Tag Archives: Westchester County

45 Years a Slave:
Westchester Case Confirmed Story of Enslaved Man


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Westchester Slave Case 1857 (New York Times)On the 12th day of August in 1857, a young girl was brought before Judge William H. Robertson in his chambers at Katonah in Westchester County, New York. Over 30 years after slavery had been legally banned in the state, the matter before the judge was whether she should be set at liberty.

Local constable Zeno Hoyt had found the 5-year-old girl, named Ellen, at the home of David A. Griffin in Ossining, where she was in the charge of two ladies. One of them, Louisa Kerr, was present at the hearing, which came about because Ellen’s grandfather, with the assistance of attorney John Jay, had instituted proceedings to have her placed in his custody. Continue reading

Jay Heritage Center Celebrates Black History Month


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freedoms gardener 001The Jay Heritage Center invites you to celebrate Black History Month with two exceptional speakers who will talk about the free African American experience in antebellum New York on Saturday, February 8, 2014 10:00am – 12:30pm.

Author, Dr. Myra Young Armstead, Professor of History, Director of Africana Studies at Bard will talk about her book Freedom’s Gardener: James F. Brown, Horticulture and the Hudson Valley in Antebellum America. She will share insights from her research about the free black experience in 19th century New York as revealed in a handwritten diary kept for almost four decades by James F. Brown. Continue reading

Archaeology: Why Dig at a Cemetery?


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1(3)Every archaeological excavation breaks new ground. Even sites like Stonehenge in Wiltshire, England – one of the most extensively studied archaeological sites in the world – continually yield fresh discoveries. The 20th-century excavators of Stonehenge, William Hawley and Richard Atkinson, recognized the value of earth that had not been disturbed by archaeologists. As a result, they purposefully excavated only half of the stone circle and the surrounding earthworks. The other half they left untouched, and it is mostly untouched to this day, for the sake of preserving the privilege of “breaking new ground” for future archaeologists.

It is worth noting that archaeologists do not always break new ground in the literal sense. Even sites that have been completely excavated or destroyed can yield new information through new interpretations or new scientific testing of the evidence. However, as Hawley and Atkinson knew, the experience of excavating untouched ground is incredibly powerful. Even with extensive documentation, it can never be replicated. That is why archaeologists must be careful, focused, and above all, conservative in their approach to a site. Continue reading

American Revolution:
Trouble at Poughkeepsie and Peekskill


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American Revolution ShipsA loyalist is a man with his head in England, his body in America, and a neck that needs to be stretched.  – an anonymous patriot.

Late in June of 1776, the New York Provincial Convention (NYPC) received a troubling report from the Dutchess County Committee of Safety. It said that Poughkeepsie officials and patriot warships were being threatened by loyalists, so-called Tories. Continue reading

Westchester County: Religion, Gravestones and Archaeology


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1(2)Gravestones represent some of the most valuable evidence available to archaeologists currently working on the St. George’s/St. Mark’s Church site in Mount Kisco, New York. Once occupied by two Episcopal churches – St. George’s (1761–1819) and St. Mark’s (1850–1916) – the site is also the final resting place of over 400 people, all buried between the 1760s and 1940. The area where the churches once stood was excavated this fall. The artifacts and information they uncovered is now undergoing analysis, and the excavation is planned to resume in the spring.

As co-directors of the excavation, Laurie Kimsal and I have discovered just how essential gravestones are to our understanding of the site. To begin with, gravestones offer clues to the location and orientation of the 18th-century St. George’s Church. Secondly, the gravestones provide insights into the values and beliefs of the people who erected them, as well as the social, religious, and economic worlds of the 18th and 19th centuries. Continue reading

New Exhibit Features Mount Kisco Dig Artifacts


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1(1)A new exhibit, presented by the Mount Kisco Historical Society and the Lower Hudson Chapter of the New York Archaeological Association (NYSAA) has opened at the Mount Kisco Town Hall, 104 Main Street, Mount Kisco, New York (Monday to Friday, 8:30 am to 4:30 pm).

The exhibit features dozens of artifacts unearthed from an archaeological excavation
undertaken this fall at the St. George’s/St. Mark’s Cemetery, the oldest historic site in Mount Kisco, a suburban town thirty miles north of Manhattan in Westchester County. Continue reading

Archaeology in Westchester County:
An Excavation at St. George’s – St. Mark’s Church


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ExcavationIn the town of Mount Kisco in Westchester County, there is a small graveyard known as the St. George’s/St. Mark’s Cemetery, after the two successive Episcopal churches that once stood there. Established in the 1760s, the site is listed on the National Register of Historic Places for its role in the American Revolution. In the late 18th century, the small wooden St. George’s Church was one of the few man-made structures in a sparsely populated area that was transformed into a hostile wilderness with the onset of war.

Accordingly, the church was used by American, British, and French armies as a landmark in their journeys through Westchester County. General Washington’s troops retreated to the church to tend to the wounded and bury the slain after the Battle of White Plains in 1776; Colonel Tarleton brought his army to the church on the eve of the Burning of Bedford in 1779; and in the summer of 1781 the Comte de Rochambeau’s army camped near the church prior to the meeting with Washington that would ultimately bring their combined forces to victory at Yorktown. Continue reading

Jay Heritage Center Hosting Downton Abbey Talk


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Downtown Abbey at Jay Heritage CenterWhether you love learning about period homes or just can’t wait for Downton Abbey Season 4 to start (January 5, 2014) join the Jay Heritage Center and learn more about the architectural and cultural history of Highclere with Curt DiCamillo, a noted authority on British country estates.

In 1836, Peter Augustus Jay and his wife Mary Rutherfurd Clarkson took down the battered 1745 farmhouse that had long been the original country seat of the Jay family. The soaring Greek Revival mansion that took its place was meticulously planned in the “English stile” which Peter and Mary would have seen during trips to Europe. Continue reading

Peter Feinman: Cashing In On Halloween


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Sleepy HallowHalloween is boffo at the box office. It’s not your father’s Halloween. In recent years the holiday has soared in prominence and become an economic powerhouse. Time magazine had an article in its culture section entitled “Monsters Inc.: Inside the Weird World of Professional haunting.” This was a followup to last year’s smaller article on “Tombstone Tourism: A Second Life for Cemeteries.” The New York Times published “House Haunters” while my local paper had a front-page article “In the Lower Hudson Halloween Is SCARY-BIG BUSINESS.” Clearly something big is occurring and historic organizations often are cashing in. Continue reading

What Works: Flashback to Your Community’s Heritage


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Capitol TheatreOn September 30, the recently reopened historic Capitol Theatre in the village of Port Chester in the Town of Rye, in the county of Westchester, founded in the days of vaudeville, beloved by the Grateful Dead, rechristened by Bob Dylan, and just host to Willie Nelson, hosted Flashbacks. 

A musical to the history of the town written by local sisters and educators Camille Linen and Donna Cribari, Flashbacks tells the story of high school students who complete a historical multimedia project and are drawn to the local river that mysteriously produces figures from the town’s past as primary source documents. Continue reading

A New Academic Conference at Jay Heritage Center


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constitution week 016This past September 18 – 20, in launching the first of what it hopes to be many academic conferences at its site, the Jay Heritage Center (JHC) faced a welcome challenge: to select a topic, a keynote speaker, and partner institutions sure to generate vigorous, enlightened and thought provoking discussions.

As a member site of NY’s Path Through History for its themes on Civil Rights and suitably inspired by our nation’s observation of Constitution Week each fall, JHC asked acclaimed scholar, author and Yale Law School Professor, Akhil Reed Amar to speak “On the Nature of Constitutions.” Continue reading

The Purpose of Historical Societies:
The Westchester Experience


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Westchester CountyWestchester County decided that historical heritage is not important. It is too insignificant to waste any time, energy, and effort supporting.

I was reminded of this reality in a recent article in the local paper entitled “Hotels Get Upscale Updates.”  Coincidentally, the hotel is where the annual conference of social studies teachers in the Lower Hudson Valley had been held until this year. In fact, according to the article the $15,000,000 renovation followed the $12,000,000 renovation at the hotel where we will be meeting this year. Continue reading

Old Roads: Byways of the History Community


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US9_Freehold_NJRoute 66 is perhaps the most culturally iconic road in American history. Not to take anything away from other byways, but how many have had TV shows and become tourist destinations?

New York has its share of numbered roads with historic connections. In Westchester County where I live there is Route 1 (the Boston Post Road into New England); Route 9 (the Albany Post Road from NYC to Montreal), and Route 22  (the White Plains Post Road to the Canadian Border). These roads follow the lay of the land and have been used for centuries. We should be promoting them as access points to our history community.
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‘Three Parlors’ Exhibit Features Art History At Lyndhurst


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Herter suite and Courbet“Three Parlors,” a new exhibition using three Victorian parlor suites to track the development of a new American identity during the 19th century, will open at Lyndhurst on June 20th and will remain open through the end of 2013.

Lyndhurst is fortunate to retain the furnishings of the three families who occupied the estate over the past 175 years. The three suites of parlor furniture at Lyndhurst were installed in 1838-42, 1865 and 1882 and were created during a century in which the United States struggled to establish its national identity. Continue reading

Landmarks of New York Photography Exhibit Opening


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Landmarks Photography.jpgThe Jay Heritage Center kicks off NY Heritage Weekend and the Path Through History Weekend with the opening of their first major photography exhibit, The Landmarks of New York, on Sunday June 2nd at 3pm.

The show fills their newly configured gallery space at the 1907 Carriage House and includes a collection of 90 black and white photos documenting a select cross-section of New York City’s best loved architectural treasures. Continue reading

Westchester Co. African-American ‘Hills’ Community Hike


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Westchester County African American Hills CommunityOn June 2, a unique history-hike will take participants into the “Hills” community, the largest, African-American community in Westchester County in 1860.

The land on which the Hills community farmed and lived is now part of Silver Lake Preserve, still very rugged territory, and will be the destination of a guided historic hike.

Naturalist Zaac Chaves will lead the hike and discuss changes to the environment and evidence of the “Hills” community on the land, while Edythe Ann Quinn, Ph.D., Professor of History at Hartwick College will provide history of the African-American community, focusing on the 1860s.  Continue reading

Westchester: The Prophet Matthias and Elijah the Tishbite


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MatthiasLong before the fictional and shocking “Peyton Place” of TV and film fame came along in the late 1950s, and early 1960s there was an actual suburban community where its residents were roiled by rampant scandal, moral and religious hypocrisy and a sensational a murder in their midst.

The year was 1834 and the place was the normally tranquil and bucolic Village of Sing Sing, now called Ossining. Actually, the extremely bad behavior took place just outside of the Village, on nearby farmland where a high-end condominium called “Beechwood” now stands in the Village of Briarcliff Manor, on the southwest intersection of Route 9 and Scarborough Station Road. Nonetheless, due to its proximity, it was the Village of Sing Sing that got the headlines in the “penny press,” and crowds of curious and outraged Villagers flocked to the “New York Road” in front of the farm hoping for a glimpse of the sequestered souls residing in the house. Continue reading

Ossining Events, Exhibits Celebrate Bicentennial


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image006On April 2nd 1813, the Village of Sing Sing (now called Ossining) became the first incorporated municipality in Westchester County. To recall and honor that historic day, the Village of Ossining will be holding a series of commemorative activities from April through October of 2013.

The bicentennial celebration, kicks of with “Ossining in 3D,” a historical photo and map show that runs through April 29th and depicts 200 years of Ossining’s history including its numerous historically and architecturally significant buildings, structures and sites. Continue reading

Whither Tourism? The Problems of ‘Path Through History’


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PathThroughHistoryHistoric Hudson Valley announced that it is removing the animals from Philipsburg Manor for a cost savings of $200,000/year. The organization manages several sites including Kykuit and Sunnyside in Westchester County. Two oxen, 18 sheep and lambs, and chickens have been relocated to farm sanctuaries.  In addition, 13 people were let go earlier this year including the site manger of Sunnyside.

Philipsburg Manor and Sunnyside were two of the sites singled out in the August, 2012, Path through History kickoff program as primary tourist destinations in the Lower Hudson Region. I had heard about the departure of the animals through the grapevine. Continue reading

Westchester County Civil War Monuments (Part Two)


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Sleepy HollowThis granite and bronze monument in the Village of Sleepy Hollow, is located near southwestern corner of the Sleepy Hollow Cemetery and was dedicated on May 30, 1890. by the local GAR post. Inscriptions on the front (west) face include a Latin dedication, along with “Our Union Soldiers” and the following poem: “While Freedom’s name is understood, they shall delight the wise and good; They dared to set their country free and gave her laws equality 1861-1865.”

The monument’s south, east and north faces feature bronze plaques honoring some 240 local veterans. The references to Greenburgh and Mount Pleasant reflect the fact that the Village of Sleepy Hollow lies within Mount Pleasant, which is just north of Greenburgh. The monument is surrounded by a plot containing graves of Civil War veterans. The names of soldiers killed in action are engraved into the monument’s base; those who served are listed on tablets mounted to the base. The work was made in the New York foundry of the Henry-Bonnard Bronze Company.
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