Field Trip: Spuyten Duyvil

Spuyten Duyvil train stationSpuyten Duyvil mapA couple of years ago, on the way back from Connecticut, I needed to drop Adam off at the Spuyten Duyvil train station so he could catch the train to Yankee Stadium. (I wasn’t going anywhere near there on game day.) We were both struck by how pretty the neighborhood was, and the train station’s location, right on the water, could make commuters of us all. So when Andrea and I were due for another field trip, we postponed Crown Heights again and headed back to the Bronx.

After 23 years in New York City, I now know that the key to finding the right Metro-North track at Grand Central is not your destination but the train’s departure time. We checked with the conductor anyway, because he was there. He gave us all kinds of sass (“How much you gonna pay me to tell you?”) but made up for it with the wave goodbye pictured below. The ride to Spuyten Duyvil is just over 20 minutes, and the last part runs along the Harlem River, so it’s rather scenic. The train station, in the shadow of the Henry Hudson Bridge, is as gorgeous as I remembered, although we found it hard not to think of the fatal derailment in 2013.

Spuyten Duyvil Metro-North conductorAll we knew of Spuyten Duyvil was how to say it (the first syllables rhyme with “eye”), what it means (“‘Spouting Devil’ or Spuitende Duivel in Dutch; a reference to the strong and wild tidal currents found at that location,” says Wikipedia), and that it’s not very big or commercial. Our only goal was to get to Liebman’s Deli for lunch, so we started heading north via a set of stairs toward a beautiful stone house.

Spuyten Duyvil stairs above train stationIt made a stark contrast to this huge midcentury apartment building, with a rear façade of glass brick. Andrea later discovered that it’s called the Blue Building and was designed by Leo Stillman. I was amused by the trompe l’oeil attempt of the driveway….

Spuyten Duyvil apartment building Spuyten Duyvil apartment building pavingSoon enough, were were on a quiet house-lined street. The houses are an appealing mix of styles—including the church below—although there’s a bit more chaff than one might like.

Spuyten Duyvil churchIt took 15 or 20 minutes to get to W. 235th St., the area’s commercial strip. Our server at Liebman’s was a cranky old coot, and we expected nothing less. When Andrea asked how big the bowl of soup is, he replied, “It’s a bowl. It’s a bowl. It’s bigger than a cup!” The two old-timers behind us ordered hot dogs, which were roasting in the front window; I figured they knew best. And Andrea and I split an order of mini knishes, because where in Tribeca are you going to get those?

Spuyten Duyvil Liebmans Deli facadeSpuyten Duyvil Liebmans deli counterSpuyten Duyvil Liebmans DeliSpuyten Duyvil Liebmans hot dogSpuyten Duyvil Liebmans matzoh ball soupThen we tried to walk it off. We went west, toward the Hudson, which took us into Seton Park and its Raoul Wallenberg Forest. Neither of us was expecting to go off-road to quite this extent. We even got a frisson of fear when we spotted someone lurking behind a tree. It turned out to be a woman with a cat.

Spuyten Duyvil forest path Spuyten Duyvil Hudson River viewThis was exactly what we needed after a long, hot summer: trees and fresh air and serenity. Leaving Seton Park, we once again entered a residential area. Andrea, throwing her Canadian politeness to the wind, insisted that we march right past a “no trespassing” sign so we could better scope out the houses on a pretty riverside street. The owner of the house with the lions guarding the driveway should feel free to invite us back. Even the nearby graffiti was sort of sweet.Spuyten Duyvil street Spuyten Duyvil villa Spuyten Duyvil graffitiOn the return to the train station, we dawdled a bit under the statue of Henry Hudson at his eponymous park.

Spuyten Duyvil Henry Hudson statueSpying the newly reopened High Bridge through the train window, we prepared once again to postpone Crown Heights….

Previous Field Trip posts:
New York Botanical Garden
Bed-Stuy
The New Whitney Museum
Bushwick-ish
The Rockaways
Greenpoint
S-Cruise by Smartboat
Wave Hill
Governors Island
F.D.R. Four Freedoms Park
Litchfield County, Conn.
One Wall Street
Behind the Scenes at Grand Central Terminal
The Howard/Crosby Microneighborhood
Federal Reserve Bank of New York
East River Ferry
Museum of American Finance

3 Comments

  1. What a nice discovery. Keep these travel logues coming! Love them.

  2. I attended the Spuyten Duyvil Infantry nursery school 62 years ago. It still exists. My teachers were Lillian, Bea, and Ruth. I’ve always wanted to return to visit the place. Thanks for this article!

  3. You might want to read the section on the Henry Hudson Bridge in Robert Caro’s The Power Broker. Very enlightening, especially perhaps, as regards the “chaff.”

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