"Off Main", A Tour of Historic Homes

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A "Half Captain"

On Saturday, June 3rd, the Irvington Historical Society will host its First Annual House Tour, "Off Main." Designed as a walking tour, "Off Main" will focus on Irvington’s village center known for its charming homes, quaint shops, and spectacular river views.

The eight homes, chosen for their historic character, are evocative of the village from the mid 19th to early 20th century.

Irvington’s village center was laid out in 1850 when the farmland property owned by Justus Dearman that extended eastward from the Hudson River to Broadway, was sold to John Jay, a nephew of the Chief Justice. Jay arranged for the property to be laid out into streets and 266 building lots, that were publicly auctioned at the Merchant’s Exchange in New York City. Originally called Dearman, the village residents voted in 1854 to change the name to Irvington in honor of its most famous resident, the author Washington Irving. The vote was said to be 598 to one, the one dissenting vote being that of Irving himself.

The initial development of the village was described by a newspaper reporter as follows, "It all seems like magic. In so short a time the germ of a beautiful village is producing new neighbors for Sunnyside [Irving’s home]. A main street has been laid out, and side streets run north and south, much like the arms of telegraph poles."

That magic still exists today. Tour participants will have an opportunity to wander those lovely, tree-lined side streets originally named with only letters in alphabetical order, with A Street closest to the river. The story goes that the letters were changed to names when a local doctor, Dr. Roane, had to deal with the newfangled telephone. "B" sounded like "D" or "E" and the doctor could not figure out what street his sick patient lived on. The streets were then named for famous Irvington residents with "A" Street becoming Astor Street.

The homes on the tour represent a range of architectural styles and historical periods: an 1840’s "Half Captain" Hudson River bracketed cottage overlooking the River, a charming carriage house that once served the Tiffany mansions in Matthiessen Park, a 19th century gable roofed home that retains the traces of the speakeasy that was once housed in its basement, and one of a group of attached red brick houses built at the turn of the century by the Lord & Burnham company for their employees. All of the homes on the tour provide examples of how the homeowners have updated and renovated their interior spaces without negating the essential character of their houses.

Along with the house tour, the Irvington Historical Society will host an evening reception with light supper and auction at Inanda, the home of Jim and Tara McCann. Inanda (Zulu for "beautiful place") was built in the 1870’s by Cyrus Field. For further information about the house tour and evening reception please call the Society at (914) 591-1020.

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