As we wait for the Mount Pleasant town board to decide on what to do with little ol’ Hawthorne train station, I got a glimpse at a very interesting repurpose of an old train station in Westchester County.
The Philipse Manor train station, located on the Hudson River in Sleepy Hollow, is a beautiful Tudor-style building that’s been completely refurbished. Inside is hardwood floors and walls, a lovely iron chandelier, a large stone fireplace.
The third Friday of every month, the Hudson Valley Writers Center hosts an Open Mike for local writers, members or other.
The setting is quite striking. From Hawthorne, you essentially drive around the Rockefeller Preserve, past Phelps Hospital, where Little Miss C was born, through a cool looking neighborhood with large, old homes, super-wide streets, mature trees and sidewalks (Ah, sidewalks!…a Mount Pleasanter’s lament!) before the river comes into view. You can see the Tappan Zee glittering off in the not-very-far distance. As the readers read, the occasional train would honk its horn.
Twenty one writers signed up to read Friday night, most of them poets. The quality level was surprisingly high. (Not sure why I was surprised by the quality…I shoudn’t have been.) The whole affair is hosted by an affably gruff fellow named Robert from Yonkers, who kept an eye on his Blackberry to make sure no one went too far over the five-minute time limit, read poetry and prose passages in between writers, and introduced the next writer.
Speaking of Blackberrys, I really didn’t see anyone flipping through theirs as someone read. People were there to listen.
In addition to the 21 readers, there was maybe another 15 attendees Friday night. One nattily dressed middle aged woman surprised the crowd, or at least me, by reeling off some pretty risque poems about sex. They were very well done and the crowd lapped them up.
The Writers Center also owns a small publishing outfit called Slappering Hol Press–the name Dutch for Sleepy Hollow, I believe.
This is not to posit that Westchester needs a second train station converted into a writers’ space–it doesn’t. But the old Hawthorne station could make the local landscape a bit brighter–and even fill some sort of niche in the community.