Rockland County, New York


Take the Palisades Parkway north to exit 4; drive north on Route 9W for 1/4 mile and park on the right side in a small pulloff.


The former summer house of Dr. John Torrey (after whom the Torrey Botanical Society in named) was here at Sneden's Landing (the western side of the famous Dobb's ferry). He lived here from 1854 to 1865.  Torrey's house was where the house of the Director of the Lamont-Doherty Geological Observatory now stands.  The hill where Torrey lived is still called Torrey Cliff. Two of Torrey's friends, Dr. Cornelius Rea Agnew and Charles F. Park, bought land for summer places on the hill near the home of Dr. Torrey.  Dr. Agnew lived where the main Lamont house now stands while Park lived nearby at Seven Oaks.  In 1865 Torrey sold his house to Dr. Agnew and moved away.  The house was struck by lightning in the 1890s and soon afterward torn down. (Haagensen 1986:71, 85).

Torrey was followed by financier Thomas Lamont. In 1953 Lamont's wife left the land to her sons, Corliss and Austin, to maintain the land as a natural area. In 1954 the Audubon Society was named the custodian of the property. In 1969 the land was deeded to the Nature Conservancy. In 1970 the land was leased to Columbia University for research and education. In 1977 the land was finally transferred to Columbia.


From the parking area, enter woods via blue-blazed Long Path just before Guard Booth at Columbia Observatory entrance road.

Off the Long Path a trail descends down to river shore and Park's "Italian Gardens" property (former Tonetti estate), with old marble statuary, columns, pergola ruins, grotto, and a pool at bottom of waterfall which cascades from Lamont Sanctuary.

John Serrao

Acer rubrum (red maple)
Acer saccharum (sugar maple)
Betula lenta (black birch)
Fagus grandifolia (American beech)
Fraxinus americana (white ash)
Liriodendron tulipifera (tulip tree)
Pinus strobus (white pine)
Platanus occidentalis (American sycamore)
Quercus alba (white oak)
Quercus rubra (red oak)
Quercus velutina (black oak)
Tsuga canadensis (eastern hemlock)

Geranium robertianum (herb Robert)

Ferns and Fern Allies:
Dryopteris marginalis (marginal wood fern)
Polypodium sp. (rock cap fern)
Polystichum acrostichoides (Christmas fern)

April 18

About 20 members of the Torrey Botanical Club enjoyed an unusual field trip on Saturday, April 18, to Palisades, Rockland County, NY, to visit the site of the home occupied by Dr. John Torrey, about 1858, above the Palisades cliffs south of Sneden's Landing. This interesting excursion was offered through the hospitality of Mrs.. Robert C. Hill, member of the club and active in the Garden Club of America, whose country home, Niederhurst, adjoins the estate of Thomas W. Lamont, which includes "Torrey's Cliff," above which stood Dr. Torrey's house. Mrs. Hill's kind thought was relayed to the field committee by Miss Margaret McKinney, Secretary of the City Garden Club. Mrs. Hill fixed the date for April 18 because about three acres of "Dutchman's Breeches" Dicentra cucullaria, on her own place and underneath "Torrey's Cliff," would then be in full bloom. So they proved to be, and an astonishing display of this plant they were, on the talus of the cliffs, running south from Niederhurst. None of the members had ever seen such a display of these plants, with their delicate divided leaves, and quaint, cream colored, white or somewhat pinkish double spurred blossoms. They are protected by the situation, inaccessible from highways, from extermination.

Mrs.. Hill persuaded her neighbor, Mr. Lamont, to call his whole estate of about 300 acres, "Torrey's Cliff," as it was known during Dr. Torrey's occupation, which seems to have been about 1850-1860 (?) before the Torrey family moved to Sterling, NJ, in Morris County. Mr. Lamont has Dr. Torrey's early botanical works in his library. Mrs. Hill led the party through her rock garden, where Erythronium americanum, Claytonia virginiana, and Dicentra cucullaria, Sanguinaria canadensis, Trillium erectum and Arisaema triphyllum were in bloom together with interesting spring flowering exotics, along the cliff path to the great expanse of fully flowering Dutchman's Breeches.

The path then climbed into Mr. Lamont's rock garden, near which, on a flat spot overlooking the Hudson, was the site of the house occupied by Dr. Torrey. Mrs. Hill has a photograph of it, which the field committee proposes to reproduce in the 1937 schedule. Thomas W. Lamont, 3rd, Mr.. Lamont's grandson, a bright, handsome lad who is interested in natural history, became the leader here and took the party about the grounds above the cliff.

Returning to Mrs.. Hill's home, some interesting blooming exotics were viewed, most striking being the Pacific Coast Erythronium hendersoni, with mottled foliage like our eastern E americanum, but with deep purple flowers; also Scilla sibirica, obviously well established and happy. Mrs.. Hill has some fine trees, including a notable weeping beech. She entertained the party with tea, and a period of botanical talk ended a pleasant afternoon, an event which all concerned hoped may become an annual one in the field schedule.

Raymond H. Torrey