National Geographic : 1948 Jul
The Mighty Hudson the Bear Mountain Bridge, built in 1925 (Plate XII). There are even now only four such bridges below Albany, the longest being the George Washington Bridge, in the upper part of New York City and the only Hudson bridge near the city. In the heart of the Highlands the river makes a double angle, and on the high prom ontory or plateau thus created stands the United States Military Academy, commonly known as West Point. There is no town, or even village of that name, despite a total population of 7,000; it is an Army post, the oldest over which our flag has continuously flown, and perhaps most frequently visited in the country. It became a military academy shortly after the Revolu tion.* The chapel, library, museum, and much of the grounds are open to the public and provide unusual interest to every patriotic American. Many famous men have graduated from or attended West Point. The list includes lead ing generals in the Civil War, also Pershing, Arnold, Eisenhower, Bradley, MacArthur, and, strange to relate, Edgar Allan Poe and James A. McNeill Whistler (Plates IV, V, and VII). Early in the Revolution, Washington recog nized that West Point was the key to the line of the Hudson, which in turn was the Colonies' main line of defense. By his orders, Thaddeus Kosciusko, Polish engineer, com pleted the construction work there. Among the defenses were two great iron chains stretched across the river between West Point and Constitution Island and between Fort Montgomery and Anthonys Nose, six miles below West Point. The one at West Point was taken up in the fall, although some of the links weighed as much as 300 pounds each. Several are to be seen on the grounds at West Point and in various historical societies and museums (page 14). A great element of strength was the fact that the square-rigged British ships could not make the double turn without altering course and thus losing headway in attack. From across the river the gray, massive, granite fronts of the Military Academy build ings rise in tiers up the steep hillside, as if they were a very part of the solid rock terraces themselves. Against the contrast of the almost wilder nesslike area around them, the many different buildings, not always of the same architectural style, seem somehow blended into one huge Gothic military unit. As we descend the river and approach the metropolis itself, cities and towns are closer together and so numerous as to make distinc tive description difficult. But let us stop at the Tarrytowns long enough to savor the spell of romance which Washington Irving cast over this region. Tarrytown and many near-by towns look out upon the Tappan Zee, one of the broadest, most lakelike expanses of the Hudson, de scribed by Irving as a "dusky and indistinct waste of waters." The Spell of Sleepy Hollow Washington Irving was the first American writer of international rank. His Knicker bocker's History of New York and his tales, Rip van Winkle and the Legend of Sleepy Hollow, were the first works which led Euro peans to realize there was such a thing as an American author. Irving's grave is toward the summit of the hill, on a beautiful sunny slope in the old Dutch burying ground of Sleepy Hollow, along the main highway in North Tarrytown. A huge oak stands guard over the grave, and the only inscription reads as follows: Washington Irving Born April 3, 1783 Died Nov. 28, 1859 Colonial settlers, Indians, Revolutionary patriots, British soldiers, and Negro slaves rest in the burying ground. Irving wrote that the "sequestered situation of this church seems always to have made it a favorite haunt of troubled spirits," and he told how the Head less Horseman, villain of his famous tale, "tethered his horse nightly among the graves." With the near-by stream of motor traffic on No. 9, main artery on the east side of the Hudson, ghosts now have very little chance. But the burying ground and church both seem singularly unspoiled. The church is one of the oldest in the State and one of the few distinctly Dutch bits of construction remain ing. Recently the sagging timbers and crumbling masonry of the church had to be repaired, and gifts for the purpose came from all over the country, some from Italian, Slovak, and col ored groups. The congregation now worships elsewhere, but the old church is used for wed dings and funerals. Not far below it the little Pocantico River comes down from the hills and meanders into the Hudson. John D. Rockefeller, Jr., whose father lived so long at his Pocantico Hills estate, has restored one of the leading manor * See "West Point and the Gray-clad Corps," by Lt. Col. Herman Beukema, NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC MAGAZINE, June, 1936.