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Hastings’ Character and Characters:
A Tour of Places and Personalities

The Hastings Historical Society’s annual spring house tour promises to bring to life some of the most vivid personalities of Hastings’ past, through the Hastings places they called home. Curious about that ruined stone castle on Pinecrest Drive or the estate homes that once commanded the vast sections of our village? These properties and the people who built them are among the fascinating stops on our two-day, 15-home tour.

The itinerary:

May Yohe

The Gribben House 60 Edgars Lane

The beautiful, turreted Queen Anne style home at what was formerly 41 Villard was built in the late 1880s. Through its oak-paneled entryway, characters both famous and desperate have passed. Its occupants have included the Newberry Award-winning illustrator Jay Hyde Barnum and former mayor Charles Woodard. The most famous resident of the house was the mercurial and melodramatic actress May Yohe, who bought this house for her mother in 1888. Born to a seamstress and an ironworker in 1866, she became a chorus girl in New York City at 21. Her spunk and sass captured the heart of Lord Henry Francis Hope, heir to a British dukedom — and to the famous Hope Diamond.

Margaret Sanger

The Sanger House 155 Edgars Lane

The birth-control pioneer Margaret Sanger lived in this home with her architect husband Bill and three children from 1906 to 1912. The house was designed by Margaret’s husband in the Arts and Crafts style and reflects the movement’s emphasis on simplicity, use of natural materials, openness to nature, and handcrafted beams, cabinets, and shelves. Margaret Sanger is most well known for beginning the organization now called Planned Parenthood, both in America and internationally.

The Locust Hill House 31 Sheldon Place

Former residents Herbert and Rosetta Bohnert were prolific artists, well known for their standing in the art world. During the 1930s and 1940s, Herbert was an illustrator and commercial artist and produced the ads for Dutch Boy paint, using his son Bill and other Hastings boys as models. His drawings were published in magazines including The Saturday Evening Post. Later he became known for his portraits, which include Hastings Mayor William Steinschneider’s, now in Hastings Village Hall. Rosetta Bohnert was named “The Woman Who Has Done the Most for Art” by the National League of American Pen Women in 1961. She was best known for her landscapes, flower paintings, and frescoes and exhibited frequently. The original Arts and Crafts style of the house has been maintained in subsequent additions, with an emphasis in recent years on keeping the house as “green” as possible. The original thick walls, built of stone quarried in Yonkers, provide insulation. Overhanging eaves offer shade, while recessed windows and porches help with the natural air flow.

Three Gables Sheldon Place

Three Gables was built in 1907 by John B. Steinert in the Locust Hill section, Hastings’ first commuters’ development, carved from part of the Minturn estate. Many original Arts and Crafts Movement structural and decorative features remain in the living room and foyer of Three Gables, including light fixtures, pocket doors, windows, a six-panel closet door, and a cozy “inglenook” in the dining room. One distinguished resident was Arthur Abell, who met and wrote about some of the great composers and musicians of the early 20th century.

Richmond Shreve

The Shreve House 50 Euclid Avenue

The owner and designer of this home, Richmond H. Shreve, was a partner in New York City architecture firm Shreve, Lamb, and Harmon, whose most noted accomplishment was the design and construction of the Empire State Building. A 1944 Architectural Record article described his work ethic as “order, forethought, and system.” Shreve designed 50 Euclid Avenue for his family in 1910. The living room overlooked the Hudson River and Palisades. The outside walls were hollow tile, stuccoed on the outside and plastered on the inside. The original oak floors, woodwork, and built-ins remain today. In Hastings, Shreve’s designs also included the Municipal Building (1929), the Riverview Manor Fire House (1929), a Farragut School addition (1932), and Grace Episcopal Parish House; as chair of the Village Zoning Board, he drafted the Village’s original Zoning Code.

Admiral David G. Farragut

The Farragut House 128 Washington Avenue

“Damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead!” Three years before his pivotal victory in the Civil War’s Battle of Mobile Bay, then-Captain David Glasgow Farragut, his wife Virginia, and their 16-year-old son Loyall arrived in the quiet river town of Hastings-On-Hudson in 1861, after he fled the South and the Confederacy’s increasing pressure on his military service. The Farragut family settled at 128 Washington Avenue, half of a two-family cottage owned by John William Draper. At the outset, the mild-mannered Southerner was suspected by some of being a Confederate spy. Although Farragut’s his initial reception in Hastings was was not warm, he departed the village in 1866 in a blaze of glory. (He is now remembered in the eponymous streets and school.) By then, he was a celebrated war hero and had been appointed the first Admiral in the history of the United States Navy. The cottage at 126/128 Washington Avenue, built in the Gothic Revival style to provide rental income to the Drapers, featured the extensive use of ornamental brackets under the eaves, prominent verandas, tall casement windows, and vertical board-and-batten siding.

The Observatory Cottage 407 Broadway in Draper Park

The Draper Family revolutionized the way that we see the universe and our place in it. In a hand-built observatory, on a spot with “uninterrupted horizon commanded in every direction,” Henry Draper was able to shoot the clearest photos of the moon yet seen. His photos’ publication by the Smithsonian Institution inspired amateur astronomers nation- and worldwide to start grinding lenses and shooting photographs of the heavens. The former observatory was eventually remodeled into a cottage by Henry’s younger sister Antonia Draper Dixon. Today, it is home to the offices and archive of the Hastings Historical Society.

Jasper Francis Cropsey

The Cropsey Studio 49 Washington Avenue

Hudson River School painter Jasper Francis Cropsey and his wife Maria moved to Hastings in 1885, nearly penniless, after artistic tastes shifted from the naturalistic to the avant garde in the wake of the Civil War. The next year (possibly with money raised from an 1885 art auction), he purchased what was to become his “Ever Rest,” a Carpenter Gothic-style home circa 1835 built by William Saunders, one of Hastings’ first industrialists. Cropsey added a studio, where he continued to paint landscapes in oil and watercolor.

Drs. Kenneth and Mamie Phipps Clark

The Clark House 17 Pinecrest Drive

In 1950, Dr. Kenneth B. Clark, his wife, Dr. Mamie Phipps Clark, and their two children, Kate, 10, and Hilton, 7, moved into a four-bedroom, two-story house with a big yard on Pinecrest Drive. That year, Kenneth Clark presented to a White House conference the results of his and Mamie’s research showing that segregation harmed the psychological development of black children. This research included the famous “doll tests” in which black children, given a choice of a black or white doll, said they preferred the white dolls. This research was cited by Chief Justice Earl Warren in 1954 when the U.S. Supreme Court struck down legal segregation in public schools in Brown v. Board of Education. The Clarks were collaborators as psychologists, educators, and activists. They were also academic pioneers as the first African Americans to earn doctorates in psychology from Columbia University. Kenneth taught at City College and, together with Mamie, founded a therapy and educational reform center for children in Harlem in 1946. In Hastings, they sought refuge. When the Clarks arrived in 1950, there were five other black families in the Pinecrest neighborhood. There were reports of racism, but Pinecrest developed a reputation as a neighborhood where whites and blacks got along. The Clark family’s house was built in 1905. With its wide porch, shingled walls, sheltering roof, and stone first floor, it is a modest variation of the “Shingle Style.” The house has sweeping views of the Hudson. Over the years, the Clarks hosted prominent artists, writers and civil rights activists at their home, including James Baldwin, Ralph Ellison, Jacob Lawrence, Jackie Robinson, and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

The Norman Castle 114 Pinecrest Drive

Built by educator, editor, and publisher Wallace Torrey Chapin in 1910 and inspired by his travels abroad, this sprawling, ruined residence was named “Lufanwal,” a combination of the first syllables of the names of Chapin’s father, (Lucius), his mother, (Fanny), and his son and himself, (Wallace). Like castles built in England during William the Conqueror’s reign, this seventeen-room home is a “fortress,” built of stone, on high ground, overlooking a river, with common rooms on the ground floor and private quarters above. Chapin’s interest in numerology and mysticism may explain the stunning, two-story, octahedral foyer with its octagonal motif. It was purchased in 1939 by Dr. Albion Chance and his wife Lucille Edwards Chance, the first African-Americans to own a home in the village. Lucille, an entrepreneur, real estate agent, and attorney, was instrumental in convincing other African-Americans to move to the neighborhood, including the Alger Adams, William Black, and Kenneth Clark families.

Alexis Kosloff

The Kosloff Stone Mansion 131 Pinecrest Drive

Alexis Kosloff was appointed Ballet Master at the Metropolitan Opera in 1920 and began work on 131 Pinecrest Drive in 1921. Said to possess extraordinary talent by age 7, Kosloff entered the Imperial Ballet School in Moscow at age 9, graduating at 17 with the highest honors. As a member of the Imperial Russian Ballet, he earned recognition as a classical dancer, character actor, and pantomimist. He joined an American company in 1910 and became an instant success in the U.S, eventually earning $3000 a week. After receiving many requests for ballet instruction, he opened studios in New York and Cleveland. He built his stone mansion in Hastings on the foundation of a home that had burned down. He put in extensive gardens, stone pathways, statuary, and a pool, with the intention of creating an open-air theatre on the grounds. A benefit performance for veterans on July 9, 1923, provided seating for 3000 and was written up in The New York Times. In 1928, Kosloff sold his home for $125,000. John Murrain, a successful realtor and cabaret owner, purchased the estate in 1953 and created a vineyard on the sloping grounds. The main portion of the house has suffered severe winter damage and is currently closed. Its owner graciously allows us to experience an outdoor walkabout to enjoy the grounds and exterior.

Read/Moore House 140 High Street
Read/Moore Carriage House 142 High Street

Built circa 1855 for Jehiel Read, a New York City merchant dealing in hats, caps, and strawgoods, the villa at 140 High Street was constructed of stone from the Hastings marble quarry. Its asymmetrical plan includes a large wrap-around veranda and a four-story tower with arched windows that become narrower and increase in number with each ascending floor. Deep roof overhangs, with elaborate wood brackets, are in the best Italianate tradition. Today, visitors enter through the original main entrance, the porte-cochere, where, in the 19th century, guests would arrive in horse-drawn carriages. In the hall stands the original mahogany spiral staircase. When Read built his villa, he added a frame stable onto an existing fieldstone structure to create a carriage house and barn. The stone building might have been a house dating back to the 1790s. In 1952, the barn, as it was then called, was sold away from the main house and purchased by Dr. Edward Shepard, who transformed the inside to make a dwelling (140 High Street). The big front window now in the very large living room was the entrance for the carriages. You can still see the large main ceiling beam. The original track door that used to separate the carriage house from the stables now separates the living room and dining room. The tack benches along the far end of the living room are original.

Dorothy Draper

Arthur Langmuir

Oakledge 243 South Broadway

Originally called the Marble Cottage, this home was built for Dorothy Catherine Draper by her brother John William, whom she had put through university and helped out when his wife Antonia became chronically ill. Constructed from local unpolished marble from the active quarry nearly in the Drapers’ backyard, the house was built from plans typical of the popular cottage style. In the 1870s, the Drapers added a west-facing living room, with a stunning plate glass window, and an L-shaped porch. The 18-inch thick stone walls kept out the elements, all except the cold. Arthur C. Langmuir purchased the property in 1921 and made significant changes, moving the kitchen upstairs, adding a sub-basement with a mushroom cave, putting finely carved marble facings on the brick fireplaces, and creating extensive gardens. Renamed “Oakledge,” the residence become home base for Langmuir’s various community projects, including the refurbishing of the old quarry into a spectacular garden, thorough photographic documentation of Hastings, and the rescue of the Draper Observatory and Park. After Langmuir and his wife’s deaths in the early 1940s, the artists Rosetta and Herbert Bohnert moved from 31 Sheldon Place to Oakledge, establishing their studio in the former living room.

John William Draper

Draper Homestead 271 South Broadway

The central portion of this Dutch Colonial frame house was built in 1790 and is one of the oldest structures in Hastings. The pitched roof has widely flared eaves that extend over a porch, a unique feature of Dutch Colonial houses in the southern Hudson River Valley. The large farm house replaced (and perhaps incorporated) a smaller structure believed to date from 1710. The original kitchen hearth, hand-hewn timbers, and cobblestones that may have been used as ballast on a Dutch ship are still to be found in the basement of the house today. Wings were added to the house in the early nineteenth century. The house and 20 acres of land were purchased by John William Draper in 1847. Born in England in 1811, Draper was educated at the University of London and the University of Pennsylvania, where he received an M.D. in 1836. He became the first professor of chemistry at the University of the City of New York (now New York University) and in 1841 helped found its medical school. Draper’s arrival in New York City in 1839 coincided with the news of Daguerre’s photographic process. Draper improved on that process and took one of the first daguerreotypes of the human face. He was the first to take a daguerreotype of the moon through a telescope and of slides under a microscope. His pioneering work was instrumental in introducing photography into scientific investigations. In his Hastings home, he had marble mantels installed for five of the seven fireplaces. Other architectural details, including beautiful moldings, were added to the interior during the 19th century and have been carefully preserved.