NYC – The North Woods-Ravine and more

Read – Construction in the area March 20, 2021

updated for future planning

This year where traveling is limited and keeping a safe distance is hard to achieve, why not a nice walk in the woods. [ the photos are from a fall walk but it is a nice walk in any season.

The North Woods is located at the very northern part of Central Park. It has the feeling of being in the woods. It is a little off the typical tourist area but on a nice day is worth a visit.

You can start this walk from two directions.

The first is from the Meer and walk west and then around the pool where, in a parking lot, (maybe construction detours during 2021) you will see a stone arch You are now in The Ravine. The second approach is from the west side (1ooth Street) starting at the Pond.  The Pond is a small lake with green lawns, a waterfall and a loch at the other end. Walk to the end of the pond and  follow the stream into the Ravine.

There is much more to see in this part of the park. Here is an excellent link with a good map here.


NYC – Fire Hydrants

I know you have been wondering about how many fire hydrants there are in Manhattan?
There are usually 3 fire hydrants on every street block and six fire hydrants on each Avenue [150 blocks]  each block being composed of (about) 10 parts, from river to river. My guess: at least 16,000.

While I was putting together some information about another subject, I came across an article about New York City fire hydrants. Most of the following has been condensed, by me, from very detailed articles.

  A Little History Lesson

In the beginning, the original “hydrant” may have been something like this iron cauldron from China.


Have you ever heard of the term “Fire Plug”?

The term “fire plug” dates from the time when water mains were made from hollowed out logs. The fire company (usually volunteers) would head out to the fire, dig up the cobbles down to the main, then bore a hole into the main so that the excavation would fill with water which they could draft using their pumper. When finished fighting the fire, they’d seal the main with — you guessed it — a “fire plug“.

Cast Iron


Cast iron would come to replace wooden water mains, and in 1802, the first order for cast iron hydrants was placed.

New York City

New York City’s first fire hydrant was installed in 1808 at the corner of William and Liberty Streets, this hydrant was most likely a wood case hydrant.

By 1817, the first regular iron hydrants were being installed throughout the city. These were most likely flip lid hydrants.

The two fire hydrants pictured below are both original New York City fire hydrants. This style of fire hydrant was popular from as far back as 1840

Starting in 1902, the city began buying mainly one style of fire hydrant’

I found this Allen Standpipe near the East River.

There is much more on this subject on the web. You can look at more pictures at:

None of this is my original work.

Updated from 2012

NYC – NYC Water Towers -ART – update 2018

Updated 2018

This Land Is Your Land by Ivan Navarro

New York City’s water towers are iconic, and a hundred of them are covered in artwork created by Jeff Koons, Maya Lin, and other artists. They are meant to raise awareness of global water problems and encourage New Yorkers to drink their tap water.


What are those wooden water tanks?

When I first started visiting the city I noticed that the City’s skyline is dotted with wooden water towers. My first thought was to mistake them for vanishing relics of a bygone era. Maybe like seltzer bottles and street gas lamps.

But what I didn’t realize is the towers are hardly antiques — in fact, most drink and bathe from the water stored in them every day. We think they are old because they look as though they are. While many are more than 30 years old, even new ones look old because they are made of wood that isn’t painted or chemically treated (so as not to taint drinking water).

Though the technology has become more efficient, the concept of gravity delivering water from a wood tank hasn’t changed in decades. The average wood tank holds 10,000 gallons of water and costs around $30,000.

Only three companies build the ones you see on the NYC rooftops, and to get an idea of how much in use they are, Rosenwach Tank Company (which has been in business for over 100 years) builds approximately 300 new tanks a year.

This system may be “old” but it sure is reliable. About 15,000 buildings still use this system today.

How it works:

– A water tower is a simple device that uses gravity to provide water pressure.

– They provide water for domestic uses and fire supply.

– Most structures taller than six stories need some sort of water tower and pump system of their own.

– Water is fed to buildings through pipes in the basement.

– Electric pumps push the water from the basement to roof.

– From the roof, gravity sends water to pipes throughout the building.

– As tenants use the water, the level in the tank goes down and, just like in a toilet, a ballcock lets more in.


Hamilton Grange – uptown from the NYC Broadway Stage -Hamilton Heights

Updated  July 2018 – I added additional informaion at the end in case, you would like to explore the area.

hamilton Grange (6)

Nice place to check out if you’re a history buff and you enjoy exploring the lesser explored areas of the city the Hamilton Grange House is an interesting, easy, place to visit. The house and tour are free. They offer a few tours throughout the day and there’s a small self-guided exhibit and video you can see as well. There are only a handful of original pieces in the house. The house is not exactly the way it looked, but you do get a sense of where Hamilton spent some of his last years.

You cannot miss the house as it sits precariously positioned on a hill – It is the third place the building has been moved to

You enter into the basement where the kitchen/servants quarters would have been (obviously the basement is not original to the house) and this takes you into the visitors center/small gift shop where the rangers hang out.

After touring these three rooms you can visit the first floor which has been decorated in period era furnishings.  I say period era because there are only two items in the house which were directly owned by Hamilton.  Everything else is the NPS’s best guess.

Updated on July 30, 2018

While I enjoyed the visit, it may not be for everyone. The area is away from other popular historic sites. the area streets are somewhat steep and can be difficult walking for some. The Grange is a very basic structure and inside there were several replica and period pieces as well as a few original items. To better enjoy your visit,  I suggest adding a walk around City College(immediately above the Grange)  to see the unique buildings and gargoyles. 

I added an article from that gives a newer look at this area

Hamilton Heights is full of historic buildings of all types. St. Luke’s’ Episcopal Church, which saved the Grange in 1889, is still here. Hamilton Terrace is an out-of-the way enclave, running one block between West 141st and West 144th and Like Strivers Row and Convent Avenue, it has single-family rowhouses in excellent condition.

Also, it is worth it to walk around the corner to St Luke’s church to see the Alexander Hamilton statue…

For me, I enjoyed my visit to this summer home of Alexander Hamilton. He was a vital part of our nation’s history and it is nice to know that his heritage has been preserved.


hamilton Grange (49)



 Links of Interest:

City College

 Sylvan Terrace

Hamilton Historic District

A forgotten Garden in Fredericksburg VA – was to be part of The National Slave Museum.



Tucked away in a remote area of Fredericksburg VA is a small garden – The spirit of Freedom – A somewhat forgotten part of what was to be The National Slave Museum.

In 2013, mostly overgrown it is tended to, occasionally, by a young student who has taken the voluntary task of trying to maintain the garden. The National Slave Museum has gone bankrupt and the property will probably become a ball field. I was impressed with the young girls attempt to keep this place alive so I searched and found the garden.

The garden is near several Civil War battlefields where soldiers fought to preserve slavery, In the center of the garden stands a solemn stone figure arms outstretched, face turned skyward as if rejoicing over the broken shackles etched into its thick arms….The Hallelujah Sculpture, a 5,000 pound statue,” according to museum officials, “represents the pain, tears, and un-timely deaths of those millions who never gave up on their belief that one day they would be free.”

As interesting as the statue is, I found, at the rear of the garden, an amazing discovery. There were several tree trunks with beautifully carved designs of slaves in various positions. Here is a brief slide show.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

The remainder of the garden:


UPDATE: October 2017

After three years, I had a chance to re-visit the site. You can see through the following photos that, while you can still see a few of the remains, the site is almost fully forgotten history

An Old Tavern – Summer Touring – Maine

Now that summer is upon us, it is time to start thinking about visiting places outside of New York City While in Southern Maine, I missed a road and the GPS gave me directions to get back on track., Following the new route, I came across an old Tavern that certainly I would have missed had I stayed on course. (Just shows that unexpected things can happen by chance.)

 Barnard Tavern main door

Located in Kennebunk, Barnard’s Tavern is one of the town’s oldest houses with a diverse and rich history of its own. The picturesque Maine town is home to several other historic buildings including the 1799 Kennebunk Inn and many shipbuilders’ homes. Along with its several beautiful beaches, it has acres and acres of Blueberry Barrens, and is near the Rachel Carson National Wildlife Refuge.

sign Barnard Tavern


The main building was built prior to the American Revolution with the connecting ell and barn dating to somewhere around 1830 – 1840. The tavern was named after its original owner, Joseph Barnard, who operated a hostelry until his death in 1817. Barnard drove the first mail and passenger coach from Portsmouth to Portland in 1787 and went on to become Kennebunk’s second postmaster.

His wife continued to run the tavern until it was sold in 1823 to Timothy Frost who ran the tavern until 1853. The next family to occupy the property was the Curtis’s who managed a farm during the Civil War. It later became a rooming house and in the 20th century, an orphanage for 14 – 20 children. The historic Tavern has seen quite its share of distinguished guests; Marquis de Lafayette in 1825 and William Jennings Bryant.

As the house was restored over the years, several architectural fragments and accessories came from other buildings in the area. The clock tower, designed by Kennebunk architect William Barry, was originally part of the Wells Town Hall and is now all that remains of the building.


front doora Barnard Tavern



The red raised panel door came from Hammond Farm in North Berwick and the windmill, another relic of North Berwick, came from Perkins Farm and dates to 1902.





I am not sure it is for sale but as it stands now, the building features 5,062± SF of space ready for rehab or possible conversion. It has 5 former bedrooms and 2.5 baths, 8 fireplaces, front to back formal dining room and several other rooms of varying sizes. A walk-up attic makes up the third floor of the building.

I am just glad it is still standing…hopefully it will get a new life.

Extra Notes

Just coming into Kennebunk, on route 1, you can’t miss seeing Wallingford Hall and barns. They were built in 1804. It is now a garden center as well as a reception hall. It is quite fancy compared to the Barnard Tavern. However it is historic and the barn and gardens are  open to the public for free

Old Farm

Here is a photo of an old barn. These can be spotted along some of the back roads

red barn

Lastly, I didn’t mean for this to be a travelogue but the facts are the facts..

nyc – Morris-Jamel Mansion

The Morris-Jumel Mansion

morris jumel mansion

East 163rd Street

The local newspaper had an article about the oldest home in NYC and I recalled a blog I  published about my visit to the mansion.

Entering the mansion. I was met by a person, clad in an old woolen sweater with a woolen cap pulled down over the ears, who opened the door with a cane.. I paid the modest fee and was directed to tour the  building on my own.  Knowing that there had been stories of Ghosts living on the 2nd and 3rd floors, and as I was the only other person in the building I started to wonder about my greeter.

The inside of he house was dark and reminded me of the mansions along the Hudson River. While not as stylish as those, this house had a certain small-look charm to it. They had mannequins dressed in costumes in all the rooms and did a good job describing the activities that took in each room.

Since my Blogs are not meant to be complete history lessons, I have put a brief  history at the end. The following are pictures of specific things in the building’s rooms that interested me – of course, with hopes that will  you as well!

 Since this Gallery has several pictures, It may be best for you to invent Captions for some of them

Click on thumbnail to start slide show



This Georgian house was built in 1765 for Colonel Roger Morris, a Royalist, and his Dutch wife Mary Philipse as their summer residence, which they named Mount Morris. During the War of Independence this wood-encased brick mansion changed hands a number of times. Because of the house’s strategic situation above the Harlem Valley overlooking central Manhattan, General George Washington used it as his headquarters during the autumn 1776 Battle of Harlem Heights. Washington returned as president, with his cabinet, in 1790. The house was saved from neglect in 1810 by the wealthy French-Caribbean wine merchant Stephen Jumel and his wife Eliza “Betsey” Bowen, who returned it to its former glory.Later, the widowed Madam Jumel married Aaron Burr in the front parlor.

This was a rural area until 1882 when the Jumel heirs sold the estate, retaining only the grounds around the house. The Sylvan Terrace row houses (older blog) were begun the same year.

The rose- and herb gardens, which date back to colonial times and look out over the Harlem River, are maintained by volunteers. This 1970 Historic District runs from West 160th to 162nd Streets between St. Nicholas and Edgecombe Avenues and includes the Sylvan and Jumel Terraces.


NYC – Wooden Toys -Did you play with them?

Here is your chance to see wooden toys from early on to now.

Bard Graduate Center Gallery

September 18, 2015 – January 17, 2016


This has to be another one of the often missed treat of visiting New York City.


While I was checking out Central Park’s foliage, I decided to walk over to Broadway via west 86th Street.  I noticed IMG_0258toysa poster about wooden toys on this small brownstone -18 West 86th Street (between Columbus and Central Park West).


The gallery is small and covers three floors (elevator). The exhibit is well planned and I enjoyed following the progression of farm toys to the most professional. There is a suggested fee of $5 and $10 but you can pay what you want.



There are more than 300 playthings dating from the 17th to the early 21st century. For anyone interested in antique toys a visit will be full of nostalgia. It would also be fun to show your children or grandchildren toys from a time when there was comparatively simple objects for children’s entertainment.



I really enjoyed looking at all the toys and reading the the descriptions of them.

Not going? Here are additional photos

Open air high rise – south of NYC – available – original Fredericksburg VA Renaissance Fair.

Internet photo

Well.  Actually about 300 miles south!

– Found during a walk in Fredericksburg Virginia –

This is but one structure left of the original Fredericksburg VA Renaissance Fair. The faire was built by Disney after being rebuffed on a Civil War theme park, they were the silent backers and they gave the management “X” years of funding and that was it, after that it was supposed to be self-sufficient.

They attempted to create the illusion of a bustling feudal port. Multiple buildings were erected in the style of medieval European architecture with towers and improbable buildings on stilts. There was even a replica sailing ship sitting in the small pond on the lot, where performers would put on small shows and entertainments.

Unfortunately the swampy land and muggy climate proved a bit too much for the normal ren-fest crowds and after just two seasons of waning profits, the faire shuttered its gates and abandoned the regal site as it stood.

Brave soul that I am, I ventured into the woods to find what building might be left. High grass, many bugs and large signs – No Trespassing – kept me on my guard. I managed to get a few photos without being arrested, bitten to death or lost in the woods..

This abandoned Fredericksburg Renaissance Fairgrounds is now a piece of history, it’s in a horrible state of decay, and if no one knows about it and learns of its existence it’s at risk of complete and total destruction. Should you venture out to the fairgrounds, douse yourself in bug spray as the area is a notorious breeding ground for ticks. The area is posted with No-Trespassing signs. Oh yeah, and wear orange if you visit during hunting season.

Note: In 2018 I went past the location and noticed that the forest was overtaking the grounds

While finding this was a surprise to me, I was amazed at the amount of web information there is about the Fredericksburg VA Renaissance Faire.

I hope this brief look at history will prompt you to get out there and walk – you never know what you may find! Note: Even if on vacation.

Extra Note: George Washington’s mother once owned the land here, because pretty much everything in Virginia was owned by the Washington’s at some point. The area itself is called “Sherwood Forest,” because duh! The Ren-Faire was in operation from 1996 until it tanked from low ticket sales in 1999. The property has been decaying ever since.

NYC – behind the Jewish, Cooper-Hewitt and Guggenheim Museums

The area behind the Jewish, Cooper-Hewitt and Guggenheim Museums is a path less traveled.

I imagine that many tourists visit  upper east side museums and looking in their guidebooks cannot find anything else of interest to see in this upper east side area. So they stay either stay on 5th Avenue or come across from Central Park.

Food, bathrooms and shopping don’t seem to beckon anyone to linger either.Yet, walk east to Madison Avenue – what a surprise! Here you will find beautiful clothing stores, coffee  shops and restaurants.  I call this area “Behind the Museums”. In fact, I would extend the location  even further both north and south.


Also, wandering west and east through the East 90s allows a sampling of several different genres of architecture, some delightfully surprising, others mindnumbingly oppressive. Be sure to check out the wooden frame houses on east 92nd street.

  • The Richard Hibberd House (right) at 160 E. 92nd St., built 1852-53 and once home to Eartha Kitt.
  • The well-known 92nd Street Y is in the neighborhood. President Obama lived at 339 E. 94th St. in the 1980s.
  • Two restaurants – Fetch and the Barking Dog, attract those who like to dine outdoors with their furry friends.
  • The subway at 96th St. (6) on the Lexington line affords easy access.
  • The Marx Brothers, including Adolph “Harpo” Marx,grew up at 179 East 93rd Street, off 3rd avenue.

house 120 92nd

Two of several mansions still exist in this area. The JJ Sloan Mansion –48-50 East 92nd Street (Smart looking entrance door)



And, the J Burden House — 7 East 91st Street (now a girls school)


800px-Burden-7e91   Make sure you use the bathrooms, in the Museums, before wandering in the area.