Somewhere Over the Rainbow

I live in a very small, somewhat Bohemian community on the Hudson River about ten miles from Manhattan. We are so close to the city that if this was LA I would be living downtown amidst cement and shopping centers, but luckily it’s not and the metropolis of New York ends at the George Washington Bridge separating New York from the foreign land of New Jersey.

It is an eighteenth century community nestled into the Palisades (cliffs that lie near the river), with a great deal of history.

Although closely attached to the extremities of New York City, it is far far away with few unpaved roads, and a mixture of homes from the eighteenth century to the ultra modern. No two homes are the same in appearance or even scale. There are large estates, and tiny cottages all intwined into the community called Sneden’s Landing.

It dates back to the American Revolution, where George Washington had his headquarters a few miles from the landing and it became one of the main traverses of Washington as he traveled with his troops to cross the Hudson River. In fact the main lane is called Washington Spring Road as legend has it that he often stopped at the small spring to get water for himself and his troops.

At the foot of the Palisades lies the original Molly Sneden house, which used to provide Ferry Service across the great expanse of the Hudson River to the alternate side of Dobbs Ferry. Legend states that there existed a great love affair between Molly Sneden and William Dobbs.

For a time in the 19th Century at the foot of the landing Hudson River sloops were built at the edge of the river, and grand Hudson River estates were built to escape the noise and heat of Manhattan in the Summer.

Beautiful gardens were built and some truly majestic trees were planted that still existed until recently (See Above Picture), and like the homes of England each house in the landing has a name. There is the Ding Dong House, The Laundry, Cliffside, The Captains Lair, etc. and often houses have passed on to descendants or people move from one house to another as their lives change.

Throughout its history Sneden’s Landing has always been home to the eccentric and the artistic. In the twenties it was filled with writers and publishers, and today it is filled with movie stars, dancers, directors, theatrical lawyers, and some businessmen, and me.

Sneden’s prides itself in its slightly organic quality. Things ramble a bit, houses decay, stone walls are left to their own devices, and things in general are left to fall where they may. This is part of a carefully orchestrated aesthetic, that was original to the original landing but today is something only money can buy.

Although my house is very old (1840) it is very meticulously restored and it is a place of order and solace. When you turn down Washington Spring Road into Sneden’s Landing that is far away from traditional American suburbia. It is a small remnant of nonchalant country life, but when you finally enter the large black gates, the entrance to our home you have left the laissez-faire behind. My hedges are neatly clipped. My lawn, which at the moment is being vacuumed to pick up winter’s debris, is usually carefully clipped and manicured. My driveway is raked like a Japanese monastery, and I agonize over the quality of paint (buying fifty gallons of the last oil based paint available). Unlike the slow decay around me I am continually in odds with mother nature, defying its continual effort to dull my paint, give my grass heartache, and my stones a truly unkempt look. I never win this battle but as long as I’m breathing I will try to stand strong.

Like my photographs all is in its place, serene, peaceful, and balanced. I would think that when you enter the property you have entered the world of Rodney Smith.

I hope it is as inviting as what lies before, for like the original Sneden’s Landing, I would hope that I am one of a kind.

This Post Has 6 Comments

  1. True original….I’ve seen the photographers that have inspired you, but there’s no doubt, you have made their inspiration your original.

  2. I love this post-It is great to here of someone standing against that which is all around us..order is of art, whether house or photograph…thank you for these comments on your home and the struggle–and keep at it-I too am the same and despair at the lack of beauty in the arts anymore…

  3. Having been to your home and environs years ago on a visit with my friend, I can attest to their beauty. More importantly, your hospitality and kindness in letting two wide-eyed aspiring photographers (crazy enough to drive up from Virginia) visit was beyond measure. Many thanks for an entertaining day.

  4. I realize now after reading your post of this day why it is that I love your photography. You have passion for what you see, order and balance, and a gift to share it all. It does take strength to keep a going and make it all work. It is loving this earth and making it a better place for oneself and all who enter our very own world. Thank you! Bobbie

  5. I had stood in front of this photograph in Singapore, admire it and stare at it, trying to understand why and what inspire you to take this. Now i understand ….

  6. I found your web site in the book (in Spanish) “El retrato en la fotografía, capturar el alma en un instante by Chris Orwig.
    Your photographs are amazing, magic, pure and authenticity.

    Thanks for sharing to the world…

    Greetings from a fan and mediocre Spanish “photographer”

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