16 October 2009

Of Treehouses and More Sleepy Hollow History

Well, it appears that I was wrong about those photos that appeared yesterday and my assertion that they represent the remnants of the treehouse built by Dr. Paul Nolan Hyde and friends some fifty-five or sixty years ago. It might be the same tree, but, as you'll read below, what is there now came later.

But, Dr. Hyde's response about this is another enlightening excursion into Sleepy Hollow history, so, with his indulgence, I'm offering more of this remembrances, as delivered in an e-mail from this morning:

I will tell you where my treehouse was. You remarked at some point about the cement stairway that led down to the creek from Carbon Canyon Road. I was there when that was built. The path was quite wide, with little or no vegetation and led to a foot bridge that my father and several other men in Sleepy Hollow built. It was about four feet wide and crossed about six or seven feet above the level of the creek bottom. On the other side of the creek, the path continued up the hill past a couple of houses to Oak Way Lane. When I was there a couple of years ago, the bridge was gone and the path was somewhat overgrown. By the way, the neighborhood kids built a large dam in the creek bottom there and because the bed was wide, we effectively created a large pond about sixty feet across. Down stream from the bridge, about 100 yards at the most, was where my eucalyptus tree was. Between the cement stairs and the tree were two large settling tanks for the well water, plus two wells from whence came most of the sulfur water. By the way, next to the cement steps, a bit upstream, was the main pump house that sent the water up a six-inch galvanized pipe to a tank at the top of the hill above Oak Way Lane. All of this was maintained and operated by San Bernadino Water Works #8. Every year we were promised Metropolitan Water, but it had not come by the time I had left the Canyon in 1959.

To get an idea as to what my tree house was like and where exactly it was located, I submit the following: If one were standing on the side of the Canyon road, looking at the tree, the tree house was located right at road level. The whole contraption was about twenty foot square and had two levels. There was a main room and two side compartments, one each for Billy Craig and myself. We more often slept on the roof, however. Neither Billy or I ever became restless sleepers; the thirty foot fall was somewhat intimidating. Billy fell from the treehouse once, landing in a pile of brush, but I lived out my youth unscathed. To my knowledge, it was by far and away the largest tree house ever built in Sleepy Hollow, and perhaps in the entire Canyon.

One more detail. From the eucalyptus tree it was possible to cross my own four-foot creek dam to the other side, turn down stream about sixty feet and walk into my downstairs bedroom. The old cabin made of railroad ties (now in ruins) was my boyhood home. The downstairs area was built by my father for his radio room and my bedroom. All of the stonework terraces were made by my father and me prior to 1958, inspired I think by the Schlendering terrace work at their Long Cabin further up Oak Way Lane.

I hope that this clarifies the geography a little. The old tree house, by the way, was disassembled in our anticipation of building a new one another thirty feet up the tree. Both Billy and I moved before we were able to complete it. I suspect that fifty years would have erased all traces in any event.

Again, this is great material, so far as I am concerned, about Sleepy Hollow history, of which, compared to, say, La Vida Mineral Springs, there is little that has been shared with the wider world.

There are others who, undoubtedly, have much they could contribute to the preservation of this history and, perhaps some day, there'll be more to share here and elsewhere. Meantime, thanks to Dr. Hyde, we learn more about the particular period of the late 1940s through late 1950s in a community that was, in most respects, a world away from the community now slowly being drawn (with trepidation in some cases) into the increasingly suburbanized world around it.

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