02.Nov.2016 Acorn Lane

Acorn Lane is part of the Larchmont Woods development, which straddles New Rochelle and Larchmont.  The road itself lies completely within New Rochelle, but some of the houses on Acorn Lane are in Larchmont.



Westchester County Atlas (1930)


An acorn is the nut of an oak tree.  (A nut, by the way, is a fruit comprising seeds and a hard shell that protects the seeds).  Specifically, an acorn is a single seed protected by a tough shell, which is partially enclosed by a cupule.  Acorns are actually edible.  If they are shelled and leached of bitter tannins, they can be turned into flour or sometimes oil.  They are a common sight in most deciduous woodland landscapes.

The word Acorn is symbolic.  By convention, the word “acorn” has come to stand for the nut of an oak tree.  But it can also stand for other things, such as a utopian picturesque woodland (the streets in Larchmont Woods, especially the original names, generally refer to the forest).  It may also stand for even more general concepts, like raw Potential.  As Aristotle said: “Each human being is bred with a unique set of potentials that yearn to be fulfilled as surely as the acorn yearns to become the oak within it.”  Or it can stand for combinations of these concepts.

It is important to note that symbolism is founded on convention.  One can envision an alternate universe where the acorn signifies not the picturesque but any number of concepts that would not resonate with — or even positively repulse — homebuyers.  Like a world where acorns were the favorite snack of a terrible despot.  Or a world where various denominations of currency were identified by nut varieties, with the acorn serving as the lowest denomination.  Or a new denomination whereby the possessor of an acorn (or token bearing such likeness) was obligated to pay someone else (money or acorns).  Or whereby the holder would forfeit property if it were found in their possession.

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23.Oct.2016 Acacia Terrace

Acacia Terrace is named after the Acacia tree.  The Standard Star reported that the name comes from three large acacia trees at the western edge of the property.  Another resident recalls that acacia trees “lined the street.”  Today, no acacia trees appear to remain.


The acacia, also known as “the wattles,” is a member of the legume family.  It is not native to New York, favoring warmer climes.  I suspect — and this is pure speculation — that the existence of acacia trees at this locale in New Rochelle was due to the proximity of the dock on Ferris Creek, which was used in the 1800s for trading with the West Indies.

Starting in the 1820s, the land was owned by David Harrison, a Brooklyn attorney who acquired the property as his country seat.  Harrison was reportedly an “eccentric” — which appears to have meant that he suffered from dementia and bequeathed only meager amounts to next of kin.  His will(s) (successfully contested) specified for his internment on “Round Island,” an island located in Echo Bay.  Round Island is now one of the islands in Five Islands Park, now aptly called Harrison’s Island.  I could find no record of Harrison’s final resting place, so I can’t rule out that he is buried there.


1867 Westchester County Atlas

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02.Oct.2016 Abingdon Lane

We remain in New Rochelle’s far northern end. Like Abbey Close, Abingdon Lane is also in Scarsdale Downs, but on the other side of Baruad Road.


1867 Westchester Atlas

In the mid- to late- 1800s, the land between Baraud Road, Wilmot Road, and the Scarsdale line was a farm owned by George A. Robbins & family.  Other than maps, I could only find one mention of the Robbins farm despite much searching.  And it was this: in the year 1884, three uncommonly large potatoes were grown there.  The three potatoes together weighed 4.5 pounds.  They were called: “the Beauty of Hepburn.”

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16.Sep.2016 Abbey Close

Abbey Close is a street in the very northernmost reaches of New Rochelle.  It is in the “Scarsdale Downs” neighborhood, which is, not surprisingly, very close to the border with Scarsdale.

Let’s break up the name Abbey Close into pieces.  The name Abbey — this is pure myth.  An abbey is a complex of buildings used by monks or nuns under the governance of an abbott.  But there was no abbey on the New Rochelle-Scarsdale border — so the name word Abbey must mean something else, something more.  Here, it was meant to evoke images of English gentry.  You know, like Downton Abbey.  This is confirmed by one 1930 advertisement for Scarsdale Downs, which promised “aristocratic homes” that are “distinguished in aspect.”  A coat of arms also makes an appearance, so you know it’s legit.

Now the suffix, “close.”  In architecture, a “close” is the area immediately surrounding a cathedral bounded by walls and a gate that was closed at night — hence, a “close.”  And it has been applied to street names to mean any dead end street.  While it is not terribly common in the United States, it is very common in England (i.e., it’s the second most common street name in England).


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11.Sep.2016 Aberfoyle Road

Aberfoyle Road is in the Highland Park neighborhood of New Rochelle.  It is named after the town of Aberfoyle, Scotland.


USGS Topographical Map (1995)


Highland Park under construction (USGS 1897)

Highland Park was developed by the Irish-born lawyer James A.S. Gregg.  In 1891, Gregg acquired eighty acres of the former Badeau farm, which sat on land overlooking what is now the lake in front of the high school.  The name “Highland” presumably harkens to the Scottish Highlands, a particularly picturesque and rugged region in northern Scotland.  The use of the suffix “Park,” no doubt was inspired by other suburban “park” developments like Llewellyn Park in West Orange, NJ (1855) and, closer to home, Rochelle Park (1885), which was a few miles south on North Avenue.

Aberfoyle is located in the “Trossachs,” a scenic district that was popularized by Sir Walter Scott’s literary works like Rob Roy and the Lady of the Lake.  In fact, it is said that Scott wrote Lady of the Lake while he stayed in Aberfoyle.

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09.Sep.2016 Volume 12

Dairy River Vol. 12 is now available!



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12.May.2016 Volume 12

Forget what I said about the new cover previously, this is definitely the new cover of Volume 12. 


Very close to finally being finished.

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23.Mar.2016 Sunroof

Label scars — signs as an absence of sign.  [Auto] Sunroof.


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15.Feb.2016 Volume 12

According to our Archives, Volume 11 was released in December 2013.  Almost immediately, it was decided that we would devote the next Volume to SIGNS.  Since then, there has been a long and arduous march to this next edition.  And it’s still not ready.  But, I have committed to a cover.

DR Cover 12

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21.Oct.2015 A Strip Mall Semeiotic

American philosopher Charles S. Peirce (pronounced “purse”) was an enigmatic figure.  On the one hand, his contemporaries acknowledged that he was a brilliant scholar.   Peirce not only created new schools of thought — he created entire disciplines.  But Peirce never achieved the type of success one would expect given his brilliance.  Instead, he spent most of his life unemployed in a Pennsylvania hinterland, mired in debt and fighting off bankruptcy — but still intellectually active, churning out volumes of largely unpublished manuscripts.  Joseph Brent, Charles Sanders Peirce: A Life (1998).  Scholars have posited that his professional failures were likely the result of his unconventional morality, his extravagances, his sometimes difficult personality (possibly the result of a painful neurological condition called trigeminal neuralgia), his divorce from his first wife, or his scandalous premarital connection with his second wife (who held herself out to be an Austrian princess).  Id.  When Peirce passed away, his (second) wife gave Harvard several trunks of uncollated drafts and scholars are still trying to piece them together.


Peirce’s theory of signs–his semeiotic–is perhaps one of his greatest accomplishments.  According to Peirce, “it has never been in my power to study anything,—mathematics, ethics, metaphysics, gravitation, thermodynamics, optics, chemistry, comparative anatomy, astronomy, psychology, phonetics, economics, the history of science, whist, men and women, wine, metrology, except as a study of semiotic.”  SS 85-86.  In its most elaborate form, Peirce contemplated at least sixty-six classes of signs.

Many have considered Peirce’s semiotic in the context of the built environment.  For example, Krampen provided a thorough explanation of Peirce’s semiotic theory in Meaning in the Urban Environment, but ultimately offered a lukewarm endorsement of its utility, concluding, “there could be some merit in suing the three relational sign dimensions as one option among others for classifying planning data or for generating research questions.”  Krampen, Meaning in the Urban Environment 50 (1979).  Offering more a more positive endorsement, M. Gottdiener explained that Peircean semiotics offered a number of advantages, including that it “acknowledges the existence of the object world,” it could deal with “all of culture, not just language or systems of communication,” and that there is “no clearly defined signified correlated specifically to a signifier” allowing for meaning to be “always a volatile process of interpretation.”  Gottdiener, Postmodern Semiotics 14 (1995).

However, Gottdiener acknowledged that Peirce’s classificatory scheme is “so complex that it hasn’t been used by subsequent logicians or even Peircean semioticians.” Gottdiener at 13.  Thus, while Gottdiener offers a series of very insightful readings of vernacular structures, such as shopping malls and subdivision names, he does not expressly analyze them using Peirce’s framework.  In this essay, I attempt to rigorously apply Peirce’s semeiotic to understand the built environment and in particular, the Pizza Hut roof.  In this way, I hope to provide a metaphysics of — or perhaps more accurately — a phenomenology of, the Pizza Hut roof.

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