Losing Our Historic Houses

Early in 1925, a small group of friends created the beginning of Woods Road in Palisades by clipping a path through the thick woods that had been part of the Peet farm before Mary Tonetti bought the land. They went on to build two charming, idiosyncratic houses on the new road, completed by that fall. They named the houses they built “The Thatched House” and “The House in the Woods.” The group consisted of Bobby Hyde, a free-spirited Californian who had married Lydia Tonetti and moved to Palisades, Lydia, and their friends Dick and Ruth Salmon.

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The History of Slavery in Orangetown

In 1702 there were about forty white households in Orangetown, half of which owned a total of thirty-three African slaves. In 1790, there were 198 enslaved Africans living in seventy-eight white households and twenty-six free blacks. Ten years later, one year after the passage of the New York State Gradual Emancipation Act of 1799, there were 256 slaves in ninety-two white households and thirty-seven free blacks. More than two fifths of white households in Orangetown included Africans, both enslaved and free.

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Mansions Along The Cliff

Tales of mansions that stretched for twelve miles along the cliffs of the New Jersey Palisades from Fort Lee to the N.Y. state border have fascinated many of us. Known as Millionaires’ Row, the wealthy in the mid-19th century were drawn to the river views and summer breezes. Most of these estates were knocked down with the construction of the Palisades Interstate Parkway; all that now remains are a few stone walls, a scattering of foundations and steps leading nowhere.

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125 Years of Our Palisades Library

The first attempt to start a library in Palisades was a failure. At some time between 1863 when Dr. Cornelius Agnew arrived in Palisades and 1891, Dr. Agnew set up a fine library and reading room in the abandoned Steepleless Church, located where the Post Office now stands. (Sometime during the 1850s Nichols Gesner’s Methodist sect built a small church that was known as the Steepleless Church because it didn’t have a steeple.) However, it was soon vandalized and abandoned.

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Bell's Birds

When Maria Gagliardi became the director of the Palisades Free Library she inherited an office with a large obstruction underneath the desk. It was a glass case filled with dusty taxidermied birds in various states of disrepair, as well as several holes and cracks in the case. Her interest piqued, it started a side project of investigation that led to a story of illustrious personages, murder most ‘fowl,’ and culminated in a splendid restoration by the American Museum of Natural History. We are lucky that it did not result in a more maudlin and appropriately Victorian end for the Library Director - death by arsenic poisoning.

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Ghost Roads: The Carriage Path

Before there was a Palisades Parkway, before there were neighborhoods called Indian Hill or Palisades Gardens, in the 1920s there was a large estate that lay between Oak Tree Road, Closter Road, and Route 340, owned by Charles Nessler, the man who invented the permanent wave. This estate is remembered now chiefly because of the strange, Daliesque architecture of the house he built on it, and his herd of fallow deer. The estate also abutted the property of Nicholas Gesner who lived on Closter Road next to the New Jersey border and who had constructed a lane that went through his farm from Closter Road to Route 340. This lane was at one time known as “Gesner’s Lane” but for Robert Guttman and the other children growing up in the Indian Hill subdivision of the Nessler estate, the lane was known as “the carriage path” for reasons now long forgotten.

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Ghost Roads: The Second in an Occasional Series on the Lost Lanes and Byways of Palisades

If you have read the books of Alice Munro Haagenson and her daughter Alice Gerard, you will know that at one time there was a mansion called Glen Forest on the cliff overlooking the Hudson in what is now Tallman State Park. Glen Forest was pulled down in 1932, but early maps of our hamlet show a long lane leading from Rockland Road to the mansion, with stone bridges crossing streams, and ending with a large sweeping circle at the cliff’s edge. They also show a croquet lawn on one side of the lane and gardens on the other. All that remains of the house is an overgrown hollow and a small flight of stones once forming a cellar.

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Palisades Library To Acquire Historic Document

Recently, architect and historian Win Perry of Nyack came across an old handwritten copy of the Lockhart Patent, dated to 1742. It had been acquired by his father at some time in the past. After having it appraised, he will donate it to the Palisades Free Library. In this article you can see pictures of the beginning and end of the patent. The full text of the patent is shown in Alice Haagensen’s book, Palisades and Snedens Landing, on pages 140 and 141.

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Abram Demaree Homestead

At the corner of Old Hook and Schraalenburgh Roads in Closter, a hand-lettered sign reads: “Think of me as you pass.” Mary Crain, president of the nonprofit Abram Demaree Homestead, would like you to think about the history of these fourteen acres, continuously farmed since the 1750s. She would also like you to think about pulling in and visiting the farm stand, where the flowers and produce grown there, as well as baked goods from the new kitchen, are sold to support the Homestead.

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The Palisades Triangle

Have you ever taken a walk through the Palisades Triangle? The thickly wooded interior is boggy and overgrown with briars and poison ivy making progress difficult but there are pleasures to be found there, for in the bog live frogs and the insect life to sustain them, a variety of ferns and skunk cabbage and other bog-loving plants, birds and of course, trees. There is an unexpected sense of quiet and remove from the developed world, a tiny wildlife refuge in the middle of town.

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Remembering Camp Shanks

Seventy years ago this past June, Allied Forces stormed the beaches of Normandy. Seventy-five percent of the Americans who fought that day passed through Camp Shanks.

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HOW DO YOU SPELL “SNEDEN(’)S LANDING”?

I asked our local historian, Alice Gerard, if she could clear up the vexing question of whether there is an apostrophe in Sneden(’)s Landing. She consulted her mother’s book, which you can see has addressed in detail the question of how to spell the name of the part of Palisades that grew up by the river.

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New Life for the Historic Mann House

IN 2001, MIKI HYUN, with husband Chul and daughter Sarah, moved into a house on Woods Road that she had designed and built for the family. While waiting with her daughter for the school bus at the triangle on Washington Spring Road, she became intrigued by glimpses of an old stone building, barely seen through a rhododendron hedge. When she explored, she discovered the badly preserved remains of the second oldest house in Palisades, built in 1784 by George Mann, a farmer who had moved here from Würtemberg, Germany. It had most recently been lived in by Sheila Converse who died in 2003.

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The Gesner Diaries: A Project For A Lifetime

Our Palisades library holds a little-known treasure: the 1600 hand-written pages of Nicholas Gesnerʼs diary, set down between 1829 and 1850. Nicholas, born in 1765, lived his whole life in Palisades. He experienced the Revolutionary War, saw Major André hung in Tappan, and made his living here as a shipbuilder, farmer, schoolteacher, lawyer, and surveyor. His diary, which is written in a crabbed hand writing with many cryptic abbreviations, has never been transcribed but is full of interesting details about his neighbors and about early life in Palisades.

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Tapping Your Roots

Researching your roots to discover family members who played a role in determining who you are can be a fascinating journey but with so many sources of genealogical information available today it can be a bit overwhelming.

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Letter to the Editor: Palisades-Sparkill Baseball League

Along Route 340, north of Oak Tree Road and the Palisades Parkway, is the American Legion’s John M. Perry Post. For almost 50 years Orangetown children, ages 8 to 12, have been learning and playing organized baseball on the John O’Rourke Memorial Field just across from their building.

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Our Hidden Historic Cemetery

Many Palisadians have never seen the community’s historic cemetery, which can be reached by a lane located next to the Thayer house, not far from the Post Office. After more than 200 years of existence, it is now threatened with abandonment.

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Oak Tree Road

As we drive down Oak Tree Road to Tappan, it’s hard to imagine a time when the road didn’t exist. But in the 18th and early 19th century the only way to Tappan was by a “cow path” north of the present Oak Tree Road, down the hill to the west, and across the Sparkill Creek by a log.

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Ghost Roads in Palisades: The First in an Occasional Series on the Lanes and Byways of Palisades

Last night, grey clouds blushing pink from the city lights raced across a not quite full moon as my husband and I walked up Washington Spring Road in the dark, carrying a flashlight as our only protection against whatever might be out there. Sheila Asch had advised me when we first moved here to carry a flashlight because not every lane had streetlights. You could stumble or worse in the pitch black. Possibly even get lost! Possibly never to be seen again. We had moved to Brigadoon, so we had learned—it could happen.

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Century Estate on Century Road

Century Road wanders off to the left part way down Closter Road, leading to a cul-de-sac of nine contemporary houses set among tall trees. A few of the houses were originally the same, although later owners have made alterations; the rest are different from each other. The original development owes its creation to Joanne Bergman, who lived in Pomona with her husband Jules and children David, Beth and Karen, before moving to Palisades in 1966.

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