Archives for History

Local History: House History

Discovering the history of houses or apartment buildings is one of the best uses of the White Plains Collection. Whether it’s discovering architectural changes or getting to know your historical predecessors, you are sure to come away with some stories. Below are some of the resources in the White Plains Collection that can help you learn the story behind your home. Real Estate Record: Published by the Westchester Record Company, the digitized version of the Record we have runs from 1905 to 1931. It is composed of listings of real estate transactions, short articles on building and development news, and
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Categories: History and Homepage.

Local History: Researching Greenburgh

All kinds of curious researchers find their way to the library and discover the White Plains Collection can help answer their questions. I’ve helped people find their yearbook picture, learn about the people who used to live in their house (no American Horror Stories uncovered yet), unearth lost city reports, and find photographs they didn’t know existed. Two recent research queries covered similar topics, and all the researchers are generating interesting projects about Greenburgh.   The Greenburgh African American Historical Alliance is a newly formed community-based organization created to assist in the historical preservation of African American heritage, history and
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Categories: History.

Local History: Depends On What You’re Looking For…

Photographs are great ways of learning about the past. They hold different levels of meaning and must be viewed critically to gain a true sense of what they represent. For instance, a seemingly straightforward picture of a row of houses might contain valuable information about the way houses were used or redesigned. A street scene with people scattered along the sidewalk might not be an accurate depiction of street life at the time–were the people posed? Did they show up because they knew a photograph was being taken? Here is a list of more questions I ask myself when using
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Categories: History.

Local History: Black History Month

It’s February, a month recognized as Black History Month across America. Sometimes also called African American History Month, wide-scale public recognition of the history of Black Americans began in 1915 when Dr. Carter G. Woodson founded the Association for the Study of African-American Life and History. In 1926, Negro History Week was established through the ASALH. The commemoration was updated in 1975 and given its current form by an act of Congress and a Presidential Proclamation in 1986. A full history of the public commemoration can be found here. In 2016, the National Museum of African American History and Culture
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Categories: History.

Local History: Richard Crandell Collection

We regularly receive donations to the White Plains Collection, but there are just a handful of people who made large donations of materials or funds. John Rosch and Renoda Hoffman, both official city historians, donated or created some of the most important items in our collection. Richard Crandell, while never officially the city historian, also had a huge impact on the promotion and dissemination of local history and added some vital pieces to the WPC.   In 1954, Crandell published This Is Westchester: A Study of Suburban Living, a book that illuminates some of Westchester’s history. Mostly, however, the book
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Categories: History.

Black History StoryWalk® Features Steamboat School

Children at the White Plains Public Library are invited to take a walk along The Trove’s 2017 Black History StoryWalk®. This year’s walk is based on the book, Steamboat School: Inspired by a True Story, written by Deborah Hopkinson and illustrated by Ron Husband. In this story, the teacher, Reverend John Berry Meachum, and his students refused to accept discrimination based on skin color. Meachum opened the “Floating Freedom School” in the middle of the Mississippi River in response to the Missouri law in 1847 that stated that “No person shall keep any school for the instruction of negroes or
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Categories: History, Homepage, and Kids.

Local History: Bronx River Parkway

If you ever walk along the Bronx River Parkway and want to supplement your experience with some local history, check out the White Plains Collection. Below are some examples of materials that illuminate more than just the history of the parkway. We have documents about the building of the parkway and the economic impact of the parkway. One could also trace the history of “green spaces” in American planning or how publicly funded projects supported the growth of the suburbs.                                        
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Categories: History.

Local History: Anti-Communism

The renovations at the library meant that we had to move the White Plains Collection to a storage area in another part of the library. In the course of the move, I came across a binder I had never seen before. It had label on the front that said it contained the “Westchester Spotlight 1955-1974.” Since that publication was not familiar to me, I opened the binder. The contents of the binder bring to life a complicated and troubling history.     The Westchester Spotlight was a counter-subversive newsletter published by the Westchester County Committee on Un-American Activities, part of
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Categories: History.

Local History: Why Data Isn’t Boring

Data is not boring, especially if you are interested in establishing historical truth. In the past year, Americans have been exposed to an immense amount of data about age, health, economic status, and opinions. A number we hear a lot about these days is 77,7440–the votes in Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Wisconsin that helped Donald Trump win the electoral vote even though Hillary Clinton won the popular vote by about 2.8 million votes. With increasing levels of partisan skepticism influencing news consumers and creators alike, outlets like FiveThirtyEight and Vox can offer refreshingly empirical perspectives to those who enjoy studying history.
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Categories: History.

Local History: Winter in Westchester

The local history blog will be taking a short break during the next two weeks, returning to weekly posting in 2017. To finish out the year, I thought it was appropriate to look at the history of winter in Westchester. While this post is by no means scientific, it will hopefully serve to help readers appreciate our climate and persuade some to venture into it! The earliest mentions of Westchester’s weather in the White Plains Collection are from the published journals of English colonists. Daniel Denton arrived in New Netherland (as New York was then called) in 1644 and was
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Categories: History.

Local History: Societies & Clubs

Between the late 1920s and the mid 1980s, librarians amassed a large collection of pamphlets, flyers, photographs, newsletters, and yearbooks from all kinds of organizations in White Plains and filed them under “Societies & Clubs.” Below are a few examples–some pulled at random, some pulled because I found them amusing–of the fascinating, often quirky contents of the Societies & Clubs folders. As with all of the material posted on this blog, these items are available for the public to view in the library. If you’re interested in doing so, email or call ahead to schedule an appointment!      
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Categories: History.

People & Stories Oral History Project: Art Bennett

Art Bennett (alto saxophone/flute) was born and raised in White Plains. Art was active in the ‘Loft Jazz’ movement in New York City during the 1970’s. This subsequently led to appearances at Lincoln Center’s Alice Tully and Avery Fisher Halls and other New York venues. Art has performed with many notable musicians such as Lonnie Liston Smith, Rashied Ali, Roy Brooks, James “Blood” Ulmer, William Parker, Marion Meadows and an impressive list of musicians in the Free Jazz art form. He was also a member of the New York Musicians Organization (NYMO), which secured grants to provide musical education programs,
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Categories: History and Oral History.

Local History: Slow Down with a Book

If you are reading this, you probably read more than just quaint blog posts. You might have a list of trusted sites you regularly browse, or perhaps you let an algorithm assemble content for you. Either way, information is liable to come at you fast in the form of tawdry headlines illustrated with photographic click-bait or in tweet-size bursts that belie the complex stories hidden behind shortened links. In the midst of all the media vying for our attention, I’d like to offer a classic suggestion: the book. All of the books below are part of the library’s local history
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Categories: History.

People & Stories Oral History Project: Joe Boykin

Joe Boykin is a lifetime resident of Greenburgh. He first learned music as a child from his father, who sang gospel, and on visits to his uncles in Savannah, Georgia, where music was part of every family gathering. He played college football at the University of Maryland Eastern Shore. Through contacts he made in college, he began a career in the entertainment business, working as a bodyguard to comedian Richard Pryor, and meeting singer Patti Labelle. Labelle heard him sing and gave him encouragement to continue. In 1980, he sang with the doo-wop group the Exhilarations, which did backing vocals
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Categories: History and Oral History.

Local History: Lester Associates, Inc.

Lester Associates, Inc. was a giant in the world of miniatures. Based out of Thornwood for a time, the firm was responsible for constructing scale models, exhibits, and custom technical displays for some of the most well-remembered endeavors of the 1960s. Although its most famous work is the Panorama of New York City that debuted at the 1964 World’s Fair, Lester Associates also built a giant “time zone mural map” for IBM and intricate models of space craft for NASA. The images in this post come from a catalog sent to the library by Lester Associates in 1964.    
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Categories: History.

People & Stories Oral History Project: Jack Harrington

Jack Harrington arrived in White Plains in June 1951. He moved here on assignment from the insurance company he worked for. During his long residency in White Plains, Jack has done a tremendous amount for the preservation of historical resources and the conservation of green spaces. Barbara and Rod Carlson, two active members of the White Plains Historical Society and knowledgeable students of local history, conducted these oral histories over a period of months. The creation of the Greenway, the politics of urban renewal, the character of White Plains, and the importance of historical preservation are some of the topics
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Categories: History and Oral History.

Local History: Contentious Politics

Political battles are a near-ubiquitous part of our history. White Plains was the site of numerous political dramas in the late 19th- and early 20th-century. As the seat of the county and the home of many individuals who fancied themselves powerful and important, what happened in White Plains was news throughout the state. Rather than have you read two blog posts, I will direct you to a highly informative article written by local history expert Cliff Blau. The political cartoons in his article are by John Rosch, and can be seen in Rosch’s scrapbooks or in Historic White Plains. The picture
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Categories: History.

Local History: 1960 Thanksgiving Day Parade

Here are some pictures of a Thanksgiving Day Parade on November 25, 1960 in White Plains. The parade route ran along Main Street, Martine Avenue, and Mamaroneck Avenue. These photographs are from the Peter Kanze Collection, detailed in a previous blog post.                                                                                
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Categories: History.

People & Stories Oral History Project: Johnnie Pantanelli

Colonel Johnnie Pantanelli knew two things when she graduated from Scarsdale High School in the early 1940s. First, she wanted to fly airplanes. Second, she liked driving motorcycles even though her mother and aunt tried to tell her riding was not a proper hobby for girls. As you will hear in this oral history, Johnnie (her given name is “Joan”) did not listen to anyone who tried to discourage her and charted a determined, adventurous course from an early age through her 90s. Johnnie joined the Civil Air Patrol during World War II. The CAP is the official auxiliary of
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Categories: Oral History.

Local History: Urban Renewal Collection

The Urban Renewal Collection is a set of documents, photographs, newspaper clippings, and publications that tell part of the story of urban renewal in White Plains between the mid-1950s and the late-1970s. All of the information in this post is drawn from sources in that collection and the White Plains Collection more broadly. In White Plains we throw around the phrase “urban renewal” rather casually, but it actually first referred to a specific set of laws, projects, and changes. The phrase “urban renewal” was codified in the Housing Act of 1954. Ironically, the Housing Act of 1954 actually increased the
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Categories: History.