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.

 

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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.

But let’s bracket symbolism and convention.  Acorn Lane itself might even be iconic.  As opposed to a symbol, an icon is a sign that represents an object by shared attributes.  Thus, just as an acorn is dominutive in size capped by a cupule, Acorn Lane is a short street capped by a cul-de-sac.  And thus the shape of the street itself would evoke the image of an acorn.

As to the situs, Larchmont Woods was built on the location of an earlier (failed) suburban neighborhood — Chatsworth.  In 1853, Thaddeus Davids (same dude) and George R. Jackson founded the Chatsworth Land Company.  Judith Doolin Spikes, Larchmont 27 (2003).  Seeing the newly built New Haven line as a financial opportunity (1849), they acquired 500 acres of James J. Roosevelt’s farm in 1854.  Id. at 26-27. The acreage stretched from Boston Post Road in the South, across the railroad tracks, and up to present-day Larchment Woods.  Id. at 27.

 

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Westchester County Atlas (1867)

The date — 1854 — would place Chatsworth as one of the very first suburban developments laid out in the picturesque style.  Llewellyn Park, widely credited as the first picturesque suburban development, was conceived of and developed in the 1850s.  Picturesque meaning, “a style emulating wild or natural beauty with irregular and broken lines.”  Dolores Hayden, Building Suburbia 26 (2003).

Chatsworth appears to have been designed according to the same picturesque principles as Llewellyn Park.  The train station at Chatsworth was completed in the gothic revival style popular with the earliest suburban designers like Alexander Jackson Davis, who played a significant role in designing LP.  But unlike Llewellyn Park, which flourished, Chatsworth languished.  As put aptly in one Larchmont history: “Homeowners were not attracted to an area without gas lighting, public water and sewers, fire and police protection, schools, and other amenities they were accustomed to in the city.”  Larchmont at 29.

Having failed to see success as Chatsworth,  the northeastern part of the property lay fallow until it was acquired by  Clifford B. Harmon somewhere between 1909-1911. Harmon was responsible for numerous successful suburban developments nationwide, but he was especially active in Westchester, where he developed Pelhamwood, Larchmont Gardens, and “Harmon-on-Hudson” (Croton-on-Hudson).  In addition to his exploits in real estate, Harmon also was a distinguished and well-known aviator.  In 1910; he was the first to fly across the Long Island Sound, from Garden City to Greenwich.

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Westchester County Atlas (1910)

The earliest maps of Larchmont Woods (“the Woods of Larchmont”) do not show Acorn Lane.  The southern side of Mountain Ave (then called Highland Ave) was divided into large parcels but no streets.  Ostensibly a developer took one of those parcels and turned it into Acorn Lane.  The houses on Acorn Lane appear to have been built in the late 1920s.

Westchester County Atlas (1930)

Westchester County Atlas (1930)

 

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