Based in London; Formerly of New York, Buenos Aires, Fife, and the Western Cape. Saoránach d'Éirinn.
A writer, blogger, historian, and web designer born in New York, educated in Argentina, Scotland, and South Africa, and now based in London. read more

If there is any season which is plus New-Yorkaise que les autres then it must be autumn, and around the time of Hallowe’en in particular.

Thanks to the fertile imagination of Washington Irving, buried in the cemetery of the Old Dutch Church in Sleepy Hollow, the Hudson Valley is the spiritual home of this ancient Celtic feast now implanted in the New World.

The other day I dusted off the huge single-volume complete works of Irving – almost the size of an old Statenvertaling – and re-read his most famous tale, “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow”.

Irving describes the position of the Old Dutch Church:

The sequestered situation of this church seems always to have made it a favorite haunt of troubled spirits. It stands on a knoll surrounded by locust trees and lofty elms, from among which its decent whitewashed walls shine modestly forth, like Christian purity beaming through the shades of retirement. A gentle slope descends from it to a silver sheet of water bordered by high trees, between which peeps may be caught at the blue hills of the Hudson. To look upon its grass-grown yard, where the sunbeams seem to sleep so quietly, one would think that there at least the dead might rest in peace.

On one side of the church extends a wide woody dell, along, which raves a large brook among broken rocks and trunks of fallen trees. Over a deep black part of the stream, not far from the church, was formerly thrown a wooden bridge; the road that led to it and the bridge itself were thickly shaded by overhanging trees, which cast a gloom about it even in the daytime, but occasioned a fearful darkness at night. Such was one of the favorite haunts of the Headless Horseman, and the place where he was most frequently encountered.

The tale of the Headless Horseman is now, partly thanks to various popular reinterpretations of it, well known even outside the Hudson Valley. I remember as a wee lad growing up in that part of the world our Scout uniforms had a badge bearing the image of the “Galloping Hessian”.

This post was published on Monday, October 31st, 2016 12:05 pm. It has been categorised under Architecture History New York and been tagged under , , , .
L G Clark
31 Oct 2016 4:10 pm

My ancestor was Irving’s intimate friend, and published many of his later works. My mother was born in Sleepy Hollow/Tarrytown and there baptised (but, as a Catholic, not in the Old Dutch Church).
I was last in the area over 25 years ago. Then it breathed something of the old and lovable America one had grown up in.
Such places are now few and far between, and all the more precious for that.

Andrew Cusack
31 Oct 2016 6:02 pm

I’ve occasionally been to the old rite Mass at the Catholic Church of the Immaculate Conception in Sleepy Hollow — it is just over the border from Tarrytown proper. A handsome gothic structure, though the tower was never finished.

There is also the quite ugly Church of the Transfiguration further south, but the less said of that building the better.

20 Nov 2016 4:33 am

“autumn”? Fall is the word you are looking for I think. Proper English word that is. Not one of those French imports……

L G Clark
20 Nov 2016 4:38 pm

Justin, sir, you are right: even Fowler of the King’s English admitted the superiority of the word.
But Cusack is now a Brit and cannot admit any advantage to his native land.

Andrew Cusack
21 Nov 2016 2:15 pm


When I lived in America ‘autumn’ and ‘fall’ were used interchangeably.

Amusingly many British people seem to think the word ‘faucet’ doesn’t exist in the US and that ‘tap’ is the only word, but like autumn/fall both are perfectly ordinary in the US in my experience.

L G Clark
21 Nov 2016 10:39 pm

Amusingly, you’ve got it the wrong way ’round, thus proving my point.
“Faucet” is American, “tap” British.
There is the telling story of Emerald Lady Cunard, born in San Francisco, talking about a “faucet” at one of her grand dinners in London after the Great War. Nobody knew what she was talking about, and she becsme increasingly frustrated. Finally somebody murmured laconically “It’s American for “tap”, no doubt ending his time as an habitué of her salon.

The great Waugh loved this story.

Andrew Cusack
22 Nov 2016 5:10 pm

The person who always insists to me that ‘tap’ is American and ‘faucet’ is British is an Old Harrovian of our mutual acquaintance!

I will tell him (on your authority) that he has got it all mixed up.

L G Clark
22 Nov 2016 8:03 pm

I await:

1) an initial explosion;

2) after reflection, rueful agreement.

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