Identifying landmarks from “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” has long been popular among visitors to the region Washington Irving named Sleepy Hollow Country. In spite of 200 years of “growth” that transformed this sleepy farming community into a modern suburb, it’s still possible to pick out the locations of major landmarks from the story, with two major exceptions: the bridge upon which Ichabod Crane lost his race with the Headless Horseman and the Sleepy Hollow schoolhouse have been lost to the ravages of time.
If you don’t mind a little walking, you can easily trace Ichabod Crane’s famous ride up the Albany Post Road (now US Route 9, named Broadway in Tarrytown and Sleepy Hollow). From the site of the Elizabeth Van Tassel house (now the Landmark Condominium, northeast corner of Hamilton Place and North Broadway in Tarrytown), walk north about 0.3 mile on Route 9 (North Broadway) to the André captors’ monument in Patriots Park, the spot where Ichabod was met by the headless horseman. From here, gallop frantically along Broadway until you reach the Old Dutch Church, about 0.6 mile.
For more information on visiting Sleepy Hollow: www.visitsleepyhollow.com.
Old Dutch Burying Ground and the Old Dutch Church of Sleepy Hollow
The burying ground in which the unfortunate Ichabod sought refuge is the yard of the Old Dutch Church, not the adjacent Sleepy Hollow Cemetery, which had not been established at the time Irving wrote the Legend. The burying ground is of course the purported haunt of a certain headless Hessian, but also the resting place of local citizens who likely inspired Irving’s characters of Katrina Van Tassel, Brom Bones, and others in “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow.” For a self-guided tour, purchase a copy of Tales of the Old Dutch Burying Ground from Sleepy Hollow Gifts Online, or at the museum shop at Philipsburg Manor. A fold-out map at the center of the book guides you through the churchyard.
Old Dutch Church of Sleepy Hollow and Old Dutch Burying Ground, Route 9 across from Philipsburg Manor, Sleepy Hollow, NY, at the south gate to Sleepy Hollow Cemetery
“Indeed, certain of the most authentic historians of those parts, who have been careful in collecting and collating the floating facts concerning this spectre, allege that the body of the trooper, having been buried in the church-yard, the ghost rides forth to the scene of battle in nightly quest of his head; and that the rushing speed with which he sometimes passes along the Hollow, like a midnight blast, is owing to his being belated, and in a hurry to get back to the church-yard before daybreak.” -The Legend of Sleepy Hollow
Sleepy Hollow Cemetery
Sleepy Hollow Cemetery surrounds the Old Dutch Burying Ground, the spot identified in The Legend of Sleepy Hollow as the resting place of the headless horseman. Washington Irving is laid to rest in the southern end of the cemetery in a plot overlooking the old church and its burying ground. Other famous individuals buried in Sleepy Hollow Cemetery include Andrew Carnegie, Walter Chrysler, William Rockefeller, and Elizabeth Arden. Pick up a free map of the grounds at the cemetery office located about 1/4 mile north of the Old Dutch Church on Route 9 (North Broadway).
“I send you herewith a plan of a rural cemetery projected by some of the worthies of Tarrytown, on the woody hills adjacent to the Sleepy Hollow Church. I have no pecuniary interest in it, yet I hope it may succeed, as it will keep that beautiful and umbrageous neighborhood sacred from the anti-poetical and all-leveling axe. Besides, I trust that I shall one day lay my bones there.” Washington Irving, letter addressed to Lewis Gaylord Clark, then editor of Knickerbocker Magazine.
540 North Broadway, Sleepy Hollow, NY 10591, www.sleepyhollowcemetery.org
Washington Irving’s meticulously restored home is filled with the author’s possessions including his writing desk and books. Originally a Dutch farmer’s house, it is now a property of the non-profit Historic Hudson Valley and open for tours. Located on West Sunnyside Lane, off Route 9 (South Broadway), about 3-1/2 miles south of the Old Dutch Church.
Sunnyside, 89 West Sunnyside Lane, Tarrytown, NY 10591, 914-366-6900
Patriots Park and the André Captors’ monument
The marshy area where Ichabod first encountered the headless horseman has long since been drained, but its stream still flows through a park shared by the villages of Tarrytown and Sleepy Hollow. A monument marks the spot where, on September 23, 1780, John Paulding, David Williams, and Isaac Van Wart captured British spy John André and exposed Benedict Arnold’s treasonous attempt to turn over West Point to the British. At this same location Ichabod was waylaid by the Headless Horseman. André’s tree, the ancient tulip tree under which the spy was captured, no longer stands.
“About two hundred yards from the tree a small brook crossed the road, and ran into a marshy and thickly-wooded glen, known by the name of Wiley’s Swamp. A few rough logs, laid side by side, served for a bridge over this stream . . . It was at this identical spot that the unfortunate André was captured, and under the covert of those chestnuts and vines were the sturdy yeomen concealed who surprised him. . . .In the dark shadow of the grove, on the margin of the brook, [Ichabod] beheld something huge, misshapen and towering. It stirred not, but seemed gathered up in the gloom, like some gigantic monster ready to spring upon the traveler. . . He appeared to be a horseman of large dimensions, and mounted on a black horse of powerful frame.”
The park and monument are located on the west side of Route 9 (Broadway) at the border between Sleepy Hollow and Tarrytown.
Site of the Elizabeth Van Tassel house, later known as Mott Tavern
Local tradition attaches the coquettish Katrina to the Elizabeth Van Tassel house, a tavern before and during the Revolutionary War. Historian Edgar Mayhew Bacon, in his 1898 book Chronicles of Tarrytown and Sleepy Hollow notes that Irving was a frequent visitor at this old house “especially during the time that his [Irving’s] sister boarded there with the Mott family.” In their 1975 History of the Tarrytowns, Jeff Canning and Wally Buxton concur, adding that the house was once part of the 165 acre John Van Tassel farm. The former Elizabeth Van Tassel house was located at what is now the northeast corner of Hamilton Place and North Broadway in Tarrytown. The Landmark Condominium building presently on the site was formerly the Frank R. Pierson School (ca. 1897), which itself was formerly the Washington Irving High School until the 1920s when the school district built a new Washington Irving High School at the corner of Franklin Street and South Broadway in Tarrytown. There is a bronze marker on the southwest corner of the Landmark noting that it occupies the site of the former Mott Tavern.
Landmark Condominium, 18 North Broadway (1 block north of Main Street), Tarrytown, NY 10591
“Our man of letters, therefore, was peculiarly happy in the smiles of all the country damsels. How he would figure among them in the church-yard . . . or sauntering, with a whole bevy of them, along the banks of the adjacent mill-pond; while the more bashful country bumpkins hung sheepishly back, envying his superior elegance and address.”
Frederick Philipse, the builder of the grist mill and manor house, was also the builder of the Old Dutch Church of Sleepy Hollow. Philipsburg Manor is now a living history museum where you can experience Sleepy Hollow’s agrarian past. It is a restoration of the 17th century Dutch manor beside whose millpond Ichabod Crane strolled with the local girls. You may need to supply your own bevy of country damsels.
Philipsburg Manor, 381 North Broadway, Sleepy Hollow, NY 10591, 914-366-6900
Christ Episcopal Church
Washington Irving followed the Rev. Dr. William Creighton here from Zion Episcopal Church. Irving was a vestryman, warden, Sunday School teacher, and regular parishioner at Christ Church until his death in 1859. The ivy on the church walls is from cuttings taken at Irving’s home.
Christ Episcopal Church, 43 South Broadway, Tarrytown, NY 10591, 914-631-2074
Zion Episcopal Church
Founded in 1833. Irving worshipped here prior to his association with Christ Episcopal Church.
Zion Episcopal Church, 55 Cedar Street, Dobbs Ferry, NY 10522, 914-693-9320
Headless Horseman Bridge, Sleepy Hollow Cemetery
The precise location of the old, timber bridge where Ichabod was unseated by a pumpkin is lost to time but would probably have been located east of the current Route 9 bridge inside what is now Sleepy Hollow Cemetery. While we are sorry you can’t dash across the original, you are welcome to visit the cemetery’s own bridge across the Pocantico River. It is on cemetery road Sleepy Hollow Avenue about 0.3 mile inside the cemetery’s south gate. The bridge’s rough-hewn boards clatter like hoofbeats under the wheels of infrequent automobiles.
Sleepy Hollow Cemetery, 540 North Broadway, Sleepy Hollow, NY 10591
Headless Horseman Bridge, Route 9 (Broadway)
Irving notes in The Legend of Sleepy Hollow that the route of the Albany post road was not always to the west of the church. The present bridge over the Pocantico River was constructed in 1912 by William Rockefeller.
“The bridge became more than ever an object of superstitious awe, and that may be the reason why the road has been altered of late years, so as to approach the church by the border of the mill-pond.”
Rockefeller State Park Preserve
If the original route of Ichabod’s flight from the headless horseman is too populated for your taste, step back in time courtesy of the Rockefeller family. To the east of Sleepy Hollow Cemetery, across the Old Croton Aqueduct, Rockefeller State Park Preserve encompasses dense forest, rolling pastures, and miles of unpaved carriage roads. In the gathering gloom of some overcast autumn afternoon, you might just hear hoofbeats approaching from behind. But don’t panic—the state park allows equestrian access to some trails. If you wish to make your own horseback ride through Sleepy Hollow, there is horse trailer parking at the park’s main entrance on Route 117. There is pedestrian access to the park from the Old Croton Aqueduct and Old Sleepy Hollow Road.
Long before it acquired the nickname The Big Apple, Washington Irving cheekily dubbed his hometown Gotham. Gotham was and is a village in Nottinghamshire, England. In the Middle Ages its citizens were the butt of many a joke about their alleged lack of intelligence, although more than a few stories cast the inhabitant’s odd behavior as shrewdly calculated to shield the town from the onerous demands of an unreasonable royalty. Far from taking offense at Irving’s shot at their legendary high opinion of themselves, subsequent generations of Manhattanites have persistently revived the use of Irving’s impudent reference to their possibly feigned lunacy. Some may revel a bit in their ability to pull one over on the unwary, but by and large the inhabitants welcome visitors. Experience the madness for yourself. From either the Tarrytown or Philipse Manor (Sleepy Hollow) stations Manhattan is about a 40 minute train ride. You can drive there, of course, but as the “good citizens of the wonder loving city of Gotham” (Salmagundi No. XIII) will tell you, you would have to be crazy to risk the traffic and byzantine parking regulations.
NYC and Company, Convention and Visitors Bureau, www.nycvisit.com
The namesake for Irving’s hapless schoolmaster is buried in a churchyard in Staten Island. Legend has it that Irving knew Crane from service during the War of 1812. Irving seems to have picked up only the name, not the character, of the Staten Islander. The character may have been based in part upon the career of Revolutionary War veteran Samuel Youngs, a resident of the Tarrytown area. After the revolution, Youngs became a schoolteacher, went on to study law, and was elected to state office—roughly the career path of the fictitious Ichabod Crane. Youngs was originally buried in the churchyard of Old Dutch Church of Sleepy Hollow—the setting for The Legend of Sleepy Hollow—but was transferred to Ossining in 1851 when administrators of the fledgeling Dale Cemetery wanted an notable citizen to grace their new burying ground.
Asbury Methodist Cemetery, alternately referred to as Asbury Methodist Episcopal Churchyard, Northfield Methodist Episcopal Churchyard, and New Springville Cemetery. The cemetery surrounds the former Asbury Methodist Church, which is presently SonRise Faith Church. The marble Crane monument is located at the back of the section to the left of the church. The original inscription had been badly vandalized by the end of the 20th Century but has since been restored and reproduction inscriptions installed. 2000 Richmond Avenue (corner of Amsterdam Place), Staten Island, NY.
Dale Cemetery. The Youngs monument can be difficult to find among the cemetery’s 40 acres without a map. If the office is open, purchase a copy of their guide book. 104 Havell Street, Ossining, NY, 10562, 914-941-1155, www.dalecemetery.com.
Hudson Valley Writers’ Center
Jump-start your own writing career in the same locale that inspired Washington Irving. The center offers classes, workshops, and readings by emerging and established writers in the restored Philipse Manor train station.
The Hudson Valley Writers’ Center, 300 Riverside Drive, Sleepy Hollow, NY 10591, 914-332-5953
The headless horseman is not the only frightful phantom to grace the area. Fans of the 1960s television series Dark Shadows will recall that Lyndhurst in Tarrytown served as the Collinwood estate in the feature-length film House of Dark Shadows (1970). Sleepy Hollow Cemetery’s receiving vault (inset image) made a cameo in that same film as the Collins family mausoleum. Watch House of Dark Shadows online at Amazon Video on Demand.
Lyndhurst, one of America’s finest Gothic Revival mansions, was originally designed in 1838 by American architect Alexander Jackson Davis for former New York City mayor William Paulding. Paulding named his country villa “Knoll.” In 1864 Davis doubled the size of the house for its second owner, George Merritt, who renamed it “Lyndenhurst” after the Linden trees growing on the property. In 1880 railroad baron Jay Gould purchased the estate, maintaining it as his summer home and country retreat until his death in 1892. The mansion and its 67-acre estate remained in the family until 1961. It’s now a property of the National Trust for Historic Preservation.
The grounds and outbuildings are a fine example of 19th century landscape design. Much of the layout was accomplished by Ferdinand Mangold, whose tenure spanned both Merritt and Gould ownership of the property. Both Mangold and Merritt are buried in Sleepy Hollow Cemetery; original owner Paulding is buried in the adjacent Old Dutch Burying Ground.
Lyndhurst gets decked out for the holidays. During October special daytime tours explain how many of the customs we associate with Halloween and the supernatural developed during Victorian times. Guest will discover that the truth is stranger than fiction. In the evening they can tour Jay Ghoul’s House of Curiosities as well as see the Scarecrow Invasion. December brings live performances of A Christmas Carol in the mansion as well as seasonal décor.
Lyndhurst, 635 South Broadway, Tarrytown, NY 10591, 914-631-4481