Sleepy Hollow.

Certain it is, the place still continues under the sway of some witching power, that holds a spell over the minds of the good people… -The Legend of Sleepy Hollow.

As summer slowly comes to a close, signs of autumn begin to appear. Fall in the northeastern United States means crisp morning air, the changing colors of leaves, and the yearly harvest. Beyond the smell of fresh apple pie, the sounds of football, and the sights of crimson, orange, and yellow leaves, thoughts also turn to traditions more ominous. Sitting around a camp fire, telling ghost stories while drinking apple cider… creeping through haunted houses… and taking a road trip to visit the setting of a gothic horror tale that has immortalized a small village along the Hudson River: Sleepy Hollow.

In 1820, author Washington Irving published a collection of short stories, including The Legend of Sleepy Hollow. Set in the village of Tarrytown, New York, the story tells of schoolmaster Ichabod Crane, who moves to the area and attempts to win the heart of Katrina, the daughter of a wealthy landowner. Competing for Katrina’s heart is Adam Van Brunt, a local. Ichabod, hardly the bravest of men, is spooked by the town’s reputation for paranormal activity… culminating in his encounter with a horse rider whose head is beside him on the saddle.

On a beautiful Saturday in mid-September, my wife and I headed north to visit the setting of this classic American tale. Along the way, we strolled the grounds of a historic mansion and explored a 19th century lighthouse. 

Let’s begin:

A Sleepy Hollow Adventure

Map of New York and New Jersey, with red pin in location of Sleepy Hollow.
Our destination: the village of Sleepy Hollow, located on the bluffs over the Hudson River in New York
View of Garden State Parkway northbound on a sunny day.
As we headed northward on the Garden State Parkway, we enjoyed the beautiful late summer weather. Sunny skies and temperatures in the 70’s… perfect road trip weather!
View of Mario Cuomo Bridge, eastbound.
Nearing our destination, we crossed the Mario M. Cuomo Bridge over the Hudson River. Formerly the site of the now-demolished Tappan Zee bridge, this 3.1-mile bridge cost almost four billion dollars to build.

Lyndhurst Mansion

2012 Honda Accord parked in front of sign for Washington Irving's Sunnyside. The Hudson River is in the distance.
Our first stop was Sunnyside – Sleepy Hollow author Washington Irving’s home, situated on the bluffs above the Hudson River in Tarrytown, NY. Unfortunately, tours of the grounds were sold out for the weekend. However, my wife had a backup plan at the ready…
2012 Honda Accord parked in front of Lyndhurst mansion.
One of the things in this photo is priceless. The other is a historic mansion. After being stymied in our attempt to visit Sunnyside, we drove a bit further north to stroll around the grounds of Lyndhurst, a mammoth estate once owned by railroad baron Jay Gould.
Exterior of Lyndhurst mansion.
Built in 1838, the mansion was designed for William Paulding, the mayor of New York City. Its third and final owner was Jay Gould. After Gould’s passing, his daughter would work to preserve it and open it to the public (via Wikipedia).
Floor-to-ceiling windows of house, from exterior.
With ornate windows that included stained glass, asymmetrical design, and numerous turrets, the house was initially (and derisively) dubbed “Spaulding’s Folly.” I think history is on the side of Alexander Davis, the architect. It’s one of the most beautiful estates I have ever visited.
Exterior of bowling alley building.
You know you have money when you can build an ornate bowling alley on the grounds of your already ostentatious estate.
View of bowling alley down sloping grass hill, with Hudson River in background.
I did not mention the second owner of the house until now. George Merritt, a New York businessman, was responsible for much of the landscaping of the area around the home. He hired a prominent landscape architect to create a park to surround his estate.
View of Rose Garden through arbor.
Amid the tree-lined hills is this rose garden. My wife and I enjoyed strolling through, taking in the sights and smells of the beautiful flowers still in bloom.
Yellow rose.
While anthophiles (the name for someone who loves flowers… and yes, I had to look it up) among my readers might know the names of these specific flowers, I just call them “pretty.”
Red rose.
I mean, really pretty.
Yellow rose.
One rose I can name: the floribunda, also known as the Julia Child rose. This variety of rose was bred in 2004, and Julia herself selected it to bear her name (via Wikipedia). Credit to my wife for recognizing it… I was just going to call it “another pretty rose.”
Greenhouse conservatory, now just a metal wire structure.
Merritt also undertook the construction of a greenhouse on his grounds. The brick building in the back was home to a staff of full-time gardeners, who lived on site so they could respond at a moment’s notice to any horticultural emergency.
Marble fountain in front of greenhouse.
The amount of time and money that must have gone into creating such magnificent grounds defies the imagination.
Panorama of Greenhouse.
Merritt’s original greenhouse burned down in 1880 and was replaced by Gould, who built the current structure. At its time, it was the largest privately owned greenhouse in the nation.
Interior of Palm House in greenhouse.
The center room of the greenhouse was the “Palm House.” It held 242 varieties of palm trees! I was surprised to learn that much of the park had fallen into disrepair in the years since Gould’s death. Restoration efforts first focused on main buildings like the bowling alley and mansion. The greenhouse has been stabilized so it does not collapse, and will be restored to its former glory in the coming years. It will be worth a return visit!
Great blue heron in water.
We departed Lyndhurst to travel to Sleepy Hollow for our appointed meeting with the Headless Horseman. On the way, we stopped for lunch at Tarrytown Lakes Park. Sitting on a bench near the lake, we were treated to some lunchtime entertainment: a great blue heron swooped in for its midday meal.
Great blue heron in flight.
While my sandwich got warm in the noontime sun, I patiently kept my camera focused on the heron. It rewarded my patience by taking off and flying across the lake, allowing me to snap this photo. After I put my camera away, my wife and I enjoyed our lunch. Refueled, we headed to our ultimate destination: Sleepy Hollow.

Sleepy Hollow

Statue of Headless Horseman chasing Ichabod Crane.
I think we’re in the right place! This sculpture was erected in 2006 to commemorate Irving’s famous story (via enchantedamerica). Originally named North Tarrytown, the village renamed itself Sleepy Hollow in 1996 to emphasize its connection to the tale. “Sleepy Hollow” was the name of a village in a valley among the hills of Tarrytown.
Near the statue is a marker for the “Headless Horseman Bridge.” In the story, the legend states that the bridge, which crosses a small stream near the Old Dutch Church burial ground, is a barrier for the horseman, and that he will disappear before he can cross the bridge.
Sign that reads Old Dutch Church of Sleepy Hollow.
Much of the story’s plot revolves around the cemetery at the Old Dutch Church. Founded in 1685, the church is one of the oldest buildings in New York state. The area was once home to a Dutch settlement, and the church was the center of life for immigrants from the Netherlands.
The adjacent cemetery has become a tourist spot, as according to the story, the Headless Horseman “tethers his horse nightly among graves in this churchyard.”
Tombstone that reads WASHINGTON IRVING BORN APRIL 3 1783 DIED NOV 28 1859.
Washington Irving himself is buried in the cemetery, in a plot that holds numerous members of his family. Irving is not the only person of note here. Other people interred in the grounds of the cemetery include William Paulding, former mayor of New York (and original owner of Lyndhurst), steel industry tycoon Andrew Carnegie, oil baron William Rockefeller, automotive executive Walter Chrysler, and cosmetics pioneer Elizabeth Arden. In addition, many of the characters for the story were based on people that Irving knew, and several of them are buried here as well.
Tombstone for Joseph Young and Sannah, his wife.
The cemetery is enormous, filled with graves that date to the earliest years of the United states. This tombstone of Joseph Youngs and his wife caught my eye, both for the touching inscription, but also for the small marker on the left, indicating that Joseph was a veteran of the American Revolution.
Clogs nailed to side of shed in cemetery.
A reminder that the church was the center of Dutch life in the area – these wooden clogs, nailed to the side of this small building in the cemetery.
Civil war Monument, with American flag flying above sculpture of soldier.
A fitting ending to our trip: my wife spotted this Civil War monument. In a war fought to maintain the union of our nation in the face of an insurrection, it was appropriate to see the stars and stripes flying above the monument. After spending a few moments at the site, we headed back to the car, and onward to our last stop before home.

Tarrytown Light

River walk along Hudson.
Before heading home, we drove to Kingsland Point County Park, which sits along the Hudson River. Our goal: to visit a 19th century lighthouse.
Mural on concrete wall.
After passing through the tree-lined park, we came to a narrow path along the river. A construction company is building an enormous complex of condominiums on the land, so temporary concrete walls have been erected. Some local artists put the walls to good use.
Tarrytown Light, with Mario M. Cuomo Bridge in background.
Rounding a corner, we spotted Tarrytown Light, and the Mario M. Cuomo Bridge in the background. Built in 1883, the lighthouse served as a navigational guide on the Hudson River until 1961.
Tarrytown Lighthouse.
Erected on a stone pier and built of cast iron, this 137-year old lighthouse is on the Register of Historic Places.
View of Hudson River, with rocks in foreground.
Although the lighthouse is currently closed for tours, you can still walk around its base. From the base, we had a gorgeous view northward of the Hudson River.
View of bluffs along Hudson River, with Manhattan skyline in background.
Looking south, we could see the skyline of New York City. We enjoyed a few more moments of peacefulness overlooking the river before heading back to our car and starting the journey home.
Car odometer reading 158989 TRIP A 139.1
After a long day exploring towns along the Hudson River, we finally arrived home at dinnertime. The Accord was as flawless as ever. Only 11 miles to 159,000… only 1,011 miles to 160,000, and only 41,011 miles to 200,000… my trusty Accord keeps gobbling up the mileage. Onward!

While our trip to Sleepy Hollow met all of my expectations for exploring the history behind one of my favorite stories, the area near Tarrytown is filled with so much more to see and do. From historic mansions, to beautiful parks, to rugged lighthouses, to a beautiful river, this section of New York is well worth the visit. Lyndhurst is currently open for tours of its grounds, although buildings remain closed due to the current pandemic. For $10 per person, visitors can stroll the grounds of this historic site, and for an additional fee, guests can be given guided tours of the landscape. Lyndhurst is open from 9:00 am – 5:00 pm every day. The Old Dutch Church of Sleepy Hollow is free to visit, although the burying ground is closed at 4:30 pm every day. Tarrytown Light is closed for tours, although the grounds and base of the lighthouse are free to visit.

Hopefully, this post put you in the mood for the coming fall season. Thanks for coming along on this tour of Sleepy Hollow… hopefully, you kept your head as you read it!

‘Til next time.


6 thoughts on “Sleepy Hollow.

  1. Sounds like a really neat trip!! I’m sure it would be really nice to visit in the fall but you really had fall like weather this week-end! I learned a lot thank-you!!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. The priceless Accord in the mansion pic and the horticultural emergency made me laugh. That mansion is stunning. I love everything about its look. The bowling alley looks like it could very easily be a large garage for a car collection…maybe a 90s Acura car collection.

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s