Two early automobiles pause on the ice of the frozen Hudson River in front of the Tarrytown lighthouse. Fred Koenig and Bob Hopkins in one car and a Mr. Maxwell and Mr. Chadwick in the other were racing to Albany. They had to turn back at Newburgh because the Newburgh-Beacon ferry kept the channel open. Hook Mountain is visible in the background. 1912. Courtesy John Scott Collection, Nyack Library.
In the early days of automobiles, speed demons were not content with ice yachts, and tried their luck on the frozen Hudson with autos instead.
On January 28, 1912, Robert E. Hopkins drove his automobile from Tarrytown to the Tarrytown Lighthouse (today known as the Sleepy Hollow Lighthouse). This was before General Motors filled in all but 100 feet of water to the lighthouse, so this was quite the distance. According to the New York Times, "The feat had never been attempted before." Robert E. Hopkins was the son of Robert E. Hopkins, Sr., who had supposedly "made millions in oil." Hopkins wasn't alone on the ice that day - plenty of people were out skating, on horseback, and even in automobiles, but most stuck close to shore, where the ice was more reliable.
Just a few days later, on February 3, 1912, Fred Koenig in his Mercedes and raced against M.R. Beltzhoover's Mercer in a 25 mile route on the ice off of Tarrytown. Koenig won that race by two laps, but Beltzhoover won the three mile straightaway race from the Tarrytown lighthouse to the Tarrytown Boat Club docks. Other auto races also gave speed exhibitions, and Beltzhoover got his Mercer up to 75 mph.
The ice was "in fine condition," so arrangements were made "for a bit automobile meet next week."
Despite these recreational activities closer to shore, the main shipping channel was still open - being kept clear by icebreaking tugs.
This blog is written by Hudson River Maritime Museum staff, volunteers and guest contributors.
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