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 the 100th anniversary of the Woman’s Club, Boustead came up with the idea of a trolley tour through the streets of White Plains, during which participants would learn about some of the city’s most famous (and infamous) houses. Through regular visits to the library and clever uses of the White Plains Collection, Fay and Boustead wrote an impressive script for the tour.
Their trolley tour combined social history (who lived in the houses) with architectural history (who built the houses and in which styles). To gather these facts, they used a wide range of items from the White Plains Collection. City directories were helpful in establishing the names of residents and their occupations, though city directories from before the 1930s often lack house numbers. For exact address locations and information on architects or developers, The Real Estate Record proved especially useful. The Record is a publication that covers the years 1905 through 1931, listing nearly all real estate transactions in Westchester County. The listings often include the names of the people involved and specific survey information about the properties. Occasional articles shed light on development schemes and architectural projects of note. Biography scrapbooks, diligently assembled and indexed by past local history librarians, were valuable sources for information on world-famous and locally-known White Plains residents.
Check out the script for their trolley tour here. They supplemented images from our collection with images from the Westchester County Historical Society in this photographic companion. Boustead and Fey’s work will be added to the White Plains Collection. Bookmark our local history page and check it regularly for stories and items from the White Plains Collection. The featured image is “Clovelly,” the residence of William Albert Harbison on Soundview Avenue, from a Daily Reporter photo book published in 1937.