A long walk home – Some ruins

I’ve been to these ruins a number of times, but until recently I didn’t know much about them.

According to Rob Yasinsac, the doyen of Hudson Valley Ruins:

The New Rochelle Water Company ruins are part of a 120-acre property along the Pocantico River in the Town of Mount Pleasant. The site consisted of a stone pump house, a wood frame caretaker’s cottage (burned on or about early 2006), a smaller service building with concrete retaining basins and a large metal water tank.

The company was providing water to local residents in the 1880s, when it contracted with North Tarrytown to install the first water system in the village. The nearby Pocantico Lake was also the site of an ice harvesting operation in the winter. North Tarrytown connected to New York City’s Croton Aqueduct system in the 1920s. Purification of the Pocantico water was improved after litigation between the village and New Rochelle Water Company at that time.

The New Rochelle Water Company was servicing about two dozen homes in the neighborhood when the property was sold to Westchester County in 1992. A license to operate the pump house was maintained by the company, but it appears the facility has not been in service since then. Legislation to authorize a perpetual easement over part of the property and buildings to the Village of Briarcliff Manor was approved in 2000. The legislation also called for the County Parks Department to remove the “unsightly former residence,” while transferring maintenance and operation of the pump station to Briarcliff Manor.

The pump house and other functionally related structures still exist as of early 2007. The caretakers residence burned to the ground sometime between July 2005 and July 2006.

For many more pictures (including a number of interior shots) of the buildings please go here.

When I first visited you could still get inside the pump house (First five pictures. See: Old Waterworks at Pocantico Lake). Now this is no longer possible, which is probably a good thing as the the building has deteriorated considerably since I first went. Take a look at the roof in the first picture!

For more on Hudson Valley ruins take a look at Rob’s fascinating Website: Hudson Valley Ruins. I can also heartily recommend his book Hudson Valley Ruins: Forgotten Landmarks of an American Landscape.

Taken in early April 2023 with a Sony R1 and fixed Sony 24-120 f2.8-4.8

Passing Bannerman’s Island

Passing Bannerman’s Island on my way up to Beacon, NY. Bannerman’s castle – now in ruins – on Pollepel (also known as Bannerman’s) Island in the middle of the Hudson River, just north of Cold Spring. Looks impressive, but was never more than a very fancy military surplus warehouse (although a smaller structure was used as a residence).

It’s quite hard to get close enough to take a picture. The Metro North train lines get in the way. This picture was taken from a metro north train. There is an overlook, but it’s quite hard to find and even when you do (as I did) the views are not particularly good. You get the best pictures from a boat, which unfortunately I don’t possess. There are, however, tours to the island leaving from the Beacon Waterfront, right next to the Beacon Metro North Station. It’s about a 25 minute boat ride. Although there’s not a lot to see on the island, what there is is interesting and you won’t find anything like it anywhere else in the lower Hudson valley.

According to “Scots and Scots Descendant in America. D. MacDougall. New York, April 10, 1917. Part V – Biographies“:

FRANCIS BANNERMAN, the noted merchant and authority on war weapons, is the sixth Frank from the first Frank Bannerman, standard-bearer of the Glencoe MacDonalds, who escaped the massacre of 1692 by sailing to the Irish coast. His descendants remained in Antrim for 150 years, intermarrying with Scottish settlers. In 1845, Mr. Bannerman’s father removed to Dundee, Scotland, where Francis VI was born, March 24, 1851. He came with his parents to the United States in 1854 and has resided in Brooklyn since 1856. The eldest son in each generation is always named Frank. The surname originated at Bannockburn, where an ancestor rescued the clan pennant, whereupon Bruce cut off the streamer from the Royal ensign and conferred upon him the honour of “bannerman.”

Young Francis left school at ten, when in 1861 his father went to the war. He secured employment in a lawyer’s office at two dollars a week, each morning, before going to the law-office, supplying with newspapers the officers of the warships anchored off the Brooklyn Navy Yard, near his home. Summer evenings, after work hours, he dragged the river with a grapple for bits of chain and rope, which he sold to junkmen. When his father returned disabled, he became a dealer in the material the boy collected, with a storehouse at 18 Little Street, also attending the Navy auctions, and later established a ship-chandlery business at 14 Atlantic Avenue. Frank went back to school for a time and won the scholarship for Cornell University, but could not accept owing to his father’s war disability requiring his assistance in carrying on the business.

In 1872 Francis began business for himself, attending army auctions and, noting the destruction of useful and historic war weapons for old metal, began buying them and sending out an illustrated catalog to collectors. He also supplied frontiersmen with fowling-pieces made over from the old army rifles, which he also altered into Quaker guns for boys’ brigades and military schools. The Assistant Chief of Ordnance stated that “Bannerman has done so much good toward training the youth of America with his Quaker drill guns that the United States could well afford to pay him a bounty on each gun made.” He opened stores in New York City first at 118 Broad Street, then 27 Front Street, and finally, in 1897, at 579 Broadway, where he fitted out many regiments for the Spanish-American War. After the war, he purchased from the United States Government over 90 per cent. of the captured war material, and bought historic Polopel Island, in the Hudson Highlands opposite Cornwall, known to the public as Bannerman’s Island, and erected large arsenals patterned after the Scottish baronial castles. This beautiful island, 13 acres in extent, he also makes his summer home. In 1905, he bought 501 Broadway from the trustees of the Metropolitan Museum, who greatly “reduced the price in recognition of his maintenance of a Free Public War Museum.” The building has seven floors, 40,000 square feet, devoted to museum and salesroom. The collection contains ancient and modern weapons from every country covering hundreds of years. All his goods are sold on Government auction sale terms – cash with order. Even the Standard Oil Company in purchasing had to send check with order.

Mr. Bannerman is not only the largest dealer in the world, but is the acknowledged founder of the military goods business and the foremost authority on military supplies. His illustrated catalog, of more than 400 pages, is known to collectors as the best book on the subject. At the request of the Government, he has in preparation a History of War Weapons. He originated the “sealed bid” plan of selling obsolete Government stores. His goods go all over the world. A large number of transactions have been with Central and South American countries; but he has consistently refused to sell to revolutionists, or to minors or irresponsible persons – he recently cancelled a large order, and refunded the money, when he discovered it was from revolutionists. His stock and facilities are so extensive that he once converted a large ocean steamer into a warship and delivered it in one week. At the outbreak of the European War, in 1914, in seven weeks he supplied the French Army with 8,000 saddles, and as a loyal Scot, donated thousands of rifles, cartridges, etc., to the British Army.
While on a business trip to Europe in 1872, he visited his grand- mother in Ulster. There he met Helen Boyce, of Huguenot-Scotch-Irish descent, to whom he was married, June 8, 1872, in Ballymena, by Rev. Frederick Buick who had married his father. They have three sons: Frank VII, David Boyce, and Walter Bruce; one daughter died in infancy. The two eldest sons are in business with their father. Walter Bruce is a physician in Bridgewater, Mass.

Mr. Bannerman is a most genial and energetic man. Notwithstanding his busy life, he is active in philanthropic and Christian work. He is a great lover of boys, and in connection with boys club church work for years has devoted one evening in the week to studying with them the Sunday-School lesson. He is a member of the St. Andrew’s and many other societies, and was an organizer and one of the first trustees of the Caledonian Hospital.

Taken with a Sony A7IV and Samyang 45mm f1.8

Halcyon Hall demolished

One of the Hudson Valley’s most famous ruins has recently been demolished. I’m glad I was able to get these pictures before it disappeared forever. This is what I wrote about it in 2014 when these pictures were taken:

“This magnificent edifice looms over the intersection of routes 343 and 82 in the town of Millbrook, Dutchess County, New York. It’s Halcyon Hall, the main building of what was once a 200 room luxury hotel when it was built in 1893. In 1907 the Bennett School for Girls relocated here from farther south in Irvington, NY and so things remained until expensive updates and a shift towards co-educational schools caused the school to finally close down in 1978. It’s been abandoned since then. It’s reputed to be haunted by the ghosts of girls who committed suicide there and who still roam the halls. If it’s not a true story it should be.

It amazes me that a splendid building such as this can be allowed to decay and fall apart. I imagine it’s past renovation now, but once upon a time it wasn’t. I suppose that the economics were against it. After all what would you use a building such as this for in Milbrook, NY. I’ll let Wikipedia have the final word:

‘Halcyon Hall was never reopened and quickly fell into ruin. When the heat was turned off, water pipes burst, causing major water damage throughout the building. Large portions of the roof have collapsed and trees can be seen growing through parts of the building. Halcyon Hall remains in this state as of 2014. Halcyon Hall is a popular area for Urban Explorers, and Photographers, due to its structure and decay. Several attempts were made in the 1980s to develop the property but all failed and the title was taken over by Mechanics and Farmers Savings Bank. The bank failed in 1991 and its assets were seized by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation. Halcyon Hall was scheduled to be demolished in 2012.’

In April, 2014 it’s still there. I imagine that eventually it will fall apart by itself. Or some kids will break in and be injured or killed and then they’ll decide to demolish it.”
Anyway now it’s finally gone!

Taken with a Sony Nex 5n and Sony E 55–210 mm F4.5-6.3 OSS

A walk to Ossining – Overview

Before the cold, snow and ice arrived I went for a walk to nearby Ossining, NY. From the house I walked down Holbrook Road, past the brick wall, which surrounded the former Speyer estate, up Maurice Avenue with some nice old houses. Crossing Albany Post Road (route 9), I went down Broad Avenue and over to Main Street. After exploring Main Street for a while I returned to Albany Post Road and continued back along the Old Croton Aqueduct, up Scarborough Road (past the brick wall of the Speyer Estate again), went by the former gatehouse to the Chilmark Estate and from there walked home (1 block).

Here part of the brick wall of Waldheim, the former Speyer Estate (I’ve always had a weakness for vines growing on walls) and some ruined brick pillars, which must also have been part of the estate.

Taken with a Sony A7IV and Sony FE 28-75 f3.5-5.6 OSS.