QUARRY PERIOD (1828-1871)
HARVEY’S QUARRY AND HASTINGS MARBLE
In 1835, Harvey leased the quarry to Elisha Bloomer, a hatter from New York City, who built an incline railroad from the quarry down to a wharf on the Hastings waterfront. The railroad carried rough stone blocks from the quarry to the Hudson River to be cut and loaded onto sailing ships. From there, the stone was shipped far and wide to construction sites in New York City, along the eastern seaboard and, by some accounts, as far as New Orleans. In 1838, an architect before the Water Commissioner of New York City declared that Harvey’s Quarry produced “the best Westchester marble.”
In 1838, Harvey sold 1.35 acres just west of the quarry for the construction of the Croton Aqueduct, being built to carry fresh drinking water to the residents of New York City. The sale reserved a right-of-way for the incline railroad and this necessitated the building of the Quarry Railroad Bridge. Believed to be made of stone from the quarry, it was named a National Landmark along with the Croton Aqueduct in 1976.
Harvey sold his Hastings property in 1846 and the quarry changed hands several times. While the Civil War disrupted the quarrying operation, business was underway again when scientist John W. Draper, who lived just above the quarry to the east, brought a lawsuit against its owners in 1870. The final blow came on March 29, 1871, when a blast caused a portion of Draper’s stone wall to collapse. Two months later, the court ruled in Draper’s favor, ordering a permanent injunction against further blasting and ending quarrying at this site.
ABANDONED PERIOD (1871-1936)
Over the ensuing years, the unused quarry filled with trash and debris. In 1899, National Conduit Company purchased the quarry and laid pipes along the path of the former incline railroad to its new factory at the river’s edge, where the water that had collected in the quarry was used as coolant. Years later, the quarry ended up in the hands of Anaconda Wire and Cable Company. The neglected old quarry continued to fill up with discards. One newspaper account referred to it as “the eyesore of the town” and “a filth-infested hole in the ground.”
THE ORIGINAL QUARRY PARK (1936-1943)
TRANSFORMATION INTO A MAGNIFICENT SCENIC OASISIn 1936, local resident Arthur C. Langmuir, a retired chemical engineer, master photographer and horticulturalist, bought the abandoned quarry from Anaconda, with the intention of turning it into a Village park. He and his wife, Alice, lived in the stone house, which they called Oakledge, that still stands just above the quarry to the southeast. The house had been constructed out of marble from the quarry around 1852 by John William Draper for his sister, Dorothy Catherine Draper. Langmuir was inspired by a trip to Buttes Chaumont in Paris, a public park that was created from an abandoned quarry. Under Langmuir’s direction, over 50 truckloads of old tin cans, broken bottles, pots and pans, rusted bed springs, rags, old tires and auto bodies were removed from the site.
Over a span of three years, a crew of 12 men, called “The Quarry Gang,” transformed the quarry into an extraordinary scenic park and bird sanctuary with a 25-foot deep lake. They brought in thousands of trees and plants, laid stone walkways, built 80 stone steps descending to the lake, and installed benches. The site was transformed into a place of natural beauty, much beloved by Village residents and renowned throughout the region. Langmuir dubbed the water “Lake Superior” because it was the largest lake in Hastings, and a skiff, “The Queen Mary,” was available for boat rides.
Langmuir had created Quarry Park with the intention of giving it as a gift to the Village, but his offer was turned down, likely due to budget constraints during the Depression. Langmuir died in May of 1941 and his wife Alice two years later. Her will left Quarry Park to Andrew Ryan, who was the Langmuirs’ chief gardener for many years. During the period of Langmuir’s ownership, Anaconda reserved its right to use the water from the lake and continued to pump it down to the waterfront.
DECLINE OF QUARRY PARK (1943-1964)
After inheriting the quarry property from Mrs. Langmuir, Andrew Ryan tried to raise chickens here, and then nursery stock. Both ventures failed and in 1950 he sold the quarry to a real estate corporation that wanted to develop the site. Those plans were abandoned, as was the quarry itself which once more fell into disuse.
TOWN DUMP: A DEGRADED SITE, ONCE AGAIN (1964-2002)
Years passed and Hastings found itself in need of a place to dispose of household waste. The old quarry was deemed to be the ideal spot and in February of 1964 the Village authorized the purchase of the quarry. The land began to fill in with household discards–rusted bedsprings, car tires, used stoves, old mattresses–eradicating the lake entirely.
The former quarry, used as the Village dump, circa 2000. PHOTOS BY CHRISTINA LEMOLINO
In 1969, Daniel Ellsberg, famous as the whistleblower who leaked the Pentagon Papers and helped end the Vietnam War, was in hiding from the FBI after releasing the Papers to the New York Times and the Washington Post. Ellsberg had turned over for safekeeping to his brother Harry, then a resident of Hastings, a box of top secret government papers pertaining to US 1950’s and 1960’s nuclear strategy. These had been purloined when Daniel worked for the government on these very issues. Harry stored them in his basement. In 1971, with the Pentagon Papers controversy heating up, Harry moved the documents into his backyard compost heap, first securing them in a carboard box inside a green garbage bag. Thirteen days later, Harry transferred them again, this time to the Village dump in the quarry. He buried the bag next to a bluff, using an old gas stove resting above as a marker for the spot.
Later that year, Tropical Storm Doria came through the area and the stove was displaced. Harry tried for months to find his green plastic bag, even renting a backhoe to frantically search through the trash, to no avail. The copied nuclear documents were lost forever, adding an unlikely cold war
chapter to the storied history of the quarry. Ellsberg later relayed the story in his book, The Doomsday Machine, published in 2017.
THE ELLSBERG CONNECTION
Image: Daniel Ellsberg in 1971.PHOTO COURTESY CSU ARCHIVE, EVERETT COLLECTION INC.
THE NEW QUARRY PARK (2000-2021)
As early as 1967, there were complaints by neighbors who objected to fires, smoke, odors and unsightly piles of trash at the former quarry. In 1998, as mounds of smoldering waste rose higher than the level of the Aqueduct, neighborhood residents mobilized. In 2002, the Village Board of Trustees resolved to officially cease all dumping at the site and, in 2004, appointed a committee of residents to determine the future use of the property. In 2005 the group recommended that a new public park be created. A dedicated group of community activists and Village officials then spent the next 16 years moving the project forward.
Today, at long last, this 5.5-acre site has once again been reclaimed. The Village dump has been remediated and the new Quarry Park, on the site of the original Quarry Park of the 1930’s, is now open for all to enjoy.