Muscoot on the Move
A shadow lurked on the horizon as Ferdinand
Hopkins began enlarging his farm and modernizing his dairy
operation. In 1883, the state legislature passed “An
Act to provide new Reservoirs, Dams and a new Aqueduct with
appurtenances thereof, for the purpose of supplying the City
of New York with increased supply of pure and wholesome water."
This act allowed the City’s engineers to begin assessing
possible sites in Westchester for future dams.
It was clear from the beginning that northern
Westchester would be greatly affected by the new reservoirs.
Ultimately the entire village of Katonah had to be moved,
while significant portions of Golden Bridge, Purdys and Croton
Falls would vanish. The farms which fronted the Croton and
Muscoot Rivers also faced probable losses to rising flood
On January 5, 1897 the City of New York notified
Ferdinand T. Hopkins that it was taking 160 acres of land
on Muscoot farm. This included land actually flooded once
the Cornell Dam (New Croton Dam) was completed in 1906, plus
adjacent acreage needed to protect the watershed of the reservoirs.
This also included the parcels on which the house and all
the farm buildings were located. Like most of the Westchester
farmers he immediately set out to lease back the lands and
buildings. Once he had regained the use of his summer home,
he could concentrate on planning his next move.
The City did not want to pay demolition expenses
before its lands were flooded and preferred to offer the buildings
to the public with the proviso that the buyer remove them
at his own expense. In April 1899, the City put the buildings
up for public action. Hopkins made an offer to the Aqueduct
Commission which the city accepted.
The buildings acquired at auction had to be
moved from the city property. Moving the various buildings
required patience and ingenuity in an era when horse power
meant just that. Each building was moved without being dismantled.
It would be gently moved off its foundation onto a bed of logs
which served as rollers. A team of horses worked a large windlass
which was set up in front of the building in the direction
it was to be moved. Ropes from the building were attached
to the windlass and as the horses turned it, the building
was pulled forward off it foundation and across the log rollers.
Once the edge of the bed of logs was reached, the logs from
behind the house were moved to the front, the windlass advanced
There were many large buildings on the Hopkins
property that had to be moved, plus a plethora of smaller
structures. The main house, Carriage House, Carriage Barns,
and the horse barn at the southern end of the dairy barn each
required weeks of preparatory work. Each building had to be
carefully examined and reinforced to withstand the move. New
foundations had to be prepared at the new site. The path between
the old and new sites had to be leveled and smoothed, to make
the move as easy as possible. In addition to these large buildings,
the hen house, ice house, outhouse, old milk house, and corn
crib made the journey northward toward the large dairy barn.
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