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Hudson Valley Arts and Science, Inc.

 

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History of HVAS, the Crotonville Neighborhood Association, and Crotonville

 

Crotonville, a small historic neighborhood in the Town of Ossining , NY. USA, lies on the banks of the Croton River (photo gallery) and the Eagle bay of the Hudson River Estuary. The bucolic surroundings here have inspired art, music, literature, and political commentary .

Hudson Valley Arts and Science, inc,(HVAS) formerly known as The Crotonville Neighborhood Association (CNA), is a non-profit group originally dedicated to preserving the quality of life, history, and stunning natural environment found here. It has expanded its scope in recent years to celebrate the local, cultural and natural history of the Hudson Valley as a whole. Still, our hearts and roots are in Crotonville and we'll retain the Crotonville Neighborhood Assn. as a division of HVAS and will continue to collect historical images, documents and oral rememberances.

Where is Crotonville? A modern description is that Crotonville is loosely bounded by Rt. 9 to the South, the Quaker Bridge to the North, Glendale Rd. over to Cedar Lane to the East. The Croton River bounds west. A small area, but one which includes tiny slivers of Cortlandt and New Castle where the three town lines intersect. And nestled into the corner where the Croton and Hudson Rivers meet.

But in 1848, Robert Bolton in History of Westchester describes: "On the south side of Croton is a small settlement bearing the name Crotonville, which contains a Methodist church, a Friends' meeting house, two stores, a tavern, a post office and several scattered dwellings. "

As one local said not long ago "Crotonville is not an official place - it is more a state of mind". He was not referring to some vision of serenity but rather to the energized mix of the entrenched immigrant families and the artists of the neighborhood which have included Aaron Copland, Albert Wein, and John Cheever . Indeed, Aaron Copland lived here when he wrote his only Opera, "The Tender Land". The libretto for the beautiful movement "The Promise of Living" speaks to the contrasting themes of neighbors trying to work together hand-in-hand and suspicion and persecution of innocent outsiders. Crotonville is also home to the world-famous and gorgeous G.E. management training campus, administered by a person who refers to Crotonville by the derisive nickname, "Dogtown". And who has been known to say "Why should we care about Crotonville? No one who works here lives there. Most of us live in Connecticut." It is our hope that in time it will become more apparent why this interesting and historically significant corner of Ossining should be embraced rather than trampled on.

Two extant pre-revolutionary houses (including the Black Horse Tavern), dramatic deep gorges, 30 lb striped bass, walking distance to Croton train station, stunning river views, and the Croton Aqueduct trail way are some of the things that keep us together in this little unofficial hamlet.

History of the Crotonville Neighborhood Association (CNA).


The CNA is now a division of the incorporated not-for-profit organisation Hudson Valley Arts and Science, inc. that explores and celebrates the
local, cultural, and natural history of the Ossining, NY area.
It publishes the informational website www.ossining.org which features
photographs from c.1870 to present day, has original essays on the
artists,
writers, composers and other personalities who have lived here (including
John Cheever, Aaron Copland, and Walker Evans), and which partners with
the
Greater Ossining Volunteer Network to bring an annual directory of
non-profit organizations to the web.


The web site started out in 1997 as the virtual site of the Crotonville
Neighborhood
Association (CNA). The CNA started out as an effort to document the
history
of the neighborhood, celebrate the artists who lived and worked here
(including Tibor Gerstl, Mary Cheever, Albert Wein, and of course Aaron Copland, and John Cheever) and to boast of the stunning natural environment found here on
the banks of the Croton River directly across from the van Cortlandt Manor
historic preservation.

The website has been on line for fully 9 years and in that time has
collaborated with many individuals (here and former residents abroad) as
well as with institutions as well known and diverse as the Metropolitan
Museum of Art Dept. of Photographs, the New York State Department of
Environmental Conservation, The NYU Dept. of Culture and
Communication, the Ossining Historical Society Museum, and the Mystic
Seaport small boat archive.

A few modest accomplishments so far:

THE RT 9 HIGHWAY BRIDGE EFFORT
The CNA got involved in some political action when the NYState DOT
announced the expansion of the Rt 9 highway bridge. We arranged public and
private meetings and in the end had directly affected some positive
changes
in the project including:

1) Saved the row of trees along the West side of the highway which had been slated for removal.
2) Reduced the acreage of lost wetlands by 1.5 acre. (Their actual
motivation on this one was to bring the acreage below the legal threshold
which would require an environmental review which we were advocating. Effectively tying our hands from a public participation perspective.)
3) Specification of highway lights that were side-shielded so they would
not glare up on the hill of Crotonville.

The DOT was responsive to MANY of our requests over the course of a year
of meetings and petitioning. Not all, but generally speaking the DOT was a model of how government and local citizens can interact constructively to find and implement optimum solutions.

EMBRACING GREATER OSSINING
At a point in around 1998, we decided to broaden the scope of the
site from the neighborhood to Greater Ossining.


At various times we had links showing planning and zoning board meeting
agendas. But, getting the information to post in a timely fashion was like
pulling teeth. In frustration we attempted to get the law, which requires public meeting
notices to be posted in 5 places, extended to include an internet posting.
Toward this end we communicated with one of the original authors of the
NYS Freedom of information act in Albany. He supported the idea but interpreted the
current laws as not strictly requiring it. Since we did not have the
legal resources to push the concept into the courts, we dropped that effort.


Anyway, both the Town and Village of Ossining now have very informative
websites of their own where at least some public meeting agenda information is regularly shown.

GREATER OSSINING VOLUNTEER NETWORK
ossining.org hosts the website to the Greater Ossining Volunteer
Network. GOVN is a separate organization, founded by Frank Lynette,
which has been publishing a directory of nonprofit organizations for some
years. GOVN brings needed services and access to the arts to community members.

It also brings community members to these organizations as volunteer
opportunities. The CNA partnered with the GOVN to bring this directory to
the web three years ago and have had tremendous support and feedback. We
hear on occasion through the grapevine that indeed it works to bring
people and organizations together.


HUDSON RIVER BENTHIC SONAR MAPPING
The CNA worked with the New York State Department of Environmental
Conservation to bring sonar imaging data to the public for the very first
time on the web. Interactive maps and educational demonstrations allow the
user to visualize the area under the Hudson in the Ossining region. (Not
only interesting and colorful, but helps to find where the big fish are
hiding too).

WALKER EVANS IN OSSINING
The CNA is working with the Metropolitan Museum of Art Department of
Photographs to bring never before published Walker Evans photographs of
Ossining to the public. Two years ago, we were granted access to their
entire archive of personal papers and photographs and they have been very
supportive of the project. Walker Evans is one of the most influential
photographers of the 20th century, and lived intermittently in Ossining.
This website will be interactive by seeking information from the community
on each photograph to comment on the images, the people in them (who are
they and what were their personal stories.). Walker was always very
interested in how the "present would like as the past". We hope to gather
many views on that question as they pertain to downtown Ossining as a
slice
of American life in the 1928 to 1934 timeframe.

JOHN CHEEVER, WALKER EVANS, AARON COPLAND, GEORGE and IRA GIRSWINN
The site features essays on each of these artistic giants who lived in
Ossining. And, discussion of how they influenced each other's art.
(Cheever and Evans were friends when Cheever was a poor and struggling
writer in Manhattan. One of Evans' most famous photographs is of John's
one room flop-house apt on Hudson Street in Lower Manhattan. John did Darkroom
work for Evans to make ends meet.


Aaron Copland was so moved when he saw the photographs in Walker Evans'
book "Let Us Now Praise Famous Men" (with James Agee), that he was
inspired to write his only full opera. "The Tender Land". The short but
stirring movement "The Promise of Living" was arranged for single guitar
and voices for the website. These men, however, apparently never met

NATIVE AMERICANS
An authoritative ethnographic description of the Sint Sink people has been
written for the site by Stephen Horecky of MALFA and is due to be posted
in the Spring 2004 once images are scanned and arranged.

PREREVOLUTIONARY HOUSES
The Blackhorse Tavern: An article on this infamous prerevolutionary Inn on
Old Albany Post Road in Crotonville is due to appear in late Spring2004.
Moorehaven: An article on the home of Clement Moore (reputed author of
"The Night Before Christmas") which was renovated in the mid 1800's by the
famous architect Stanford White from a 1740 farmhouse. It had been the
northern-most tenant farmhouse of the Phillipsburg Manor estate.
Jug Tavern: We link to the Sparta Association website which features a
prerevolutionary Inn called the Jug Tavern.
Also to come will be a driving tour of all the prerevolutionary houses in
Ossining. 7 in all I think.

EARLY PHOTOGRAPHS
Many early photographs which were available in only faded and badly
cracked
prints were brought to life with the expert help of the IBM, T.J. Watson
Research Center Image Applications Groups. Gerard Thompson, Jack Chou who
also led the now legendary projects to digitize the illuminated
manuscripts of the Vatican library and to digitize the paintings of the Hermitage
Museum in St. Petersburg Russia, digitally restored several of these
images which had been all but unviewable.


Please Share Your Art

Artwork, photographs, essays, and news items relevant to our mission are
sought from the public for inclusion. Contact Gareth Hougham,
(914) 944-1518 after 7:30pm Email = ggh@us.ibm.com

 


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