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Poetry is evidence –

Untitled © Monika Sosnowski

Poetry is evidence.

One must start somewhere. Few days ago the question emerged again: “How to live?” And before that, couple of months ago, it happened in Polish: “Jak żyć?”
Being bilingual has its advantages, but living in translation day in and day out sometimes makes for a total lack of words.  Language. Spoken language. Mother tongue.

It always goes back to the mother, doesn’t it?

My Mother was bilingual too when I was born. She could have been a writer. Everybody said so, including her – years later without remorse, but as a shield through which no question could touch what she chose to forget.

The Lenoir Mansion. What happened here? There was another mansion that once built must have taken away this one’s view of the Hudson River. It burnt to the ground a long time ago, but its remains still persist. What remains? Why?

Abandoned. Of course I can’t resist. And so I start looking and wondering.

PART I – Notes on history of Lenoir Preserve

After some preliminary on-line research I don’t have a solid grip on the origins of this mysterious place. Originally part of the Tilden/ Wightman Estate, the mansion can be found at the entrance to the beautiful Lenoir Preserve. The impressive granite stone house was built sometime in the later 18oos for Samuel J. Tilden – the 25th Governor of New York. Tilden was the Democratic candidate in the disputed presidential election of 1876 winning the popular vote but ultimately losing the electorate college vote to the Republican, Rutherford B. Hayes.

It’s unclear if, and in what capacity, Tildan use of the mansion was.  He also owned the Greystone estate, merely a stone-throw south from there and upon retiring from politics and law in early 1880s, Tildan lived out the remaining years of his life as a recluse. He died on August 4, 1886. What is know is that the Tilden estate was purchased at some point by Caleb C. Dula, president of the Liggett and Myers Tobacco Company from 1911-1927, then Chairman until 1930. Dula gave the estate its current name – Lenoir – after Lenoir, North Carolina where he was born and raised. In 1907 two wings are added to the original structure and by 1939 Dula’s niece, Purl Parker inherits the estate where she lives with her husband, Dr. Orin Wightman. In 1976 the estate is sold to Westchester County for $1.

In between there’s other mansions, estates, men, women, children..Reversal of fortunes, changing times, decline, revival etc.  There’s so much here to find out about!

Since my move to Yonkers almost a year ago, I’ve been fascinated by this place. Not just Lenoir, but the entire area. The history of Yonkers and surrounding Westchester terrain,  the natural beauty and  mystery, the Hudson River, the ebb and flow of life here – the people and places and things.  My new project – unnamed yet – has been developing and I’m excited about the possibilities.

Above and below are a few images from my exploration of Lenoir Preserve.

In my research I came across an absolute gem of an old home movie on YouTube showing a family and friends gathering at the Lenoir estate in 1926!. The source for commercial usage of this movie clip is www.thetravelfilmarchive.com.  I believe the people featured in it are the Duell family and friends. The Duells had the Ardenwold mansion built on property which seems to have been parceled from the original Lenoir acreage, but I can’t find full information about this. Ardenwold burned down in the 1970s. The remains of some of its foundation are found in one of the photographs above.  The Hudson River Audubon Society has a link to a wonderful PDF with historical photos of the Duell family and the stately Ardenwold house as it looked once in its beautiful grandeur – please check it out! Meanwhile here’s a couple samples:

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