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Croton Landing Memorial Sundial

Seneca Ray Stoddard
c. 1888

The Hudson River flows 315 miles from Lake Tear of the Clouds on Mount Marcy to the Verrazano Narrows between Staten Island and Brooklyn, falling 4600 feet along the way. Essentially all of that drop is in the upper half. From Troy to the Atlantic Ocean, the river only descends two feet. Parts of it are actually below mean sea level.

Haverstraw Bay, highlighted on the map, is one of those places. Here the Hudson is less a river and more of a tidal estuary. Except for the man-made ship channel, the bay is barely ten feet deep. The water is brackish, as the fresh water from the Adirondacks merges gradually with the Atlantic Ocean.

The bay is a playground for these daysailers. This place is home to over 200 species of fish, including sturgeon and shad. Oysters, clams, and crabs abound here. It wasn't always that way.

In 1887, over 2½ million pounds of shad were caught here, but pollution reduced the catch to less than 80 thousand pounds by 1966. That year, Pete Seeger announced plans to "build a boat to save the river." In 1969, he launched the Clearwater, which has been called America's Environmental Flagship. The advocacy that grew around the ship and the Clearwater Festival got things moving to clean up the river, and the shad harvest is now over 200 thousand pounds annually. The Clearwater project and the Hudson River stand as examples of how effective local activism can be to promote conservation and environmental responsibility.

Croton Landing Park celebrates the rehabilitated Hudson River on the east shore of Haverstraw Bay. Its half-mile paved walkway is part of the 51-mile Westchester RiverWalk (33 miles are complete). The park itself is a good example of reclaiming the beauty that was almost lost. It's sandwiched between the river and the railroad on the site of an old asphalt factory, where over 100 years' accumulated junk had to be removed from the river. Breakwaters make lagoons that attract many local and migratory birds: ducks, geese, egrets, herons, ….

One section of the path splits to a short boardwalk, where you can get a close look at the wetland while keeping your feet dry. If you look over to Haverstraw Bay's west shore from that place, you can see the hill called Sleeping Indian. If you see an Indian there, your imagination is better than mine. His head is downstream (left), toes pointing the way to Albany.


Sign #1

From Peekskill south to New York City, the Hudson River is below sea level and basicall an arm of the Atlantic Ocean where brackish water is created by the mix of salt and fresh waters. Sheltered by the wide, shallow reaches of Heverstraw Bay, this unique aquatic environment supports an abundance of fish and shellfish.

Over 200 species of fish use Haverstraw Bay as a nursery and feeding ground, including the American shortnosed sturgeon, an endangered species, and the Atlantic sturgeon, which can grow to be over 10 feet long. American shad, Atlantic sturgeon, and striped bass are a few of the commercially important fish species. White perch, eel, bluefish, herring, alewives, needlefish, largmouth bass, tomcod, and sundish are also popular as recreational fish. Oysters, clams and crabs are among the shellfish native to the Bay. All of these species are crucial to the balance of life in both the Hidson and the Atlantic.

Commercial fishing on the Hudson River has been dominated for over 200 years by the shad catch. In 1887, over 2.5 million pounds of shad were caught on the river. But by 1966, the number of pounds had dropped to just 78,000. In response to the degraded conditions of the River and its wildlife, village fishermen took action. Croton-on-Hudson became the birthplace of modern environmental activities.

In the early 1960s, a local gisherman's group banded together with area environmental advocates and championed the rehabilitation of the Hudson River. Today, the shad catch is about 200,000 pounds, and the Hudson River stands as an example of how effective deterined local activists can be when dedicated to efforts towards preservation, conservation, and environmental responsibility.

Sign #2

Haverstraw Bay is an extremely biologically productive reach of the Hudson River Estuary. Wide, at 3.5 miles and shallow, at only 6-12 feet, the Bay and Marsh located on the western shore have been designated as Significant Coastal Fish and Wildlife Habitats by NY State Dept. of Environmental Conservation. The center of the Bay is dredged to a depth of 35 feet, adhering to international shipping regulations, allowing commercial ship passage.

What makes the Bay extraordinary is the water. Salt water from the Atlantic Ocean mixes with fresh water upriver to create brackish water. The river "sloshes" back and forth from incoming and outgoing tidal forces, which promotes the growth of phytoplankton and zooplankton -- microscopic plants and animals that are the foundation of the aquatic food web. Sunlight penetrates the shallow depths to support large areas of submerged awuatic vegetation that offers both food and shelter to the hetchlings of over 200 Atlantic marine, fresh and estuarine species.

Basically, Haverstraw Bay is a large, shallow, nursery where millions of creatures are born, find food, shelter, and develop into the plants & animals of the Hudson and the Atlantic.

The tidal marshes on both sides of the Bay support specialized plant life such as narrow-leaved cattail, salt-meadow cordgrass and common reed (Phragmites Australis), which is an invasive plant. These plants thrive in brackish water and provide crucial habitat for waterfowl such as mallards, margansers and herons; reptiles such as snapping turtles; and mammals such as muskrats and raccoons. The Hudson is an avian migration corridor and Haverstraw aBay serves as a respite and feeding area for hundreds of bird species as they migrate. Bald eagles, osprey, egrets and cormorants all live in the Haverstraw Bay area.

Reaching Through the Shadow

In September 2001, nineteen self-styled Moslem warriors attacked the United States, against which their leader had declared war five years earlier (original document). Part of the damage was the collapse of the twin towers of New York's World Trade Center, where a number of Croton residents were among almost three thousand who died within a few hours that morning. This exceeded the 1941 Pearl Harbor death toll by several hundred, an assault that provoked the U.S. Congress to its last-ever declaration of war the following morning.

Croton architect James W. Rhodes witnessed the destruction, which understandably affected him deeply. He designed a monument to those whose lives were snuffed or transformed that day, securing a 14-foot steel beam from the North Tower as a centerpiece. Recovered steel from the twin towers has been used as a memorial in each of the fifty states – we saw a moving example in the International Peace Garden a few years ago. But rather than simply display the wreckage, Mr. Rhodes decided to use Croton's I-beam as the gnomon of a large sundial, 32 feet in diameter. It's Dial #769 on the registry of the North American Sundial Society.

This is a work in progress. First the sundial was built, then local artist Lauren Davis's bronze sculpture was incorporated. There will eventually be a small memorial garden at the site.

Miss Davis's life-size figure captures the theme of the memorial, Reaching Through the Shadow. It's a woman who stretches toward the beam but doesn't quite touch it, expressing faith and strength.


A sign at the site shows the most elegant explanation I've ever seen, how a sundial works. The gnomon has a line parallel to the Earth's north-south axis, which casts a time-telling shadow as our planet rotates. Its angle from the ground is the same as the site's latitude. So if you buy a sundial in Florida, it won't be accurate in New York. Many popular designs are adjustable for this reason. Check that angle if yours isn't one of them.

Obviously, the gnomon must point to True North. Mr. Rhodes had a challenge here, because his gnomon has a compound twist. He had to take the shape into account when he designed the mount on a 16-ton gneiss boulder that was found nearby. Both the orientation and elevation of the base are calculated so that the top of the beam is accurate at its free end. As you can see from the architect's plan, the top of the beam tells the time.

11:43 AM (EDT)

4:30 PM (EDT)

The sign at the edge of the walkway instructs us to read the time from where the shadow "falls farthest from the Sun." That would be the left edge in the morning, right edge after noon (1 PM daylight time). This is not always the longest part of the shadow, so some care is in order. Be sure that your reference is the part of the shadow from the top of the beam. For the truly fastidious, there is a graph on the same sign that shows the Equation of Time, to account for small discrepancies between solar time and clock time throughout the year.

Architecture is the marriage of art and engineering. Mr. Rhodes made nine medallions to mark the passage of time, commemorating events and the people who responded to them on that awful day. For elegance of design, the sundial only registers from 8 AM to 4 PM, so you'll need to do some extrapolation on summer mornings and evenings. Or use your watch.

The memorial is at the end of Croton Landing, where the Westchester RiverWalk is interrupted for the time being. This requires one to walk a bit to see it, like some kind of pilgrimage. But the site, and the time it takes to walk there, offer an opportunity for reflection; and the location affords a clear view down the Hudson, past Croton Point and Hook Mountain.

The base of the monument is surrounded by dense wild rose, which is ubiquitous at Croton Landing. The thorns and blood-red fruit symbolize the tragedy of the 11th of September 2001.

About 4:00 every afternoon (Standard Time), the shadow falls on Lauren Davis's sculpture, who reaches through it in a gesture of hope and remembrance. Visitors sometimes add a small American flag to her left hand.


A bronze plaque honors the local people who died because of the attack on New York.

Buchanan • Cortlandt • Croton-on-Hudson

9/11 Remembrance Memorial at Croton Landing

Reaching Through the Shadow

Dedicated to all who lost their lives on September 11, 2001; to the first and second responders; to the members of the military who answered the call of duty; and to those listed below from our community:

William F. Abrahamson
Town of Cortlandt
Gregory E. Rodriguez
Village of Croton-on-Hudson
FF George C. Cain
1st Responder, FDNY
Thomas E. Sinton III
Town of Cortlandt
PO Stephen P. Driscoll
1st Responder, NYPD
Randall L. Sprance
2nd Responder, Dept. of Treas.
James A Oakley
Town of Cortlandt
Joseph J. Zuccala
Town of Cortlandt

Remember them always.