Found Still Life

I noticed this bust standing on a window sill in the home of the Briarcliff Manor-Scarborough Historical Society (BMSHS): the Eileen O’Connor Weber Historical Center.

The bust depicts the founder of Briarcliff Manor, NY – my village for the past 25 years. He’s a pretty interesting guy.

Walter William Law (November 13, 1837 – January 17, 1924) was a businessman and the founder of the 8,000-person village of Briarcliff Manor, New York. He was a vice president of furniture and carpet retailer W. & J. Sloane, and later founded the Briarcliff Lodge, the Briarcliff Table Water Company, Briarcliff Farms, and the Briarcliff Greenhouses. He founded or assisted in establishing several schools, churches, and parks in the village, and rebuilt its train station in 1906. In the early 1900s, Walter Law was the largest individual landholder in Westchester County.

Walter Law was born in Kidderminster, England, and was one of ten children of a carpet dealer. He relocated to the United States in 1859, where he lived until his death. Throughout his life, he was employed at various places, including at W. & J. Sloane, where he worked for 24 years. After retiring to a house on Scarborough Road in the small community of Whitson’s Corners, New York, he developed the surrounding farmland into a suburban village. (Wikipedia)

Law was primarily responsible for developing much of what became Briarcliff Manor, including the village, schools, churches, parks and the Briarcliff Lodge. He founded the School of Practical Agriculture in 1900 on Pleasantville Road and had invested extensively in the area by 1902. His employees at Briarcliff Farms moved into the village with Law directly holding some of their mortgages. At the time, New York State required a population density of at least 300 per square mile as the first step towards incorporation as a village. A proposition was presented to the supervisors of Mount Pleasant and Ossining on October 8, 1902 that the area of 640 acres (1 sq mi) with a population of 331 be incorporated as the Village of Briarcliff Manor, and was accepted on November 21. At the time, Law owned all but two small parcels of the square mile village and employed 100 of its residents.

At its 1902 opening, the Briarcliff Lodge was a premier resort hotel. Situated on the highest point of Law’s estate, the Tudor-revival -style building was surrounded by dairy barns and greenhouses. In its first decades, the Lodge served mostly as a summer residence for New Yorkers but expanded its year-round appeal through the addition of new rooms, activities and some of the finest chefs in the region. During its time, it hosted numerous distinguished guests, from politicians to movie stars, including Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt, when he was Governor of New York.

In 1903, Mrs. Dow’s School for Girls was founded at the Briarcliff Lodge; two years later, Walter Law gave Mary Elizabeth Dow 35 acres and built Dow Hall; the school later became known as Briarcliff College. Also established in 1903, the Briarcliff Manor Fire Department was founded on February 10 by Frederick C. Messinger from Briarcliff Manor’s first fire company, the 1901 Briarcliff Steamer Company No. 1. The department’s first fire engine was white, which Messinger thought more visible than the conventional red in a village without street lights, and the village’s engines remain white today. The first twenty-nine street lights, all electric, were installed in 1904. Law largely developed his land as a business corporation until 1907, when Briarcliff Farms moved to Pine Plains, New York, and Law began promoting Briarcliff Manor as a residential development.

Throughout the early 1900’s the population of Briarcliff grew dramatically and increased further with the annexation of Scarborough in 1910. Through the efforts of the Briarcliff Reality Company, residential building flourished, including several large houses built in the vicinity of the Lodge and owned by former guests. Walter Law died in 1924, but expansion of the community continued, including the creation of the Edith Macy Conference Center in 1925 through a gift of 265 acres by V Everit Macy to the Girl Scouts of the USA. A high school was opened in 1928 and a second road race (following the 1908 event) was sponsored by the Automobile Racing Club of American in 1934, stretching over 100 miles and including many of the roads in Briarcliff. (BMSHS website).

Taken with a Fuji X-E1 and Fuji XF 35mm f1.4 R

Some of my favorite pictures of 2022 – Black and White


Queen Anne’s Lace. 25 January.


Triple Arch Bridge, Rockefeller State Park. 17 February.


Statuette in a friend’s house. August 16th.


View from my bedroom. March 12.


Spanish American War Memorial, Yonkers, NY. March 23.


Tree across from my house. January 17.


Feeding pigeons in Washington Square Park. June 3.


Dandelion seeds. July 1,


Chrysler Building by night. September 13.


Skull light fixture. September 9.

An interesting discovery

Last August I went for breakfast with some friends. We went to a small café in a part of Ossining, NY that I was not familiar with. As we approached the café I noticed the interesting structure above. It seemed to me that there might be something interesting there. I didn’t explore further because of time constraints, but on returning home I looked around for some additional information.

It’s called Campwood Grounds and this picturesque and colorful community has some interesting history.

The following is excerpted from “Camp Woods, Ossining, New York: Methodist Camp Ground to Secular Suburb, 1831-2001” Quarterly of the Westchester Historical Society 79.3 & 4 (Summer 2003)

In the early 19th century, the Methodist congregations that followed Wesley’s Methodist theology created a permanent home for the annual celebration of an evangelical expression of worship in the woods of Westchester. Wesley’s evangelical teachings are rooted in a theology that looks to the original source of Christian faith — the New Testament.

From the beginning, the Methodist camp meeting was a social phenomenon as well as profound religious experience for the participants. The evangelical preaching was often thunderous and lasted through the entire day and carried on late into the night, as various preachers took turns exhorting the crowd to accept salvation. CampWoods in Ossining proved to be an ideal location for these public religious affirmations.
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In 1854 a group of Swedish Methodists, most of whom were recent immigrants to New York City, organized their first independent camp meeting at CampWoods. Their participation proved to be the lifeblood of the Ossining camp meeting site during the second 50 years of its existence.

The pre-Civil War period of the camp meetings at CampWoods maintained its character as a religious jubilee in the countryside. During the 1850’s, the atmosphere on the boats, trains and wagons coming to the 10-day meetings in the woods of Ossining and during the religious retreats themselves were jubilant and celebratory. A typical camp meeting in August 1868 attracted an estimated 15,000 attendees.
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During the 1870’s, regular attendees began to erect quasi-permanent structures on top of what were originally tents used for temporary housing and small outdoor kitchens. Frame cottages replaced these “tents” by the end of the century. By this time, many families remained in residence throughout the summer, as they prepared for the 10 days of camp meetings. Eventually, the cottages were equipped with electricity, running water and modern plumbing. Eventually, these families began leasing land from the Association and building their own summer cottages, and a permanent community began to take shape.

After World War II, more families winterized their cottages and by 1962 there were 28 year-round houses on the grounds. They formed a close-knit group, gathering for picnics and other social events. By the closing decades of the 1800s, the large-scale camp meetings of the 1860s had waned, and an organized neighborhood was beginning to develop.

The building of the more permanent cottages after the turn of the twentieth century and the decreasing attendance changed the character of the meetings. The 10 days of the camp meeting could be likened more to an intensive religious retreat than the dynamic camp meetings of the early 19th century. Residents would stay for several months, including those renting a room or a cot at the boarding houses. During the latter years of the Depression only the Swedish meetings continued. The Association Board and residents organized Sunday evening vesper services in lieu of the camp meetings held by groups other than the Swedish contingent.
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In 1947, the New York State Legislature codifed the transfer of CampWoods land ownership to a new organization under the name “the Ossining Camp Meeting Association.” During the 1950s more cottages were winterized and community developments were increasingly independent of the religious aims of the original community. The previous infrastructure supporting the large-scale annual meetings, for example, the religious tabernacle, the Brummel boarding house, and “The Restaurant” were eliminated. After 1994, the Swedish tabernacle, community dining hall and caretaker’s cottage have been closed.

Although today’s CampWoods grounds is a secular and more diverse community, the Ossining Camp Meeting Association continues to oversee the community, maintain the grounds, and preserve the Methodist history of the community.

After reading this I returned to the community to take some pictures.

For a more detailed history with some fascinating old photographs see: Methodist Campground to Secular Suburb 1831-2001 by Bill McGrath.


























Taken with a Nikon D800 and Nikon AF Nikkor 28-80 f3.3-5.6

A Walk in Sleepy Hollow – An Eagle

It now stands outside the Philipse Manor Metro North Station, but it was once one of 11 that graced the historic building’s monumental clock towers for 12 years at 42nd Street and Park Avenue.
In 1910, as the station began renovations to become the Grand Central Terminal building we are all familiar with today, the huge cast iron eagles were removed and dispersed throughout the region. One of these eagles was obtained by the Philipse Manor Company, landing at the station by 1911.

The eagle was itself restored in its present location in 2019.

For some pictures of the restoration and more on the history of the eagle see here:

Taken with a Fuji X-E1 and Fuji XF 35mm f1.4 R