I had come across these brick structures during an earlier visit to Croton Point, but had forgotten about them and I certainly didn’t know what they were. However, it seems that there was once a large (75 acre) vineyard on Croton Point. These two structures were wine cellars.
Underhill began his vineyard by planting European varieties of grapes he purchased in Brooklyn from André Parmentier, a wealthy, educated Belgian who came to America to escape the French Revolution. Parmentier started a nursery that included a vineyard. At first he sold only European grapes but, according to Hedrick, he later added “the two American varieties, Catawba and Isabella, which were then becoming popular.”
Underhill’s first batch of European varieties died, but he “had been fired with a consuming desire to grow grapes. In 1827 he began planting Catawbas and Isabellas. This vineyard of American grapes grew until it covered 75 acres, the product of which was sold in New York City. This was the first large vineyard in the country.”
Underhill’s hybrid grapes. “Croton” (above) and “Senasqua” (below) were described in An Illustrated Descriptive Catalogue of American Grape Vines, published in 1883:
Croton. Hybrid cross between Delaware and Chasselas de Fontainbleau, originated by . . . Underhill, of Croton Point, N. Y.; bore its first fruit in 1865. In 1868 and following years it obtained prizes at the New York, Pennsylvania and Massachusetts Horticultural Societies and other grape exhibitions, attracting marked attention. The late H. E. Hooker, of New York, said: “The Croton succeeds very well indeed in some localities, and it is certainly one of the most delightful grapes, when well-grown, that I have ever raised.”
Senasqua. A hybrid raised by . . . Underhill, Croton Point, N.Y. from Concord and Black Prince. Seed was planted in 1863 and the vine bore its first fruit 1865.
This is the second of the two wine cellars. They are both boarded up, but as you can see in the picture someone (it wasn’t me) had knocked a hole in the board. I was able to point my lens through the hole to take the picture below of the interior.
Related articles on the fascinating Croton History Blog include:
You Need Not go to the Rhine to See Vineyards
The Underhill Vineyards, 1867
R. T. Underhill—Doctor, Winemaker, and Investor in the First New York City Elevated Railway
Underhill Vineyard Trade Cards
Ruins of the Underhill Wine Cellars