Visit Irving Landmarks
Washington Irving lived the last 25 years of his life in the village of Tarrytown. Although the 150 years since his death have transformed the area from a sleepy farming community into a busy modern suburb, several landmarks closely associated with Irving remain easily identifiable today. The most prominent are easy to visit:
Washington Irving’s meticulously restored home is filled with the author’s possessions including his writing desk and books. Originally a Dutch farmer’s house, it is now a property of the non-profit Historic Hudson Valley and open for tours. Sunnyside is home to special seasonal events, including From a Child’s Perspective in August, and Legend Behind the ‘Legend’ in October. Located on West Sunnyside Lane, off Route 9 (South Broadway).
Sunnyside, For GPS: 3 West Sunnyside Lane, Irvington, NY 10533, 914-366-6900
Sleepy Hollow Cemetery
Sleepy Hollow Cemetery is adjacent to the Old Dutch Church, whose small burying ground is identified in “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” as the resting place of the headless horseman. Washington Irving is laid to rest in the southern end of the cemetery in a plot overlooking the old church and its burying ground. Other famous individuals buried in Sleepy Hollow Cemetery include Andrew Carnegie, Walter Chrysler, William Rockefeller, and Elizabeth Arden.
Irving himself was involved in the founding of Sleepy Hollow Cemetery. By the 1840s the 2-acre burial ground of the Old Dutch Church was fast approaching capacity. To secure a large family plot, and maybe because he was a member of a different church, Irving endorsed the plan by local businessmen to found a non-denominational cemetery. Although he lent his support to the endeavor, he was dismayed when its organizers named it the Tarrytown Cemetery instead of the name he proposed, Sleepy Hollow Cemetery. He protested to the cemetery’s directors, to no avail. Six years after his death the cemetery honored Irving’s request, renaming itself Sleepy Hollow Cemetery.
Pick up a free map of the grounds at the cemetery office located about 0.25 mile north of the Old Dutch Church on Route 9 (North Broadway).
Sleepy Hollow Cemetery, 540 North Broadway, Sleepy Hollow, NY 10591, www.sleepyhollowcemetery.org
I send you herewith a plan of a rural cemetery projected by some of the worthies of Tarrytown, on the woody hills adjacent to the Sleepy Hollow Church. I have no pecuniary interest in it, yet I hope it may succeed, as it will keep that beautiful and umbrageous neighborhood sacred from the anti-poetical and all-leveling axe. Besides, I trust that I shall one day lay my bones there. Washington Irving, letter addressed to Lewis Gaylord Clark, then editor of Knickerbocker Magazine.
Christ Episcopal Church
Washington Irving followed the Rev. Dr. William Creighton here from Zion Episcopal Church in 1843. Irving was a vestryman, warden, Sunday School teacher, and regular parishioner at Christ Church until his death in 1859. The ivy on the church walls is from cuttings taken at Irving’s home, Sunnyside, and his pew is still marked in the front of the sanctuary. An estimated 5,000 descended on this small church on the day of Irving’s funeral—far exceeding its capacity.
Christ Episcopal Church, 43 South Broadway, Tarrytown, NY 10591, 914-631-2074
Zion Episcopal Church
This small stone church was established in 1833 with Washington Irving’s nephew Oscar as a founding member. Irving himself worshipped here and served as vestryman from around 1836 to 1843 during the time his friend the Rev. William Creighton was rector.
Historian Henry Steiner notes that the church’s baptistry is named “Irving Corner” after Washington Irving’s willingness to stand as godfather to local infants.
Zion Episcopal Church, 55 Cedar Street, Dobbs Ferry, NY 10522, 914-693-9320
Long before it acquired the nickname “The Big Apple,” Washington Irving cheekily dubbed his hometown “Gotham.” Gotham was and is a village in Nottinghamshire, England. In the Middle Ages its citizens were the butt of many a joke about their alleged lack of intelligence, although more than a few stories cast the inhabitants’ odd behavior as a shrewd calculation to shield the town from the onerous demands of an unreasonable king. Far from taking offense at Irving’s snipe at their legendarily high opinion of themselves, subsequent generations of Manhattanites have embraced the name. Some Gothamites may revel in their ability to pull one over on unwary tourists (don’t buy the Brooklyn Bridge, no matter enticing the offer), but by and large the inhabitants welcome visitors. Experience the madness for yourself.
From either the Tarrytown or Philipse Manor (Sleepy Hollow) stations Manhattan is about a 40 minute train ride. You can drive there, of course, but as the “good citizens of the wonder loving city of Gotham” (Salmagundi No. XIII) will tell you, you would have to be crazy to risk the traffic and byzantine parking regulations.
As a young man, Irving had been engaged to Matilda Hoffman. After her untimely death he remained a life-long bachelor. Matilda is buried in her family’s vault in the yard of St. Mark’s Church in-the-Bowery, 131 East 10th Street, New York, NY 10003.
We could go on about Gotham, but Unique New York with Nathan Kaufman does it so much better: