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A Short History of Sparta and the Jug Tavern

More than 200 years ago, Sparta was transformed from a piece of farmland into a residential community with one of the nation's first subdivision plans. The neighborhood of Sparta, mapped out in November 1795 at the southern end of the Village of Ossining, celebrated its bicentennial on September 23, 1995.

Sparta is the oldest surviving settlement in the Town of Ossining, which includes the Village of Ossining (formerly Sing Sing) and part of the Village of Briarcliff Manor, along the east bank of the Hudson River in Westchester County, New York. Sparta's independent existence ended in 1906 when the Village of Ossining extended its borders southward to encompass Sparta.

For additional background on Sparta, you can read

For some "current history" in the making, see these past issues of "The Spartan" newsletter.

Most of the surviving houses of old Sparta can be seen within the boundaries of the Sparta Historic and Architectural Design District (SHADD), which was created May 6, 1975. You can read or print out a Self-Guided Tour of Sparta's Historic Houses.

Guided tours of Sparta are generally led during Open House at the Jug Tavern. For a list of Open House dates at the Jug Tavern, see the Calendar.

The centerpiece of the tour is the Jug Tavern, built in about 1760 as the home of a tenant farmer, Peter Davis, who rented 200 acres of Philipsburg Manor, including the land that later became Sparta. The Manor was confiscated after the Revolutionary War by the Commissioners of Forfeitures because the Lord of the Manor, Frederick Philipse III, had been a loyalist during the war.

Davis bought his farm from the Commissioners in 1785, but defaulted on a mortgage on 70 acres of the land in 1794. The mortgaged land passed to James Drowley, who wanted to lay out a plan for a housing development on his new property, but he died before he could fulfill his dream. Drowley's executors carried out his wishes by commissioning a survey and plan of Sparta, prepared in November 1795. The original of that survey is on display in the Jug Tavern.

The History of Sparta since 1685

1685 Frederick Philipse, of Dutch descent, acquired land from the Sint Sinck tribe on August 24, completing his acquisition of all the land along the eastern bank of the Hudson River from Spuyten Duyvil Creek, in the Bronx, to the Croton River.
1693 Monarchs William and Mary of Great Britain issued Philipse a patent, acknowledging his land holdings as the "Lordship or Mannour of Philipsborough" and naming Philipse as Lord of the Manor.
1698 Carel Davids (or Charles Davis) settled with his brother David and sister Angelique on a section of Philipsburg Manor near White Point, later to be called Sparta Dock. They had been born in Canada of Huguenot refugees from France, who had lived in the West Indies before moving to Montreal.
1758 Peter Davis, the sixth son of Charles, married Martha on January 29. They probably built their home, later to be known as the Jug Tavern, sometime between 1758 and 1760. Peter was a tenant farmer, paying rent to the Lord of Philipsburg Manor.
1764 The first burial (Sarah Ledew, age 5) took place at what is now called Sparta Burying Ground, where a Presbyterian church once stood, at the junction of Revolutionary Road and Route 9 in Briarcliff Manor.
1784 Philipsburg Manor was confiscated by the Commissioners of Forfeitures, by authority of the Confiscation Act of May 1784, because Frederick Philipse III, Lord of the Manor, had remained loyal to the British Crown during the American Revolution.
1785 Peter Davis bought 200 acres of his tenant farm, including the Jug Tavern, from the Commissioners of Forfeitures on December 6, for 600 pounds sterling. The Commissioners divided Philipsburg Manor among 287 new owners, including 11 whose land was located near Kemeys Cove and Sparta Brook.
1794 Peter Davis defaulted on a mortgage of 70 of his 200 acres. He had owed money to Charles Williams of New York City since 1772, and had given Williams the mortgage in 1789 to cover the debt. Williams endorsed the mortgage over to James Drowley, an English hardware and dry-goods importer who was living in New York City.
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1795 April 22: The first known record of the name "Sparta" is an entry in the Record Book of the Town of Mount Pleasant, showing that William Hall was granted a license to operate a tavern in Sparta. (The Town of Ossining was not carved out of the Town of Mount Pleasant until 1845, and Ossining celebrates its 150th anniversary through October 1995.)
1795 September 16: James Drowley died before he could fulfill his dream of subdividing his 70-acre parcel of land into house lots for the development of the hamlet of Sparta.
1795 November: Drowley's wishes were realized when the executors of his Estate commissioned a survey of the land by J. Harmer, a "painter, glazier, and gilder, from London." Harmer recorded his survey in a subdivision plan, entitled "Sparta, A Town building on the East side of Hudson's River 35 Miles North of N. York." The plan shows more than 200 proposed lots along three already-existing streets, Anna (now Hudson), Olive (now Spring) and Liberty, and two proposed streets that were never built, William and Mary. Sparta prospered because of the dock at White Point, where sloops could load farm products bound for New York City, and unload manufactured goods ordered from the city. Local deposits of marble and silver would later provide jobs in quarries, a mine and a lime kiln.
1813 The Village of Sing Sing, now Ossining, became the first incorporated village in Westchester County. The name reflects the original residents of the Sint Sinck tribe.
1820 The gradual economic decline of Sparta began with competition from the cheaper docking fees charged at the Sing Sing dock, and the rerouting of the Albany Post Road from Revolutionary Road to its present location along Route 9, which made Sing Sing's dock more convenient to reach than Sparta Dock.
1845 The Town of "Ossinsing" was created from the section of the Town of Mount Pleasant that contained Sing Sing, Sparta, and Scarborough. For ease of pronunciation, the third "s" was dropped the following year. The name was a variation of Sing Sing.
1849 The Hudson River Rail Road extended its service to Sing Sing and Peekskill, and replaced sloops as the primary means of trade with New York City.
1901 The Village of Sing Sing changed its name to Ossining, taking the same name as the Town, in order to distinguish goods manufactured in the village (such as shoes and stoves) from those made by convicts at Sing Sing Prison.
1906 The residents of Sparta agreed to have their hamlet absorbed by the Village of Ossining because of the services and other benefits that they would receive from the village.
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1919 Frank A. Vanderlip, president of National City Bank in New York, and his wife Narcissa Coxe, who lived in Beechwood (near Scarborough), personally undertook the redevelopment of Sparta by purchasing many of the decaying houses between Revolutionary Road and Hudson Street. Sparta had become the reputed center of drug and liquor smuggling into Sing Sing Prison. Prostitution and murder occurred. The Vanderlips formed a corporation and hired architects and contractors to redesign and restore the houses that were worth saving. Some houses were torn down, others moved to relieve the crowding. The renovated houses were rented to teachers and others of modest income. The Vanderlip corporation retained title to some houses for more than 50 years, as the houses were gradually sold to private owners over the period from the 1930s to the 1970s.
1974 The Jug Tavern was purchased jointly by the Town of Ossining and the Ossining Restoration Committee.
1975 Part of Sparta was designated by the Village of Ossining as the Sparta Historic Architectural and Design District.
1976 The Jug Tavern was entered onto the National Register of Historic Places.
1986 Title to the Jug Tavern was passed to Jug Tavern of Sparta, Inc., a tax exempt not-for-profit corporation, whose sole purpose is to preserve the historic building.

Copyright 1997 Sparta Association. References: A Walking Tour of Sparta, Ossining Restoration Committee (ORC): 1976; A Land of Peace, Philip Field Horne, ORC, 1976; Ossining, N.Y., Carl Oechsner, North River: 1976; Retrospectives, Ossining Historical Society: 1981.

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Last Updated: 3/18/2017