Does Tom Hanks Really, Really Love Westchester? Like, Really?

Tom Schreck tackles this month’s most interesting questions about the county, from Tom Hanks to George Washington.

Fibbing Friends

Q: A friend told me that Tom Hanks loves Westchester and has made several movies in the county. Does he have any projects planned here in the near future?

—Mark Hienfeld, Armonk

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A: Now, I am sure your friend is a good guy or gal, but I think he or she may have overstated Tom Hanks’ “love” for Westchester (not that there isn’t plenty to love).

First of all, “several” isn’t quite right—unless several means two. But saying Hanks even made two films here is an exaggeration as well. It’s more accurate to say the Forrest Gump star shot several scenes in the county.

In 2002’s Catch Me if You Can (Hanks played detective Carl Hanratty), there are two scenes shot in Yonkers. Now, that movie shot in more than 100 locations in North America. Maybe Tom loved every single one, or maybe it was more like a box of chocolates and…well, never mind.

When Hanks played Josh in Big (1988), an iconic Westchester location got a bigger role. The amusement park sequence at the end of the film was shot at Playland.

As far as I can tell, none of his current projects are being filmed in Westchester County. Still, how can anyone not love it here?

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Execution Rocks off of New Rochelle

Steer Clear

Q: What’s the story about Execution Island? Who was executed there?

—Larkin H. Percell, Mamaroneck

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A: You’re not the friend who was talking about Tom Hanks, are you? 

Execution Island is an Indonesian island in the Indian Ocean (more formally known as Kambangan Island) that houses notorious prisons where capital punishment takes place—hence the haunting moniker.

That is a tad east of Westchester County.

I’m guessing you are referring to the island just off of New Rochelle in the Long Island Sound known as Execution Rocks.

Legend has it that during the Revolutionary War, the British soldiers would chain prisoners of war to the shallow rocks and let the tide rise and drown them. Now, I have no doubt the Redcoats were nasty enough to do this, but I don’t think they would’ve gone through the trouble.

The name “Execution Rocks” was coined because the jagged rocks close to the island would rip open the hulls of ships that tried to sail through the shallow water. I know, the first story is better, but, hey, it’s my job to report the facts.

Today the island’s lighthouse is open for tours and even weddings for those who want to execute their matrimonial vows.

I hear Tom Hanks loves it.

Where Washington Walked

Q: I grew up on Old Army Road in Edgemont. We were always told that the road got its name because George Washington and his army used it on their way to the Battle of White Plains. I would like to know the true story. 

—Susie Zweig, Hartsdale

A: I turned to my main man, Westchester Historical Society Historian Patrick Rafferty, for this one. He told me this:

Susie is correct regarding the name of Old Army Road. Central Avenue as we know it today did not completely exist during the time of the Revolutionary War. When coming up into present-day Greenburgh (which was part of Philipsburg Manor at the time), Washington’s army would have headed north on Old Army Road.  However, Old Army Road wasn’t actually called Old Army Road until the early 20th century. Prior to that, it was called Tuckahoe Road, or the road from Tuckahoe to Dobbs Ferry.

There you have it, Susie.

Oh, and Tom Hanks travels it all the time. 

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