Archives for white plains collection

Local History: “Mundane Recording Angel”

In the pages of his monthly magazine, The Westchester County Magazine, editor Alvah P. French described himself as a “mundane recording angel.” His magazine was “an historical, commercial, and social publication” whose diverse contents seem to be a reflection of French’s many interests. Each issue’s contents was a disarray of editorials on local politics, legal notices, obituaries for people either famous or not known outside of Westchester, Emily Post-style admonitions about social conduct, local history vignettes, classifieds, advertisements for local businesses, and unattributed pronouncements (usually philosophical in nature) seemingly written by French. We have a nearly complete set of issues
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Categories: History and Homepage.

Local History: Library Hand

An offhand comment to a colleague about his handwriting lead us to this blog post about “library hand,” the formalized style of penmanship librarians were taught to use from the late 19th century until typewriters made the skill obsolete. Before typewriters and automated cataloging systems, librarians maintained handwritten accession books that listed purchasing and bibliographic information for books acquired by the library. Below are various examples of documents from the White Plains Collection that contain “library hand” and some that obviously do not. Even where writers used the style they were likely taught in library science school, there are variations
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Categories: 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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

Local History: Peter Kanze Collection

Next time you come across old photographs at an estate sale or garage sale, stop and take a closer look to make sure someone is not discarding valuable historical records! Thanks to Peter Kanze’s visit to an estate sale in White Plains some years back, we have an incredible collection of photographs of White Plains from the 1950s through the 1970s. Kanze can’t remember now where the sale was or who owned the pictures, but it is likely they are the work of someone in the insurance business who was employed to document the condition of various businesses and locations
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Categories: History.

Local History: Biography Scrapbooks

The White Plains Collection is home to one of the few remaining card catalogs that is made up of actual cards. Yes, the very same typewritten index cards so many people ask about when they enter the library. Librarians at White Plains Public Library started maintaining a card index for materials of local interest as early as 1926. In addition to organizing newspaper articles by subject, they also created an index for nearly one hundred biography scrapbooks. I’ve never come across material explaining whose idea the scrapbooks were, nor who is responsible for all the cutting-and-pasting required to construct them.
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Categories: History.

Local History: Religious History

Some of White Plains’ longest standing buildings are religious institutions of one kind or another. The Presbyterian Church on North Broadway was built in 1824, but the congregation was established in the early 18th century. Our Lady of Mt Carmel on Lexington Avenue is a reminder of pre-urban renewal White Plains. The Silver Lake Preserve contains ruins of the ancestor of today’s Mount Hope AME Zion Church. The quiet history of these architectural sites is complemented by pictures and documents from the White Plains Collection. Below are a few representative items pulled from the collection. Current members of congregations are
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Categories: History.

Local History: Slum Clearance

The words “urban renewal” are never far from the lips of anyone familiar with White Plains’ history over the past 60 years. But what exactly do we mean when we use the phrase “urban renewal?” Most people use the words to describe the transformation of the area bordered on the east and west by Mamaroneck Avenue and the train tracks and on the north and south by Barker Avenue and Post Road, respectively. The term itself comes from the mid-1950s when the language of policy, legislation, and city planning took on a progressive tone that left behind the moralizing sensationalism
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Categories: History and Uncategorized.

Local History: Woman’s Club Trolley Tour

Welcome to the White Plains Public Library’s local history blog. While the library is undergoing renovations and we are unable to host as many in-person local history programs in the library, this blog will be the place to learn about White Plains history and discover interesting items from the White Plains Collection. Of course, you can still contact me to set up research appointments! I want to use this post to highlight a creative and well-researched project put together by two White Plains residents, Woman’s Club of White Plains Past-President Mary Ann Boustead and Publicity Chairperson Colleen Fay. To commemorate
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Categories: History.