Execution Hollow

A place for odd or rarely told stories about pre-WWI West Point & the Hudson Valley. 

West Point, from above Washington Valley, 1834

West Point, from above Washington Valley, 1834

From time to time I'll be annotating old art to help you better understand the past landscapes of the Hudson Valley. Today's installment is West Point, from above Washington Valley, looking down the river, a painted engraving by George Cooke (painter) and W.J. Bennett (engraver). It was published by the New York firm of Parker & Clover circa 1834. Bennett was well-known for his aquatints, a type of engraving that produces a watercolor look. Cooke likely would have painted the original scene and then Bennett would make an engraving that could be printed in quantity.  The prints were then hand-colored. Bennett was a member of the National Academy of Design, founded in 1825 by artists including Hudson River School giants Thomas Cole and Asher B. Durand as well as Samuel F.B. Morse (-- --- .-. ... .) . Longtime Professor of Drawing at the Academy Robert W. Weir was also a member (after 1829). 

First, look at the print (and an enlargement) and then below you'll find a copy with callouts labeling the key features. 

Crop of  West Point, from above Washington Valley, looking down the river,  ~1834 Source: Library of Congress. 

Crop of West Point, from above Washington Valley, looking down the river, ~1834 Source: Library of Congress. 

Can you identify any of the buildings? Four still exist today (not including monuments and forts). Here's an enlargement: 

Enlargement Crop of  West Point, from above Washington Valley, looking down the river,   ~1834

Enlargement Crop of West Point, from above Washington Valley, looking down the river, ~1834

Ok, here are the annotated copies!  

Annotated Art #1

Annotated Art #1

Annotated Art #2

Annotated Art #2

Notes:  

  • The hill that the people are looking from really doesn't exist anymore. It was modified and eventually level to make way for railroad tracks. It was approximately on the site of the current rugby complex at West Point. 
  • The South barracks were completed in 1815 along with the Academy building, and the North Barracks were completed in 1817.  All three buildings were stone.
  • Both the current Superintendent's and Commandant's houses are visible in this artwork, along with other houses built at the time (1819-1820) that no longer exist.
  • The three brick houses on Professors' Row (only two are visible here) were all completed in the 1820s. Notice that they do not have the "wings" and porches they have now. 
  • Wood's Monument stood on a small hill known as Monument Hill (sometimes Bunker's Hill on older maps). The hill no longer exists, having been leveled to create the road that now goes from the Plain to the Firstie Club. 
  • The West Point Hotel was completed in 1829.  
  • The Kosciuszko Monument was dedicated in 1828.  
  • Notice how visible the Cadet Monument is from the River. The trio of visible monuments along with the flagpole were useful navigation ads for sloop and steamboat captains.  
  • Washington Valley was the site of the Red House owned during the Revolution by the Moore family. The Valley extends inland past what is now the West Point Golf Course. 

You can get a free high-resolution copy of the print at the Library of Congress website here

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