The Harlem Division’s Cemeteries: The Hartsdale Pet Cemetery

To me, some of the most interesting stuff about railroad history is not about the trains or the railroads themselves, but how they affected the places in which they operated. The oft-cited cliche is that the railroads built this country, and although they certainly had an effect on the movement of people westward, some of the strongest effects can be witnessed around cities. Today’s Harlem, Hudson, and New Haven Lines played an immense part in the growth of New York City’s suburbs, and other railroads played a similar part in other major cities. Trains provided easy access to the city’s jobs, but allowed people to live increasingly further and further outside the city’s limits. Businesses were also established or relocated to spots along the rails in order to have access to the city – a primary example being the very first successful condensed milk factory in Wassaic, a spot selected by inventor Gail Borden because of the plentiful farmland, and the Harlem Railroad.

Strangely enough, the railroad also played a part in the establishment of various cemeteries. As the city itself grew larger, not only did some former rural cemeteries get displaced, people with money wished to be interred in an attractive rural setting. Woodlawn Cemetery was established in 1863, and took in the remains of cemeteries displaced in the city proper, and grew to become a venerable place of final rest for thousands. Such growth was undoubtedly assisted by the nearby railroad, easily allowing loved ones to visit the graves of their friends and family. Further north along the Harlem Division, the Kensico Cemetery was also established as a beautiful, rural final resting place. Truly appealing to the wealthy of the city, Kensico offered a private railcar for rent for funerals which would transport people directly from Grand Central to the cemetery’s very own train station.

Though Woodlawn and Kensico may be the two most commonly known cemeteries that owe their growth to the Harlem Railroad, there is another slightly more unique cemetery that also falls into that category – the Hartsdale Pet Cemetery. Just like its brethren, the Hartsdale cemetery has seen gun salutes, bagpipers, and is the final resting place for thousands of friends – however the majority of them just happen to not be human. Buried within its grounds you’ll find the graves of war dogs, police dogs (including at least one MTAPD K9), a search and rescue dog that lost its life on September 11th, thousands of other cats and dogs, humans that opted for their cremains to be interred together with their beloved pets, and even a lion. It is also home to the War Dog Memorial, celebrating the animals that fought alongside their human handlers in the Great War.

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More old photos for a Monday morning… Part 2

It has been a few months since I last posted a collection of old photos, and I figured I would rectify that. I’m always purchasing things on eBay, and although it is nice to have a collection of things, it is just no fun if I don’t share. Plus, I’m away on vacation right now – getting a post full of pictures ready beforehand is easy! I wouldn’t want you all to miss me too much when I’m not in town… so without further ado, here are some photos ranging from the 50’s to the 70’s!

If you’ve missed any of the old photos posts, you can find them all below:
More old photos for a Monday morning… Part 1

Even More Monday Morning Old Photos, Part 4
Even More Monday Morning Old Photos, Part 3
Even More Monday Morning Old Photos, Part 2
Even More Monday Morning Old Photos, Part 1

Monday Morning Old photos, Part 3
Monday Morning Old photos, Part 2
Monday Morning Old photos, Part 1

Trains & The Beautiful Harlem Valley – Never-before-seen Photos from the 80’s.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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Views of Kensico Cemetery

Dear readers, I am certain you are all acquainted with my terrible eBay habit. Lots of the old timetables, photos, and postcards find their way onto this site at some point in time. I must admit though, I love old things. Specifically, old paper things. Maybe it is because I am a graphic designer, and I love looking at old printed art, especially on pre-1900’s timetables and books. Though it is also possible that I’m just a nutjob destined to be one day featured on the show Hoarders. Either way, today I do want to share with you all my most recent acquisition, which is a little bit different than most things I come across on eBay.

If you’ve ever taken the Harlem Line north of White Plains, and past Valhalla, you are most likely familiar with the large cemetery that dominates the view in between stations. Kensico Cemetery shares a nearly mile-long border with the railroad, and astute observers can glimpse the main cemetery office, which once served as a railroad station, on the west side of the tracks. The choice of location of the cemetery isn’t hard to figure out – it offered both a beautifully rural final resting place, and was easily accessible from the city by the railroad. In fact, on the cemetery’s Board of Directors was Chauncey Mitchell Depew, whose name might be familiar, as I posted about him in April. He got his start as the legal counsel for the New York and Harlem Railroad under Commodore Cornelius Vanderbilt, and eventually worked his way up to the presidency of the New York Central – conveniently the railroad running right alongside the cemetery. Not only did the cemetery have its own private railroad station, it also had a private railcar named Kensico which could be rented for funerals. In 1910, the rental price for a locomotive with the railcar Kensico attached was $60.00, which today seems like a paltry sum.

All of these things I’ve discovered about the Kensico Cemetery were gleaned from a little hand-bound booklet printed in 1910, titled “Views in the Kensico Cemetery.” I bought the thing just for the single photo of Kensico station, and after flipping through it, I’m glad I did. I love it for the silliest reason, too – at the time of printing, the United States used three-digit phone numbers. There are plenty of things that I don’t really think about, and anything but seven-digit phone numbers are one of them (despite the fact that I know Brazil uses eight digits for cellular numbers, and don’t even get me started about their downright bizarre method of placing long distance calls). The book is chock-full of photos of the cemetery with plenty of open land, a much different view than today’s cemetery with over 130,000 “residents.” Below you’ll find a few of my favorite parts of the booklet, including the photo of Kensico Station.

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Tuesday Tour of the Harlem Line: Woodlawn

Although it is the Hudson Line more often cited for its scenery, you do pass by quite a few interesting locales taking a train down the Harlem Line. From the farmlands of Dutchess county, to the reservoirs that serve the city’s need for water, there is much to see on the Harlem Line – and I hope that I’ve been able to show some of this on my weekly tour of the various stations. Although it certainly isn’t the most noteworthy, the line does also pass by quite a few cemeteries. In the case of Kensico Cemetery, the railroad probably played a part in its growth. Kensico may no longer have a station dedicated to it, but at one time the cemetery even had its own rail car to serve the more affluent of folk heading to bury their loved ones.


Resting place of Gail Borden, at the Woodlawn Cemetery

Another cemetery I haven’t yet mentioned on here, however, is the Woodlawn Cemetery. Woodlawn station itself is located in the Bronx, a bit shy of 12 miles from Grand Central. It is just north of Woodlawn that the New Haven Line diverges from the Harlem. Although the station isn’t expressly for the cemetery, as Kensico was, it is very close to it. For those interested in seeing the final resting place of quite a few historical figures, Woodlawn would definitely be an interesting place to check out. Not to mention the wide array of different styles of memorial (someone please erect a statue of me riding a liger upon my death?). Some of the memorials were designed by renowned architects, such as Cass Gilbert (who designed New Haven’s Union Station), and McKim, Mead, and White (who designed the original Pennsylvania Station). Noteworthy musicians WC Handy, Miles Davis, and Duke Ellington are all buried at Woodlawn, as well as businessmen whose names most people recognize: RH Macy, JC Penney, and Frank Woolworth. And many of us would also recognize the names of Joseph Pulitzer, Fiorello LaGuardia, Simon Guggenheim, and Augustus Juilliard, also buried in the cemetery. Of course my favorite “resident” is Gail Borden, the eccentric inventor of condensed milk, who was also a Harlem Division rider (a post about him on here is quite overdue, but will be coming soon, I swear!)

Anyways, here are some shots of the Harlem Line station at Woodlawn:
  
 
  
 
 
  

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The Loneliest Station on the Harlem Line

Nestled in between the stations of Valhalla and Hawthorne on the Harlem Line is an active station that you might not be aware of. Most trains pass by without stopping. On weekdays, only one train in each direction makes a stop there. On weekends there are three. The station is Mount Pleasant, and it just might be the loneliest station on the Harlem Line. The only other station that could arguably take the title is Appalachian Trail, which is north of Pawling and in diesel territory. That station does not get any trains on weekdays. But then again, when at Appalachian Trail, at least you aren’t surrounded by thousands of dead people. Mount Pleasant does not serve commuters, it serves those who wish to visit their loved ones in the various area cemeteries. Last week I got a chance on a lunch break to go down to Mount Pleasant station and snap a few pictures. I didn’t want you guys to think that I forgot all about the Harlem Line as I am posting all my wonderful Japanese adventure photos. Nope, I haven’t forgotten!

Panorama of the South-side Platform

You may not have noticed the station, but you probably have noticed the cemetery. Kensico, Sharon Gardens, Gate of Heaven, to name a few. Though passing through on the train, they blend into one large whole. And it is one of those delightful areas in which cell phone reception just seems to disappear. In addition to serving loved ones, the tiny one door platform also serves folks wishing to view the graves of quite a few famous people. I’ve previously mentioned that at Kensico Cemetery, Randroids can pay homage to their Objectivist leader Ayn Rand. Visitors to Heaven’s Gate can visit the resting place of Babe Ruth, which prior to 2004 had many visitors praying for the reversal of a particular curse…




The first pictures are of the south bound platform. The last two pictures above are the platform on the north bound side. Not only can you see various graves behind the station, but there are unused grave markers sitting right next to the platform! The two platforms are not exactly across from one another, they are set apart by thirty-or-so feet. But this is it, this is Mount Pleasant. There are no shelters, no ticket machines. Most of the signage still bears the old circular-M logo of the MTA, and the old Metro North Commuter Railroad name. One side of the sign, however, has the newer logo and the abbreviated name of Mt. Pleasant. There may be plenty of cars passing by, but it is still pretty lonely. And I don’t really think I’d like to be here if it were dark… too many dead people.

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