North Castle Historical Society’s Annual Meeting By Louise T. Gantress
April 9, 2014 The North Castle Historical Society’s annual meeting on April 6 was held at Whippoorwill Hall, the highlight of which was a film presentation on the dismantling of the Town of Kensico and the building of the Kensico Dam. Before then, the NCHS recognized several dedicated members: North Castle Town Historian Doris Finch Watson, North Castle’s historic researcher Barbara Massi, the late North Castle Town Historian Richard Lander, and the late Town Councilwoman Rebecca Kittredge. In a unanimous vote, Armonk residents Sheila Smith-Drapeau and Neil Baumann were confirmed as new board members by President Ree Schultz, with the current officers maintaining their positions for another year.
Next, George Pouder and Nick Cerullo collaborated on a presentation about North Castle’s response to President Abraham Lincoln’s call for draftees during the American Civil War. In all, 79 North Castle men volunteered for the Union, including 15 black men. North Castle raised funds with a seven percent bond to pay volunteers an enlistment bonus to avoid the compulsory draft. North Castle volunteers served at Gettysburg, Antietam, the Wilderness, the first Battle of Bull Run and Battle of Fredericksburg. Copies of the 47,000-word report were presented to Westchester County, The North Castle Historical Society, and to Ms. Watson. The authors plan to present copies to both North Castle libraries and are investigating self-publishing the document.
Following the Civic Wall report, Barbara Massi showed a newly enhanced video of the building of the Kensico Dam which is the last stop on the journey of New York City water system before going into tunnels carrying water into the City. New York City first discovered the clear waters of North Castle as a water supply source in 1885. The first dam was an earthen work one, but in 1905 the City determined it required more water. Due to its natural hills surrounding it, the Village of Kensico was an ideal location, but the town had to go; it was flooded to make way for the reservoir. The new dam’s construction began in 1913 and was built with materials transported over 17 miles of railroad track from quarries at nearby Cranberry Lake and Silver Lake. The vast dam we see today is 180 feet below ground, 128 feet above ground, and 28 feet wide at the top. Water behind the dam is 113 feet deep. The 30 billion gallon dam cost $15.5 million to construct and was finished in 1916. The hamlet of North White Plains was laid out as a residential area for the quarrymen and masons who built the dam, most of them Italian immigrants, including the father of long-time North Castle Supervisor John A. Lombardi.
The Historical Society’s Smith’s Tavern complex is open for public tours weekly on Sundays and Wednesdays from 2:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m from April to November. The complex includes the 1790 Quaker Meeting House, the Brundage Blacksmith Shop and the East Middle Patent School. It also hosts the Colonial Crafts Days for the North Castle School Districts of Byram Hills and Valhalla.
Ancient Grinding Stone Found at St. Nersess Is Dedicated to North Castle Historical Society
August 21, 2013 The discovery of an Indian grinding stone was made on the 5.5 acres of the St. Nersess Armenian Seminary. The large stone is hollowed out into an interior oval shape that was perhaps used more recently as a watering trough. One of the contractors discovered it under a tree in an overgrown area near the old barn, said Architect Robert Stanziale.
An historical analysis was performed to identify the piece. “During the archaeological investigations the team identified a Native American artifact - a metate - which is a ground stone tool used in food production,” said Sara Mascia of Historical Perspectives, Inc. “The artifact is used primarily for grinding and processing seeds and grain.”
Several other stones have been uncovered in Armonk over the years from the legendary Indian corn fields of Green Valley from nearby Creemer Road, according to the North Castle Historical Society.
Last week, the Reverend Mardiros Chevian said, "It was a wonderful find and we are pleased to present the grinding stone to the North Castle Historical Society for others to enjoy and to take this first step to be part of the community."
Member Sharon Tomback accepted the stone for the North Castle Historical Society. The grinding stone will be moved to the Historical Society’s Smith Tavern campus, says Tomback. Smith’s Tavern is a neighbor to the south of the seminary on Bedford Road. "We are happy to have the grinding stone, happy to have you as neighbors and we love what you are doing to refurbish and reuse the old buildings." The stone will have visual prominence, accompanying another grinding stone at Smith's Tavern.
Another smaller grinding stone had been donated as a dedication to the Town in the 1960's. The stone sits upon a stone pedestal in front of North Castle Town Hall.
With much anticipation, the St. Nersess' Armonk property is being developed and transformed from the Promise Farm to a new Armenian Theological Center, chapel and living facility. We are trying to maintain the structures as they were in the past, said Reverend Chevian.
Reverend Chevian served as the Dean of the St. Nersess New Rochelle Campus for 11 years before transferring in 1992 to St. Vartan Cathedral on 34 Street, at Second Avenue in Manhattan. The New Rochelle location, where the seminary has been located since 1960, plans to close. Reverend Chevian will move with his family to Armonk sometime in the spring or summer of 2014.
The arts, music and food play an important role in the Armenian culture, says Reverend Chevian. The seminary looks forward to being part of all aspects of Armonk and the ecumenical community of North Castle.
North Castle’s History Brought to Light “This is North Castle”, by The League of Women Voters Edited by Natalie Pudalov
June 25, 2013 Located 35 miles north of New York City, the town of North Castle spans 26 square miles and includes the hamlets of Banksville, Armonk, and North White Plains.
The first people to settle in North Castle were the Siwanoy Indians, members of the Algonquin Group. Although European settlers began to encroach upon the Native Americans’ land in the 1640’s, it wasn’t until the early 1700’s that the English crown assumed complete ownership of their land. King William of England gave his favorite courtiers three royal grants, coined West Patent, Middle Patent, and East Patent.
During the American colonization period, North Castle became a symbol of religious sanctity. People from Massachusetts and Connecticut settled in the eastern part of North Castle, while Quakers from Long Island and Rye settled in Armonk. In 1736, North Castle had enough residents to officially become a township. Forty years after North Castle became a recognized town, the Revolutionary War began, dividing most Americans into one of two factions. Although North Castle was considered neutral ground, two important events occurred in the town: the Battle of White Plains and the imprisonment of Major John Andre at Thomas Wright’s mill.
North Castle maintained its reputation as a religious safe haven after the Revolutionary War, which helped bolster its economic success. By the early 1800’s, North Castle not only had a “Quaker congregation, but Methodists, Episcopalians and Congregationalists were in the process of building churches.” The year 1812 marked the State Legislature’s passing of a law to establish seven school districts, “each with its own trustees, district clerk and tax collector.” During this time, most families in North Castle earned their livings by farming, while many also made shirts and shoes to supplement their incomes.
Curiously enough, attempts were made in the mid 1800’s to bring a railroad to North Castle, particularly in the area now known as Windmill Farms. However, these efforts were unsuccessful due to financial issues and local opposition, increasingly isolating North Castle and negatively impacting the economy in the late 1800’s.
The Scenic and Historic Character of Peaceable Kingdom is Recognized
Updated March 1, 2013 The Town Board will reconsider amending a North Castle zoning law to preserve the visual character and views along three of the Town's scenic and historic roadways. The three roads that are under consideration to be designated appeared on the agenda of the February 13th Town Board meeting: East Middle Patent Road, Mianus River Road and St. Mary's Church Road.
East Middle Patent Road, Mianus River Road and St. Mary's Church Road form the northeastern section of North Castle, near the borders of Bedford, Pound Ridge and Stamford, CT. The intersection is located on the top of a hill, in a serene neighborhood, where St. Mary's Church is situated. This classically beautiful and simple, country church was built by farmers in the mid-nineteenth century. The sign outside the church dates the construction to the year 1851. Many homes in the area date back to the 1700’s and are situated on large, scenic properties. The area has been known for more than sixty years as Peaceable Kingdom.
The North Castle Historical Society said that records dating back to the 18th century show a deed to a 150-acre farm in that area in the name of Abraham Knapp. In 1798, the farm was sold to Daniel Smith, whose descendants were cordwainers, and was no doubt part of North Castle's history of cobblers and shoemakers.
Barbara S. Massi wrote in the North Castle History pamphlet, Volume 36, 2009, that Smith's shoe shop was converted into a house in 1858 when one of Smith's daughters, Rebecca L., married George Tallman.
The original draft of North Castle's updated legislation dates back to 2006 when the legislation was too ambitious, says Supervisor Howard Arden, who served on the committee that drafted the legislation at the time. There were 26 roads that were listed for consideration as scenic and historical designations, which was too many, says Arden. The current draft of the legislation states that the visual character of North Castle is attributed to views along its historical public roadways that should be preserved as historic, cultural and natural resources; these include stone walls; mature trees; meadows; water bodies; scenic vistas and historic structures. The legislation notes that these characteristics contribute to the overall scenic, historic and semi-rural character of North Castle.
The legislation also considers future, additional scenic-and-historic designations throughout town. The selection criteria for scenic and historical roadways would state that "the road has significant scenic, recreational, cultural, natural and historical features that, once altered, are irreplaceable." Furthermore, the legislation would require that any project that alters the roadways or any type of land disturbance within 500 feet of a roadway that is designated as scenic and historic would be subject to Planning Board review and approval, according to Director of Planning Adam Kaufman.
A public hearing has been scheduled for April 10 to consider the proposed scenic and historical designation of the three roadways. The public, including the owners of property abutting the roadways, will have the opportunity to speak at the hearing.
John Needham, a 20-year resident of Mianus River Road, says the unique beauty and historic qualities of this area is the reason he chose to live in the community. Needham said there is a development of property on Mianus River Road that is currently under review by the Planning Board, and at the same time as the new legislation is being considered. Needham said the owner of the property is proposing to expand the existing home, making it about 30-percent larger than other homes in the area.
Attorney Dan Richmond represents Ken Wilson, a resident of Mianus River Road. Richmond said he is supportive of the legislation that would add an additional layer of protection for the development of homes that are located on the above-mentioned roads. For the record, Richmond said he would provide more detailed comments at the upcoming public hearing.
Ashley Schulten said she recently purchased a home in the area, after looking for about ten years. She finds that many people whom she meets, and who walk in the area, recognize and appreciate it as a gem for the entire community.
John Stockbridge is the town historian for the town of Bedford. Stockbridge said the legislation is complementary to legislation being set in Bedford where the towns abut each other. The character of the area is an irreplaceable asset, and the footprint for the continuation of the legislation will enhance the character of North Castle.
Corrections to this article include: the area has been known as Peaceable Kingdom rather than Peaceful Kingdom or Mianus River Valley; Smith's shoe shop hasn't existed for 50 years and was not photographed in 2007; local resident John Nedum's name is spelled John Needham; resident Tony Godino owns a copy of Barbara Massi's transcript of the diary of Mary Guion Brown, not the original diary; some of the homes in the area date back to 1700's, before the mentioned 1800's; and the public hearing to consider the new legislation will be held on April 10, 2013, not February 27, 2013. We regret any inconvenience this may have caused.
Will George Washington’s Historic Headquarters Be Restored in North Castle?
Updated January 25, 2013 Supervisor Howard Arden, Councilman John Cronin, and North Castle residents who are members of the Friends of
the Miller House recently met with representatives from the County Executive’s office to discuss the renovation and moving of the Elijah Miller House from Virginia Road in North White Plains. The building that was built in 1738 was said to have been used during the American Revolution as General George Washington's headquarters, during the Battle of White Plains in 1776, and again in 1778.
The Miller House was originally purchased by Westchester County and opened to the public as a museum in 1918. Unfortunately, the museum has been closed for several years, as a result of neglect and the deteriorating conditions of the historical building.
In 2010 the county legislature passed a $1.3 million bond to finance the restoration and relocation of the Miller House to Kensico Dam. County Executive Robert Astorino vetoed the measure, and said the restoration and relocation should be supported by private funds. The Westchester County executive office is now open to the possibility of using public/private funds to support the project.
At the January 22, 2013, North Castle Town Board meeting, Arden asked the Town Board for an approval to authorize Fidelity Title, Ltd to perform a title search of deeds and maps of Fountain Park, for a maximum fee of $850. The purpose is to determine if the property in North White Plains is part of the original Miller Farmstead. "We are in the process of hopefully getting Fountain Park in a condition that might be able to receive the Miller House Washington Headquarters," said Aden.
Arden added that there has never been a title search performed on the property, and the Town Board authorized the funds to determine if Fountain Park is considered part of the original 600-acre Miller Farm. If it is part of the original Miller Farm dating back to 1738, moving the Miller House to Fountain Park would allow the home to maintain its historical landmark status.
Councilman John Cronin and Supervisor Arden had initiated the drive to find the relocation of the Miller House to Fountain Park that is the old ski-tow, Councilwoman Diane Roth said. She also explained that County Executive Robert Astorino is motivated to help resolve this ongoing problem, specifically, the Miller House falling apart and not having a place to go.
"Several of us met with the County, who was receptive to moving the Miller House," said John Diaconis, treasurer of the Friends of the Miller House. "The President of the Friends of the Miller House, Ed Woodyard, has also worked tirelessly to move this process forward. We also appreciate any efforts that the Town Board could make in dealing with the County Executive. A number of the Friends would also like to participate in the discussions with the county," Diaconis added. The offer is still open as a group of the Friends would like to be involved in those discussions because they feel they could help.
Cronin said he would love to have the Friends help in the process. More discussions will determine if the county will issue a bond for the renovation and move, and if so, how much and what role the Friends will play. The Friends of the Miller House is a 501 non-profit organization. Woodyard, who has also been a long-standing member of the Friends of the North Castle Library, said he would like for the Friends of the Miller House to play the same role as the Friends of the North Castle Library Inc.; they currently "provide the ‘extras’ that make the library so special.”
The plan to restore the Miller House in Fountain Park will help open Miller House’s door to busloads of students and visitors once again. And it will also recover an historical treasure in North White Plains.
December 9, 2012 On Tuesday, October 23 in Valhalla, NY at least one citizen anxiously called the police to report a man with a weapon. After the municipal police sergeant failed to locate the danger, the immediate search was called off and surrounding departments were notified to keep a look out.
Shortly thereafter I was crossing over the Kensico Dam on foot as part of my daily protest of the personal car. While wearing my usual Westchester County Parks shirt and khaki pants, I had been walking this stretch of my ninety-minute commute to Cranberry Lake Preserve. All of a sudden from behind I heard the crunching of pebbles and glanced back to find a large vehicle marked “DEP Police” with the door opening. In a few minutes the sergeant would return to his vehicle, and I would be admiring the gorgeous fall foliage over the reservoir as the scene would gradually crowd with more sergeant's and other officers representing the Mount Pleasant police, the North Castle police, the Westchester County police, and the New York State police. I would also soon have the opportunity to meet my supervisor from Westchester County Parks for the first time. But at this moment the sergeant simply asked me to place the ax on the ledge, which I did neatly, steel clinking against the cold granite.
In some strange way, this commotion had less to do with the ax that I carried to work and more with exposure. The sergeant from the Mount Pleasant Police reassured me of to the nod of others that I could carry an ax to work. Apparently the problem was that a citizen had perceived this ax as a weapon. What I could have done differently, he suggested, was to keep the ax's head concealed within my bag. This ax would likely not have been reported if only the ax's handle extended out the top of my backpack.
However, when submerged in my a bag I would loose control over the direction of the ax blade. Moreover a rustling ax head could rip a hole through my bag and fall somewhere accidentally. In another scenario the ax could be removed from my bag which would be difficult for me to prevent when behind my back and out of reach.
My experience as a park employee suggests that the safest way to carry an ax is at the side, just below the blade, with the cutting edge facing away from my body as I had been doing. By adhering to professional and safe standards it is truly surprising that someone found my commute threatening. Earlier that day while carrying this ax I traveled through the towns of Ridgefield, Katonah, and Chappaqua. I sat among many commuters on one bus and on two separate trains. I even passed a political candidate who approached and asked for my vote. Indeed, according to the Mount Pleasant Police sergeant he had only been alerted to my presence as late as downtown Valhalla. I overheard the DEP Police sergeant more specifically mention a call concerning an "ax murderer."
My purpose here is not to deny the fact that an ax can be used to inflict harm on others. People have been intentionally and tragically killed by men wielding axes. Indeed, an ax murder did once occur near where I had been stopped, at a submerged site where a stolen ax was used to murder a Kensico store owner in 1882. I
Also within those choppy gray waters of the reservoir, deep beneath the reflection of autumn leaves, lies a favored headquarters of George Washington. There is an American paradox regarding George Washington's ax which may be familiar to some of you. Since in Washington's possession, his ax has been said to have had the handle replaced three times and the head replaced twice. In other words this ax is still considered an original artifact even though it no longer consists of any original parts. The ax, the story goes, is shown to a intrigued audience who are quickly disenchanted upon learning that Washington never actually held the handle nor swung the head. 2
On Halloween night of 1776 Washington withdrew his troops to the hills on the northeast side of what is now the Kensico reservoir. 3 Washington was on the verge of directing one of his most impressive feats involving the stealthy movement of troops and supplies over the East River. 4 Amidst a climate of urgent messenger alerts, ever-lurking British spies, and little sleep, acting based on fear would have compromised the safety of the troops and the longevity of the nascent United States. However, as with any emotion, Washington understood that fear alone would be a tragically unsafe way of assuring that safety.
Is it not somewhat impertinent, if not unpatriotic, then, for a citizen living over the footprints of his or her forefathers to sound an alarm at the sight of a uniformed county employee carrying an ax? As colonial farms are further subdivided, further paving the way for our modern livelihoods, the ax stands as a timeless icon indebted towards this nation's heritage. Comparatively earlier, the uniquely robust design of the colonial ax can be traced to aboriginal origin based on the regional stone ax, 5 as well as to the displacement of those aboriginal people. “Deforestation was one of the most sweeping transformations wrought by European settlement,” the American environmental historian William Cronon writes, “reducing the forest was an essential first step toward reproducing that Old World mosaic in an American environment.” 6
While expressing my sympathies to those who may have been frightened by this ax, it is with only my kindest intentions that I suggest that these fears only estrange the community. The suburban and Halloween-marketed attraction to the label of "ax murderer" offers an all-too-easy detachment from the perceived lower culture of rural Americans. 7 Yet all material wealth, including our nourishment, derives ultimately from a rural Earth. Moreover this land remains intrinsically embedded within a regional history whether we choose to start with Washington or perhaps the Siwanoy Indian chief, Cokenseco, from whom Kensico derives its name. 8 What we know about our regional history remains an inseparable part of our cultural heritage, and by extension, a necessary and accessible part of understanding who we are today.
Like George Washington's Ax, if a society is built using an ax, then, somehow, that society's heritage will always be encapsulated within that tool. By making the choice to prioritize our iconic heirlooms we can connect our modern lives with a more enduring vision. Downtown Valhalla comes directly from the displacement of Kensico, 9 from turn-of-the-century technological manipulation of the geological landscape, and bequeaths an appreciation of a unique place on Earth.
At 1 pm on Saturday, December 15th I will be guiding a program which was timely submitted before this police commotion. At this program I will be discussing the role of the broad ax leading up to what is today recognized as the Kensico Dam. I encourage all interested citizens to come out to this regional environmental history program with a live hewing demonstration. The program will take place at Cranberry Lake Preserve, a Westchester County Park located in West Harrison, NY. The recent debacle has demonstrated the need of such an educational program for at least one local citizen.
1 Murdered With an Axe; The Startling Discovery Made in a Kensico Store, 6 September 1882, New York Times Archives. http://query.nytimes.com/mem/archive-free/pdfres=F60A15FB355A11738DDDAF0894D1405B8284F0D3 (Oct 2012). 2 Wikipedia contributors, Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ship_of_Theseus (accessed October 31, 2012). 3 Watson, Doris Finch, Town Life - Historical Society, http://www.northcastleny.com/life_history_revolutionary.php (accessed November 20th 2012) 4 Wikipedia contributors, Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, http://http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/American_Revolutionary_War (accessed November 20th, 2012). 5 Bolton, Reginald Pelham. (New York: Joseph Graham, 1934). 74-76. 6 William Cronon, (New York: Hill and Wang, 1983), 126. 7 Harkins, Anthony. , (New York: Oxford University Press, 2004). 3-12. 8 Watson, Doris Finch. North Castle History Vol. 6 No. 1, North Castle Historical Society (1979): 18-29. 9 Martin, Neil S. "," North Castle History Vol. 10, North Castle Historical Society (1983): 3-16. Also see Pietschker, Del. "," North Castle History Vol. 10, North Castle Historical Society (1983): 17-22.
Frost Knapp, North Castle Resident and Diarist in 1800s by Nomi Schwartz
May 31, 2012 The History Hounds, a group of North Castle historians and librarians,
made a very weighty contribution to the local historical record by commissioning and dedicating a headstone to a local diarist, Hannah Frost Knapp.
According to group member and North Castle Historical Society trustee Barbara Massi, Hannah Knapp was a 15-year-old North Castle resident in the mid-1800s. She was given a diary by her uncle Arnell F. Dickinson on June 1, 1848, and began to comprehensively chronicle her activities for the next year and a half.
The diary came into Massi’s possession almost 40 years ago in remarkable episode of historical kismet. Massi’s cousin, an antiques dealer in upstate New York, uncovered the young girl’s journal in a pile of detritus. Noticing the North Castle address, the dealer plucked it out and sent it to Massi knowing she was a longtime history buff and author.
Massi painstakingly deciphered Knapp’s delicate, faded script, impressed by her command of the language, her emotional maturity, and her sensitivity. In a 1975 publication of The North Castle Historical Society, Massi detailed the contents of the diary and the salient incidents of Hannah Knapp’s life.
Hannah Knapp came from a family of well-to-do farmers with close family connections to the prominent Dickinsons. Hannah’s uncle Arnell, the bestower of the diary, was a Bedford supervisor and representative in the New York State Assembly. Hannah’s intellectual strengths were acknowledged early on and she was sent off to the Brooklyn Female Academy for eight months where she boarded with family friends.
Illness and other misfortunes played important roles in the life of Hannah Knapp. In April of 1849, she developed either bronchitis or pneumonia from a virulent measles infection, leaving her with weakened eyesight and other chronic problems. She had to leave the Brooklyn Academy and her journal ends on February 6, 1850.
Hannah Knapp’s later life is full of mystery. She was never married or employed, and was considered a “person of unsound mind” according to documents relating to her mother’s last will and testament. At age 54, in August of 1886, Hannah Knapp began a 29-year residency in the New York State Hospital in Binghamton, New York (known then as the asylum for the Chronic Insane). She died there at age 84. Her body was then sent back to North Castle and interred in an unmarked grave in the Dickinson-Knapp plot of the Bedford Union Cemetery.
To commemorate a life that began with such promise and that shed light on the everyday activities of a young North Castle resident for future generations, the History Hounds, with private funds, marked Hannah Knapp’s burial site with a headstone. The group held a short dedication ceremony on May 12 at the Bedford Union Cemetery to signify that Hannah Frost Knapp was now “Home with her loved ones.”
North Castle Shoemaking on Display at Smith’s Tavern
April 12, 2012 The North Castle Historical Society is recognizing the importance of shoemaking during the mid 1800’s in an exhibit entitled "Needles & Nails… Shoemaking in North Castle", now on display at Smith's Tavern.
In the 19th Century, classrooms of the Chester Female Institute, which was located next to St. Stephen's Church in Armonk, were used for sewing shoes. Small houses, one which is still a part of Armonk Square, was thought to be used as a classroom or for staff. At the main entrance to Windmill Farms, the general store, a former location for the prosperous shoemaking business, still stands. This was also the location for the mail and stagecoach line to the south.
As a method of raising funds for local churches, women of the "The Middle Patent Methodist Episcopal Sewing Society" and the "Banksville Baptist Sewing Society" were also involved in shoemaking. Records indicate that Captain John Banks and Joseph Silkman Hobby enjoyed a good reputation for manufacturing and selling women’s shoes in Banksville.
Shoemaking is depicted among one of the four sections of North Castle's town seal. In the lower left-hand section, there is a leather-bound shoe with tools of the trade. The other three sections of the seal include a canon and other symbols of the Revolutionary War, crops harvested from local farms and an outlined shape of the town's boundaries, with the printing: "Erected 1736", the year of the town's first recorded meeting.
Shoemaking proved to be a natural fit for the town's abundant farmers, who used their animals’ skins to produce leather for the shoes. Entire families were often involved in the manufacturing process. Tanneries, where the skins were treated to produce leather, were established. While many of these small buildings have been destroyed, a few still exist, including an outhouse from a residence on Middle Patent Road.
The North Castle Historical Society displays shoemaking tools, as well as stories which describe the history of the town's industry of handmade shoes. Records indicate that women performed the hand sewing, while the hammering at the cobbler's benches was done by men known as "cordwainers"; the term is derived from "cordovan", the leather produced in Cordoba, Spain.
On display from Finch’s Store in Banksville is an account ledger which includes shoe leather workers from 1868. The ledgers recorded the production, costs and barter system used by many well-known women from North Castle's 221 families who were involved in the shoemaking history of our town.
According to William E. Finch, Jr.'s notes of The Stanwich Parish (referenced in North Castle History Volume 24, 1997), the local manufacturers of Armonk, Middle Patent and Banksville not only sold their shoes locally, but also exported them by wagons to Saw Pits (now Port Chester) and Lower Landing (now Cos Cob). From those locations, packet boats, including John Romer and the Shippen, transported the shoes to several cities, including New York.
With the popularity of the newly invented electric-powered sewing machine and mass production in the early 1900's, North Castle's handmade shoemaking came to an end.
Judy Early, a 10-year Trustee of the North Castle Historical Society, said the shoemaking exhibit is one of the most memorable exhibits she has seen at Smith's Tavern. It is a combination of the abundant treasures of tools, cobbler's benches, shoes and the written material that help tell the 150-year-old story of shoemaking in North Castle.
North Castle historian Doris Finch Watson, who lent many of the items, said the exhibit will be on display through the beginning of October. Smith's Tavern is located at 440 Bedford Road in Armonk. The hours are Wednesdays, 2:00 to 4:00 p.m, Sundays, 2:00 to 5:00 p.m. and closed holidays.
Washington's HQ Likely To Move To Kensico Dam Plaza
Updated August 9, 2011 In a bipartisan vote 16 - 1, the Westchester County Board of Legislators approved the Miller House Act that was recommended by the Budget Appropriation Committee to fund the relocation of the Elijah Miller House, also known as the Washington Headquarters Museum, from its current site on Virginia Road in North White Plains. It will cover the cost of an estimated $40,000 to move the Miller House to the Kensico Dam Plaza.
The estimate was provided by the Westchester Commissioner of Public Works and the funds will be budgeted from the Parks and Public Works Department as well as raised privately.
Doris Finch Watson is North Castle's Town Historian and a member of the Miller House Committee. In the April 2011 Town of North Castle Newsletter, she wrote that the Miller House was most likely built by John Miller in 1738, and the home remained in the Miller family for another hundred years. His widow, Anne Miller, hosted General George Washington several times during the American Revolutionary War, from 1776 through 1781.
In 1917 Westchester County purchased the small home and opened it as a museum the following year. In the colonial period, both the properties on Virginia Road and in Kensico Plaza were part of the 600 acre Miller farm.
The building is now in disrepair, but not beyond refurbishing. County Legislator John Nonna says, "It is a historical treasure and we don't want to lose it." The Parks and Public Works Department says that in the 1990's and early 2000's there were 8,000 to 10,000 visitors annually. Students and adults visited the site in North White Plains to learn about the Revolutionary War and the Battle of White Plains. Nonna says the problems with the current location are that it is across the street from a cement factory, the parking there is not big enough for school buses and it is in a commercial district.
According to Nonna, in 2010 the legislators approved a bond of $1.2 million to restore the historical building, but the bond did not include the cost of relocating the building and therefore a separate bill was necessary for the move. County Executive Rob Astorino vetoed the bill, but the veto was overridden by the legislators. Nonna says, "The cost of the renovation and site work at the new site has been revised downward to approximately $700,000."
Prior to the move, a study must be made to determine the federal government's requirements for maintaining the home's historical status. Finch Watson writes, "The Miller House deserves to be moved to the new location provided that it can continue to be recognized as both a National and State Historic Landmark." Nonna says a company that specializes in moving historical structures says that the best way to move the building is to cut it in half.
Nonna believes there is bipartisan support from the 17 county legislators to approve the appropriation to relocate the building. If the County Executive were to veto the legislators' decision, they could probably override his veto as they did with the bond approval. If the allocation is passed, Nonna says that it will be another three to six months before the home can be relocated.
Friends of the Miller House/Washington's Headquarters is a new nonprofit organization which will raise funds for the relocation and daily operations once the building has been relocated and restored. Ed Woodyard is the president of the organization. He says, "I am glad that such action has been approved and applaud the efforts of John Nonna to get this through the County bureaucracy. He has been a driving force. Without him this project might not have moved forward." Woodyard says that the move will "shine a strong light on a gem of a historical treasure, not only for North Castle and Westchester County, but also for the nation."
IBM Turns 100 By Alice Levine
June 20, 2011 On
June 15, the Armonk-based IBM Corporation celebrated its 100th
anniversary by highlighting its global program of community service.
While June 16 was the official anniversary date, IBM employees,
retirees, clients and business partners throughout the world
participated in the IBM Centennial Day of Service on June 15.
IBM’s current headquarters was built in Armonk in 1960, and the 340-acre site is the global center of the giant company. In the late 1600’s, the Siwanoy Indians built "North Fort" on same hill to protect themselves from wild animals and intruders. When European settlers arrived, they named their town North Castle after the Siwanoy Fort, since they thought it resembled a castle.
The IBM Celebration of Service involved 300,000 volunteers around the world, 5,000 service projects and 2.5 million hours of service; 120 countries received the benefits of the wide range of volunteer services provided by IBM employees.
“To commemorate our 100 years as a corporation, IBM is setting a record for community service by sharing the best skills of our employees, making a real impact in the communities where we work and live,” said Stanley S. Litow, Vice President of Corporate Citizenship and Corporate Affairs at IBM. He added that the benefits of the volunteer efforts would continue well beyond June 15. “We are building on our strong heritage of skill-based service – a commitment that is in IBM’s DNA.”
The volunteer services featured by IBM in celebration of its important milestone range from helping young Uruguayans who live in impoverished neighborhoods to land their first jobs, to partnering with Age Concern in New Zealand to help senior citizens use cell phones during emergencies, natural disasters and personal health crises. In Nigeria, IBM employees will mentor 100 small businesses for 100 days to coach entrepreneurs in many business areas, including how to write a business plan and how to understand small business accounting. Here in the U.S., 100 IBM employees visited Newark, New Jersey and hosted a variety of activities, including some fun in the classroom with traditional math and science lessons.
IBM, which stands for International Business Machines, is one of the most prominent technology companies in the world. Its latest expansion plans include the opening of a new branch office in Coimbatore, India. IBM’s goal there is to meet the growing needs of its Indian clients and partners, and to establish a footprint in over 40 cities in India by 2013. In early June IBM announced the formation of New Cloud Services to deliver advanced software and computer lab resources and services to students around the world. The services would reduce the need for advanced IT expertise at their schools and universities.
While most of us associate IBM with technology, the company also has a high profile in the art world. On June 9, IBM announced the installation of Low-Power Mote, a new wireless environmental sensor network at New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art. Low-Power Mote will help the museum to preserve its precious art collection.
“This pilot project has the potential to become an important tool in the Metropolitan Museum’s ongoing efforts to achieve the best environmental conditions for the works of art in our care,” says Paolo Dionisi Vici, Associate Research Scientist at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
While IBM does not currently have any plans for expansion in North
Castle, the IBM Learning Center in Armonk is a conference center that
also provides accommodations for as many as 182 guests. The center hosts
both internal programs and outside corporate seminars.
"Innovation and creativity have always been and will continue to play a
role in the company’s philosophy, “ says IBM's CEO, Samuel J.
Palmissano. "For IBMers, long-term thinking means continually moving to
IBM celebrates 100 by ringing the Opening Bell at the New York Stock Exchange on June 16, 2011.
The Curry Family 1978
The Curry's social life revolved around family, the neighborhood and church. Community events such as the Memorial Day Parade and the Firemens’ Clambake were major social functions. The Armonk Airport, with its frozen custard stand, was another draw and people came from all around to see the plane shows. Meg Gregg's first job was as a waitress at a clambake. In the summer of 1947, she had a job at Geung's Department Store in White Plains. Read more
A Look at Armonk 100 Years Ago
Armonk in the year of 1910 was well documented in photography. The collection of photos give us a glimpse of local life one hundred years ago. Photos and source are the North Castle Historical Society.
If you have any photos to share from this time period, please contact Michelle Boyle at:
Rye Lake Bridge was originally constructed in 1910-11.
This home on Main Street has a rich history.
Reynolds Saloon and Armonk Hotel on Main Street circa 1910.
This home is located on Bedford Road in Armonk's historical district circa 1910.
Wampus Brook 1910
The Elijah Watt Sells House in 1909.
Indian Grist Mill Stone found at the site of the Legendary Indian Corn Field near Creemer Road, Armonk, Town of North Castle. Gift of Mr. & Mrs. Clark Boughton, 1950.
Indian Grist Mill Stone appears in front of Town Hall
North Castle's town seal hangs in Town Hall.
North Castle's Official Seal
The seal is divided into four sections illustrating North Castle's rich history. The top left section refers to North Castle's participation in the American Revolution. The top right section illustrates North Castle's history of farmlands and agriculture. The lower left section illustrates a leather shoe reminding us that North Castle was the birthplace of hand-made, custom shoes, a prosperous business from 1850 to 1870. The lower right section illustrates a map of the Town's origin "Erected 1736", date of the first town government, and "Incorporated 1788", as one of Westchester County's original towns. Source: North Castleny.com, North Castle Historical Society
Bedford Road Historical District
'In the 1980s, to preserve a 19th-century streetscape, a historic district was formed, with town, state and federal approval, consisting of a church and cemetery, six Greek-Revival-style houses and an outbuilding.'
Quoted from a Letter to the Editor, NYTimes March 2008 from resident, Susan Shimer.
Sign posted at the historical district corner of Bedford Rd/Maple Ave in downtown Armonk.
St. Stephen's Episcopal on Bedford Road was founded in 1842.
Bedford Road, Armonk's Historical District.
This home on Bedford Road, as indicated by a placque appearing on the front of the house, has been placed on the National Register of Historical Places by The United States Department of Interior.
Bedford Road, Armonk
Bedford Road, Armonk
Smith's Tavern Complex, Black Smith's Building & Quaker House
Smith's Tavern, 1760
440 Bedford Road, Armonk
Serves today as the headquarters for The North Castle Historical Society. Guided tours are available on Wednesday and Sunday afternoons. Armonk's most famous historical site, the tavern's prior functions included an early stagecoach stop, patriot militia headquarters, post office, first town offices and voting place for North Castle.
Source: Town of North Castle - Town of North Castle Historian.
Historical Facts of North Castle
The first inhabitants of North Castle were Siwanoy Indians.
First European settlers appeared in 1640.
By early 1700's the land was conveyed to the English crown and King William divided it into three parts and granted them to his three favorite courtiers. The three sections were referred to as West Patent which is now New Castle and western portion of North Castle, Middle Patent, the eastern part of North Castle and East Patent, now known as Pound Ridge.
North Castle's first town meeting was held on April 6, 1736.
During the Revolutionary War 1776-1783 two historical events took place in North Castle: Part of the Battle of White Plains took place in North Castle and General Washington's headquarters still stands in North White Plains and is a national monument. British Spy Major John Andre was captured and imprisoned for treason in a barn at Thomas Wright's mill.
Agriculture was the basis of North Castle's economy, while many families supplemented their income with shirt and shoe-making.
In 1812 North Castle had seven school districts all with their own trustees, district clerk and tax collector.
In 1861 Quarry Heights and Kensico sections of North White Plains became stops on the underground railroad, where many freed slaves were in route to Canada.
In 1900 New York City purchased thousands of acres in North Castle and Mount Pleasant to construct the Kensico Dam water system.
Between 1909 an 1915 European stone masons, many from Italy, settled in the Quarry Heights and the surrounding North White Plains.
The population of North Castle steadily increased during the early decades of the twentieth century. Wealthy families from New York City purchased farmland in North Castle converting agriculture pastures of farmlands to country estates.
During that time Bartlett Fields, a small airport, featured stunt flying and attracted thousands of spectators to Armonk.
The depression of 1930 - 1940 deterred economic growth.
In 1939 The North Castle Planning Board was formed.
During World War II in the 1940's domestic help left North Castle's great estates for factory work and join the war efforts. Land owners sold their property to land developers like Dr. Carlo Paterno who built 300 homes in Windmill during the 1950's.
In 1948 the United Nations meet much resistance in building headquarters in North Castle.
During this period residents formed local groups to address planning and growth of North Castle. This included the North Castle Citizens' Council to address zoning, League of Women Voters to survey the community on how to plan for the town's future.
The collage above are photos taken of the historical site of the headquarters of the Continental Army. The site was acknowledged by the Town of North Castle and North Castle Historical Society as the location of imprisonment of Major John Andre in 1780.
One of the plaques read: "SITE OF HEADQUARTERS OF LT. COL. JAMESON OF THE CONTINENTAL ARMY SEPT. 1780. IT WAS HERE THAT MAJOR ANDRE THE BRITISH SPY WAS HELD PRISONER AFTER HIS CAPTURE SEPT. 23, 1780."
Thank you to Dorie Watson, Town Historian, for directing us to the location of this historical site.
Armonk, My Mayberry By MaryBeth Weisner
December 2, 2010 We all feel a pull toward a simpler way of life. A recent article in the AARP magazine, "Whistle if you love Andy Griffith", said that when the readers of AARP were asked which celebrity they wanted to know about, the number one response was Andy Griffith. The Andy Griffith show first aired in October 1960. I hadn’t even been born then, but I can certainly whistle the entire theme song now and I bet you can too.
Why am recalling an old TV show? Because many of us want to raise our children in a town like Mayberry. Might Armonk be a more modern version of Mayberry? I have lived in Armonk for almost 20 years. Each year I see the numerous changes, but I still remember the first time I walked through Armonk. When I said that I was new in town and checking out Armonk as a possible place to raise my family, everyone asked, “Have you been to Schultz’s Cider mill?” Twenty years later, I have to wonder if I simply smelled my way there? Was Shultz’s our Snappy Lunch?
A hot cup of coffee and an open, brown bag of warm cinnamon donuts later, I had found the town I wanted to live in, my own little Mayberry. Leaving the bustle of Manhattan life with two small children for such an idyllic setting was an easy decision; one that I made as I sat outside of Schultz’s enjoying my coffee on a sunny, September afternoon in 1990. I remember watching all types of people get in and out of all types of cars and trucks. Some came to Schultz’s for the donuts, some for the fresh produce and some, as I did for years to come, to ask Rea which apples were the best to use that week for a pie. I was happy. Norman Rockwell had nothing up on me and my new town.
I wanted a small quaint community to raise my children and I found it here in the hamlet of Armonk. If truth be told, as a little girl I wanted to grow up and marry Opie. I am sure thousands of young American girls wanted to marry Opie. When I married in the late 80’s, Ron Howard was already married, so I opted for the next best thing, a quaint and neighborly town, Armonk.
Twenty years ago, finding a store to buy a quart of milk on a Sunday afternoon was tough. Today there are many places to buy milk on a Sunday afternoon, as well as a great variety of food stores and restaurants to choose from. There are also more people, more traffic lights, new homes where the Cider mill once stood and many more cars in town. But some aspects of life in Armonk have remained constant. We still have a close-knit community. I was welcomed by the Preschool Association and my children enjoyed countless story times offered by the North Castle Library. My children made friends, I made friends, and as the years progressed, we enjoyed activities that eventually became family traditions. Like the folks in Mayberry. In Wayne Curtis' article in the AARP magazine, Marsha Scheuermann, owner of the Taylor Home Inn in Clear Lake Wisconsin, says, “Everybody wants to get back to Mayberry. It was simpler, it was slower, it was friendlier.” I think Marsha is right.
With two of my children now in college and one in high school, we still embrace events and happenings in town like the Art Show, the Fol de Rol, the musical concerts, lectures and the new Farmers Market. One of our favorite memories is the Annual Winter Walk when all of the town's merchants decorate their windows and stay open late. Some merchants serve cookies and hot cider, and the streets are lined with candles inside white paper bags. There are few times when Armonk looks prettier than during these evenings. And when it snows……well, it is a magnificent sight. Even better than Mayberry.
The North Castle Historical Society’s Gift Idea: Colorful Afghans
September 16, 2013 The North Castle Historical Society has returned with its popular seasonal and holiday gift idea: an afghan emblazoned with the various historical sites. Such sites include Smith's Tavern; Miller House (Washington's headquarters); Quaker Meeting House; East Middle Patent School; Brundage Blacksmith Shop; and The Widow Brush House. The afghan is available in attractive colonial blue and antique white, or an enticing cranberry red and antique white [the photo features the colonial blue and antique white]. Each afghan is $50 and supports the non-profit organization. To purchase an afghan, call Connie Quarrie at (914) 273-8095 or email her at cmquarrie @yahoo.com.
The North Castle Historical Society’s Other Gift Idea: Recipe Cookbook
The North Castle Historical Society has introduced another timely seasonal and holiday gift idea: a collection of recipes entitled "Thyme's Remembered.” The cookbook is a convenient, kitchen-sized collection of recipes gathered from a Whippoorwill School, 1953 Parent-Student Group Cookbook, and other sources, as well as tasty recipes from members of The North Castle History Society. With over 100 pages of recipes and several vintage photographs from the North Castle’s times of the past, the collection is a unique item. Each gift book is $20 and supports the non-profit organization. To purchase, contact Jodi Pember Burns at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Colonial Crafts Day By Natalie Pudalov
June 15, 2013 On Tuesday, June 11, the Kensico School from Valhalla took a field trip to Smith’s Tavern on Bedford Road in Armonk. Throughout the 18th, 19th, and 20th centuries, Smith Tavern evolved from a militia headquarters; taproom; town hall; and stagecoach stop to a voting place; post office; restaurant; private residence; and Sunday School. Now, in the 21st century, Smith’s Tavern serves as a symbol of colonial life. As more than a hundred energetic and enthusiastic fourth-grade students stepped into each of the historical units, Smith’s Tavern came alive; a cultural bridge soon developed, connecting knowledge-seeking students to a time period so close, yet also so far.
On Colonial Crafts Day, the students visited ten different sites, where they learned about important aspects of colonial life. Familiar to many of the fourth graders, the schoolhouse reminded them that children in the colonial period also learned multiplication tables, long division and the alphabet. Nevertheless, many were surprised to learn that the lack of electricity necessitated teachers to place lanterns around their classrooms, and the absence of running water meant students needed to use outhouses, rather than bathrooms.
Students also enjoyed visiting Bill Fitzgerald, a blacksmith by trade who owns the store, By Hammer By Hand, in Mahopac. Encouraging the students to become involved, Mr. Fitzgerald explained to a group of fourteen students, “If you have questions about horse shoeing, blacksmithing, or iron making, you have to ask them. And if you don’t ask any questions, then I will ask you some questions.” Immediately, the students became excited, posing thoughtful questions about the effectiveness of fire as a mechanism to construct and manipulate black iron. Joking with his students about making a commercial, Mr. Fitzgerald rambled off all of the items he can make with black iron: shelves; tables; baker's racks; towel rods; wine racks; curtain rods; plant stands; shelves; tables; baker's racks; towel rods; wine racks; curtain rods; and plant stands.
A favorite of many, the game station helped students learn about activities which colonial children typically enjoyed, including tug of war, jacks, pick-up sticks and graces. Pointing to one of the games, June O’Neill, the instructor who ran the game station, explained “This was their ipad!” When asked about her favorite part of volunteering at Smith’s Tavern, Mrs. O’Neill explained, “I get a kick out of making them think -- and opening their eyes to see how different their world is.” To engage students at Smith’s Tavern throughout the year, Mrs. O’Neill often asks them how colonial life is different from their own lives. Inevitably, the lack of modern technology is a common response.
As a symbol of their profound interest in the colonial period, many students visited the gift shop to purchase glass marbles, a ball and cap and an army whistle. The students seemed to truly enjoy their modified and momentary time capsule into the colonial period as they smelled the herbs from the garden; played with the brooms from the broom maker; showed their creation from the tinsmith to friends; experimented with colonial games; and meanwhile, forgot, if only for a short time, about the modern technology awaiting them in their backpacks.
North Castle Historical Society is 41 Years Young
Historical Members attended the North Castle Historical Society's 41st annual meeting. Each year, the meetings are held as close to April 6 as possible, in honor of the early annual town meetings that were held on that date, says Sharon Tomback, NCHS corresponding secretary. The "North Castle Historical Society" was organized in 1971 and received its Permanent Charter from the Regents of the New York State Education Department in September, 1974. April 22, 2013
The Miller House
The Miller House Update July 16, 2010 County Executive Robert Astorino vetoed the original Board of Legislators' June 21 vote of 14-2 in favor of using allocated funds to restore and relocate the Miller House to Kensico Dam in North White Plains. The Board of Legislators have revoted with the same results of 14-2 vote in favor of overriding the County Executive's veto.
North Castle's Miller House Committee is looking to form a non-profit organization to raise private funds in support of the historical landmark of Washington headquarters from the battle of White Plains.
Armonk resident Howard Arden, as treasurer of the Friends of Westchester County Parks said, "We have raised over $500,000 in funds to restore historical landmarks at Muscot Farms. As a non-profit organization, the Friends of Westchester County Parks have offered to receive donations made to the Friends of the Miller House." He stated, "This is especially important since tax-payers can't afford to support the restoration of the project. The people who are passionate about this preservation should support it." Arden, also as a member of The Rotary Club, announced the Rotary Club's donation of $500 to the North Castle Historical Society as seed money in support of the Miller House. This donation is intended to set a precedent for the 20 other countywide historical societies. Arden said, "It is time we stop waiting for handouts and start working towards funding this project." Supervisor Weaver, has offered his business's Westchester County Airport hangar location to hold a fundraising event. Weaver said, "I look forward to restoring the Miller House and making this historical site part of North Castle again."
July 2, 2010
On July 1, County Executive Rob Astorino vetoed the Westchester County Board of Legislation's approval of a $1.3 million bond, including $100,000 in previously authorized bonds of the County, to finance the capital project to restore the historic Miller House. However, given the June 21st 14-1 vote in favor of the bond, the Journal News reports 12 votes needed override the veto would be likely.
The Ann and Elijah Miller House, built in 1738, was the site of George Washington's Headquarters during the Battle of White Plains. It is presently located on Virginia Road in North White Plains.
Local Armonk residents speaking on behalf of the bond were North Castle Town Supervisor William Weaver who spoke of a plan to incorporate private donations to help offset the cost to move the building to a new location, most likely at the Kensico Dam, and to restore the home. He said that the Miller House serves to remind current and succeeding generations of the Battle of White Plains and of the fight for American freedom and liberty.
Rich Nardi, a member of the board of directors of the North Castle Historical Society and a member of the Miller House Committee, read a statement from the NCHS in support of the measure as did Ed Woodyard, also on the NCHS board, who read a statement from Town Councilman John Cronin and cited three of his ancestors who fought in the battle, one of whom (from Massachusetts) died in it and is buried in White Plains.
The funds will go to moving and restoring the historic farmhouse which is listed on several national and state historic registers. The County assumed control of the house and property in 1993; previously the County shared responsibility of the house with the Daughters of the American Revolution.
WHY THE MILLER HOUSE SHOULD BE SAVED By John Nonna
June 2010 The Miller House is a monument to the Revolutionary War and the special place in the history of that war occupied by the Battle of White Plains. It is one of the few relics of the Revolutionary War in Westchester County. Please read more of County Legislator John Nonna's OP Ed piece on the Miller House.
Veterans Day 2009
American Legion held a dinner on Veterans Day in honor of the men and women who served our country to defend our freedom. We salute them and acknowledge their sacrifices.
Some of our finest local veterans photoed above are: seated L to R, Auxiliary Cleo Tompkins, 1942-43; Sgt Erling (Bumpy) Taylor, 1941-45; standing L to R, PFC Lucille Bates, 1950-1960; Corporal Patrick Burke, USMC 1969-71; PFC Donald Dehmer, 1959-62; Seaman Bonalea Eisenhower, 1951-52; Water Tender Second Class Frank Zaccarello, 1942-45. Click image to enlarge image.
William Taylor, Bumpy's father, was a carpenter, plumber and electrician.
Bumpy's mother Viola Carpenter
“Resolved, that Thursday, October 21, 1999, be and the same is Here By Declared “Erling J. Taylor Day” in Westchester County and be it further Resolved, that the text of this Proclamation be carried throughout the County of Westchester for all people of good will to forever know.”
Meet Bumpy Taylor By Caryn Markin
February 16, 2010
Erling J. (Bumpy) Taylor has lived in Armonk his entire life. Born in 1916, in a house which is just a memory, Bumpy recalls what it was like to grow up in our town. He says, "Old Doc Clark delivered most of the babies."
He continues, "Imagine Armonk in the early 1920’s." Bumpy grew up on Bedford Road in town and made his way to the school house, then located at 22 School Street. "You need to get to school but there are no school buses. I would walk to school, or in the winter time, ice skate down the frozen Wampus Brook. It was the only way to go." He recalls “It was the responsibility of one of the students to get to school early and start the fire in the pot belly stove which heated the schoolhouse. The bottom of the pot belly stove would get red hot. If not done, we were sent home for the day!” He remembers, “It was a two room school house, four grades in one classroom and four grades in the other.”
His father, William Taylor, a carpenter, plumber and electrician, always had work, moved here from Worcester, Massachusetts. "I walked to wherever my father was working just to ride home in his model T car. William Taylor helped organize the first Armonk Volunteer Fire Department in the 1930’s. Bumpy recalls, “Harry Williams bought an old fire truck from Bedford Hills for $200.” Prior to that, fire protection came from Mount Kisco, quite a distance away.
His mother, Viola Carpenter of Armonk, could trace her ancestry to the earliest Armonk settlers. Bumpy says, "Richard Lander, Town historian, traced our family genealogy back to the first white baby born in the area. According to family lore, in celebration of this birth, our family was given 700 acres by the Native Americans." This gifted property today is part of Windmill Farms. The cemetery on Evergreen and North Lake, the Carpenter Cemetery, is the final resting place for many of Bumpy’s ancestors.
During the 1920’s and 1930’s Armonk was bristling with restaurants, nightclubs and bars. The depression years almost bypassed this town. People routinely traveled from Manhattan and the Bronx to partake in Armonk's nightlife. In 1929, August Hussar purchased the Log Cabin and added a restaurant in a club setting. He arranged for New York radio stations to broadcast big bands from the Log Cabin. Quickly, the Log Cabin became a popular hangout featuring such famous performers as Tommy Dorsey and Buddy Rich. Bumpy recalls, “I spent many evenings at the Log Cabin listening to Les Brown and the Band of Renown.” The Blue Gardens, boasting famous jazz performers, was another of the many well known Armonk night spots.
Armonk's nightlife was ended by World War II. Bumpy served from 1941 to 1945. He was in the Army Battalion that provided ground support for the Air Force during the Battle of Coral Sea. This pivotal battle took place over several days, from May 4 – 8, 1942. The heavy loses inflicted on the Japanese lead to their defeat at the Battle of Midway. Bumpy recalls, “I was overseas for three and a half years. We got off the ship and went into the jungle, I thought I would go nuts in a week. But the days went by so fast, even the weeks, months and years went so fast.”
After WWII Bumpy returned to Armonk, married and raised a family. He rented a house from the George Smith family, (see photo below) in a home on Old Route 22 that was near the Willow Inn, now the Beehive. Bumpy owned and operated several gasoline stations and towing services in town, retiring in 1975. During this time, Bumpy remembers, "Towing cars out of the reservoir, horses out of quicksand, and I even towed an airplane that crashed at the end of Armonk's little airport." Bumpy recalls, “Sam Lewis brought down a belly strap for the horse, so we got that under his belly and I picked him up with the tow truck. I towed an airplane that crashed down at the little airport. I even towed a school bus, and I had to be careful with that towing because the bus lifted the tow truck.”
Bumpy is a kind, gentle man who loves to talk about Armonk; always with a smile and a laugh. He recalls the little Airport where people would land on grassy fields and tie their planes to apple trees. The airport's location is now Route 684. Bumpy also spoke about many fruit farms, now turned into the IBM and Whippoorwill Hills developments.
Bumpy recalls growing up in Armonk with many sweet memories, but underlining every story is a dedication to Patriotism and service to his country and town. Upon returning from serving his country Bumpy served his community. Bumpy proudly states, “I was a member of the fire department for 64 years, and the North Castle American Legion the same number of years.” He was Fire Chief from 1959 – 1961. He remembers vividly fighting the fire at the Log Cabin. "My gas station was right across the street, and I was afraid at first it was my gas station on fire. That was in 1965.” The Fire Department usually extinguished grass and house fires, even on Christmas and Easter. However, his fondest memories are of the Fire Department's picnics and community activities. "We'd visit all the communities to give kids fire truck rides, run carnivals and town parades." Bumpy was a principal organizer of the many carnivals, parades, and picnics. He was Grand Marshall for the 60th Anniversary Parade of the Armonk Volunteer Fire Department.
Worth mentioning was Walter Wolfiel’s annual picnic, as he had a pig farm. “This was a big event and Walter donated a pig to roast every year!” Bumpy was also a member of the North Castle Auxiliary Police for 33 years and Captain from 1962 – 1983. During this time he responded to two airplane crashes, one on Yale Place and the other off of King Street. Bumpy was President of the Lion’s Club for two years, on the Board of Director for the Town Library, Charter Trustee of the Historical Society and Commander of the American Legion Post three times. He wrote the history of the Armonk Fire Department for the North Castle Historical Society. A Proclamation was presented to Bumpy at a dinner at the American Legion Post 1097 by William Ryan, the county legislator at the time. The Proclamation states: “Erling J. Taylor stands out as a shining example of the positive difference that one person can make, and it is fitting that we recognize his many accomplishments.”
Bumpy has continued his family’s tradition of service to country and community. He speaks with pride about the long list of organizations he joined and served, in addition to being a prominent business man in town. That is why the Proclamation hangs in his house; as an appreciation from the community he so loves. He stresses the message of service to country and community, but his humble answer is that he donated so much of his time to so many important organizations, because “I just like to do it!”
Armonk history side note: Two great jazz nightclubs, the Log Cabin purchased for $165,000 by August Hussar in 1929, burned down in 1965, and the Blue Gardens also burned down in 1942.
"Imagine Armonk in the early 1920’s." Bumpy grew up on Bedford Road in this historical home located on the Armonk Square property.
Major John André Held Captive 231 Years Ago in North Castle
The location of Wright's Mill on High Street Armonk was headquarters of the Continental Army in 1780. The site is a landmark to where Major John André was held captive as a British spy on Sept. 23, 1780. André was transported to Tappan, NY where he was tried, found guilty, and executed as "a Spy from the enemy" on October 2, 1780. Sept. 23, 2011
George Smith lived in this house that was torn down in 2009 on the Cockren property on Old Route 22. Smith was an Armonk postmaster. George Smith Place, across Old Route 22, adjacent to the Armonk Bowl property, was named after him.
North Castle's Zoning Board meetings were held monthly. The members of the board in 1966 were (L to R) James E. MacDonald, John Taroli, Chairman George Smith (standing) Erv Stokhammer and Henry Lindner. Photo courtesy North Castle Historical Society.
North Castle Historical Society December 2010
Fred Brooker's "Maple Shade" Armonk, NY. "EAT HERE DIET HOME" the sign read in front of where Hickory & Tweed stands today on Main Street. The little hot dog stand stood in the front yard where Fred and Mae Brook, partners and relatives, sold hamburgers, hot dogs and soda for about 15 years.
Fred Brooker moved to Armonk to retire and bought an old barn also at 41o Main Street back in 1927. In the early 1900's, Charles E. Brundage, an upstanding citizen and wagon builder by trade, owned the main house and barn on the premise.
Brundage's wheelwright shop was transformed into The Old Town Tavern and it became one of the most popular pubs in Town. After the Brookers' death, the estate sold the premise to John Dahms. Dahms sold the building to Jim Ross in 1961. Ross founded Hickory and Tweed Ski Shop. Skip Beitzel owns Hickory and Tweed today and the buildings that make up the shop are part of old Armonk.
Source: North Castle Historical Society.
Kensico & Armonk Stage Line Circa 1850
The Harlem River Railroad extended through Valhalla starting in 1845. This extension created a small business area. The railroad station was created along with a Kensico & Armonk Stage line in 1850 . The stage, as shown above, carried mail and passengers between Kensico, Armonk's first residential Mile Square area, which is now land marked at St. Stephen's Church, and Banksville.
Photo courtesy of North Castle Historical Society
Historical Monuments of North Castle
George Washington's Headquarters, North White Plains
Marker on High Street marking Bristish spy, Major John Andre's imprisonment
Mile Square Marker on Maple Avenue and Bedford Road, 1850
East Middle Patent School, North Castle School District No.1, Now located at Smith's Tavern Complex
North Castle Historical District on Bedford Road, Armonk
Historical map of North Castle. Map courtesy of David Rumsey Map Collection, www.davidrumsey.com.
North Castle Then - 1960s
In 1961 the Byram Hills Central School District was formed from three small districts.
The free library was taken over by the Town.
The Parks and Recreation Department was set up to take care of the increasing demand of recreational programs for residents.
Anita Loise Erhman pool opened in 1965.
The green spaces committee was appointed by the Town Board in 1962.
Source: Documentation from the North Castle Public Library, Titled North Castle History received Sept. 1982.
International Business Machines Corporation
IBM is nicknamed "Big Blue" for its official corporate color. It is a multinational computer technology and consulting corporation headquartered in Armonk, NY. They moved their corporate headquarters from New York City to Armonk in 1964. During this time, IBM introduced computer software that transformed the computer industry.
This photo was taken from the corner of Route 128, Maple Avenue and Whippoorwill East looking east on Main Street. Photo Courtesy North Castle Historical Society.
Pennsylvania State House Signed September 17, 1787
The Constitution was determined by the people for the people of "how much power to allow the central government, how many representatives in Congress to allow each state, and how these representatives should be elected--directly by the people or by the state legislators." The Constitution of The United States.
On April 1st the North Castle Public Library hosted a documentary film depicting life at Smith Tavern. Smith Tavern, one of Armonk’s oldest buildings, is located at 440 Bedford Road, Armonk, New York.
Doris Finch Watson, the town of North Castle historian, introduced the film to a packed audience. She also starred in the documentary, where she walked from room to room explaining the significance of each room and the items within. For example, the kitchen displayed many items for cooking, and the furniture was extremely versatile, changing from chairs to extra tables. This was very important as the Smith Tavern served as a stagecoach stop back in the 1700’s.Questions were answered at the end of the showing, demonstrating the interest our residents share in our history. For more information, go tohttp://www.northcastleny.com/life_history.htm.
What's in a Name
The first known residents of Armonk, the Siwanoy Indians, built a North Fort to protect themselves from animals and enemies. It was located on one of our highest hills, just off Route 22 in the south east corner of town where IBM's world headquarters are now located. The European settlers thought the fort looked like a castle, hence the town became known as North Castle.
Prior to this our town was sometimes called White Fields referring to the wild growth of white balsam.
In 1720 a group of Englishmen from Rye named the village Mile Square, North Castle's earliest residential subdivision. But there was another Mile Square in Yonkers and that caused confusion at the post office.
Therefore, in 1851 a prominent citizen and miller of Sands Mill, Job Sands, changed the hamlet's name to Armonk.
Armonk was a phonetic adaptation of an Indian name Cohamong. This means "the wide, flat place where the water runs" or "the fishing between the hills." Coman Hill is as well derived from Cohamong.