Hollow Brook – A Look Back

On this page we present a short retrospective on our rich history.

Historic Hollowbrook

Hollow Brook Golf Club Property on Oregon Road

Just as the Town of Cortlandt and the surrounding areas possess a long and rich history, the properties that comprise Hollow Brook Golf Club have a significant cultural and historical background. The families and developments that have been associated with the property have helped shape both the physical nature of the land and the cultural story of the community.

The Van Cortlandts’ Upper Manor House on Oregon Road – 1966

The history of the property dates back to the late 17th century, when Stephanus Van Cortlandt purchased a vast tract of land from the Kitchawanks in 1683. After the death of Stephanus in 1700, the Manor of Cortlandt and other family properties were gradually divided among his many children and grandchildren. The land comprising the golf course eventually passed to Andrew Johnston, husband of Catherine Van Cortlandt, in the mid-18th century.

The Catskill Aqueduct

In the early 20th century, the property was split in half in order to build the Catskill Aqueduct. Acquisition of land for the Aqueduct was initiated in 1908 by the City of New York, with the entire project being completed by 1917. Still very much in use today, the aqueduct carries approximately 500 million gallons of water a day from the Ashokan Reservoir, northwest of Kingston, to the Kensico Reservoir in Yonkers and the Jerome Park Reservoir in The Bronx. With the western part of Johnston’s property now split, the land was further divided into northern and southern tracts, each owned by several families.

Map of the Catskill Aqueduct System

The shaded sections West of the Hudson indicate the watersheds, which fill the Ashokan and other reservoirs. At Storm King a tunnel aqueduct will pass under the river to Breakneck; thence the aqueduct will cross the Southwest corner of the Croton watershed to the enlarged Kensico Reservoir.

Aqueduct Construction

The construction of the cut-and-cover aqueduct. In the foreground, the concrete invert, or bottom, is being placed. Immediately behind it are the steel inside forms, followed by a section where the steel outside forms have also been placed, ready to receive concrete. The forms are transported on the railroad and lifted into place by the locomotive crane. In the background is the completed aqueduct, ready to be covered with earth.

View Looking North from West Point

The Hudson River between Storm King (on the left) and Breakneck, with vertical section of the aqueduct tunnel under the river.

Multiple Uses Through the Years

Picnic Area at Lakeland Acres – 1960s

During the latter part of the 19th century and into the 20th century, the Hyde family owned the northern piece of the western tract, while the southern piece consisting of 117 acres was owned by Myron Rush. Mr. Rush operated a farm on his property and constructed a large, prosperous horse racing track on the northern section of his land. This property was then sold by Mr. Rush’s executor in 1918 to the Sisterhood of Saint Mary, which called its convent Marycroft. The sisters maintained the tradition of the property, continuing to operate the land as a farm, providing produce to their St. Mary’s School in Peekskill. The sisters’ work continued up until the convent land was sold around 1948 or 1949.

Swimmers at Lakeland Acres – 1960s

In 1949, the property was purchased by Willis Jamison and began its use as a recreational destination for the area. Mr. Jamison named the property Lakeland Acres and ran a private recreational park on part of the land. A swimming pool, basketball courts and other recreational facilities were constructed, as well as a smaller horse racing track inside the larger, previously built track. The Lakeland Acres park continued to operate and provide recreational facilities to the community into the 1980s.

Golf, Movies and More

The land East of the Catskill Aqueduct passed through the hands of several families as well. In 1919, part of the property was purchased to create the Hollow Brook Country Club (shown in 1937). The country club operated from 1919 until World War II and featured a nine hole golf course. The clubhouse was eventually torn down and part of the area was used as a quarry until the 1970s. To the East of where the clubhouse was situated, the Hollowbrook Drive-In movie theater was constructed in the early 1950s and operated into the 1980s.

Paul Robeson Comes to Cortlandt

During the Summer of 1949, the property gained notoriety as the site of the first riot over a performance by Paul Robeson. Mr. Robeson was a Phi Beta Kappa graduate of Rutgers College, a two-time All-American football player and a Columbia University – educated lawyer. By 1949, he was gaining accolades for his singing and stage performances, as well as for his outspoken championing of civil rights. Robeson was also well known due to J. Edgar Hoover’s announcement in 1943 that he was a threat to national security because of his sympathies toward the Soviet Union, although the FBI never found evidence that he was a member of the Communist Party.

On August 27, 1949, Robeson was scheduled to perform an outdoor concert at the Lakeland Acres park. Several groups organized resistance to the performance and the demonstrations were meant as a peaceful opposition to Communism, but the mood quickly became violent as demonstrators began fighting with concertgoers. This conflict continued for two hours, during which one concertgoer was stabbed and twelve people were sent to the hospital.

Concertgoers at the Robeson concert on the lawn of the old Hollow Brook Country Club.

As the riot gained international attention, Mr. Robeson was determined to return to the area, and a second concert was scheduled for September 4th. This time, the concert was moved next door to a site on the old Hollow Brook Country Club. The old country club was located immediately adjacent to the eastern parcel of the site and was leased out by Stephen Szego, who had recently bought the land at an auction. Currently, Blue Jay Estates is located on a portion of this site, while the Hollowbrook Drive-In movie theater previously occupied the property.

The concert went on as scheduled, but demonstrators numbering in the thousands proceeded to parade along Oregon Road and built piles of stones along the road. When the concert adjourned, violence once again ensued as demonstrators began hurling the stones at exiting cars. Fighting between the two groups broke out and resulted in 145 people being injured during the melee.

Fifty years later, in September of 1999, a celebration of remembrance and the progress made in civil rights took place at the site. Some of the same people who were at the riots, along with government officials, clergy and local residents, took part in the celebration. Paul Robeson Jr. stated at the event, “The time to forget will never come . . . yet the time to forgive has surely arrived,” while County Executive Andrew Spano declared that Westchester County would never, ever permit such a trampling of free speech again.

Hollow Brook Golf Club - Today

Our 22,000 Sq. Ft. Clubhouse as seen from the 18th Fairway, plus Holes 11, 12 and 8.

Today, this historic site is home to one of Westchester County’s most picturesque golf courses. Designed and built by Eric Bergstol, Hollow Brook Golf Club is a challenging 6,923 yard layout, meandering through our 250-acres of dramatic elevation changes, gently undulating meadows, rolling hills and the magnificent Hollow Brook.

Hollow Brook Golf Club opens a new chapter in the long, storied history of the Cortlandt area.