Thursday, February 25, 2010

New York Has a Snow Day

But the internet, like the U.S. Postal Service, just won't quit!

The snow came down all day, and it is still falling. Parts of Hastings are without power. We timid folks of the Hastings Historical Society certainly did not make it to the Cottage today. And yet some dizzy New York Public Library employee was on Facebook at 8PM posting an album of photographs of 19th and early 20th-century snow storms from the library's collection. (Click on the photograph of snow carts from 1896 above to browse through the rest of them.)

Isn't it comforting to know that, even in the face of a snow emergency, you can still get your dose of local history?
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Thursday, February 18, 2010

Anaconda Demolition Videos

We are delighted to report that James Dean's video of the Anaconda building site demolition is back on YouTube! Click on the screen below to start the video rolling.

And if you just can't get enough waterfront clearance, James has also posted a sped-up compilation of all the demolition footage he collected through January 27th. It's a wild ride, so best to heed James' warning "People prone to fits from flashing lights or jittery video should proceed with caution."

Thanks, James! It's all fascinating!
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Thursday, February 11, 2010

Happy Birthday Hastings Theater

The Hastings Theater in 1929

Today is the 90th birthday of the Hastings Theater, which opened amid great fanfare on February 11th, 1920. We are lucky enough to have an eye-witness account of this event written in 1967 by Steve Zebrock (also known by his stage name of Alan Brock). In 1920, Steve was eleven years old and living with his family on lower Warburton. To earn enough cash to get to the Yonkers movie house on the weekend, Steve and his friends delivered newspapers for the Hastings News. But they kept a keen eye on the site next to the Hastings News office where architect Foster L. Hastings of Ridgedell Avenue was superintending the construction of Hastings’ very own movie theater.

“… in December, 1919, the Hastings theater building stood before us in all its magnificent glory, and Mr. Hastings decided to let us in on the opening night attraction: Douglas Fairbanks in “The Mark of Zorro”! We cheered the posters out front – Doug was then America’s favorite movie star. …

A few days before the opening of the “Mark of Zorro” a heavy snowstorm blanketed Westchester – actually more of a blizzard. The kids were scared – maybe the movie wouldn’t open? Fortunately Mr. Hastings stuck to his word. … Despite the snow, the weather was not too cold, and parents, with offspring holding on, were spread all around the theater.

This was a real “dolled up” night, the likes of which most of us village kids had not seen before: Members of the first families were arriving in their motors, with some of the men in Tuxedos and the ladies in evening gowns and fur capes. Among the first of the leading citizens was the Walker Whiteside family. Mr. Whiteside was a famous Broadway stage star who lived in Tower Ridge. His young and lovely daughter Rosamond was also a well-known actress. Next came the Wuppermans, Ralf and Frank, known to Broadway as the Morgan brothers [Frank Morgan would later play the Wizard of Oz in the 1939 movie]. Claudia Morgan, who later became famous on Broadway, radio, and TV, was the daughter of Ralf. There was a loud cheer as the shining Rolls Royce belonging to Billie Burke and Florenz Ziegfeld pulled up. The Zinsser family soon drove up, Mr. and Mrs. Frederick Zinsser with their beautiful daughters Ellen and Peggy, and handsome son Jack. …

Within a few seconds the cashier’s window was raised and the head of Anna O’Hara welcomed us from behind it. The first honorary tickets went to Village President Thomas Goodwin and his family. After that came the Thomas Reynolds family, and Mr. and Mrs. Egbert Handy and their pretty daughter Edna, and gradually the crowd moved comfortably indoors.

The young Steve Zebrock

Once inside the theater itself, we were awe-struck. This was not a narrow tunnel-like movie such as the ones we had been accustomed to. The auditorium was brilliantly lighted and wonderfully warm. Brand new carpets stretched down the entire length of the aisle to the stage, and the wall lights looked like real candles burning. We were proud of our Hastings Theater.

The excitement of this special night was quickly reaching its climax. We grabbed seats down front right behind the orchestra put and reveled in all the splendor surrounding us. … At last the lights began to dim and Foster L. Hastings walked down the aisle with a few of the village dignitaries. A sudden hush fell over the entire audience as Mr. Hastings began a speech of welcome. He then brought on the Village President, Mr. Goodwin, to a round of applause, and a few more familiar faces. More applause and whistling, then – the stage was empty.

The piano quietly went into music from the opera “Carmen,” in keeping with the Spanish mood of “The Mark of Zorro.” The lady at the piano was Gordon Smith’s mother. We all knew her. Mrs. Smith was the most popular pianist in Hastings. [Gordon Smith says that his mother was invited to play for the opening and stayed for the next three years.] At the end of the mood music, everyone in the auditorium broke into applause. The next minute the screen flashed Douglas Fairbanks in “The Mark of Zorro.”

When the last close-up of Douglas kissing beautiful Marguerite de la Motte faded from the screen there was a sudden let-down. Back to earth. The lights were on again and the miracle was over. But we knew that ahead of us were more miracles. Now we had our own movie theater. And Hastings, for us, was on the map at last.”

Hastings Theater right after it closed its doors in 1977. In the years that followed, it was under consideration for several businesses – an antique shop, a movie house for films in Spanish, housing for senior citizens, a theater for training young Broadway hopefuls. In 1986 it was remodeled into the Moviehouse Mews.

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Thursday, February 4, 2010

Out of the Blue

Draper Cottage must have been built on a field of four-leafed clovers. That is the only explanation of the incredible luck the Hastings Historical Society seems to have. We have a question, and miraculously, within two or three days, someone will call or e-mail with the answer. We start researching a subject and suddenly every box or file we open is brimming with information about it. And the way donations seem to flow in is incredible. Take the package that arrived on Monday. It contained at least two dozen photographs of Hastings and here is the letter that was inside:

“To whom it may concern: My name is Trampas King and I am the superintendent of a small municipal waste transfer station located in Dexter, Maine. We recently found these pictures in one of our resident’s trash. They were very interesting to me so I looked up Hastings-on-Hudson, and found your address. Maybe you can use some of these. I don’t know who they came from but I didn’t want to discard them either.”

And how did he know about Hastings on Hudson? In with these photographs was an envelope postmarked 1947 and addressed to Master Thomas Fogler, 18 Calumet Avenue, Hastings on Hudson. We looked up Thomas Fogler in the yearbooks and found him in the class of 1948. The caption under his senior photo reads: “As his camera records pictures… He leaves a picture of success.” Many of the photographs in the collection that Mr. King sent us are of the school itself, like the one above, and high school sporting events. Tommy may have taken many, if not all, of the photographs. They certainly seem to all date from the late 1940s. We are especially curious about the one below – the group includes several shots of this dinner. Does anyone recognize one of the boys or the event?

We are more grateful than we can express to both Trampas King and Thomas Fogler -- who has certainly left behind a picture of success!

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Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Anaconda Video Removed

We are sorry to relate that ARCO has asked James Dean to remove his YouTube video of the building demolition referred to in the last post. If we can get permission to show it on the internet, we will include it in a future post. Meanwhile, for those of you who did not see the video before it was withdrawn, here is the Before and After, as recorded by the camera of member Paul Duddy. After half of the siding panels were removed, two cranes pushing on the east side of the building brought the entire struture to the ground. Thanks for the photos, Paul!

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