Dam It!

We break news about the County’s dams, exits, and the untold story of Villa Diana.



Lake Innisfree in Eastchester, once a reservoir, was named after a poem by Yeats.

 

Q: I was wondering if you could write about the Dam in Eastchester/New Rochelle, right next to the Hutchinson River Parkway (Exit 18). I live on California Road in Eastchester, and when I go swimming at the lake in Interlaken, there is a dam across the way. I’ve managed to get back there, and there is a cornerstone that says 1800-something or early 1900-something (I forget). I would love to know more about the history of this dam and who maintains it now, etc.
—Daria Wilson, Eastchester

A: The lake at Interlaken is known as Lake Innisfree and is actually a reservoir. Okay, it was actually a reservoir, and now is just a lake that boosts the value of surrounding co-ops. But once upon a time, 1885 to be exact, almost 300 million gallons of water were stopped by a 34-foot dam on Hutchinson Creek at the cost of $60,000. The water was fed throughout New Rochelle almost completely, thanks to gravity. Around half a decade later, a second dam was built to supply water to Pelham, Eastchester, and other nearby localities. And soon thereafter, a third.

As for the name, it comes from “The Lake Isle of Innisfree,” a poem by William Butler Yeats in which the poet talks about finding peace at a small cabin on a lake. Little did he know he was talking about Eastchester.

Q: I’ve seen you answer a bunch of questions about the Hutchinson Parkway, but I’ve got one more. Why is it that the Weaver Street exit has different exit numbers going north and south?
—Jason Anthony, Scarsdale

A: Ya know, you people seem very fascinated by the highways and byways around here. It’s almost like you spend a lot of time there looking for exit signs that don’t exist (see February issue), spooked out by dark parkways—“darkways,” if you will” (see January issue), and complaining about construction (see December issue). So here goes: According to Allison Ackerman of the New York State Department of Transportation, “Southbound Exit 20 is a direct connection to Route 125—Weaver Street. However, the northbound Exit 21 is an indirect connection to Route 125—Weaver Street. It actually exits onto Hutchinson Avenue. If, in the future, a northbound exit to Route 125—Weaver Street—is constructed, it will be Exit 20 and it will not be necessary to reshuffle the exit numbers.”

Q: I’d like to know the story about Villa Diana (1922) on 731 Route 35 in Cross River. Thanks for your help.
—Benan O, Cross River

A: Mr. O (or is it Ms. O, or Dr. O?), we spoke to historians, town leaders, and residents throughout the area but no one knew anything about the property—which is right near Four Winds Hospital just barely in Lewisboro—except, of course, the current owner. So, available for the first time to the public, here is the history of Villa Diana:

Nigel Hart, the current owner, reports that at the turn of the century, Villa Diana was a large Italianate villa sited on 42 acres of land extending to a peninsula on the Cross River reservoir. The property was eventually handed down to Diana Vreeland, who was a columnist at Harper’s Bazaar and later editor-in-chief of Vogue. However, “all that remains today are the foundations of the main house, a stone guest cottage, a garage, greenhouse, and the sweeping half-mile driveway lined by one-hundred-year-old linden trees.” Linden trees, Hart notes, also are known as “bee trees” and, he reports, a later owner renamed the property Bee Tree Manor. “The main house,” he says, “had wide views of the reservoir but was rumored to have been burnt down deliberately by a subsequent owner in an attempt to avoid taxes.”

 

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