The Abbey Inn and Spa

I while ago I went with a friend for a drink at “The Abbey Inn and Spa” in Peekskill, NY.

Its website describes its history as follows:

With its views over the Hudson River Highlands, Fort Hill was a key lookout post for George Washington and his army during the Revolutionary War; in 1902, it became home to a convent and chapel, established by the Episcopal Sisters of Saint Mary. The nuns moved elsewhere in the Hudson Valley in 2003, and developer Martin Ginsburg lovingly restored the abbey and its chapel into The Abbey Inn & Spa – a luxury hotel with 42 rooms and suites, a farm-to-table restaurant, a luxurious spa, and over 65 acres to explore. The chapel offers a unique venue for important occasions, and a peaceful English garden provides space for quiet contemplation. Lovingly restored and meticulously designed, our hotel pays homage to its historic heritage while offering contemporary amenities and world-class service to each and every guest. All of us at The Abbey Inn and Spa are thrilled to be part of this exciting transformation, and we’re eager to share it with you.

  • Constructed in Peekskill, NY from 1872 – 1963, The Abbey Inn is the oldest Episcopal Religious Community in the United States still in existence
  • The first convent was built in 1876. It was three story wooden building conceived by architect Henry Martyn Congdon (1834 – 1922) who designed numerous Episcopal churches during his career, mainly in the Gothic Revival Style
    Congdon returned in 1896 to build the external main chapel (Higlands Ballroom), completed in 1902, with a Cornerstone (cornerstone room) that reads “Magnificat anima mea dominum” or “My soul magnifies the lord”
  • In 1902 a bell weighing 1,000 lbs and manufactured by the Meneely Bell Company of West Troy, NY was installed in the belfry which is still in place today
  • The Chapel’s altar was made of various kinds of marble, and seven statutes of saint surrounding it were put in place in 1893
  • Joseph Sibbel, a noted ecclesiastical sculptor (1850 – 1907) created the central statue representing the Virgin Mary and the Holy Child, St. Michael “Angel of Passion,” and St. Gabriel “The Angel of Passion and Praise” and donated a Roosevelt Organ that was installed in 1894
  • In 1902, St. Mary’s school was beginning to be built made of granite found at the Mount Gabriel site.
  • In 1908 a granite three-story house also designed by Congdon was built for the convent’s resident chaplains (the first of these occupants was Reverend Father Maurice Cowl. (Now private home of local doctor)
  • Site sits adjacent to the City’s Fort Hill Park which includes Revolutionary War era artifacts as Peekskill was a scene of historic 3-day Revolutionary War battle

It’s a nice place and the view is spectacular. I’ll certainly go again.









The Manor House

I’d passed this house many times before. It’s between Briarcliff Manor and Pleasantville and you can barely see it from the road. I didn’t know much about it and was unable to discover much when I tried.

We (the Briarcliff Manor-Scarborough Historical Society) did discover that it’s called “The Manor House” and it’s in the typical Tudor revival style that you find all over Briarcliff Manor. It was built in 1925 by Oscar Vatet for Rev. Dr. Rufus P. Johnston (pastor of John D. Rockefeller’s Fifth Avenue Baptist Church). The building later became home to Dr. Arthur O’Connor; then to Cognitronics, and later to Frank B. Hall, Inc. It is an empty and unused part of Briarcliff Corporate Campus. We also found out that it stands where the School of Practical Agriculture and Horticulture (later the Pocantico Lodge, and the Miss Knox School) once stood.

There’s a local legend that Rockefeller paid for the house, but we haven’t found any evidence that that’s the case.




Taken with a Sony RX100 III

Lee Friedlander

Once upon a time I didn’t care for street photography. But I’m an avid consumer of photobooks and after acquiring books by/about such luminaries as Joel Meyerowitz, Gary Winogrand, Robert Frank etc. I began to understand it better and even tried to do street photography of my own. One of the photographers I came across was Lee Friedlander. I saw some of his photographs online and liked them a lot and so decided to find out more. As is the norm for me I decided to get my hands on a book. This turned out to be harder than I thought. He’s a prolific creator of photobooks. See below for a partial list:

  • The American Monument. New York: Eakins Press Foundation, 1976. ISBN 0-87130-043-5.
  • Lee Friedlander Photographs. New City, NY: Self-published / Haywire Press, 1978.
  • Factory Valleys: Ohio & Pennsylvania. New York: Callaway Editions, 1982. ISBN 0-935112-04-9.
  • Lee Friedlander Portraits. Boston: Little, Brown, 1985. ISBN 0-8212-1602-3.
  • Like a One-Eyed Cat: Photographs by Lee Friedlander, 1956–1987. New York: Harry N. Abrams in association with the Seattle Art Museum, 1989. ISBN 0-8109-1274-0.
  • Nudes. New York: Pantheon, 1991. ISBN 0-679-40484-8.
  • The Jazz People of New Orleans. New York: Pantheon, 1992. ISBN 0-679-41638-2.
  • Maria. Washington: Smithsonian, 1992. ISBN 1-56098-207-1.
  • London: Jonathan Cape, 1993. ISBN 9780224032957.
  • Bellocq: Photographs from Storyville, the Red-Light District of New Orleans. New York: Random House, 1996. ISBN 0-679-44975-2.
  • The Desert Seen. New York: Distributed Art Publishers, 1996. ISBN 1-881616-75-4.
  • American Musicians: Photographs by Lee Friedlander. New York: Distributed Art Publishers, 1998. ISBN 1-56466-056-7. By Friedlander, Steve Lacy, and Ruth Brown.
  • Lee Friedlander. San Francisco: Fraenkel Gallery, 2000. ISBN 1-881337-09-X.
  • Stems. New York: Distributed Art Publishers, 2003. ISBN 1-891024-75-2.
  • Lee Friedlander: Sticks and Stones: Architectural America. San Francisco: Fraenkel Gallery, 2004. ISBN 1-891024-97-3. By Friedlander and James Enyeart.
  • Cherry Blossom Time in Japan: The Complete Works. San Francisco: Fraenkel Gallery, 2006. ISBN 1-881337-20-0.
  • Lee Friedlander: New Mexico. Santa Fe, NM: Radius Books, 2008. ISBN 978-1-934435-11-3. By Friedlander, Andrew Smith, and Emily Ballew Neff.
  • Photographs: Frederick Law Olmsted Landscapes. New York: Distributed Art Publishers, 2008. ISBN 978-1933045733.
  • America by Car. San Francisco: Fraenkel Gallery, 2010. ISBN 978-1-935202-08-0.
  • Portraits: The Human Clay: Volume 1. New Haven, CT: Yale University, 2015. ISBN 978-0-300-21520-5.
  • Children: The Human Clay: Volume 2. New Haven, CT: Yale University, 2015. ISBN 978-0-300-21519-9.
  • Street: The Human Clay: Volume 3. New Haven, CT: Yale University, 2016. ISBN 978-0-300-22177-0.
  • Lee Friedlander: Western Landscapes. New Haven, CT: Yale University Art Gallery, 2016. ISBN 978-0-300-22301-9.

All you’ll have seen his books cover a multitude of topics. Unfortunately, that wasn’t what I wanted. I was looking for a fairly recent retrospective covering his work in general. At that time the type of book I was looking for was either out of print, extremely expensive or both. This situation now seems to have changed so when I spotted this book, I immediately acquired it.

It’s quite a large (10″ x 12″) book, which explains why the right side is cut off in the picture. It just wouldn’t fit on my admittedly small scanner.

The book is in four parts. The first is an essay by Carlos Gollonet entitled “The World According to Lee Friedlander”. I found this most informative and refreshingly free of the “critic speak” you often find in such pieces. Instead, it was rather easy to read. I found the second part, “My life with Lee. An Interview with Maria Friedlander” to be absolutely fascinating. Since Mr. Friedlander is known for his reluctance to give interviews, this might be the close as we’re going to get. The third part: “How he sees” by Nichols Nixon is short and left very little impression on me. I guess it’s a personal reflection by someone who knows Friedlander well. The third part, which takes up most of the book is called “Catalog” and contains over 300 photographs, mostly black and white, but a few in color. The book concludes with a chronology of the artist’s life by his grandson Giancarlo T. Roma.

I really enjoyed it.

More infrared

Almost a year ago (doesn’t time fly!) I documented my attempts at Infrared photography. See:

The above focused on black and white infrared photography and I was quite pleased with the results.

I also tried so-called false color infrared photography (See: First attempts at false color infrared photography). Frankly the results were terrible. I didn’t get it; didn’t understand properly how to do it; and didn’t like it much.

However, I can be quite persistent, and I vowed to try it again, so the other day I went out into some nearby woodland (actually it’s right across the road from my house) to try again. This time I was better prepared. I’d bought a book; watched YouTube tutorials; read articles etc. I was hoping for better results than the last. I wasn’t disappointed. My preparations seem to have helped. Of course, this type of photography is not to every one’s taste, but I rather like the way the pictures came out.

For more examples of this type of photography take a look at my website, here.

The first link above: Trying out Infrared Photography – Exploring the Options describes how I came to the camera I’m presently using for infrared photography. I love it, but it’s still a ten-year-old camera with a very small, low-resolution sensor. I bought it because I didn’t know if I’d enjoy infrared photography and I didn’t want to spend a lot of money until I was certain that I would want to continue with it. I’m now sure that I will and plan to acquire a newer, higher resolution camera with a larger sensor. More on that later.






Taken with a Sony F828 and fixed Zeiss 28-200mm f2-2.8

Three houses in Briarcliff Manor

These three houses stand in the village where I live. They all have and interesting history.

Above: Ramorney. This large and beautiful home on Pleasantville Road was built around 1895. It was probably designed as a “show house” to entice prospective home buyers. However, we know it was the home to Eugene T. Booth, an American nuclear physicist who was a member of the historic Columbia University team, which worked on the Manhattan Project, and Andrew J. Vosler, a prominent local citizen and member of the Board of Education.


Spruce Knolls. Built in 1911. This imposing, little-changed house was the home of William Woodward Baldwin, Esq., one of he attorneys used by Walter W. Law, the founder of Briarcliff Manor. Baldwin lawyered the benighted “Plasmon Company of America” deal with Law, Mark Twain and other investors. Plasmon’s factory was located on Woodside Avenue in a stone building currently used by Briarcliff Classic and Imported Car Services. Plasmon, the company claimed, was a skim milk casein, or protein that possessed “all sorts of marvelous qualities.” Twain, who was acting president of the company, which eventually went bankrupt, had written in a testimonial to the effect that if you ingested Plasmon and “trusted in God, you were all right.” When the casein hit the fan and the company faltered. Twain would only admit to being its nominal vice president. An April 19, 2016 article, entitled “The 19th-Century Start-Ups That Cost Mark Twain His Fortune” includes the following:

Twain, being Twain, though, couldn’t resist investing again, once his bank account was restored. He poured thousands of dollars into backing a protein powder called Plasmon, which he claimed delivered 16 times the nutritional value of steak at a cost of a penny a day; it could “end the famine in India.”

The author lost his stake in the U.S. launch and Plasmon was the subject of a fraud trial in 1907, in which Twain tried to recoup his $30,000 investment (about $750,000 today). At the trial, Twain said that company president Henry A. Butters should have been paid “$3 a century” and was a “stallion in intention, a eunuch in action.” Twain was asked if this was the first time that he had been swindled. “No, I have been swindled out of more money than there is on the planet,” he told the judge.

Then, the author paused. “I oughtn’t to say I was swindled out of all the money,” he said. “Most of it was lost through bad business. I was always bad in business.”

Baldwin, meanwhile, lived well in Briarcliff Manor for 27 years, served on the local Board of Education, and was a congregant of the Briarcliff Congregational Church.


The Dysart House. This beautiful house-on-the-hill sports a fieldstone foundation, an upper story of half-timber and stucco and pointed wooden finials. Built by Walter Law to be a large guest house across from the railroad station (before the Briarcliff Lodge was finished). It was probably named after Dysart House in Kirkcaldy, Scotland. When the Lodge was completed and guests could be accommodated there, the house became a school for boys and girls run by the Misses Tewksbury between 1902 and 1913. There are still school bells in the house.

Taken with a Nikon D800 and Nikon AF Nikkor70-300mm f4-5.6G