One of the largest municipalities in Westchester County, The Town of Cortlandt encompasses two incorporated villages, several hamlets and even more neighborhoods. Each has distinctive characteristics, but they are united by their magnificent common heritage. The town, boasting almost 15 miles of Hudson River shoreline, extends from the Bear Mountain Bridge in the north to the Croton River. The City of Peekskill and Town of Yorktown borders Cortlandt in Westchester County.
Cortlandt's attractions go inland from the Hudson River, into rural sections, combining sophistication with the natural, the tranquil with the cultural.
The town experienced some of the most memorable Revolutionary War events, with "Washington's Hill" marking the site of the review of the French and American troops at the conclusion of the hostilities. Upper Van Cortlandt Manor featured in the Benedict Arnold/Major John André treason plot, Lent's Cove proved a safe harbor for British forces, and one of the houses was a haven for the young Alexander Hamilton when he fell seriously ill in the service of his country. Washington definitely "slept here," in a number of locations.
Eighteenth and nineteenth century industry contributed to development during those periods - as some of the names attest. "Furnace Dock Road," was an unsuccessful attempt to process iron ore; "Georges' Island" is thought to be named after the employees at the brick factory; and "Steamboat Dock" is obvious. Lake Meahagh did not become the "Knickerbocker Ice Company Lake."
Two of the bigger features in the town are the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Veteran's Memorial Hospital with its waterfront park and Patriot's Trail and the awesome Croton Dam and Gorge with its huge spillway that roars with overflows of water in the spring.
Recreational opportunities abound and are currently expanding with the town's commitment to preserving open space. Trails include Camp Smith, Oscawana Island, the Peekskill - Briarcliff Trailway, Charles Cook Park and parts of Blue Mountain Reservation. Cortlandt does not ignore the hearty appetites stimulated by outdoor activity. There are a variety of excellent restaurants - as well as some of the best pizza in the river towns.http://www.townofcortlandt.com www.hvgatewaychamber.com
Aaron Copland House - Maintained by the Copland Heritage Association, the last home of America's most famous composer has become a Mecca for composers seeking a period of solitude in a rural section of the town to compose their own music. http://www.coplandhouse.org Annsville Creek - A three acre site, formerly used by the state Department of Transportation, on the northern shore of Annsville Creek, has been transformed into a recreation area for canoe users and kayakers.
Cortlandt Museum - Once the town hall and jail, the Cortlandt Museum has a lovely collection of domestic and historic artifacts and ephemera. The Cortlandt Historical Society uses it as its headquarters and plans appropriate events from time to time. Watch the Calendar of Events. 137 Seventh St., Verplanck. Call (914) 734-1110 for hours.
Croton Dam - Sometimes called "the eighth wonder of the world," the Croton Dam is second only to Egypt's great pyramid when it comes to hand-hewn stone structures. On New Year's Day 2007 it will observe its 100th birthday. Visitors are awed by the water cascading over the spillway and immensity of the construction. Route 129 about two miles north-east of the Village of Croton. (914) 271-3293. Danish Home - A retirement home for those of Danish descent, visitors are welcome to the lovely estate on the first Sunday in June to help celebrate Grundslovag Day - Danish Constitution Day. Quaker Ridge Road.
FDR Veterans' Administration Hospital - The vast hospital, on 210 acres overlooking the Hudson River, was previously the estate of Stats Morris Dyckman. His mansion, Boscobel, was saved from demolition, moved, and rebuilt in Garrison. A garden contains bronze busts of veterans from all the wars in which the United States has participated, sculpted by one of the residents. Route 9A, Montrose.
Little Red Schoolhouse - Built as a one-room school house in the first half of the 19th Century, the red building has been restored by the Van Cortlandtville Historical Society. It is used as a working museum for many area schools. Locust Avenue.
Old St. Peter's Church - The one-room frame church was dedicated in 1767. During the Revolutionary War it was used as a shelter for soldiers and as a hospital for Continental and French soldiers. The simple building has been carefully renovated and is lovingly cared for by the current generation of stewards. Many Revolutionary War soldiers, including some from France, Brig. General Seth Pomeroy and John Paulding are buried in the adjoining cemetery. Oregon Road.
Post Hannoch House - Identified by a historical marker recently placed by the Cortlandt Historical Society, the Post-Hannoch House was originally the home of the Keeper of the King's Ferry. Washington hosted a dinner in the house in 1780 to honor Paulding, Williams and Van Wart, the captors of Major Andre. Kings Ferry Road, just west of Lake Meahagh.
Railroad Station Sculpture - A large sculpture outside the new Metro-North Railroad Cortlandt Station commemorates the history of the area. It depicts a Native American, a Dutchman and a brickmaker.
Steamboat Dock - Recently restored by the town, Steamboat Dock is the perfect spot to park, picnic, watch the river -- and think about Revolutionary War events and the days when fishing was a big industry in the area. Verplanck - Broadway to The Battery and then right. Tollhouse - This historic, quaint Bear Mountain Bridge Tollhouse was restored by New York State and the Town of Cortlandt. It is used as a Visitors Center. Route 6 and 202.
Town Hall Exhibit - The hallways of Cortlandt Town Hall are often used as gallery space by local artists, with changing exhibits. 1 Heady Street.
Upper Manor House - The Upper Manor House of the Van Cortlandt family was a gambrel roofed, brick house, built before 1773. Extensive changes have occurred since Cornelia (Van Cortlandt) Beekman refused to give a representative of the British spy John André an American officer's uniform she had in safe-keeping. It is now part of the adjoining nursing home. Oregon Road.
Verplanck - Undoubtedly the site of one of the nation's most splendid military reviews, when Washington and Rochambeau staged a welcome to the French army in 1782, Verplanck is now a quiet, unique hamlet. In the 1830's it was planned as the northern "capital of Westchester," hence the unusually broad streets. But, it was bypassed by the railroad and has remained a singular community. Locals are proud to call themselves "Pointers," (Verplanck's Point), of whom actor Mel Gibson is one.
Lake Meahagh - This is actually an artificial lake created by the Knickerbocker Ice Company to ship ice to New York City residents. Swans, ducks and the ubiquitous Canadian geese now enjoy the facility. There are some spots along the shore suitable for picnics. Kings Ferry Road, Verplanck.
Camp Smith Trail - The Trail extends from the former Toll House on Route 6 - 202, to Anthony's Nose and the Appalachian Trail. It offers expansive views and opportunities to watch hawks, turkey vultures, and, in the winter, bald eagles. http://www.nynjtc.org/ Croton Gorge Park - The large park at the base of the Croton Dam has a memorable picnic spot, great fishing, and a superior sledding site in the winter. Parking fee (during the summer season): $7. (914) 271-3293.
Georges Island Park - The shoreline of Georges Island is still sprinkled with bricks, indicating the enormous industry of a century ago. It also has spectacular river views, two covered picnic pavilions, playgrounds, a ballfield, boat launch, labeled nature walks and hiking trails through the woods and along the river. A favorite feeding spot for bald eagles on late winter afternoons. Turn west from Route 9A at Dutch Street, Montrose, proceed to the park. Boat launch is open from 8 a.m. - dusk. Fee. (914) 737-7530.
Hillpoint - A 352 acre site on the northern edge of the town was recently acquired by the municipality. It will remain Open Space, but the town is currently researching hiking trails and other recreational uses.
Old Croton Aqueduct Trailway - The trailway begins on the west side of the Croton Dam, where there is limited parking, or alternatively, take the white, switchback, gravel path that begins just north of the restrooms of Croton Gorge Park. One of the joys of the trailway is that it is relatively level -- unusual for trails in Historic River Towns of Westchester. It follows the path of the aqueduct that was once used to bring fresh water from the Croton River to New York City. It is owned and managed by the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation. The Friends of the Old Croton Aqueduct have published an award-winning map detailing the route of the trail and attractions along the way. It is available, for $4.50 by calling 914-693-4117.
Oscawana Park - The nine-acre park provides a pleasant walk to the vistas of the Hudson River shoreline, over the railroad tunnel. There are wetlands to examine, native raspberries to savor in early July and, in the fall, it is a spot where monarch butterflies like to rest on their trip south. Furnace Dock Road (west), off Route 9A.
Sportsman Center - Located on 300 acres of the Blue Mountain Reservation, the center provides safe, convenient and diversified target areas for trap and skeet, small bore and large bore rifle, pistol and archery. New York State pistol permit required for pistols only. Open weekends and holidays. Thursday and Friday hours from April through November. (914) 737-7450.
Town Lyne Motel, Crompond Road, (914) 737-8202. Newly furnished rooms, color television, telephone, air conditioning, nearby restaurants, special business rates. Routes 202 & 35, 1 mile west of Taconic Parkway.