Thursday, 10 October 2013

The Real Sleepy Hollow

Today's guest post comes from our friend and co-worker Charmaine, who visited the real Sleepy Hollow, New York, with her husband Tom a few years ago. Thank you Charmaine and Tom for sharing your adventure with us! 
- Cory

Last autumn, my husband Tom and I had the amazing opportunity to visit good friends living in New York City. Five short days was all the time we could spare, so months of planning was done in advance to maximize what could be seen during our stay.

Our friends allowed us to explore the city alone during the work-week but offered up their services as extempore-chauffeur-tour-guides come the weekend. Where would we like to visit a bit further-afield? Massapequa? Eastchester Bay? Hoboken?

For us, the choice was clear. A famous place not far from New York City for a couple  of Canadians who live and breathe Disney? We NEED to go to Sleepy Hollow.

As author Washington Irving penned and Bing Crosby’s narration later paraphrased, Tarry Town, New York can be found north of the city “in the bosom of one of those spacious coves which indent the shores of the Hudson”. Populated by nearly twelve thousand residents, the community is well connected by highway, taking us less than an hour to reach. Bordering Tarry Town to the North, “and just beyond, nestled deep in the low hills beyond the sequestered glen... Sleepy Hollow” was now almost equal to Tarry Town in population. Shortly after Washington Irving’s time, the village would be more commonly known as North Tarry Town, but in 1996 the residents voted to return to the long-since-used original name, capitalizing on its substantial literary and cinematic notoriety.

We were delighted to find that each of the town’s directional and way-finding signs bared a tiny icon of a raging headless horseman. Adjacent to the infamous bridge (now a rather conventional highway creek-crossing) stood a community-installed, contemporarily-designed, purposely rusted, sheet-metal sculpture depicting that harrying moment of a pumpkin-wielding horseman and a fleeing Ichabod Crane.

It's hard to get a really clear photo of the bridge, framed as beautifully as it is by autumn foliage.

Beyond the bridge was an Old Dutch Church built in 1685, affront of its expansive cemetery. Not only was Sleepy Hollow Cemetery home to the resting place of Legend of Sleepy Hollow author Washington Irving, but also the who’s-who of Nineteenth and Twentieth Century New York high-society. Elizabeth Arden, Andrew Carnegie, Walter Chrysler, Leona Hemsley and many of the Roosevelts have family plots here. Considering how beautiful the area is: rolling hills, enormous trees, birds and... metropolitan-absent quiet, it’s not surprising that someone would want to make their home in Sleepy Hollow, permanent.

We and our friends walked around the graves for well-over two hours, ooing and aahing at the ornate head-stones and mausoleums, feeling legitimately creeped out by the weeping angels and death’s-head grave-markers.  Near the end of our visit a family plot of Van Tassels was found, the surname used by Irving for love interest - Katrina, in his  famous Legend of Sleepy Hollow short story. Many folklore legends remain regarding whether or not a real Van Tassel was inspiration for a real-life infatuation. The name Van Tassel, as it turns out, is a little bit of a Dutch-Smith. It’s possible that we saw the real Katrina’s grave - but perhaps not.

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