My wife was having her hair done in Oregon Corners, Putnam Valley. I’d read about a new trail in the vicinity so I took the dog and decided to give it a try. It’s called the Hollowbrook Trail and, as it turned out, it wasn’t much to write home about. It starts with a fairly long and fairly steep uphill stretch, which when you reach the top turns into a short loop, which brings you back to the original steep part, which you then descend. It’s pretty much the usual trail that you find around here: boulders, rocks, standing trees, downed trees, stone walls etc. At the top it had a few pieces of rusting machinery to add interest. It took me about 30-45 minutes to complete. I’ve read that additional branch trails are foreseen, which would certainly make it more interesting.

What is interesting, however, is the location of the trail. The land was donated by the Hollow Brook Golf Club, which in an earlier incarnation as the Hollow Brook Country Club was the site of the infamous Peekskill Riots described in a section of the golf club’s site entitled “History at Hollow Brook Golf Club” as follows:

During the Summer of 1949, the property gained notoriety as the site of the first riot over a performance by Paul Robeson. Mr. Robeson was a Phi Beta Kappa graduate of Rutgers College, a two-time All-American football player and a Columbia University – educated lawyer. By 1949, he was gaining accolades for his singing and stage performances, as well as for his outspoken championing of civil rights. Robeson was also well known due to J. Edgar Hoover’s announcement in 1943 that he was a threat to national security because of his sympathies toward the Soviet Union, although the FBI never found evidence that he was a member of the Communist Party.

On August 27, 1949, Robeson was scheduled to perform an outdoor concert at the Lakeland Acres park. Several groups organized resistance to the performance and the demonstrations were meant as a peaceful opposition to Communism, but the mood quickly became violent as demonstrators began fighting with concertgoers. This conflict continued for two hours, during which one concertgoer was stabbed and twelve people were sent to the hospital.

As the riot gained international attention, Mr. Robeson was determined to return to the area, and a second concert was scheduled for September 4th. This time, the concert was moved next door to a site on the old Hollow Brook Country Club. The old country club was located immediately adjacent to the eastern parcel of the site and was leased out by Stephen Szego, who had recently bought the land at an auction. Currently, Blue Jay Estates is located on a portion of this site, while the Hollowbrook Drive-In movie theater previously occupied the property.

The concert went on as scheduled, but demonstrators numbering in the thousands proceeded to parade along Oregon Road and built piles of stones along the road. When the concert adjourned, violence once again ensued as demonstrators began hurling the stones at exiting cars. Fighting between the two groups broke out and resulted in 145 people being injured during the melee.

Fifty years later, a celebration of remembrance and the progress made in civil rights took place at the site. Some of the same people who were at the riots, along with government officials, clergy and local residents, took part in the celebration. Paul Robeson Jr. stated at the event, “The time to forget will never come . . . yet the time to forgive has surely arrived,” while County Executive Andrew Spano declared that Westchester County would never, ever permit such a trampling of free speech again.

The site also provides some interesting historical photographs.

Taken with a Sony RX-100 M3.

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