Land in the Sky: The End of Broadway

Broadway is a famous street that begins at a famous address in lower Manhattan: One Broadway. George Washington’s headquarters once stood there. The End of Broadway is more obscure. It lies thirty-three miles to the north in Westchester County. You could say that Broadway begins in the Battery and ends in a story by Washington Irving. Not everybody will agree. We decided to investigate the matter for ourselves and drove to Sleepy Hollow.

Upon arrival we discovered the End of Broadway is a tricky intersection with a traffic light and nowhere to park. We drove up a side street and found a vast parking lot spread out around a memorial hospital like a macadam roadkill. The building itself looked like a multistoried mausoleum with windows. A sign with an arrow said, “Emergency Room.” The parking was free so we left the car here and walked back to the tricky intersection.

There is little to recommend the End of Broadway as a tourist destination. Some steeply sloping woods on one side of the road, some vintage suburban houses on the other. Strolling beside a narrow two-lane highway with a ceaseless flow of vehicles is hardly a picturesque ideal. Instead of a sidewalk there is a gap in the stratigraphic record. Traffic signals hang from a wire above the intersection—along with a sign. This one said, “Wait for Green Light.” We waited for it. When the light changed, we crossed the street. Now we were really at the End of Broadway.

I looked over in the direction of the last house to see what the last number on Broadway might be. There wasn’t any. I did see a faded yellow ribbon tied around an oak tree in the yard. That could mean something. For instance, Broadway begins with the Number One and ends in a lemniscate. Or maybe it was one of those miscellaneous koans that Zen masters tease the unenlightened with. Reflecting on all this only thickened the obscurity. Cardinals thrashing about in the boughs of the tree only deepened the doubt. Things here were signs but not the ones expected.

The End of Broadway only holds so much interest for tourists. We started walking south toward its beginning. It wasn’t long before we came upon a darkly named side street with a gateless gate. It consisted of a couple of stone pillars each topped with a formidable lamp. Affixed to one of the pillars was a large convex mirror. It afforded a curious view of the whole scene. The End of Broadway was now closer than it appeared.

On the other side of the gateless gate was Sleepy Hollow Manor, a vintage suburban development of Tudor homes nestled in a park-like setting. We proceeded along Hemlock Drive. Not a soul in sight. Shadows cast by bare trees maundered on empty lawns and streets. Lawn furniture looked forlorn. Along the edge of one driveway stood a basketball backboard. The net on the hoop was red, white, and blue. I took a black-and-white photo of it.

Soon another sign appeared, a stern one. It said, “No Parking Anytime on the Streets in the Manors.” End of Broadway tourists are not welcome here. Around the next bend could be an even less congenial sign saying, “No Sauntering Anytime on the Streets in the Manors.” To pass through a gateless gate on foot during the middle of the day in the middle of the week when all decent people are at work, is to join the ranks of the suspicious. Any minute now the Sleepy Hollow police might descend upon us. We turned around and took our sauntering with us, back to the End of Broadway.

At the tricky intersection we waited once again for the green light. Close by was a shadowy callbox mounted on a utility pole. We had not noticed it before. A sign provided instructions in two languages. The English version went like this: “1) Press & Hold Button to Talk; 2) Begin Speaking After the Beep; 3) Release Button, Listen for Response.” That button had not been pressed in years. We looked at it and considered the options. We settled for an image captured with a cellphone. Then the light changed and we took our leave of the End of Broadway.


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