Monday, September 24, 2012


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CROTON FREE LIBRARY, 171 Cleveland Drive, Croton-on-Hudson, NY 10520

Ed Rondthaler's Wire Sculptures of Historic Bridges and Buildings of the Croton River Go On Permanent Display at the Croton Free Library

Thirteen small wire sculptures, created by the late Edward Rondthaler (1905-2009), merge his artistic talents, craftmanship and his passion for history and storytelling, with his love of the Croton River. Started during a long winter in 1947, they hung for more than 60 years on a map he painted on his living room wall. After he passed away in 2009, at the age of 104, his friend Carl Oechsner, President of Croton Friends of History, facilitated the generous donation by the Rondthaler family to the Croton Free Library—an organization Ed had long supported.

The sculptures start with a train crossing the bridge at the mouth of the Croton River and end with the bridge that crosses the spillway of the New Croton Dam. Along the way we see historic buildings—Van Cortlandt Manor, the Ferry House, the Underhill Mill—and bridges that have long fascinated Crotonites, like the Revolutionary War "New Bridge" that George Washington crossed on the way to victory at Yorktown and Quaker Bridge, one of the oldest bridges in Westchester County.  

One of the highlights is Ed's sculpture of High Bridge, the magnificent covered wooden bridge, built 60 feet above the river in 1842, after the collapse of first Croton Dam washed away every bridge on the Croton River. In Ed's clever depiction there's a gondola tied up below the bridge. Why? Because 28 years after High Bridge collapsed, real estate developer Clifford Harmon built Nikko Inn on the very same cliff and had gondolas made by Croton’s Osborn Boat Works, to transport visitors up the river from the train station to the inn.

“When I look at the High Bridge sculpture I can hear Ed telling a story,” says Carl Oechsner. “He’d talk about the prehistoric glacier that formed the Croton River, he’d tell stories about the Native Americans, the Van Cortlandts, the way “Croton Water” from the river saved and helped to create New York City. We hope this wonderful gift will keep Ed’s passion for local history alive in Croton.”

The display of Ed's work has been a community effort. His friend and neighbor, Elton Robinson, contributed a large photographic portrait by Croton resident Thomas Kristich, taken in front of Ed's beloved "picture tunnel". Carl Oechsner and Marc Cheshire worked with the Croton Free Library to archivally frame Ed's work, and to complement the library's display they have posted an article on the Croton Friends of History website that reveals how Ed came to create the wire sculptures and the history behind them.

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