When a group of Sleepy Hollow residents first gathered last fall to address the much-needed renovation of the cast-iron eagle sitting at the Philipse Manor train station, the task ahead seemed daunting. Time had taken its toll on the bird, one of at least 10 eagles that decorated the roofline of the original Grand Central Station in Manhattan.
When the station was reconfigured to its current form as Grand Central Terminal in 1910, the eagles were dispersed throughout the region; this eagle was given to the Philipse Manor Company around 1911 and had not been professionally cared for since. There were structural losses, extensive corrosion, cracked layers of added house paint, and water damage. Animals had built nests inside the cast iron cavity of the metal wings.
“I knew the history of the eagle and I was watching it deteriorate,” says Joe Lillis, long-time resident, local history buff, and treasurer for the Save the Eagle Committee. “I said, ‘We don’t want the eagle to fall apart on our watch.’’’
The price tag was significant. Restoration costs were estimated at more than $50,000. A 2013 effort to restore the eagle had fizzled. “We knew going in that others before us had failed to raise the funds. The numbers were quite large and the task appeared enormous,” says committee member and President of the Philipse Manor Improvement Association, Ray Endreny. “However, we had a very dedicated leader with a background in museum-level conservation [committee chair Dawn Kriss]. A number of other enthusiastic neighbors came out in support — some older, with history and some newer, with energy. We all had hope.”
Less than a year later, the funds were raised. Nicholas Bell, great grandson of the developer of Philipse Manor, provided the first meaningful ($1,000) contribution. Developers of the up-coming Edge-On-Hudson complex also made a financial contribution. All told, more than 140 families, individuals and organizations donated to raise more than $75,000. “The community stepped up in a huge way to support an iconic statue that is ours,” says Lillis. “I think that’s pretty cool.”
Amounts not immediately used for the restoration, landscaping, and a dedication plaque will be set aside to fund future maintenance. Work on the eagle is being completed by Excelsior Art Services, LLC and is on schedule to be completed by September.
“Somehow, we just put one foot in front of the other, forcing a plan forward. Whenever there was a stall, one member of the team would push through a new idea,” says Endreny. “Before long we had momentum. As a result, we covered our goal in under a year’s time and it’s incredibly satisfying to know we can give this gift to the community.”
Fundraising efforts, done in collaboration with the Historical Society of Sleepy Hollow and Tarrytown, included everything from a lemonade stand organized by neighborhood youth to corporate matching gifts, and multiple historic neighborhood walking tours led by Lillis. “It’s exciting and bracing to see this magnificent object restored to its original color scheme, which represents the plumage of a bald eagle,” says Matt Reiley of Excelsior Art Services. “I hope the several real bald eagles I’ve seen soaring above are flattered!”