Berrian Farm House
Facing the south and enjoying the proud distinction
of almost having the whole world at its feet, the
old stone Berrian Farm House has in recent years
developed into a most delightful modern mansion.
Located near the end of the winding Spuyten Duyvil
Parkway, its smiling sun-parlors command a most
wonderful prospect of hill, river and creek, at the
very spot where Henry Hudson and his "Half Moon"
held their paw-wow with the aboriginal red-men.
We asked an old resident what he thought might be
its age, but he was unable to state. "I'll tell you
what I do know," he eagerly volunteered. "If I live
to see the thirtieth of next February, I' be just
At last it slowly dawned on us that February had no
thirtieth day, but the Oldest Inhabitant had escaped
before we could settle our score.
The Canal Street Cottage
Delightfully located among Riverdale's most secluded
glens, on a broad plateau of the greenest grass, may
found the Old Canal Street Cottage.
So styled because it once stood on Canal Street,
Manhattan, it was taken apart, many years ago, the
sections loaded on a large barge and floated through
the long-disappeared canal to the waters of the
Hudson. It then made the voyage north until Spuyten
Duyvil was passed, when it was placed on dry land
again and erected where it now stands.
So hard are its ancient timbers, the owner told me,
that only with the greatest difficulty could he
drive nails into them. "They are as hard as a rock,"
A lofty platform over the railroad tracks affords a
truly magnificent panorama from Sing Sing's walls on
the north to the distant Jersey City on the south.
Seeing a sumptuous steam yacht lying at anchor close
by, its white paint and yellow brass glistening
brightly in the summer sun, I asked if any one
chanced to know whose it was.
"Oh, I know him pretty well," said my host. "It's my
The Strang Mansion
The month of June, 1776, saw General Washington
visiting this whole region and carefully examining
its strategic points. As a result, nine sites were
chosen for fortifications, and the work on these
redoubts began at once.
What was known as Fort Number One was on the
southwesterly side of Spuyten Duyvil Hill, in later
times occupied by the mansion of Peter O. Strang,
now owned by W.C. Muschenheim. Many relics have been
The tablet on the residence reads:
"The Foundation of this House is a Part of Fort
Number One, Which was Erected by the Continental
Army in August, 1776, Occupied by the British
November 7, 1776, Dismantled in 1779 and Remained
Debatable Ground until the Close of the American
"One of a chain of Eight Forts North and East of
Spuyten Creek and Harlem River, Extending from this
Point to the Site of the New York University."
The neighboring monument to Henry Hudson rises 100
feet in the air, and stands on an elevation of 200
The Sage Mansion
The Warren B. Sage Mansion rises directly in the
site of old Fort Number Two, just as substantial and
square as the day it was built. The view to the east
comprises a glorious vista of the Valley of
A well-known doctor, an ardent antiquarian, and
possessor of many Revolutionary muskets with flash
pans, ancient carbines and fowling-pieces of early
date, was hurriedly summoned, one wet night, to this
old Sage home. Rushing in, he found the patient in
great pain and distress.
Refusing to say a word, he sought to retreat from
the old fort faster than the British did. Yielding
to the family's entreaties, he at last said: "You
may do so and so for him if you will. I will not
prescribe for a dog!"
The Bowie Dash Mansion
High on the hills among old Riverdale's most
picturesque glades, the old Bowie Dash Mansion
fairly overlooks the world. Dash's Lane, narrow,
steep and winding, which in days past formed the
only means of access to this residence, has yielded
tot he broad and beautiful Spuyten Duyvil Parkway.
What a contrast!
Styled "Upper Cortlandt's" to distinguish it from
"Lower Cortlandt's" in the valley below, the square
stone Dash Mansion is said to have been often
visited by General Sherman, one of the relatives of
the family, while we are told that the late Theodore
Roosevelt often played there when a boy.
The quaint gardener's cottage on the estate far
antedates the residence itself, while close by,
between the years of 1776 and 1781, was an extensive
The Old Giles Mansion
Before the storm of the Revolution burst upon the
American colonies, a young farmer, a Captain in the
British army, searched the Borough of the Bronx for
a suitable site for a farm. Nothing suited him so
well as the fertile Kingsbridge heights, and on its
slopes he settled and plowed his land.
Then broke the storm of war. Turning his plow-share
into a sword, he joined the patriot ranks and soon
rose to be in high command. In a word, this is the
narrative of General Richard Montgomery, the hero of
Quebec. Where his house once stood was but a hole in
the ground many years ago. An old resident lamented
loudly this fact, saying he would gladly have
preserved it, had there only been anything to
Little did Montgomery think that the highest crest
of his farm would ever be crowned by the
all-important Fort Independence, the largest of the
series of fortresses commanding the important valley
below. It was built partly by Colonel Rufus Putnam,
who had constructed Fort Washington.
On the approach of the Hessians in 1776, the
American commander destroyed the ramparts, and
abandoned the work, and for three years it was
occupied by the British forces.
Rising in the very centre of this ancient fort is
the tall and stately Giles Mansion, so prominent a
landmark for miles around. Many were the
Revolutionary relics unearthed when its cellar was
dug: cannon-balls, caltrops and eleven cannon of
early vintage, two of which now lie in front of the
old Van Cortlandt Mansion in the valley below.
The Schwab Mansion
Overlooking the valley of the Harlem from the crest
of picturesque University Heights, rises that
massive structure, sixty-two years old, and now one
of the buildings of the New York University, the
grand old Schwab Mansion.
A handsome tablet proclaims this message to the
"The Site of Fort Number Eight, 1776-1783."
Serving to command the Harlem River and the old
Kingsbridge Road, this fort was maintained by the
British until 1779, as it served as a guard to
Colonel De Lancey's troops in their bailiwick close
This red-coat officer had his headquarters in the
old Archer Homestead, a short distance south, and
while in American hands it was a constant source of
terror and alarm to De Lancy and his corps.
The Van Cortlandt Mansion
The Van Cortlandt Park subway express lands its
passengers almost in the midst of the charming Dutch
Garden that forms the extensive front yard of the
solid stone Van Cortlandt Mansion, by far the best
known historical landmark of upper New York City.
Erected in 1748, as the figures graven so deeply in
the front wall proclaim, it is a popular museum in
charge of the Society of Colonial Dames, and is
daily visited by countless sight-seers. The quaint
bedroom where General Washington slept the night
before his triumphal entry into New York City on
Evacuation Day, 1783, is the Mecca of every one,
while another prized spot is the immense cavernous
fireplace of the great Dutch Kitchen.
One visit, one examination of its treasures of the
past, is enough to carry one back to Colonial times
when history "was warm in the making." During the
critical days of the Revolution in New York, Pierre
and Philip Van Cortlandt, father and son, were among
Washington's firmest supporters. General Tryon,
visiting the old house in 1774, had offered them
royal honors, royal favors, even royal grants of
land, if they would but embrace the British cause,
but his propaganda was in vain.
Philip Van Cortlandt strongly resembled the noted
Lafayette. While on his tour to America in 1824, the
French General One day became so weary of the
Constant handshaking at a long reception that he
quietly slipped away, leaving Van Cortlandt to
perform that duty in his stead.
Of his son, Philip junior, the following story is
told: When fourteen years of age, his father sent
him with a note of introduction to General
Washington. The boy presented the letter and was
promptly asked to dinner the next day. After
starting for headquarters, the following noon, fear
overcame him and he ran back home.
Unexpectedly meeting Washington, the general took
him vigorously to task with: "Mister Van Cortland,
where were you yesterday?" No answer. "Mister Van
Cortlandt, Mrs. Washington and I expected you to
dinner yesterday. We waited several moments for you.
You inconvenienced us by failing to keep your word.
You are a young lad, Mister Van Cortlandt, and let
me advise you, hereafter when you make a promise or
an engagement, never fail to keep it. Good morning,
Mister Van Cortlandt."
A still older Van Cortlandt residence, built in
1700d, stood to the southeast of the present
structure, and was destroyed in 1825. The hollow of
its ancient cellar can distinctly be traced near a
group of locusts.
Just east of the present mansion which an old
resident always insisted was a "Dutch farm house,
not a mansion", rises a grim-looking barred window
in its setting of dark stones. This once formed part
of the massive Rhinelander sugar house at Rose and
Duane Streets, Manhattan, in whose dreaded interior
such hordes of American prisoners were huddled
together in Revolutionary times. To stand behind
this relic of the past and peer between the solid
bars is to bring vividly to mind those days when the
patriot captives so eagerly pressed their faces
against them in wild struggle for fresh air.
A short distance behind the "old Dutch farm house,"
on the heights of Vault Hill, a tall stone enclosure
rises most prominently, the strong wall surrounding
the ancient Van Cortlandt burial vault. In the dark
recesses far below the priceless records of New
;York City were hidden by Augustus Van Cortlandt,
then clerk of the distant city.
One who, years ago, was allowed to peer into the
depths below, declared most emphatically that what
he saw reminded him exactly of his conception of the
Place of Departed Spirits.
On the crest of Vault Hill, where Augustin Corbin's
buffaloes grazed, years ago, General Washington and
his army bivouacked in 1781. Leaving his camp fires
burning all night, he quietly stole away to New
Jersey, and when the British opened their eyes in
the morning, their prey had escaped.
Facing the southerly end of Van Cortlandt Lake, "on
whose smooth surface young men and maidens glide in
summer, gathering white lilies with their hands, and
in winter, gathering red roses on their cheeks,"
once stood the venerable Van Cortlandt Mills,
erected in 1700. Says a sprightly writer: "They have
ground corn for both the friends and foes of
American independence." After passing in safety all
the troublous times of devastating war, they
surrendered in 1900, when a bolt of lightning
descended from the skies to end their days.
Thus ends the tale of the grand old Bronx mansions.
Many have yielded to the advancing tide that flows,
not from the waters of the Sound, but from the
advance of human population. Others have lived to
see fulfilled this interesting prophecy, made nearly
fifty years ago, which reads:__
"He who undertakes to write a history half a century
hence will speak of numerous viaduct railways
starting from a point above the Harlem River and
running to the Battery: of the Harlem River as lined
"He will speak of the lower end of Westchester
County as the home of toiling thousands: of
magnificent drives, boulevards and parks; of a
population within fifteen miles north of the Harlem
River as large as that then in the city south of it.
"Call this a dream if you will, but he who shall
write a faithful history fifty years hence will
record it as an accomplished fact!"