Author Archives: Miguel Hernandez

Miguel Hernandez

About Miguel Hernandez

Miguel Hernandez, BA, MA, MPA, CHP, currently serves as Vice President of the Westchester County Historical Society and is a member of the Historic Preservation Commission of the Village of Ossining, NY.

Peekskill’s Historic Community of St Mary


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SM Chapel West SideReaders may know that the Roman Catholic Church has numerous religious orders of nuns and monks, but may not know that the Protestant Episcopal Church has them as well. Overall, there are 18 Episcopal religious orders and 14 “Christian Communities” comprised of men, women, or both. This is the story of the Community of St Mary (CSM) and the remarkable religious buildings they had constructed at Peekskill, NY from 1872 to 1963. The order was founded by Sister Harriet Starr Cannon, (1823-1896) its Mother Superior, on the Feast of the Purification of Mary on February 2, 1865 in St. Michael’s Church, 86th Street, New York City, about two months before the close of the Civil War.

Accordingly, it is said to be the oldest Episcopal religious community in the US still in existence (now headquartered in Greenwich, Washington County, New York. Sister Harriet was the temporal head of this community of Protestant Episcopal nuns from its founding in 1865, to her death in 1896. Based on a Benedictine model, the CSM adhered to a simple monastic life centered on prayer, reflection, and service. The forms of service practiced by the nuns of the order have varied over the years and places where they chosen to have a presence. At Peekskill for instance, they operated a high school for girls and the manufacture and sale of “Alter Bread” (aka communion wafers) was one of the CSM’s primary means of self-sustainment. Continue reading

Little Spain: Manhattan’s Little-Known Enclave


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guadalupeblock1929nyplThere is a neighborhood in Manhattan that some of its old timers call “España Chica” – Little Spain. From the late 19th century to the present time it served as the social and cultural nerve center of Spanish immigrants who settled in New York City.

Little Spain sits just above the West Village, mostly along West 14th Street, but the casual non-Spanish pedestrian would hardly know they were in a Spanish ethnic enclave. If this stroller were a vexillologist (or a fan of the Real Madrid Soccer team) she would no doubt know that the flag hanging in front of the nondescript brownstone at 239 West 14th Street, home of the Spanish Benevolent Society, was that of Spain. Continue reading

Revolutionary War Spies:
The Lower Hudson Valley’s “TURN”


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Turn American Revolution TV ShowThe Revolutionary War spy drama “Turn” on the AMC cable TV network is a much fictionalized version of the activities of a real life American patriot, Ben Tallmadge who headed the “Culper Spy Ring” based on Long Island.

However, Westchester and the surrounding counties of Dutchess, Orange and Putnam have their own connection to Revolutionary War espionage story in the persons of John Jay, Elijah Hunter, and Enoch Crosby. Continue reading

Fox Conner: ‘The Man Who Made Eisenhower’


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Fox Connor on HorseA little-known forest retreat called Brandreth Park has several unimpressive dwellings and sparse communication with the outside world. Yet back in the dark days of World War II generals Eisenhower, Marshal, Patton and others in the American military headquarters of England and Europe felt it necessary to keep their lines of communication open and flowing with one of its residents, Major General Fox Conner, U.S Army, Retired.

It’s safe to say that most Americans have never heard of Brandreth Park or of this soldier who never served in WWII but who nonetheless contributed to the victory over Germany. Those who do remember Conner, consider him “the man who made Eisenhower”. Continue reading

Westchester: The Prophet Matthias and Elijah the Tishbite


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MatthiasLong before the fictional and shocking “Peyton Place” of TV and film fame came along in the late 1950s, and early 1960s there was an actual suburban community where its residents were roiled by rampant scandal, moral and religious hypocrisy and a sensational a murder in their midst.

The year was 1834 and the place was the normally tranquil and bucolic Village of Sing Sing, now called Ossining. Actually, the extremely bad behavior took place just outside of the Village, on nearby farmland where a high-end condominium called “Beechwood” now stands in the Village of Briarcliff Manor, on the southwest intersection of Route 9 and Scarborough Station Road. Nonetheless, due to its proximity, it was the Village of Sing Sing that got the headlines in the “penny press,” and crowds of curious and outraged Villagers flocked to the “New York Road” in front of the farm hoping for a glimpse of the sequestered souls residing in the house. Continue reading

Torcedores: Gotham’s Hispanic Cigar Rollers at Work


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NYC Cigar StoreIt now seems hard to believe that for most of the latter part of the 19th century, New York City was the cigar making capital of the United States.

New York State as a whole had 364 cities and towns with 4,495 cigar factories and 1,875 (41%) of these were operating in mid and lower Manhattan. The island which then comprised the City, made 10 times the number of cigars as Havana, Cuba.

At the city’s peak before WWI and the beginning of the Machine-Age, approximately 3,000 factories, including many of America’s largest, rolled cigars in Manhattan. Continue reading

Westchester County Civil War Monuments (Part Two)


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Sleepy HollowThis granite and bronze monument in the Village of Sleepy Hollow, is located near southwestern corner of the Sleepy Hollow Cemetery and was dedicated on May 30, 1890. by the local GAR post. Inscriptions on the front (west) face include a Latin dedication, along with “Our Union Soldiers” and the following poem: “While Freedom’s name is understood, they shall delight the wise and good; They dared to set their country free and gave her laws equality 1861-1865.”

The monument’s south, east and north faces feature bronze plaques honoring some 240 local veterans. The references to Greenburgh and Mount Pleasant reflect the fact that the Village of Sleepy Hollow lies within Mount Pleasant, which is just north of Greenburgh. The monument is surrounded by a plot containing graves of Civil War veterans. The names of soldiers killed in action are engraved into the monument’s base; those who served are listed on tablets mounted to the base. The work was made in the New York foundry of the Henry-Bonnard Bronze Company.
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Westchester’s Civil War Monuments: The Kneeling Angel


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Ossining Kneeling MonumentIn the late 19th and early 20th centuries states, counties, cities, towns and villages all across America erected thousands of commemorative statues, monuments, tablets and other memorials to honor their citizens who served in the American Civil War of 1861-1865. Additionally monuments that are national in scope such as those like Antietam and Gettysburg and in the nation’s capital city were constructed. There is even a memorial monument in Edinburgh, Scotland dedicated to the Scots who fought in the Union Army. It is exceptional as it is the only American Civil War memorial outside of the United States. Continue reading

Newburgh: Cradle of the American Lawn Mower Industry


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mower ad Abraham Levitt, the man who arguably built more suburban homes in the United States than anyone else in the years following World War II once said that: “No single feature of a suburban residential community contributes as much to the charm and beauty of the individual home and the locality as well-kept lawns”

The ubiquitous American suburban lawn in America began 100 years before in 1841 when a 25 year old resident of Newburg New York named Andrew Jackson Downing published a landscape-gardening book entitled, “Treatise on the Theory and Practice of Landscape Gardening.”

It counseled readers to improve themselves by improving their front yards and could well be the impetus of the self-help book craze of the later third of the 20th century. He believed that the perfect front yard had to have a large area of “grass mown into a softness like velvet.” Continue reading

Spain’s Gift to Catholic New York


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St. Peters c. 1785It is hard to imagine now but in the 18th century New York City and much of the rest of the thirteen British colonies of America, it was practically illegal to be a Roman Catholic. Widespread anti-Catholicism was a side effect of the Catholic-Protestant wars of 17th century Europe and the geo-political rivalries between the English Crown and the allied Franco Spanish Kingdoms for control of the Americas.

The anti-Catholic animosity – Leyenda Negra the Spanish called it – was ingrained into the psyche of the largely Protestant British immigrants who came to dominate North America in the wake of the arrival of the Pilgrims and other fundamentalists in the early 1600s. Continue reading