Garrison, NY – The Bird and Bottle Inn has a romantic and colorful history. It began in 1761 when John Warren opened Warren’s Tavern, a popular stage coach stop along Albany Post Road, which was the direct route between New York City and Albany. Warren’s Tavern was a welcoming stop for weary travelers looking to refuel with some rest, food, and a tankard of ale. The tavern had seen many transformations over the years from tavern to farm and grist mill to a fully restored get away from all of life’s challenges.
For as long as I can remember, I have heard people say that the Bird and Bottle Inn in Garrison was haunted. Of course, it peaked my interest. If you have been following my writings for the past couple years, then you know that I am very fond of a ghost story with a rich history behind it. It is believed that the spirit of Emily Warren Roebling remains at the inn overseeing her family home. Her presence is strongly felt by employees and patrons of this unique establishment. I have been to many legendary haunted places in the Hudson Valley and I have to say that the Bird and Bottle Inn, is one of the most pleasant and charming locations I have had the pleasure of visiting. From the creaking of the wooden floors and staircases to the cozy decor of it’s rooms, there is a warmth about the inn that is very comforting and appealing. I am not surprised that the female spirit who reportedly haunts the homestead is equally as endearing.
Emily Warren Roebling was a woman of strength, beauty and intelligence beyond her time. She came from a good family and was well-known in the village of Cold Spring. She is famous for her contributions to her husband’s life work. That body of work is the Brooklyn Bridge, one of the seven wonders of the industrial world, and this is Emily’s story.1
Emily Warren Roebling the Woman
Let’s step back in time to the late 1800s. It is a period of war and romance. Life in Cold Spring revolves the great Hudson River where steamboats travel carrying passengers to and from the big city and the war activities of the period are ever present. The West Point Foundry is the center of local industry producing arms for the war and is now famous for producing the Parrot rifle, a popular piece of weaponry in high demand. In the center of all of this activity is the story of a strong woman who’s deep love for her husband would cast her into a unique role of for a woman of this period.
The Warren’s were a prominent family in Cold Spring. Not in wealth, but in stature. Emily was the youngest of twelve children and she admired her older brother, Kemble Warren, who was a decorated general in the Civil War and fought in Gettysburg. It was through her brother that she met the love of her life Washington A. Roebling, then a soldier in the Civil War, an engineer and the love of her life. Emily was a beautiful woman and Washington a handsome man. The couple immediately became enamored with each other and married a short time later in a little brick church on Main Street. Life was good for Emily, but soon it would become complicated.
Washington’s father John was the original designer of the Brooklyn Bridge and upon his passing Washington was made chief engineer. This was an exiting challenge for Washington. He was just as committed as his father, but the work conditions were not favorable to bridge workers. Being actively involved in the construction process, he would later suffer from Caisson disease (the bends) at the age of 35. Caisson disease was common among bridge workers due to the extreme pressure they had to endure while working in on the foundation of the bridge within these specially controlled chambers and then reentering the decompressed environment much like divers do. This disease rendered Washington an invalid, but Emily would ensure that his work could continue on.
During her husband’s incapacitation she handled all the correspondence and face to face meetings and protected her husband from the public. Conducting engineering business in this fashion was unheard of at the time. Clearly this was not a woman’s place, but Emily wasn’t just any woman. She was smart and quickly learned the business alongside her husband. At times, the Roeblings would be the subjects of idol gossip. People could be heard saying that the Brooklyn Bridge was being built by a woman. How could that be? Washington would watch and supervise the construction of the bridge from the window of their city home. This would not be without repercussions. Working through political and financial issues, the bridge would soon be celebrated by all. On May 24, 1883, Emily Warren Roebling became the first woman to cross the Brooklyn Bridge on opening day while Washington watched from his window overlooking the city.
After caring for her husband and supporting his good work, it was time for Emily to make her way in the world. She aided many groups during her lifetime. She supported Daughters of the American Revolution and later received a law degree from NYU in 1899. She passed away in 1903 at age 59 from stomach cancer. Washington later took a second spouse. She and Washington now rest together in her hometown in the Cold Spring Cemetery.
I would like to believe that Emily rests peacefully, however it appears that she likes to occasionally pay a visit to the inn during the spring and summer seasons.
The Spirit of Emily
Emily has always made a great impression on the people of Cold Spring and her spirit lives on there. In 1969, Larry Evans, the director of the Bird and Bottle Inn explained that one of the upstairs rooms was to be known as the Emily Warren room and noted that Emily visited her grandparents there often. The Putnam County Historical Society displayed some of her personal belongings at the Foundry School Museum as a tribute to her importance to the village.
Today the inn is owned by Elaine Margolies. She is a charming woman and gracious hostess who has great respect and pride for the inn’s history. Emily has become part of her family. Guests and employees have sensed the presence of a woman in the inn. Some guests have even taken unique photos that could explain the unexplained. Elaine shared the most amazing photo (see image 7 in the photo gallery) taken in the dining room . I saw it as a ghostly image of a woman in old-fashion clothing. I have to believe it is Emily returning to her family home. There have also been reportings of a woman humming in the hall. Emily seems to be a little particular about how her room is arranged. At times the curtains and the chair in her room will be arranged as if someone wanted to peer out the window to enjoy the lovely view.
Visiting the Bird and Bottle Inn
Step back in time and partake in a fine meal, enjoy a cocktail, and soak up the local history of this 18th century inn. If you are looking for a ghostly adventure, ask to stay in the Emily Warren room, which is a very bright and pleasant room. I am sure it’s just the way Emily would want it. If you are lucky, maybe she’ll sing you to sleep.
A special thank you to the Putnam County Historical Society for taking the time to help me research the Bird and Bottle Inn.
1. Cadbury, Deborah. “Seven Wonders of the Industrial World.” 2/17/2011. http://www.bbc.co.uk/history/british/victorians/seven_wonders_01.shtml (accessed April 13, 2011).
McCullough, David, (1983), The Great Bridge. New York: Simon & Schuster.
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