Inwood Stay at Home Vacation: Suggestions from 1912

Broadway near Academy Street in 1925.

This holiday season, like many of my Inwood neighbors, I chose to remain home when I would really rather have been sunning myself on just about any faraway sandy beach.  So, instead of climbing the walls, I took several walks in a convenient oasis just several blocks away—Inwood Hill Park.

The brisk hikes reminded me of an article I read not long ago in the New York Herald which advised cash strapped New Yorkers that they need not stay at home—that natural wonders lay just a short hike away.

While the below piece was written in 1912, it holds as true today as when it was written a century ago.

New York Herald, July 21, 1912

New York, Herald
July 21, 1912
Vacations “on the Half Shell”

“The Dyckman House,” by Ernest Lawson, 1913.

The stay-at-homers solved the vacation problem.  Instead of moping because they cannot go to the seashore or the mountains and spend a ‘wad’ of money, they smile optimistically and take their vacations ‘on the half shell.’  Furthermore, they declare it a great sport.

Within the borders of Manhattan alone, unappreciated because unsought, the stay-at-homes are finding the beauties of the South of France and rural England, the romance of the Riviera and the serenity of a Swiss valley, each in capsular form and waiting to be taken at the rate of one a day.

A five-cent fare, either by the Broadway surface car or the subway brings you to Dyckman street.  Here you can take the open highway.  You may be inclined to loiter under the shadow of the towering oaks and elms of Inwood, and to spread you picnic lunch on the huge boulders along the way, not knowing the beauties further on. But wait!  A short block from Broadway to Prescott Avenue there is an abrupt turn, and you enter picturesque Bolton Road.

It seems like a bit of rural England, and looks it, too, with a dash of the Isle of Wight, the River Thames and the Embankments thrown in.

From the brow of the hill nearby there is a marvelous view of the Palisades and the Hudson.  A bit further and you come to the forbidding walls of the circumspect Magdalen Home on the river side.  To the right is a deserted mansion commanding a splendid view of the Palisades and the river.  Further on is atypical countryseat.  It would cover many city blocks and extends from Bolton road down to the Hudson.

Straus residence on Bolton Road in what is now Inwood Hill Park, NYHS.
Straus residence on Bolton Road in what is now Inwood Hill Park, NYHS.

A little further on is the old Isidor Straus country place, the last house on Manhattan Island.  From every point at this end of the island are extended views of the Hudson and Harlem rivers, Fordham Heights, the Hall of Fame, Bronx Park and the uplands of Long Island, while directly opposite are the Englewood cliffs.

A few paces beyond is a strange formation of rock which is the Mecca of many a geological class.  It is the product of some pre-glacial period.

McCreery house in what is now Inwood Hill Park, NYHS.
McCreery house in what is now Inwood Hill Park, NYHS.

The return trip may be taken by the roadway close to the river, past the McCreery and numerous other old Knickerbocker mansions that will have passed when the City takes over this section as a park.  One of these old homes now furnishes the background for a well know moving picture concern, where ‘Wild West’ pictures by the score are produced with no other mountain scenery available than the Palisades.  The river road, though less secluded than Bolton road, is nevertheless quaint and picturesque, and a bit more like Normandy than cosmopolitan New York.  St. Michael’s Villa, which stands high on the opposite cliffs, makes the illusion complete.

Having made the detour to the upper portion of the island, the foot of Dyckman street is reached.  Here the motor ferry may be taken to the Palisades side, but that is really another day’s jaunt.”

Happy Holidays Inwood!

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  1. Well, Cole, you’ve done it again! What a great, great article. Always wanted to see what the Straus “summer cottage” looked like. Can you identify it’s exact location?
    Thanks, Happy Holidays and a great New Year to you and Marcella.


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