Eastchester’s 350th: History Community In Action

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OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWhat follows is a guest essay by Eastchester, NY Town Historian Rich Forliano.

In the spring of 2011, a letter was sent to the Town Supervisor of the town of Eastchester (in Westchester County, NY) and the villages of Bronxville and Tuckahoe requesting them to send representatives to a committee to start planning for the 350th anniversary of the town of Eastchester.

An ad hoc committee had its first meeting in the September of 2011 and by January of 2012 a steering committee was formed with two chairpersons and a short but pointed mission statement agreed upon, “The anniversary celebration aspires to make a lasting contribution to the rich cultural legacy of the Town of Eastchester and the villages of Bronxville and Tuckahoe.” Although not specifically stated in the mission statement, it is hoped that at the conclusion of the celebration the general public will have a deeper understanding of the shared and distinct character of the entities that make up the Eastchester community.

By the early spring of 2012, a New York Not-For-Profit Corporation had been formed and a press release was issued inviting members of the community to participate in the research and writing of the first full length book on the history of Eastchester. Seventeen community members volunteered for the project and in the fall of 2014, the book Out of the Wilderness, the Emergence of Eastchester, Tuckahoe, and Bronxville, 1664-2014, will be available for distribution. This coffee style book takes the reader on a historical journey of this remarkable town, giving the general public a deep understanding of the rich heritage of the community highlighter its people, customs, character, and challenges. Out of the Wilderness with the use of extensive color and black and white images, vivid old and new maps, and custom graphics with well-documented stories will captivate its audience with new perspectives on the community in which they live.

Involving the Schools

Over the summer of 2012, the three public school superintendents in Eastchester, Bronxville, and Tuckahoe were contacted to involve their schools in the celebration. Each superintendent appointed an administrator to involve faculty and students. The three parochial schools in the community also were invited to participate. Administrators and teachers were invited to attend two meeting, the first in April of 2012. At that time, handouts were distributed connecting local events with national and state events that could be connected to the common core curriculum. Students could participate in five different presentations: exhibits, digital media, fine arts, performing arts, and film. These presentations took place in the spring of 2013 and over 1000 students from the various schools participants. Many of their presentations were excellent.

A community wide meeting was held at the Eastchester Public Library on April 3, 2013 and a number of community volunteers were enlisted to participate.

Creating a Website

Intrinsic to the success of the celebration was the completion of the suburb website, http://eastchester350.org/ Five community volunteers put together the website consists of a home page, a calendar of events, community of events, an extensive number of articles and pictures on the communities history, information on K-12 programs, and oral histories. It is hoped that in the future the website will serve as a virtual archive for the Eastchester community including the villages of Bronxville and Tuckahoe.

Upcoming Events

Many other activities are planned. On May 30, a gala will be held at Siwanoy Country Club celebrating the anniversary. On Saturday June 21st, there will be a family day at Lake Isle County with many activities free to the general public.   On Sunday, June 29th historic trolley tours will be conducted. In the fall of 2014 a general exhibition will take place at the O’ Silas gallery at Concordia College, opening immediately after Labor Day.

Photo of the Eastchester Town Hall courtesy Wikimedia user Anthony22.

Rich Forliano has been serving for 25 years as the Eastchester Town Historian. He has also served as a professor at Concordia College in Bronxville and taught social studies on the secondary level for 40 years. He has written over 100 books, papers, and articles on local history.

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