We used to take the dog for walks here. It’s a short, paved, relatively flat and easy walk alongside the reservoir. My wife is particularly fond of this type of walk. I tend to prefer longer, more remote, more rugged walks in the woods. When I was working she used to walk the dog here. However, since I retired I seem to have taken sole responsibility for dog walking. Consequently I haven’t been here much of late.
The story of the Tarrytown Lakes begins in a raging fire. On Feb. 23, 1876, a blaze on Lower Main Street in Tarrytown devoured 19 buildings and caused $150,000 in damage. Hampered by an unreliable water supply and insufficient water pressure, firefighters struggled to douse the flames.
Alarmed, village leaders decided to act. In 1887, Tarrytowners approved construction of a new reservoir in a valley behind the hills that rose up from the central village. Railroad magnate Jay Gould, whose Lyndhurst estate remains a historic riverfront landmark, contributed $100,000 for the project.
When completed in 1897, the two lakes had the capacity to hold up to 200 million gallons of water. A pump station was built on the eastern shore of the larger lake, known as the Lower Lake. Two wells stood on small islands near the edge of the lake, one of them still there today.
The new lakes weren’t the only landmark in the valley.
The New York & Putnam Railroad had been established in 1880, with a single rail line that connected Brewster to the Bronx. During its lifetime the railroad had stops in White Plains, Elmsford, Pocantico Hills, Carmel and Brewster. Also along the route were stops at Tarrytown Heights, at the southernmost tip of the reservoir near the present-day intersection of Neperan Road at Sunnyside Avenue, and at Eastview.
The railroad’s initial path in the area went over a wobbly 80-foot-high trestle bridge at Eastview, which so frightened passengers that a portion of the rail line was relocated closer to Rockefeller’s estate in Pocantico Hills.
Remnants of the park’s history remain. The popular biking and hiking trail along the southern end of the lakes follows the path of the old rails. A small rail bridge can still be seen along the southern end of the park, behind the Marymount convent and not far from the site of the old Tarrytown Heights station (See: Tarrytown Heights to Tower Hill – Old Putnam Line). Among the structures near that spot is an aging wooden building known to locals as “the skate shack,” used in past years when ice skating was common on the smaller lake. Village officials said the lake has not frozen over enough in recent years to allow skating.
In addition to the hiking and biking opportunities, Hudson River Recreation added kayaking on the lakes during summer weekends in recent years. Fishing requires both a state license and a Tarrytown village permit reserved for residents — 155 of which were issued in 2016.
Taken with a Zorki 4 and FED 50mm f3.5.