Croton Friends of History Events
All events are free and open to the public. Unless otherwise noted, the events take place at 7:00 p.m. in the Ottinger Room at the Croton Free Library, 171 Cleveland Drive, Croton-on-Hudson, NY. Please join us!
The Life & Times of Walter Law
and the Rise of Briarcliff Manor
In the 1890s, businessman Walter Law “retired” to Westchester County. Over several years he purchased dozens of parcels of land and accumulated 5,200 acres in the area then known as Whitson’s Corners. On the first portion he established Briarcliff Farm, designed to showcase a methodical system for manufacturing the best possible farm products. As his operations expanded he started the Briarcliff Table Water Company, the Briarcliff Greenhouses, and built guest accommodations—the most famous named Briarcliff Lodge. By 1902 the Village of Briarcliff Manor was incorporated and Law established schools, churches, and parks. Croton resident and historian John Heagle grew up in Briarcliff, graduated from Ithaca College with a major in Architectural History, and is presently a local business owner. He will tell the story of this remarkable man and the village he created.Thursday, April 2, 7:00 p.m.
APRIL | Rescheduled Event
Stepping Stones by Cornelia Cotton
Cornelia Cotton was born in the last years of Weimar Germany. Her father was a violinist, her mother a dancer with a Jewish legacy. She saw the first signs of the Nazi movement and witnessed the self-inflicted destruction of a once-civilized society and the multiple losses of family and friends who died or fled Germany. She came to America as a student in 1948, stayed on, married an artist/teacher, raised a family and has lived a life rich in music, art and people. With perfect pitch, Cornelia has composed a colorful collage of memories from the Germany of her childhood and linked them to the adult she has become. She will read excerpts from her recent book, Stepping Stones, which you can purchase on Amazon here.Tuesday, April 14, 7:00 p.m.
APRIL | Special Event
Croton Dam Walking Tour
Carl Oechsner—author and president of the Croton Friends of History—leads a walk to explore the Old Croton Aqueduct and the New Croton Dam. Along the way he will discuss the fascinating story of New York City’s water system, one of the most elaborate feats of civil engineering in the history of North American urbanization. Assemble at the Croton Free Library at 2:00 p.m. for a short orienting presentation, and then carpool to the Aqueduct. Comfy walking shoes recommended! To get even more out of the tour read Carl’s article, Watering the Metropolis, the Story of the Croton Aqueduct, here. Sunday, April 19, 2 to 5 p.m.
Benjamin Brandreth, the Pill Man of Sing Sing
In 1835 Benjamin Brandreth began his remarkable career, which spanned nearly forty-five years. Over that time, his Brandreth Pills, Porous Plasters and more, were manufactured by the millions and became well known throughout the world. In 1837 Dr. Brandreth moved his family and operations to Sing Sing. Norman MacDonald, longtime Ossining resident, historian and presently curator of the Ossining Historical Society Museum, will present an in-depth look at the nineteenth century’s most famous Patent Medicine Man.Thursday, May 7, 7 p.m.
The West Point Foundry
Established in 1817 as a cannon foundry, the West Point Foundry at Cold Spring was one of the first major industrial sites in the United States. At its peak during the Civil War, the foundry manufactured several types of cannons, which were crucial to the Union victory. Among other products were the first American steam locomotives, marine engines and boilers for early steamships and warships, sugar mills, aqueduct pipes, architectural columns, and industrial machinery. Trudie A. Grace, curator of the Putnam History Museum, and historian Mark Furlow will use rare photographs and other images to trace the foundry’s history from its early years, through the period of Civil War production, to its current status as a site of archaeological excavation. Their book can be purchased from Amazon here.Thursday, June 4, 7 p.m.
The Road to Prickly Pear Hill and the Ruins
In the early 1900s two magnificent estates were built on hills in Croton, with panoramic views of the Hudson River. John Larkin’s seventeen-room fieldstone manor has been lovingly preserved and currently serves as the Clubhouse of the Hudson National Golf Club. On a nearby hilltop was Alfred P. Gardiner’s much grander estate, Hessian Hills Farm, which became the Hessian Hills Country Club in the late 1920s. Today the Gardiner estate lies in ruins, partly as a result of mysterious fires in November, 1930, when the property was a country club owned by Milton J. Gordon. Brigid Faranda will tell the stories of these spectacular properties and share insights into the lives of the men who owned them.Thursday, September 3, 7:00 p.m.
Memoirs of a Magic Queen, the Amazing Life
of Adelaide Herrmann
Magician, historian and author Margaret Steele presents a very special lecture on Adelaide Herrmann (1853-1932), the world’s first great female magician. Ms. Steele is the editor of Madame Herrmann’s recently-published memoir, which finally surfaced in 2010, seventy-eight years after her death. In addition to an image-rich photo lecture on Madame Herrmann’s adventurous life, Ms. Steele will perform some of Herrmann’s signature magic routines. The book can be purchase from Amazon here.Thursday, October 1, 7:00 p.m.
Vietnam Today, a Personal Journey
In February 2012, Deborah Lea Cohen traveled to Vietnam to pursue her interest in how the Vietnamese—from both the North and the South—have fared since the end of their tragic conflict. Deborah found herself amazed and inspired by her experiences there. Her rich photographs, accompanied by commentary, interpret her journey through this fascinating country.Thursday, November 5, 7:00 p.m.
Crossing the Croton: Three Centuries of Fords,
Ferries, Trestles and Trusses
Carl Oechsner and Marc Cheshire will present part two of their series on the bridges of the lower Croton River. Starting east of Quaker Bridge in the late 1800s, they will tell the inspiring story of the construction of the New Croton Dam and all the long-gone temporary construction bridges, rope bridges and train bridges that made the massive project possible. They’ll also tell the sad stories of the destruction of the Wire Mill Bridge, Hunters Brook Bridge, and the flooding of the Croton River Valley.Thursday, December 3, 7:00 p.m.