R5 Ask Westchester, November 2011: Brick Factories in Westchester County; Movies Being Filmed at Alder Manor in Yonker, NY; and Professional Sports Teams in Westchester County

Q: A sizeable portion of the Verplanck shoreline is composed of bricks. They are a reminder of the area’s glory days when it produced 60 million bricks a year.
—Philip Garrity, Cortlandt Manor

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A: Well, Phillip, that was somewhat of a brick of a question, in that you did not ask a question. So we’ll formulate our own: “Dear ‘Ask Westchester,’ I truly enjoy reading your column. You cover everything from obelisks (obelii?) to interstates in a clear, informative, and humorous manner. By the way, were there ever brick factories in Westchester?” Well thank you, anonymous inquirer. Yes, there were brick factories in Westchester, mostly in Verplanck. The first such factory was opened in the 1840s, inspired by the vast amounts of clay and sand on Verplanck’s Point. Eventually, almost 40 different factories would occupy the area, churning out around 400,000 bricks daily. If you’re curious for the full story, check out brickcollecting.com/verplanck.htm, a “bricken’” awesome site on the subject.

Q: There seems to be something filming at the former school on North Broadway in North Yonkers. You see all of these movie/TV trailers and signs on telephone poles giving directions “TO SET.” Since it’s happened several times in the last few years, I’m assuming it’s a TV series and not a film…but no clue what it is/was. Can you help?
    —Richard Egans, Yonkers

A: Our insider sources pointed us in the direction of Alder Manor—the former college-cum-banquet-hall on North Broadway. We contacted Joan Vogt, who handles the busy schedule for shoots for Tara Circle, Inc., the mansion’s caretakers, and were informed that, indeed, lots of shoots—for TV, movies, music videos—take place onsite. However, Vogt can’t make public who has used the estate until the artist has gone public with the footage. We schmoozed a few names out of her of completed projects, though: A Beautiful Mind, Mona Lisa Smile, The Good Shepherd, and the TV shows Four Weddings and Law & Order: Criminal Intent. Some Googling revealed Boardwalk Empire and Gossip Girl had shot there too.

Q: Does/did Westchester have any pro sports teams?
—Stanley McCoy, Mount Vernon

A: “Does?” Well, sort of. And no, we don’t mean Little Leaguers who demand new contracts each year. The only team we could find is the Westchester Flames, a New Rochelle-based soccer team that is part of the United Soccer Leagues’ (“USL”) Premier Development League (“PDL”). The USL is a few steps below Major League Soccer, but it is mostly a professional organization, even though the PDL is not. See…“sort of.” As for whether we “did” have professional teams—yes, we did. Both Yonkers and Ossining had minor-league baseball teams about 100 years ago in the Hudson River League. Indeed Yonkers has been the home to multiple minor-league teams—and strange ones at that. The Hoot Owls of the Northeast Baseball League played on Fleming Field in 1995. The field had no infield grass and no bleachers, and the team forfeited a game at one point, finished 12-52, and was relocated immediately to Maine. The city also was the home of the Allentown (Pennsylvania, as in a state that is not New York) Buffaloes in the late 1800s. And the Chiefs played there in 1946–47 in the American Basketball League (“ABL”). The team folded during the season. The most recognizable name in professional Westchester sports isn’t a team name, though—it’s a manager’s name, and it belongs to former Met Ron Swoboda, who coached the New York Clippers American Professional Slow Pitch League team in Mount Vernon for one year (1977).

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“Ask Westchester” Goofs

Photo Courtesy of New York State Archives

The interior of the brick-making kiln at Verplanck’s Point.

Photo by Ben Brody

Congratulations to all of you who won our “spot the error” contest. We just wanted to make sure you were paying attention, and you did great. Okay, we sort of goofed on that item in which we said Sunnyside was on West Sunnyside Lane and North Broadway. Yes, we dug a little deeper, and the building in question is not part of Sunnyside (which is oh-so-far away—like, right down the block), but is, rather, Shadowbrook—the privately owned former home of music legends Stan Getz and Irving Berlin (though, at different times, of course). The house sometimes lends its grounds to the Coalition for Family Justice, a nonprofit organization.  And yes, it causes mild nausea to ever print something factually incorrect. But, let’s face it, we essentially just named the wrong Irving. And lest you think this one error will make us any less snarky, witty, or super-duper-cilious, think again. We’ve still yet to be stumped (that we’re admitting), and we’re going to double, nay, triple-check our facts this year and triple the sarcasm that comes with it. Bring it on, Westchester, bring it on!

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