Roadside Westchester: What is That?
The story behind six of the county's kitschiest landmarks.
By: Marisa LaScala
Roadside Westchester: What is That?
The story behind six of the county’s kitschiest landmarks.
6 roadside attractions that makes us wonder: what were they thinking?
By Marisa LaScala
Forget Route 66. What about getting your kicks on Routes 9A, 100, or 172?
While other cities may lay claim to the world's biggest ball of twine (Cawker City, Kansas) or the longest covered bridge (Hartland, Canada), we Westchesterites have our own kitschy landmarks worthy of the Roadside Hall of Fame.
Ancient Chinese Secret
You're undoubtedly aware that the hot dogs from Walter’s in Mamaroneck have been praised by just about everyone from Gourmet magazine to the New York Times. But why the copper-roofed pagoda? Patience, Grasshopper. We asked Peter Fellows, Walter Warrington's grandson-in-law, for the definitive answer. “The road was not like it is now; it was a through road where cars didn't slow down,” Fellows says. “So Walter needed to build something interesting that would make people want to stop.” Eighty-seven years later, we still do.
A Spin in a Good Yarn
Flying Fingers Yarn Shop's famous Yarn Bus may ferry tight-knit Manhattan fiber fans to the Tarrytown shop, but it's a trip just standing still. The roof sports three colorful yarn balls, each six feet in diameter and made of plastic tubing coated in wooly-looking polypropylene. A pair of six-foot-long needles poke through the “yarn,” and the body of the bus is printed with one of owner Elise Goldschlag's knitted designs. The result looks almost like a big purple sewing basket with wheels.
Built by the same guys who designed the Oscar Mayer Wienermobile, the $75,000 bus is as much an experience as it is a conveyance. “One customer in St. Louis told us she saved up her frequent-flyer miles and wanted to use them to come here and ride the Yarn Bus," Goldschlag says. "Instead of making her go all the way into Manhattan, we picked her up at the airport."
Green (and yellow) Giant
Rhodes had its Colossus, New York City has the Statue of Liberty, and we've got Paul Bunyan. Presiding over 9A, his steely bright green (yes, green) eyes and chiseled jaw jut over the traffic flowing by his toes. Just how did Paul Bunyan, the tall-tale lumberjack best known for logging in the Midwest, find himself lording over a BP gas station in Elmsford?
It turns out, our local Bunyan isn't one-of-a-kind. He's a seventy-tuplet—at least! Doug Kirby, publisher of roadsideamerica.com, notes that a California-based company made its fortune by peddling these fiberglass giants in the '60s and '70s. According to Kirby's growing gallery of photos, there are seven other near-identical Paul Bunyan statues in New York alone (including one at the site of the original Woodstock festival, which was repainted with a tie-dyed hippie outfit). The Elmsford statue is unique, however, in that its right arm is missing, stolen by vandals in the '70s, according to owner Leo Zulfikar. No doubt, our hero has an axe to grind with these one-armed bandits—or would if he could still hold one.
Think you’ll never see a cellphone tower as lovely as a tree? Not to worry—cellphone companies are working on it. Telecom corporations are developing what they call “stealth” antennae, artfully hidden in church steeples, water towers, lighthouses, and, of course, fake trees. According to www.fraudfrond.com, a site devoted to outing these imposters, about a quarter of cellphone antennae across the country are “stealth”—or “lying lumber.”
Of course, some of these trees are better at faking it than others. The cellphone pine located just south of exit 25 on the Hutchinson River Parkway—well, it ain't foolin' nobody. (For starters, rarely do our native conifers grow to 150 feet tall.) With its uniformly erect branches covering just the top third of the perfectly straight trunk, it inspired Landscape Architecture writer Anthony Flint to say that the tower “looks like a giant toilet brush.” No doubt, some Sound Shore residents are hoping that the Elmsford Bunyan will hike over to White Plains and chop that sucker down.
Open Wide in Astonishment
It's a dairy barn! It's a miniature golf range! No, it's a…dentist's office? Perhaps the most clever architectural bait-and-switch ever perpetrated on pre-literate children, the Wedgwood Professional Center on North Central Avenue in Hartsdale houses the offices of dentists Daniel and Jack Zonan. Daniel Zonan credits his mother, Marilyn, with the design for their signature Dutch Colonial farmhouse. “My mother thought that the sterile white of medical offices turned people off and made people hate coming to the dentist—which they did,” Zonan says. “She wanted to create a place that was non-threatening and comfortable.”Apparently, her idea works. “We have a lot of patients who came in for the first time out of curiosity,” Zonan says. Those brave enough to venture in on a whim know that Marilyn’s unusual decorating style continues throughout the interior—and the dentists aren’t half-bad, either.
No, this sculpture is not a leftover setpiece from This Is Spinal Tap or a meeting spot for local Druids. As it turns out, it's not even a replication of Stonehenge. The dolmen that sits outside Pound Ridge Nurseries is the work of George Nicke Hendricks, a Woodbury, Connecticut-based artist also known as “The Passionate Artisan.” It may look like “Stonehenge Junior,” but Henricks calls the work “Cupid's Arrow,” after the shape of the horizontal top stone.
Of course, Hendricks is aware of his piece's resemblance to the famous English landmark. It's even intentional. “It's an homage to the great builders of the past,” he says. “I want my work to look like it had been there forever.” Each of the vertical pieces are six tons of native glacial stone, and the crosspiece weighs another two tons. The whole thing is anchored in subterranean cement.
Those who want to worship at Hendricks's altar need to get moving. “Cupid's Arrow” will be transported to a new home by the end of the fall.