The Purpose Behind Upper Westchester County’s Stone Walls

PLUS: The associated with snowplowing off-season locations, and the reason why Patricia Murphy’s Candlelight restaurant closed up shop.



Early farmers in Westchester made stone walls, such as this one in Taxter Ridge Park Preserve in Greenburgh, to set their property borders in, well, stone.

Photo by Rob Yasinsac

Q: I live in upper Westchester County (Cortlandt Manor area), and I have been fascinated by the stone walls I see scattered in the wooded areas. What were they, and is there any source that catalogs them? — Howard Goldstein, via email

A: We know we express a lot of love in this column for our public officials, County historians, and sundry local experts who help us each month, but we just have to give another shout out to Rob Yasinsac for hooking us up with the answer to your question. It’s not a surprise, though, that his blog, Hudson Valley Ruins (hudsonvalley ruins.org), is the definitive guide to all old-timey structures in the County. Rob informs us that most of the walls were simply created by farmers who removed the stones from fields for planting/plowing purposes. Some walls may have been built as livestock barriers, too, or as property boundaries. There ya have it. And for you real stoners—er, stone-wallers—also check out Sermons in Stone: The Stone Walls of New England and New York by Susan Allport. But check Rob’s website first.

Q: Does Westchester County have extra money to spend plowing snow inside Playland and its parking lots for a venue that is closed until May, when presumably the snow will have already melted? Or is this the best way to incur overtime for County employees? —Noel A. Colaneri, via email

A: Noel, apparently you haven’t read about the County’s new superfluous spending statute. It’s a program meant to compete with other community governments in states such as Alaska, where they are building bridges to nowhere, and Oklahoma, where they’re putting guardrails on lakes that don’t exist. The program allocates money to projects like cloud removal, Komodo dragon exterminating, and, of course, shoveling snow that’s about to melt.
Or maybe, Noel, you shouldn’t be so snarky about our dear County’s operations. We’re the only ones who get to be snarky around here. Peter Tartaglia, deputy commissioner for Westchester County Parks, explains that it was not the County, but rather Con Edison, that plowed the Playland lot “in case they needed to stage equipment and employees for outages in the Westchester area. There were minimal outages, so they did not end up staging. Con Ed did stage in the parking lot for weeks after Superstorm Sandy. They would have followed the same protocol if needed.” Oh, one last thing: “There is no cost to the County.” Now, about those low-flying clouds…

Q: Whatever happened to Patricia Murphy’s Candlelight Restaurant?  From what little I’ve read, Ms. Murphy’s Westchester outpost was located on Central Avenue in Yonkers, just north of Tuckahoe Road. At present, this spot is home to a decrepit strip mall and some nondescript apartments, but old postcards feature a Southern-style villa set amongst beautifully landscaped gardens and a pond. Given the positive nostalgia online, I’m curious why this eatery shut its doors. Did it succumb to an infestation of rodents or geriatrics? And why weren’t those gardens repurposed? —Michael DiMarca, via email

A: Patricia Murphy’s Candlelight Restaurant—not to be confused with the Candlelight Inn, which is also on Central Avenue—was one of several similarly named restaurants throughout New York and Florida, all owned by Ms. Murphy. The chain started in Brooklyn and expanded throughout the 1950s and 1960s—its trademark feature, at least in suburban locations, being lavish gardens. And the gardens in Yonkers were about as lavish as they come, complete with a pond and an ornate bridge. Let’s just say Monet would be inspired, as, perhaps, would Julia Child, since the eatery was known for its buttery, delicious popovers. The death of the restaurant was due neither to geriatrics nor to rodents (though rumor is that the restaurant was shut down once for storing turkeys outside), but rather over-expansion that left supervision to those less diligent than the owner. As for why the gardens weren’t repurposed, we suppose it’s because the Radio Shack that is there now preferred parking spots to petunias. 

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