Saturday, December 27, 2014

My Stay in Haverstraw, New York

I knew my cemetery searches in New York would take me up the Hudson River Valley.  I had no clue where to stay.  I knew that I didn't want to stay at a regular non-descript hotel.  Boring!   My internet searches led me to a number of bed & breakfast options and I settled on one in Haverstraw, New York.

Before I left on this trip I had never heard of Haverstraw, a small Hamlet on the west bank of the Hudson River, just north of Nyack and the Tappan Zee Bridge.  Across the Hudson to the east is  Sleepy Hollow, the village known for the Legend of Sleepy Hollow, a short story by Washington Irving.  

Passing through Nyack and driving north along the Hudson River, I could see large rock excavation equipment in the distance.  As I emerged from the west side of Hook Mountain -- the excavation of raw stone materials was in full view -- and honestly, when I saw the pile of millings from the stone excavation, my heart sank.  The beautiful Hudson River Valley is obscured by this eyesore.  I found myself concerned that I had made a poor decision in my place to stay.  But I was pleasantly surprised -- because just beyond the quarry is the wonderfully quaint village of Haverstraw.  There is a reason for all the rock excavation equipment -- this from the Haverstraw website:
Immense clay beds along the Hudson's shores and beneath its surface formed the raw material for this huge industry.  Between 1771 and 1941, Haverstraw was the greatest center of brick production in the nation if not the world.
The highlight of my trip was a stay at the Bricktown Inn.  Michelle and Joe Natale run this bed and breakfast and do it well.  I stayed during the holiday season and the decorations were beautiful and the house warm and inviting.  I enjoyed two breakfast meals and both were excellent ... home made scones, banana bread, omelettes cooked to perfection and French Toast to die for.  And all the coffee and fresh orange juice I could drink.  The other guests were fun and engaging -- the conversation lively and extended. My room had all the conveniences of a hotel -- WiFi, a comfortable bed and chair, and a private bath.  Truly my stay was the type of experience you imagine in old home B&B -- and I was not disappointed in the least.

Haverstraw is a wonderfully diverse town with the Dutch as its earliest European settlers.  English and Scotch Irish followed, the French Huguenots came at the beginning of the 19th century.  Irish and German immigration dominated the middle of the 19th century (that why I'm here!).  The 20th century welcomed the addition of settlers from Canada, Austria, Hungry and Italy.  African Americans and Hispanics also found their way to Haverstraw to work in the brickyards and the quarries.

I went to Mass at St. Peter's Roman Catholic Church - a beautiful church founded in 1848.  I believe the current church was built in the late 1890s.  The apse was simple but artfully rendered.  

I love military history and found these interesting facts from the Haverstraw website:

Haverstraw is also proud of having three Medal of Honor recipients:

Richard Smith, 95th New York regiment, Civil War
Nick Erickson, Navy, Spanish-American War
Michael A. Donaldson, 69th New York, World War I

The location of Haverstraw was important to the defense of the colonies in the Revolutionary War because of its place on the banks of the Hudson, the main artery of trade between New York City and Albany and the dividing line between New England and other colonies.

The Shore Guard was organized in Haverstraw to repel British or Tory landings along the Hudson. The Shore Guard lit signal fires on top of High Tor to warn neighboring communities of danger.

In 1780 Haverstraw played a major role in a plot, which if it had succeeded could have changed the course of the Revolutionary War. American General Benedict Arnold, a hero of the battle of Saratoga, had persuaded George Washington to give him command of the fort at West Point. Washington was unaware that Arnold was involved in treasonable negotiations with the British.

During the night of September 19th and 20th, the English Emissary, Major John Andre, was rowed from the sloop-of-war, Vulture, to a beach below the Long Cove in the Town of Haverstraw. The negotiations to sell the plans to West Point were not completed by dawn and Arnold and Andre traveled to the home of Joshua Het Smith on the grounds of what is now Helen Hayes Hospital. The house became known as Treason House and was unfortunately torn down in the late 1920's.

The plot was foiled by Andre's capture in Tarrytown on his way back to British lines. Arnold fled to the British. The captured Andre traveled through Haverstraw once more on his way to his trial and subsequent execution in Tappan. 

Take some time and visit Haverstraw -- and New City just to the west -- you'll have a great time!

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