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Carving Legends: Gravestones to Gourds in Sleepy Hollow

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August 29, 2023

Carving Legends: Gravestones to Gourds in Sleepy Hollow
An interdisciplinary program from The Historical Society & ArtsWestchester

The Historical Society Serving Sleepy Hollow & Tarrytown, Inc. (The Historical Society) is offering a
series of programs this fall exploring the rich history of carving in Sleepy Hollow and Tarrytown. The
program, supported with a grant from ArtsWestchester, includes a workshop on specialized carving
techniques with local artist Jonas LG Karlsson; an exhibit of historic gravestone rubbings at The
Historical Society; and a walking tour of the Old Dutch Church Burying Ground with master carver
Robert Neal Carpenter highlighting the work of renowned colonial carvers.
The Old Dutch Church Burying Ground is beloved sacred space and a unique repository of funereal art.
Historians, art historians and visitors are drawn to the centuries-old gravestones adorned with soul
effigies and other details. But many do not realize that these gravestones of Revolutionary War soldiers
and colonial residents are at risk. Several are already lost to a combination of the environment and
human activity. “The Historical Society has a number of historic rubbings of these gravestones, but we
usually do not display them. We do not want to encourage rubbing because it damages the surface of
the fragile stones,“ said Historical Society Executive Director Sara Mascia. “This program will help us
get out the word to ‘Take pictures, not rubbings!’”
The carving workshops will give participants a small taste of the art of carving using the surface of
pumpkins and/or watermelons to explore the interplay of positive and negative space. Jonas LG
Karlsson (thewoodlandlibrary.com/pumpkins/), a multi-media artist and professional pumpkin carver,
has created three designs, including the iconic Tarrytown Lighthouse at Sleepy Hollow, and will instruct
participants in specialized carving techniques. The workshops will be held on Friday, September 8 and
Saturday, September 9 at The Historical Society. Participants will take home their personally carved
The ”Carving Legends” exhibit will open at The Historical Society on Saturday, September 9. Rubbings
will include the gravestone of Ann Couenhoven who, with her husband, kept a Tarrytown tavern visited
by George Washington. Widowed by the end of the war, she was one of the few women to purchase
land forfeited by the loyalist Philipse family. Couenhoven’s stone and that of Catriena Ecker Van Tassel
(also in the exhibit) are considered to be two of the finest in the Burying Ground. The stones associated
with some of the rubbings in the exhibit are no longer standing – underscoring the importance of taking
pictures, not rubbings.
Two walking tours on November 4 and 5 will highlight the work of colonial carvers John Zuricher and
Solomon Brewer. Robert Neal Carpenter, a master carver who has repaired many of the stones in the
Burying Ground, and Char Weigel, Historical Society volunteer, will lead participants in exploring the
stones and stories of the Burying Ground.
This project is made possible with a matching grant from the Statewide Community Regrants Program,
a Regrant program of the New York State Council of the Arts with the support of the Governor and the
New York State Legislature and Administered by ArtsWestchester.
Space is limited for the carving workshops and walking tours. Registration and more details are
available at www.thehistoricalsociety.net/carving-legends/ or by emailing Char Weigel at

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