Kensico Dam Plaza – Valhalla, NY 10595

Real Estate Agent with Keller Williams NY Realty - 120 Bloomingdale Road #101, White Plains NY 10605

pngIt is the meandering nature of the Bronx River Parkway (the nation’s oldest Parkway) that keeps the Kensico Dam hidden from view until one is right upon it.  The dam itself is quite a dramatic site and its sudden appearance to an uninitiated northbound traveler along the Parkway is quite electrifying.

Kensico Dam  Plaza is a 98 acre public park is situated at the base of the Kensico Dam.   The turn-of-the-century dam dominates the landscape of the park and is in and of itself, a major landmark of Westchester County.

For most Westchester residents it is a focal point for yearly ethnic celebrations, summer concerts, and a fantastic outdoor antique show once a year. During the winter months it is the ideal spot for a peaceful walk or for building the odd snowman! Dogs are welcome and are among the park’s most frequent and popular visitors, but must be properly leashed. The day I took these pictures, I was walking two of my dogs who mixed it up with several other canine visitors.  An additional advantage of walking there is that it lies contiguous with the Bronx River Parkway Reservation which is an 800 acre park that lies adjacent to the Bronx River Parkway.  It is a very picturesque linear park, ideal for walking, biking and running. During the summer months, the Bronx River Parkway is closed to vehicular traffic for several hours every Sunday to provide for the very popular “Bike & Skate Sundays” program.

The dam and reservoir behind it was part of the Catskill water system which was designed at the turn of the last century to help supply water to the growing population of New York City.  The Kensico Dam took three years to build and cost $15 million – a fortune in its day; it is 1825 feet long and 307 feet high.  The Kensico Reservoir  receives water from a variety of sources including all six reservoirs in the Catskills and the Croton Dam Reservoir and is still responsible for a small percentage of the New York City water supply.

The story of the Kensico Dam’s  construction is an interesting one. During the Westchester County Tricentennial in 1983 my late mother wrote a series of articles for Gannett Westchester Newspapers.  Throughout that year she, interviewed many senior citizens about their early days growing up in Westchester County. One such interview with Mr. Edward Greenop, recalled the construction of the Kensico Dam and the use of the area as a movie set prior to flooding it with water.

Prior to the construction of the dam,  the village of Kensico sat on the site that contains the reservoir. The village had to be destroyed to make room for the water.  Stores, homes, churches – all were either torn down, dismantled or burned as were bushes and trees.   The result is that the condemned area looked more like a prairie town in the Wild West than a village in the northeast. Hollywood took advantage of the opportunity and used the site as a movie set for a couple of silent Westerns.  Cowboys, many of whom were veterans of the Buffalo Bill Show, were imported from the west. They came complete with their horses and guns – much to the displeasure of the local police.  John Barrymore himself shot a few scenes of a movie on the site.




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Comments (11)

Debbie Malone
Londeree's Real Estate & Property Management - Lynchburg, VA
From Lynchburg To The Lake (434) 546-0369
Ruthmarie, what a beautiful park and I like that you included the history of the area. The dam wall looks like construction they did back in the thirties in Massachusetts. So nice seeing some snow too.
Mar 12, 2008 12:11 AM
Ruthmarie Hicks
Keller Williams NY Realty - 120 Bloomingdale Road #101, White Plains NY 10605 - White Plains, NY
Hi Debbie - the Dam was completed in 1917 - the cost for the time was startling.  I remember hearing about the Western being shot in the old town  from my mother and found the article for confirmation. 
Mar 12, 2008 02:43 AM
Terrie Leighton
Ferrari-Lund Real Estate - Reno, NV
Reno Real Estate Agent ~ Selling Homes in Reno

Ruthmarie - I just liked to this post from another of your posts, written today and wanted to compliment you on this nicely written article. I love the pictures you took as well. If I was a buyer in your area and had read this article, I would have chosen you for my real estate needs as well.

Jun 04, 2008 02:20 PM
Ruthmarie Hicks
Keller Williams NY Realty - 120 Bloomingdale Road #101, White Plains NY 10605 - White Plains, NY

Hi Terrie - Almost didn't see this comment in the sea of responses!  I went away for a couple of hours - and YIKES!  It was a fun blog to write.  I took Jade (my dog ) for a walk around the dam.

Jun 04, 2008 07:11 PM
Peter Nikic
Broad & Bailey Realty LLC - Valhalla, NY

Ruthmarie, these days you can also find many cultural events as well as outdoor movies and fireworks.

Jun 05, 2008 01:31 AM
Ruthmarie Hicks
Keller Williams NY Realty - 120 Bloomingdale Road #101, White Plains NY 10605 - White Plains, NY

Hi Peter, that's true, but the reason I didn't put too much about that at the time was it was winter....I'll post something later.  Pleastanville is nice.  I went to school there for a couple of years around 1989 as a post-bac at Pace University.  I teach there sometimes as an adjunct -so I know the area.

Jun 05, 2008 05:42 AM
Peter Nikic
Broad & Bailey Realty LLC - Valhalla, NY

Ruthmarie, well I guess that I'm at a disadvantage then. since you know pleasantville and can see my picture ;-)

Jun 05, 2008 07:46 AM
Joan Wexelbaum
Luxury Mortgage - Ridgefield, CT

Hi!  I'd like to go there - I live just over the CT. line - what exit is it off of the Saw Mill?  Please let me know - thanks for the inviting info!

Jun 05, 2008 07:55 AM
steve schwartz

Joan, I don't know when  you posted this but I looked up directions for you from the saw mill river parkway:


Exit SMRP at 287 (Cross Westchester Expressway) exit North Broadway White Plains, making a left on NB.

Follow NB past a small restaurant Little Spot on right, then past Sir John's on left. 

Stay left when road forks, and you'll run into the plaza.  Good luck, and hope you make the trip.


Oct 20, 2011 05:08 AM
Steve Schwartz

Ruth, have you ever seen any photos of any part of the village of Kensico?   I';ve searched but to no avail.

Oct 20, 2011 05:11 AM
Ruthmarie Hicks
Keller Williams NY Realty - 120 Bloomingdale Road #101, White Plains NY 10605 - White Plains, NY

The directions are correct - hope you get there some day.  The village of Kensico was obliterated when the dam was finished .  I haven't seen any photos of the area - but you might contact the Westchester Historical Society or the White Plains Historical Society.


Oct 20, 2011 12:19 PM