hard to say.

An article from 1919 tells one story of how the Admiral came to choose Hastings-on-Hudson for his residence.

“It was just before the beginning of the Civil War, when there were many Southerners and Southern sympathizers in New York, that young Farragut came up from the South to visit New York. The Government of Washington, hearing that its favorite young naval officer was on his way to the city, and fearing some Southerner would kill him, sent word to him to get out of New York city instantly. Farragut got the message as he was crossing from Jersey to the city, and promptly transferred to a small sloop, which came up to Hastings and landed at the old dock where the cable factory is. Hastings was a secluded place, cut off from New York by a ravine and miles of country road, and he stayed here for some time, making many friends, so that he afterward decided to live here, and took the house on Main Street known now as the Farragut house….”

Potscard of 60 Main Street with the caption "Admiral Farragut's Home" produced by HC Todd ca. 1905. Todd included both a photograph of this house and of Farragut himself in his booklet of historic photographs of Hastings. There is also a photograph of Grace Episcopal Chapel with the caption "Farragut worshipped here."

An earlier article from March of 1911 gives a slightly different version.

“When [Farragut] first came among the people, he was treated with coolness, as a southern refugee. An absurd story was circulated that he was an emissary sent to Hastings to blow up the Croton Aqueduct where it crosses the deep ravine near the Farragut House.”

A 1933 article adds a story told by Miss Emma Dorland, whose mother bought 60 Main Street in the 1870s: “…the northern troops that were patrolling the aqueduct in 1861, making sure that New York’s water supply was safe, had destroyed a sextant which [Farragut] had left one day on his lawn on the grounds that it was an ‘infernal machine’ which might blow up the aqueduct!”

A reporter for the Dobbs Ferry Register in 1919 relates another tale, which even he cannot bring himself to believe – that Farragut and John William Draper were attempting to photograph the heavens when soldiers destroyed their camera, imagining it to be some kind of bomb.

But as the war progressed and news of Farragut’s naval exploits reached Hastings, the tide of Farragut’s popularity turned. Local residents became tolerant, and even enthusiastic, about “their” Admiral Farragut. Tune in next week for Part II of the saga of Admiral Farragut in Hastings.

Carte-de-visite photograph produced as a souvenir around 1865 after the Battle of Mobile Bay by photographer Charles C. Fredericks of New York City. This particular card comes to us through the Draper family. John William Draper remained a close friend of the Farraguts, even after they left Hastings.

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