Kate and Arabella Visit Inwood in 1910


In the summer of 1910 two young girls, Arabella and Kate, boarded a subway car with their mother, and made the passage uptown to Manhattan’s northern rim.  Inwood, at the time, was little more than a wilderness of trees, cattle and working farms connected by meandering country roads.

Inwood Hill circa 1910, MCNY
Inwood Hill circa 1910, MCNY

Upon returning home, Kate penned the following description of Inwood, which was later published in the Brooklyn Daily Eagle:

The Brooklyn Daily Eagle
August 8, 1910


Ever since we’ve been home from Aunt Luella’s we’ve been talking mother most to death about the farm, and the creek, and the trees, and the birds, and the fish, and many other things.

Well,” said mother at last, “after being away so long and so far, and seeing and doing so much, I suppose you wouldn’t want to go with me tomorrow to the upper part of Greater New York to see a tree, would you?”

Go racketing through town!” objected Arabella.

What sort of tree?” asked I.

Why, of course,” cried both of us, “we’d just love to go anywhere with you, mother.”

So we took the Broadway subway and got out at Two Hundred and Seventh street, and walked along Emerson street (now 204th Street) due west until we reached the edge of Cold Spring Woods (now Inwood Hill Park).  Emerson street is wide and well paved, though without houses as yet.  It is also entirely treeless and therefore very sunny.

Pop Seeley’s Cabin in 1904 photograph. (Source: NYHS)

But Cold Spring Woods are thick, green and shady, and the path we followed—a path so narrow that we were compelled to walk Indian file—meandered up and down and up again for over a half a mile till suddenly it dipped deep down toward the waters of Spuyten Duyvil Creek, upon whose bank was the very old and dreadfully ramshackle little shanty in which “Pop” Sealy (sic)  stops when he is not tinkering up one of the many boats in his small boatyard.  We walked along the water for a while and took a long drink from the Cold Spring itself, which here gushes from the rocks as cool, sweet, refreshing and thirst-quenching as when Lord Cornwallis first drank from it and gave it its name.

Seeley cabin in 1906 photo.

When we turned and walked up the hill again we saw right before is The Tree—the big tulip tree which has seen men come, and go, and fight, and make peace again; and ever so many good and bad happenings and countless changes in the three hundred and more years it has been standing in this well-shaded, well-watered spot.

Ernest Lawson, Inwood Tulip Tree
Ernest Lawson, Inwood Tulip Tree.

We took all the string from round our luncheon boxes and tied it together, and with it measured the tree.  About five feet above the ground it is eighteen feet round, but where it just grows out from the soil with all it’s spreading age-gnarled roots it measures thirty.  We couldn’t, of course, measure its towering height; but “Pop” Sealy gave it 123 feet; and surely he should know, for he’s been living for many years under its pleasant shade, and loves it as if it was a tried, true and valued old friend.

Spuyten Duyvil photo from 1915 by William Davis Hassler (MCNY)

After our luncheon we climbed Inwood Hill, rising steep and wooded between The Tree and the Hudson River.  After we’d reached the top and got our breath back we could look way down the river toward New York Bay, and if we looked through a sort of natural peephole in among the trees, up the river across Spuyten Duyvil Creek and miles above to Tappan Zee.  And when we turned our backs to the Hudson and looked across the Harlem we could see the green North Shore of Long Island as far as Port Washington, and if the high yellow sand bluff just east of town had not been in the way no doubt we could have looked into Aunt Luella’s tiptop bedroom window.  Altogether we had a perfectly beautiful time and on our long homeward subway trip we concluded, Arabella and I, that there are lovely nooks and corners everywhere, even in the parks, and along the river fronts of the city and quite close by; and that one not leave town to see woods, hills, trees and the water to have a wholesome, good and happy time.


Lost Inwood Amazon link


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