Nestled in Southeast Putnam County is a New York village that has changed and grown while standing the test of time. Brewster is where the sound of a gliding electric Metro North train carries the echo of the old diesel engines that roared into the station almost a century ago. Although it is a town founded by old, venerated families, newcomers appreciate the charm of the quaint little village. Located ninety minutes from New York City, zip code 10509 has become a sought after address. When folks reference “Brewster” they can be referring to areas such as Dykemans, Brewster Heights, or Brewster Hills. These areas have increased in population as vast farmlands have given way to upscale residential homes. For old time residents the little Village of Brewster, the classic Main Street of the Town of Southeast, is where the heart of Brewster beats.
Brewster New York History: Revolutionary Times
Putnam County was where a teenage girl named Sybil Ludington, took her famous ride through the farmlands to announce that nearby Danbury, Connecticut had been sacked and “The British Are Coming.” Although she never achieved the fame of Paul Revere, she is a local hero and legend in Brewster along with other Revolutionary War notables such as Enoch Crosby. Enoch was an enlisted man with the Connecticut Continental Army. Enoch Crosby was thought to be the inspiration for James Fenemore Cooper’s novel The Spy. Enoch Crosby has a road named after him in Brewster as well as several monuments in his honor.
The stories associated with Crosby’s spy career are varied, depending on the source. Although he did enlist in the Colonial Army, one version says that Founding Father John Jay sent him to “join up” with the British troops to infiltrate their ranks. Another story has to do with what Enoch Crosby did between his two enlistments, when he returned to his cobbler shop in nearby Danbury. Many of the British troops patronized the local merchants to mend their boots so Crosby was uniquely qualified to glean the latest information passing back and forth between the British soldiers and those citizens loyal to the crown.
The most credible, yet unusual story is that on his way to enlist, he accidentally ran into a group of British soldiers who mistook him for one of their own and he was brought to a secret intelligence meeting. No matter which version is true or partly true, Crosby was a local hero who had a direct hand in winning the Revolution. After the war, Crosby returned to his stately home on four acres in Brewster New York and is buried in Gilead Cemetery in nearby Carmel alongside other soldiers who died on the battlefield. .
Brewster New York History: The Railroad
Walter Brewster, for whom the town is named, was a smart businessperson as well as farmer. Brewster understood that rail travel was the wave of the future. In 1848 he donated land to the New York and Harlem Railroad to build a station in his town. Brewster has seen the New York and Harlem Railroad become Penn Central then Conrail and later Metro North. The station itself has a storybook appeal. The main street station building that has stood since 1939 adds vintage charm with its Tudor Architecture flanked by a large old fashioned clock. In addition to the Harlem Line trains, the Putnam Area Transit operates buses from that convenient location.
Brewster New York History: Main Street
First Movie Theater in Putnam County
The citizens of Putnam County were quite excited when the counties first cinema opened. The New Brewster Theater, located on Main and Park Street opened its doors in 1923. Tickets for adults were only thirty cents. The theater was renovated and became the Cameo/Ritz in 1935 but closed in 1939 due to the grand opening of the newer larger theater located at 63 Main Street. This new cinema house had two screens and seats for over 500 people. The new movie house called Cameo became the place to go to the movies in Putnam until the Carmel Theater Multiplex located at the new Putnam Plaza in nearby Carmel opened its doors in the early 1970s. The theater featured events like midnight showings of the Rocky Horror Picture Show. Still, the Cameo in Brewster retained the convenience of going to “the movies” and then a walk to nearby Bob’s Diner for a late snack afterwards without leaving town.
Gone but not forgotten is the Cameo Theater. The Cameo was the first movie house built in Putnam County. This theater opened in 1939 and closed in 1997. The good news is that a newer theatre, The Empire Cinema, is less than two miles up the road on Route 22.
Brewster New York History: TV Fame with “That Girl”
Anyone who watched TV in the sixties remembers That Girl starring Marlo Thomas. The show was about a young aspiring actress, Ann Marie, who leaves small town life behind to seek fame and fortune in New York City. She hailed from Brewster where her parents still lived. Part of the fun of the show was that her overprotective dad, Lou, was only ninety minutes away and would show up unannounced at the most inopportune times for Ann and her boyfriend Donald.
Like Cocoa Beach on “I Dream of Jeannie” the often referenced small town on the show “That Girl” put Brewster on the map as a must see place for fans. Waitresses at the local diner reported waiting on actors from several New York based soap operas such as “Another World” and “Guiding Light”, the latter which filmed in the area during their last season on the air. New York based shows such as “Law and Order” have also filmed their upstate location scenes in the area.
Brewster New York History: Present Day
The train station looks much like it has been for decades. You can still run across the street and grab a coffee to go at Bob’s Diner. Although many businesses have come and gone and the old movie theater is closed, the Eagle Eye Thrift shop, run by the Putnam Hospital Auxiliary is still open for business where you can hunt for a bargain. The village population has grown to over two thousand which is exponential due to the building of more single family homes and condominium units. The one apartment complex, a short walk to the train station, still stands on Oak Street. Also on Oak Street you can find The Walter Brewster House, a Greek Revival Style home built in 1850 for the town’s founder. In 1980, The Walter Brewster House was designated a historic landmark.
No matter how many commuters rush in and out and how many businesses come and go, its rich history makes a walk through the Village of Brewster, a trip back to a simpler time.