Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Of Ponds and Lakes: A Catalog of Water Resources


Look at a map of Westchester County, and you'll surely be surprised at the number of ponds and lakes dotting the landscape. Many of these are mute evidence of early industrial technology. Almost from the beginning of settlement, mills sprang up along swift-flowing streams. Gristmills used waterpower to turn their massive grindstones to produce flour. Sawmills cut lumber to meet the housing needs of a population swelled by immigration. Because stream flow could be erratic in dry spells, mill owners built small dams called millponds to assure a constant supply of water. A few ponds were created to supply communities with drinking water or merely for esthetic purposes.

In winter, workers temporarily unemployed in such seasonal industries as brickmaking and farming harvested giant blocks of ice from ponds. Winter-cut ice was stored in giant, well-insulated icehouses for use in the warmer months to come. No longer used as sources of waterpower or ice, these same bodies of water still dot the landscape, offering recreational opportunities for humans and refuges for wildlife, particularly migrating birds. What follows is list of the ponds and lakes, many of which represent links with our past. Where possible, information is given on the derivation of names. Reservoirs are also included. Call it an informal inventory of this area's freshwater resources:

Aschman Pond (Cortlandt), northwest of Mt. Airy Road and southeast of Torment Hill, was named for Charles G. Aschman, owner of the land on which it is located.
Bakwin Pond (New Castle). A tiny pond located north of Croton Dam Road and south of Teatown Lake on land once owned by Morris Bakwin.
Barker Pond (Cortlandt), south of Teatown Road and east of Quaker Ridge Road, is named for Louis Barker, in 1930 the owner of 102 acres of land that included this pond.
Beech Hill Pond (Mt. Pleasant) is north of Route 117 and west of Beech Hill Road; the pond is south of Beech Hill.
Beekman Pond (Mt. Pleasant) was originally dammed by Loyalist Frederick Philipse, who fled to England during the Revolution. Gerard G. Beekman bought the Philipse Manor house from the Commissioners of Forfeiture in 1785. In 1835 his widow had the Philipse estate surveyed and sold off lots to form the nucleus of a community named Beekmantown. The coming of the Hudson River Railroad in 1849 caused Beekmantown to grow. It was known by this name until 1874, when it was incorporated as North Tarrytown. In 1996, North Tarrytown became Sleepy Hollow. The pond is now in Kingsland Point Park.
Broccy Creek Reservoir (Cortlandt) is on the Camp Smith Military reservation. The name comes from an early English word for badger. Broccy Creek runs west from the reservoir to empty into the Hudson.
Brown's Pond (Mt. Pleasant) originally served Bird's Mill on the Saw Mill River. Jackson Brown bought it in 1876. The mill and the pond disappeared in the march of progress with the construction of former Hawthorne traffic circle, which itself has disappeared.
Campfield Reservoir (Peekskill) lies east of Division Street. It was built in 1875 on the site of a Revolutionary War campground.
Campfire Lake (New Castle) takes its name from the Camp Fire Club, which bought the land during the First World War and created the lake.
Cedar Pond and Cedar Swamp. In a 1732 map of Cortlandt Manor, these names were applied to what is now Mohansic Lake. The original name survives in Cedar Point, a promontory jutting into the lake from the south shore.
Cockrene Pond (Yorktown) is located near the southeast corner of the town, south of Crow Hill Road. It takes its slightly altered name from G.A. Cochrane, who built a horseracing track around the pond before 1914.
Colabaugh Pond (Cortlandt) lies east of Colabaugh Pond Road and Mount Airy Road East. The origin of the name is unknown, but it may be Dutch. It appears on maps over the years with a dozen different spellings. Local historian Richard Lederer found the earliest usage (as Callberg) on a 1751 map. Collabaugh [sic] Landing was Croton Landing's name in the early 1800s.
Cortlandt Lake (Cortlandt) is on Sprout Brook on the Westchester-Putnam County line.
Crom Pond (Yorktown) is the name applied to the small lake west of the intersection of Crompond and Baldwin roads. Mohansic Lake is the name of the larger lake. Originally, they were a single body of water called Crom Pond (Dutch for "crooked lake," because of its shape).
Dickerson Pond (Cortlandt) lies between Furnace Dock Road and Croton Avenue, on land formerly owned by the Valeria Home. It is also called Travis Pond. The origin of the Dickerson name is unknown; a Dickerson Mountain is nearby.
Dickiebusch Lake (Cortlandt), formed by damming Putnam Brook, is in the Camp Smith military reservation. The name is derived from the name of Jacobus DeKey, who purchased land here from the Indians in 1685. In the same year, two other DeKeys, Thouris and Samuel, were among the six purchasers from the Indians of Rycke's patent for the land on which Peekskill stands. The DeKey family name also survives in Dickey Brook, which forms the southern boundary of Peekskill.
Diegel's Pond is the former name of Playhouse Pond. The origin of the name is unknown.
Dixon Lake (Mt. Pleasant), north of Pleasantville Road and west of Hardscrabble Road, was created in 1930.
Dream Lake. There are two Dream Lakes. The one in Cortlandt was originally called Aschman Pond. In 1952, Leo Bodner bought the land from Charles Aschman and changed its name to Dream Lake. Major Edward Bowes, famous for his radio program that afforded opportunities for aspiring amateur entertainers to become professionals, built the other Dream Lake, in Yorktown. It lies south of the Croton Reservoir and west of Illington Road, on land later owned by the Wiltwyck School for Boys, which closed in 1981. Mrs. Bowes, an actress, used the stage name Margaret Illington.
Duck Pond (Croton-on-Hudson) is at the corner of Bungalow Road and South Riverside Avenue (Route 9A). Spring-fed, it is shown on old maps as Spring Lake and was a dependable source of ice. Originally much larger, the pond extended to the north toward the intersection of Radnor Avenue and Ridge Road in the area now occupied by a parking lot, playing field and a children's park. In those days, people came to the spring at the head of Bungalow Road to fill jugs and bottles with the clear water.
Echo Lake (New Castle) was the site of the Lawrence & Vail Rockdale Mills and was formed by damming the Pocantico River. It is located west of the Taconic State Parkway and south of Somerstown Pike (Route 133) and is now part of Echo Lake State Park.
Ferguson's Lake (Mt. Pleasant). A tripartite lake named for George Ferguson, who had four large icehouses on the lake west of the Pocantico Hills Central School.
Fish Pond was an early name for the present Beech Hill Pond. The origin of the name seems obvious.
Fremont Pond (Mt. Pleasant) is named for General John C. Fremont. Explorer, soldier, U.S. Senator, Governor and unsuccessful Republican presidential candidate, he retired to a 95-acre estate south of the present Phelps Memorial Hospital. He is buried in Rockland Cemetery.
Furnace Brook Pond (Cortlandt) is fed by Furnace Brook (formerly called Jamawissa Creek and the Old Mill Stream), which is fed by water from Dickerson Pond. Furnace Brook continues through Furnace Brook Pond and empties into the Hudson south of Oscawanna Island. The "furnace" of the name was the Cortlandt Furnace, built before 1750. Because of its proximity to the river, ore from mines in what is now Harriman State Park was transported across the Hudson and smelted at the furnace. Costs turned out to be prohibitive, and the furnace went bankrupt by 1764. In its place a gristmill was built to take advantage of the available waterpower. When the New York Central acquired Odell's lands and used the pond to supply water to its locomotives, it was also called Railroad Pond.
Gate of Heaven Pond (Mt. Pleasant) is on the grounds of Gate of Heaven cemetery.
Glendale Lake (Cortlandt) took its name around the end of the nineteenth century from Glendale Lakes Estate, Inc., which owned 55 acres east of Quaker Ridge Road and north of Ganung's Hill.
Great Pond was the name of Mohansic Lake until the mid-1800s.
Gregory Pond (Cortlandt) was formerly called McGregory Pond. This pond and McGregory Brook take their name from Hugh McGregory (or MacGregorie), who was granted a royal patent in 1691. McGregory Brook forms near the Cortlandt-Yorktown line before flowing through Gregory Pond, then into Peekskill and to the Hudson via a culvert at Main Street.
Griffin's Ice Pond (Peekskill), south of the Bear Mountain State Parkway and east of the Rolling Way, takes its name from local farmer Abraham N. Griffin, who bought the land in 1881. It was later owned by the Peekskill Ice Company.
Hardscrabble Lake (Mt. Pleasant) west of Hardscrabble Road was created in 1935.
Heaptauqua Lake (New Castle) was created and named in 1902 by Victor Guinzburg. Despite its Indian-sounding name, it was intended as a joke. The front part of the name, heaptal, came from friends' frequent joshing comments about the project ("heap talk") and the ending, qua, from Chappaqua.
Hemingway's Lake (Mt. Pleasant) was created by a man named Hemingway, a superintendent on the estate of John D. Rockefeller, Jr. It is the southernmost of the five lakes to the southeast of the Pocantico Hills Central School.
Hollow Lake. A former name of Mohegan Lake.
Indian Brook Reservoir, on the New Castle town line north of Route 9A, includes parts of three towns: Ossining, New Castle and Yorktown. Indian Brook forms below Teatown Lake and flows into the Croton River at Crotonville. The Sing Sing Water Works dammed the brook in 1888.
Journey's End Lake (Cortlandt) lies at the end of Journey's End Road. Broadway and Hollywood actor Holbrook Blinn had a country estate of that name near here. He died June 24, 1928, from an infection caused by a fall from his horse.
Junior Lake (Yorktown), a tiny pond north of Lakeside Street, was created by someone named Halon in 1927.
Kensico Reservoir. When New York City's Board of Water Supply dammed the Bronx River with an earthen dam in 1885 it created the first Kensico Reservoir, a 230-acre affair. In 1917, a new cut-stone higher dam was built near the site of the first dam, creating an even larger reservoir that incorporated the Big and Little Rye lakes.
Kinderogen Lake (Mt. Pleasant) is owned by the Girl Scouts' Camp Edith Macy. The name is reputed to come from the Dutch kinder augen, children's eyes.
Leith Pond. The town of Mt. Pleasant created a park and a pond by dredging a swamp on land formerly owned by Carolyn C. Leith, lying west of Rolling Hills Road and south of Charlotte Place.
Lodge Pool (Briarcliff Manor), a huge outdoor pool, was a feature of the Briarcliff Lodge, which was destroyed in a spectacular fire Sept. 20, 2003. In 1924, Johnny Weismuller trained here for the Olympics held at Paris, France, where he won three gold medals (in the 100- and 400-meter freestyle races and as a member of the victorious 4 x 200-meter relay team.
Lounsbury Pond (Cortlandt) was created when the Lounsbury family dammed Dicky Brook to create an ice pond. The first Lounsbury in the area was a tenant farmer in Van Cortlandt Manor who later bought his farm. The pond is now in the Blue Mountain Reservation.
Macy Pond (Briarcliff Manor) takes its name from owner V. Everitt Macy. From 1914 to 1924 he was Westchester's Commissioner of Public Welfare. He was also president of the County Park Commission. His son, J. Noel Macy, created the Macy newspaper chain.
Meahagh Lake (Cortlandt). The name is from an Indian word meaning "small island," and was used in the deed when the Indians sold what was later called Verplanck Point to Stephanus Van Cortlandt in 1683. In 1872, a swamp along the eastern side of Verplanck Point was dammed to create the lake.
Melvin Pond now lies under Dale Cemetery in Ossining. Thomas Melvin cut ice in this pond before the cemetery association bought it and filled it in.
Miller Pond (New Castle) was not named for an unknown miller but for the owner, J.A. Miller, who owned the land south of Teatown Lake and north of Croton Dam Road.
Mill Pond (Yorktown). A mill once operated here where Hunter Brook was dammed just north of White Hill Road. Mill Pond Road leads to the pond from Crompond Road. The millstones can be seen now at the Davenport House in Yorktown Heights.
Mirror Lake is a name used on an early land records map for what is now Vernay Lake.
Mitchell Lake (Peekskill) is in Depew Park. Mitchell was Chauncey M. Depew's mother's name and his middle name.
Mohansic Lake (Yorktown) is in Franklin D. Roosevelt State Park, formerly named Mohansic State Park. Once known as Cedar Pond, the pond is shown on a 1732 map as Crom Pond. Mohansic Brook, also known as Hallock's Mill Brook, drains the lake into the Muscoot River.
Mohegan Lake (Cortlandt) takes its name from the Indian tribe that inhabited the area. Although the names are sometimes used interchangeably, the Mohegans should to be confused with the fierce Mohicans of the upper Hudson Valley. Mohegan Lake drains into Peekskill Hollow Brook. Judge Enu Brown employed from 30 to 40 men to cut ice here during the winter.
Munson Pond (Mt. Pleasant). Frank Munson once owned 108 acres north of Bear Ridge Road at the present Munson Road.
Muscoot Reservoir is an arm of the New Croton Reservoir created after 1906 by the construction of the New Croton Dam (to use their official names).
Naumburg Pond (Cortlandt) lies southeast of the intersection of Quaker Ridge and Blinn roads, and is named for George W. Naumburg, an investment banker who owned land here.
New Croton Reservoir. The original Croton Dam was constructed near the Gate House Bridge in 1842 and traces of it can be seen at times of low water in the reservoir. With the enormous population growth of New York City, this dam soon became inadequate. It was replaced by the New Croton Dam, work on which was started in 1892 and completed almost fifteen years later. Until it was officially named, the dam was informally called the Cornell Dam, from Aaron Cornell, who owned the land on which the New York City Board of Water Supply built it.
Odell's Pond (Cortlandt) was an early name for Furnace Brook Pond. Benjamin Odell operated a gristmill here in the nineteenth century.
Oneonme Lake (New Castle). In 1913, when the dam creating a second New Castle Water Company lake came in over budget, Victor Guinzburg admitted that he had goofed by waggishly naming it Oneonme ("one on me") Lake.
Oppermann's Ice Pond (Mt. Pleasant) takes its name from J.H. Oppermann, who cut ice in the pond south of Carrigan and Franklin avenues.
Osceola Lake (Yorktown) lies north of Route 6. In the past it has been variously called Round Lake and Hollow Lake (both names were also applied to Mohegan Lake) and Jefferson Lake. It took its present name in the early 1900s from the Hotel Osceola. The hamlet to the east was developed in 1923 as Osceola Heights. The name Osceola is not of local origin but memorialized the Seminole Indian chief in Florida who refused to resettle his tribe west of the Mississippi. This touched off the Second Seminole War (1835-1843) that ended with Osceola's capture while negotiating under a flag of truce.
Ossining Reservoir, also called the Pleasantville Road Reservoir, is south of Pleasantville Road between Orchard and Old Briarcliff roads. It is no longer used as a reservoir and has been supplanted by storage tanks. The area around the former reservoir has been improved and made into an inviting park.
Penelope Lake (Peekskill), a dammed portion of McGregory Brook, lies between East Park and Main streets in Tompkins Park. Its name is pronounced "penny-lope" by local residents.
Peterson's Pond (Cortlandt). Created by the New York Central Railroad, it took its name from one L. Peterson, who operated a tree nursery near Washington Street and Montrose Station Road. The railroad constructed a dam to collect water, which was then led through underground pipes to the tracks north of Montrose station. Instead of stopping to take on water, express trains would "jerk water" by scooping it from troughs installed between the rails. Towns where trains seldom stopped but which provided water for locomotive boilers on the fly were referred to as "jerkwater towns."
Phillips Pond was a former name of Furnace Brook Lake.
Playhouse Pond (Mt. Pleasant) is the name given to the pond south of Bedford Road, near the Rockefeller "Play House."
Pocantico Lake (Mt. Pleasant). Like Echo Lake, this is another lake formed by damming the Pocantico River. Pocantico is an Indian word used in the 1681 deed to Frederick Philipse. It means a stream between two hills."
Purdy Pond (Ossining) lies west of Croton Dam Road (Route 134) just south of the New Castle line.
Railroad Pond was another name for Peterson's Pond and Furnace Brook Pond in Cortlandt.
Rockhill Pond (Ossining) is a tiny pond at the base of Rocky Hill, north of Spring Valley Road, immediately south of the New Castle town line.
Round Lake. The name of Mohegan Lake in Yorktown on a 1779 map.
School House Pond (Mt. Pleasant) lies to the east of the Pocantico Hills Central School.
Shadow Lake (Yorktown) is northwest of Croton Dam Road (Route 134) and east of Vernay Lake.
Shrub Oak Pond (Yorktown) is located north of Route 6 between the park and Mill Street. A sawmill off Mill Street cut lumber here for many years.
Silver Lake (Croton-on-Hudson) is the name given to the park and swimming area created by a small dam in the Croton River below Truesdale Drive.
Sparkle Lake (Yorktown), an elongated pond lying west of Granite Springs Road. Around 1927, Frederick Merk, a nurseryman, dammed a spring-fed brook. It took its name from the lake's clear and sparkling water.
Spring Lake was the original name for the Duck Pond, a spring-fed lake at the intersection of Bungalow Road and South Riverside Avenue (Route 9A) in Croton-on-Hudson.
Spy Pond (Cortlandt) is north of Gallows Hill, where British spy Edmund Palmer, a lieutenant in a loyalist regiment, was hanged Aug. 7, 1777, by order of General Israel Putnam.
Still Lake (New Castle) lies west of the Taconic State Parkway and north of Pines Bridge Road. Not a descriptive name; George W. Still owned land here.
Swan Lake (Mt. Pleasant) lies west of André Lane, just south of the Ossining town line. Mrs. John D. Rockefeller, Jr., had Trout Brook, a tributary of the Pocantico River, dammed here to create a bird sanctuary. The name Swan Lake has also been applied to the large lake to the south of Route 117 in Rockefeller State Park.
Swope Lake (Yorktown) was named for Gerard Swope, former president of General Electric. It is today called Vernay Lake.
Teatown Lake (Yorktown) in the Teatown Lake Reservation lies to the west of Vernay Lake along Spring Valley Road. Gerard Swope built it.
Tercia Pond (New Castle). After creating two lakes with humorous names (see Heaptauqua and Oneome), Victor Guinzburg's New Castle Water Company added still another lake. Called Tercia Pond, the name is a bastardization of tertia, Latin for third.
Travis Pond is another name of Dickerson Pond in Cortlandt. The name came from Frederick Travis, who owned 330 acres here, 60 acres of which are this pond.
Twin Lakes (Cortlandt) are located south of Maple Avenue and west of Croton Avenue.
Vernay Lake (Yorktown) is located south of the intersection of Blinn Road with Spring Valley Road. It had been formerly called Mirror Lake and Swope Lake. Phil E. Gilbert bought the land from Gerard Swope in 1967 and renamed the lake for Arthur Vernay, who built a house there in 1914.
Wallace Pond (Cortlandt) took its name from Thomas Wallace, operator of a wire mill here. The Wallace Pond Ice Company owned the pond in Annsville Creek west of Route 9 in the early 1900s. A square icehouse measuring 150 feet on a side was located below the outlet of the pond. It had double wall, with 4-by-12-inch studs and measured 37 feet from sill to plate. The one-foot void between the walls was filled with sawdust for insulation. Pond ice was cut by hand and moved through the water by workers with iron-tipped pikes to a continuous chain conveyor that would lift it into the icehouse. One of the biggest users of its ice was Peekskill's Van Cortlandt Dairy. Wallace Pond is now called Westchester Lake.
Whippoorwill Lake (New Castle). Created by the New Castle Water Company's damming of Whippoorwill Brook, it lies between King Street and Frog Rock Road. The name of the brook dates from Colonial times.

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