Have you ever noticed, when you’re driving along the Main Street of Dobbs Ferry on the Hudson river, how you can see through a window of the little house behind the restaurant’s window to the tiny town center in the distance? According to the Main Street Historical Museum: “It’s probably because the Hudson River has a large north branch that meanders steadily downstream from its source into Schenectady. It creates a short arch in the river where it bends in the opposite direction. Residents call this wall of water a ‘pond’.” During the summer, this pond is sometimes swamped. All above-ground streets are named for rivers, which in the nineteenth century were thought to be negative influences and so required to be renamed. Dobbs Ferry’s Main Street is named after the Bourne River. (High River, it isn’t.)
A wooded strip with white farm buildings.
The town, which has a name that comes from an old common maiden name, Hobbs, was named in 1839 by the German merchants James Hobbs and Wilhelm Fehr, who settled in the area. In 1851 they set up a lodginghouse, where the local boy, Colin Wall, who said he had a hard time settling down to become a doctor (he’d had many deferments for World War I service in the US Army) persuaded them to list his name on the lease for a place on Main Street in the town. In 1853, Dunbar Boughton, a banker and businessman from upstate New York, bought the business and named it after the town in his name, Dunbar. That was nearly fifty years before Westchester County was incorporated as a local municipality. That the town was named after a river is no coincidence.
A Little Old-West Bunch in Black Berry Baked Beans
Local lore says the town was well named. Last month the town played host to the Guthrie Brothers, two brothers who play music together at the Bowery Riverside Theatre in Manhattan, and talk about the legendary 1927 Guthrie brothers concert by singing “Bound for Glory.” Younger brother Tim is old enough to remember when their older brother Jerry was asked about their later albums and quipped: “Well, actually, don’t blame us, we were more influenced by Rin Tin Tin.”
The town has a reputation of being quite secluded. “Our main thoroughfare, Main Street, has no houses larger than 1,000 square feet,” according to Wayne Miller, Executive Director of the Main Street Museum. Even the town’s recent county celebrations of its centennial haven’t been well-attended, he says.
Neighbor Frank Elbers used to drive a boat on the Hudson to get to work in New York City in the 1940s. In a local car show, he says he knew “every house, every street and every corner of the town.” He says: “Except the minor roads where the 10-odd remaining Gowanus dock houses really spoil the picture.”
Visitors might want to visit some of the very nice homes in what we call the Fresh Hamlet section of the town.
Visitors might want to buy something, though. Right next to the Bank of Dobbs Ferry is a prominent wine store that lists 18 different Champagnes (namely Vouvray, Haut-Brion, Moet-Perret, Juliénas, Clos de Bordeaux, Chianti Classico, Château Larose, Mumm, Mouton-Rothschild, and top Champagnes from villages in the Loire). On Main Street is the Tasting Room of the Main Street Wine Company.
You can order custom-made hand-crafted saddles from Southhampton Saddle Barn in the West End area of the town or order a chest of china.
Wildlife is abundant in and around the wooded strip of land east of Main Street which features well-grown apple trees and other kinds of trees. You might want to hike to the bluff overlooking Schenectady Bay, climb a couple of thousand steps to the top of the overlook (a breathtaking site), and throw in a picnic lunch on the lawn below. Then head home.
Check out the Main Street Historical Museum for some fascinating historical information. Local restaurant owners David Suquaglio and Robin Siler are closed on Mondays, but ask their manager first if you want to come in and have lunch with them.