Wednesday, June 4, 2014

a visit to sleepy hollow

One fine Spring/Summer day we took a gorgeous trip up to Westchester, NY to see some dear friends. The houses! The trees! The magnificent Hudson!

I am a big pop culture nerd and was disappointed to learn that Charles Xavier's giant Westchester mansion from the X-Men movies was actually a manor in England. But the disappointment turned to excitement when we remembered that Westchester was home to Tarrytown...and Sleepy Hollow.

Specifically we went to see Sleepy Hollow Cemetery by the Old Dutch Church.

This area was made famous by Washington Irving's short ghost story "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow", in which the nervous and gangly schoolteacher, Ichabod Crane, is chased by a headless man on a horse.

Mom and I love the Disney cartoon and the movie that starred Johnny Depp and Christina Ricci, but our current favourite is the TV series with the delectable Tom Mison, whose Ichabod is delightfully more dashing than the Irving creation.

In reality Sleepy Hollow Cemetery isn't the least bit creepy. The place is more like a manicured park - a hilly, quiet place with rambling lanes and a river at its base. The difference is that the winding lanes all pass by funeral temples and memorials of rich and famous American dead. 

Here is a list of the famous interments. Rockefeller's was the most magnificent, all by itself, on the highest hill.

The others ranged from neo-Romanesque... peaceful and pastoral.

A fair number of visitors come through, on foot and by car. While there, we came across a pair of trendy young men with trimmed beards, skinny jeans, and giant cameras. (I was a little hesitant to take a picture of them though.)

Four of our favourite writers are buried here with their families - Emerson, Alcott, Thoreau, and Hawthorne. There were several very impressive tombs - of those remembered and forgotten, well known and unknown.

Chrysler's tomb looked like a bank with a pretty entrance.

As we were leaving the mausoleum, this man fell staggering out of his truck (along with a six-pack in a plastic bag of mostly consumed beer cans). Barely coherent, he told us a sweet tale of Walter Chrysler volunteering at the local fire station.

Our intoxicated guide was there to lay the annual flag on the Chrysler tomb. He seemed eager to tell us more but, driven away by his potent alcoholic fumes, we quickly scurried off.

There were far more tombs and mausoleums than there were graves, in this area. Many of them looked like tiny places of worship themselves - an Egyptian pyramid here, a Celtic chapel there. 


We went down to the Pocantico River to take pictures at the new Headless Horseman Bridge (the original, now gone, used to be further down, outside the church and cemetery). Quite a few cars use the bridge for their local shortcut, prompting us to be quick about our photo taking.


Irving's grave itself is a modest stone slab in his family plot - no glorious 'house of the dead' - just a fittingly impressive Grandfather Tree.

Mom did indulge my nerdy side, taking my picture next to Crane Way and the tomb of someone named Benedict, for very - ahem - personal reasons.

'Benedict' had a very beautiful and mysterious door, which I found fitting.
I could have walked around forever, but that graveyard was a town in would have taken the whole day. We did take this last picture in front of the church. I was really resistant to literally having my head on a chopping block!

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