Sunday, June 12, 2011

The Tarrytown Lakes and the Hudson River Valley Estates

The longer I live outside of New York State, the more I realize how privileged I was to grow up there. Tarrytown, the town where I grew up, is a lovely small village on the Hudson River. A short drive from the center of Tarrytown along Neperan Road and you will suddenly find yourself at the beautiful Tarrytown Lakes and the small forests surrounding them. The Tarrytown Lakes would freeze solid during the winter months, and we spent hours there after school ice-skating—practicing our twirls and fantasizing about being figure skaters. The boys would be playing ice hockey any chance they got. We would make our way into the shed by the side of the lake to warm up a bit and then out we’d go again. There were always lots of children skating; that’s where you went if you wanted to meet your friends after school during the winter months. During the autumn months, the trees would change color and the foliage was a sight to behold. My brother and his friends spent many hours fishing at the Tarrytown Lakes. Swimming was not allowed because the lakes were reservoirs for drinking water.

If you continued along Neperan Road, you would come to a point where you could make a left onto Lake Road (I don’t remember if it had a different name some years ago). If you drive along Lake Road, you will eventually come to the Rockefeller Park Preserve where you can run, bike, or walk for miles. When we were children, our parents would pack us into the back seat of our car for our weekly Sunday drives during the spring and summer; we often drove along Lake Road that merged into Bedford Road that passed through the Rockefeller Park Preserve. Sometimes we would stop and get out of the car to walk over to the horses standing by the fences waiting for a handout of sugar cubes. Sometimes we watched the sheep or the cows. I remember thinking as a child how beautiful and expansive and green the land was during the summertime, and how blue the sky was with its lovely puffy white clouds.

Broadway, also known as Route 9, runs through the center of Tarrytown. If you drive south along Broadway, you will discover two lovely estates with historic homes (now museums) located on the riverfront—Lyndhurst and Sunnyside. Lyndhurst was the home of Jay Gould, the railroad tycoon; it is now managed by the National Trust for Historic Preservation, while Sunnyside was the home of the famous author Washington Irving, who wrote The Legend of Sleepy Hollow. Sunnyside, along with Philipsburg Manor, Kykuit, and Van Cortlandt Manor, are managed by the Historic Hudson Valley, a non-profit organization started by John D. Rockefeller. The Rockefellers were and are a very wealthy New York family; they have used their wealth and clout to promote education and environmental protection in New York State, and supported these endeavors quite early on. I have had the pleasure of visiting Lyndhurst many times, especially as a teenager; in recent years I have visited Philipsburg Manor and Kykuit together with my friends Jean and Maria when I have come to NY; this year we’re talking about possibly visiting Sunnyside and Lyndhurst again when I visit NY in August.

Lyndhurst especially holds some special memories for me. The two Dark Shadows films (House of Dark Shadows and Night of Dark Shadows from the early 1970s) were filmed there. As I have written about in an earlier post about Dark Shadows, my friends and I would wait at the entrance gate each day after school for the filming to be over, so that we could meet the actresses and actors and get their autographs. A few years later, during our junior year in high school, our English teacher, who was interested in film-making, gave us the opportunity to make two short (three or four-minute) films during our last semester, which were then shown to the entire school during a one-day film festival. It was a lot of fun to learn how to use the movie camera (8mm film at that time), how to cut and splice the developed film, and how to thread the film projector. One of my ‘creations’ was filmed at Lyndhurst; I used Jethro Tull’s song Living in the Past and created a short film to the music using my friend Janet as my actress—dressed first in modern clothing, I had her climb over the entrance gate and then as she hopped down, she was suddenly dressed in a flowing old-fashioned long gown from the 1800s. I don’t remember where we got a hold of the gown. What I do remember is that the filming was done in slow-motion, so that when she jumped down off the gate, the slow-motion effects of her ‘transition’ from a modern girl dressed in jeans to an old-fashioned girl dressed in a long gown were just so cool to watch. Even when not filming, we often spent a lot of time at the estate, walking around and taking pictures of the landscape and the main house (Gothic architecture). Years later, during the mid-1980s, the grounds were opened to the public on Saturday evenings for picnics and then there would be classical music and jazz concerts once it got dark. I can remember attending a few of them with both friends and family. In some coming posts, I will include some photos of the Tarrytown Lakes, Lyndhurst, Philipsburg Manor and Kykuit. They are beautiful places and if you ever find yourself in New York State in the Tarrytown area, visit them. You will not be disappointed.

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