The Veitch Collection: Inwood Photographs Rediscovered

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Dry goods store of Robert Veitch.  Once located on Dyckman Street just west of Broadway.  From turn of the century penny postcard by Robert Veitch.
Dry goods store of Robert Veitch. Once located on Dyckman Street just west of Broadway. From turn of the century penny postcard by Robert Veitch.

Sometime in the mid-1800’s grocer Robert Veitch opened a general store beside the railroad tracks in a sparsely inhabited region of northern Manhattan known then as Tubby Hook.

Veitch’s dry goods store would become the center of commerce, news and gossip in the little hamlet now known as Inwood.

1867 map show store in original location by the railroad tracks along the Hudson River.
1867 map show store in original location by the railroad tracks along the Hudson River.

The imposing brick building that housed Veitch’s wares originally stood near the far western end of Dyckman Street (called Inwood Street through the late 1800’s).

Veitch railroad postcard,  circa 1907.
Veitch railroad postcard, circa 1907.

The location, opposite the railroad depot, would serve Veitch well through the turn of the century.

Realizing the arrival of the subway was imminent; Veitch had the foresight to move his business east, near Broadway, to be closer to the development that would surely follow.

But Veitch didn’t just switch locations; he took the decades old brick edifice along for the ride.

The move was a Herculean task involving horses and well muscled help who literally dragged the massive structure east where it was laid to rest near Broadway beside the Mount Washington Church.

1913 map shows location of store after move east towards Broadway.
1913 map shows location of store after move east towards Broadway.

In those early years of Inwood’s development Robert Veitch was a tireless civic-minded servant and neighborhood booster. In addition to selling dry goods, his shop would double as the local post office. He was a generous benefactor of the Dyckman Free Library and local school, P.S. 52.

While utterly dedicated to his Inwood neighbors, running the shop and tending to his growing family, Veitch somehow found time to indulge in his true passion—photography.

Over several decades, beginning in the 1880’s, Veitch would capture stunning images of his neighborhood.

Dyckman Street looking west in Veitch postcard.
Dyckman Street looking west in Veitch postcard.
Dyckman Street subway station from Veitch postcard.
Dyckman Street subway station from Veitch postcard.
Tubby Hook swimming hole (now the site of La Marina) in Veitch postcard.
Tubby Hook swimming hole (now the site of La Marina) in Veitch postcard.

Veitch turned many of the recognizable images into penny postcards, which he would sell from his Dyckman Street store.

The more personal photos—the church socials, street scenes and family shots—were tucked into a suitcase where they might have been lost forever.

If not for a recent discovery.

Nearly a century after Veitch snapped his last photo his great-great grandson, Jason Covert, began to explore the collection.

Jason Covert: Great-great grandson of Inwood photographer Robert Veitch.
Jason Covert: Great-great grandson of Inwood photographer Robert Veitch.

A photographer and graphic artist himself, Covert immediately realized he had inherited a collection of great historic significance.

According to Covert, “In 2004 I was approached by my mother and handed a small leather case, worn but sturdy, containing more than 100 antique glass negatives, taken by my great-great-grandfather.

I was instantly taken aback; not just by the uniqueness of these negatives, but by the fact that I was being handed a never-before-seen (outside of a few family members) chronicle of New York City history, and one that just happened to double as a 100+ year-old family album. ‘Maybe you can do something with this,’ my mother remarked.

In the video that follows, Covert takes us inside the collection of Inwood founding father Robert Veitch.

Info on Jason Covert and His show, “The Bridge.”

Old Veitch grocery captured in the background of a photo taken in the 1950's. From the collection of Evelyn Strobel Ruggiero
Old Veitch grocery captured in the background of a photo taken in the 1950’s. From the collection of Evelyn Strobel Ruggiero

 

11 COMMENTS

  1. Wow! I’ve never seen photos of the Hall of Fame/Gould Memorial Library under construction! I am very interested in that photo in particular because my own Grandfather and Great Uncles were construction workers on the site.

  2. Great story. Would Mr. Covert ever consider offering making copies of the prints for sale ? Is there a site that has all 100 prints on it for viewing.

  3. thanks as always Cole and i am glad to see Evelyn’s photo there with her mom…i wonder why nothing is named after Mr Veitch in WH or inwood?

    • Jason Covert shows the slides in the video. They’re not unlike slides of more recent decades…just made of glass. They are heavy, fragile and have incredible resolution.

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