Westchester County Historical Society Publishes First History of the County in More Than 35 Years

Real Estate In-Depth | October 2018

ELMSFORD—The Westchester County Historical Society announced recently it has published the first comprehensive history of Westchester County in more than 35 years.

Written by Field Horne, printed by Rose Press in Mount Vernon, designed by Christina Wong, and edited by Elizabeth G. Fuller, Katherine M. Hite, Patrick Raftery, and Gray Williams, the 257-page publication entitled “Westchester County: A History” includes more than 225 illustrations, 110 of which are in full color.

The 13 chapters guide the reader through the major influences and developments that formed the character of the county: Native American settlements; English and Dutch control; origins of county government; the Revolutionary War and subsequent rebuilding; county expansion during the railroad era; volunteerism, relief efforts, and political life during the Civil War; growth of estates, communities, and industrialization during the Gilded Age; suburban growth, public works and public education throughout the Progressive Era; the impact of two World Wars and the Woman’s Suffrage Movement; creation of the county parks system and the development of suburban life as well as demographic changes.

When asked what was the biggest surprise in conducting research for this four-year project, Horne said, “The greatest surprise was the existence of the Chappaqua Spring and Sing Sing Retreat, a mineral water resort hotel at the present Millwood. It is known only from some newspaper stories and a very brief mention in a gazetteer. I found it only because I was searching a weekly paper published in Sing Sing for any mention of African American celebrations in the county following full emancipation on July 4, 1827, and spotted the advertisement for the hotel.”

“The biggest challenge,” Horne added, “was keeping the book to a reasonable length for readability while covering the full scope of Westchester’s history. I actually tried not to leave anything ‘out’ per se, but rather kept everything brief. In fact, most of the earlier histories concentrated on Indians, settlement, manors and Revolution to the near-exclusion of everything else.”

Designer Christina Wong added, “Just about every page has an accompanying photograph, illustration, map or document reproduction in order to create the most inviting and reader-friendly experience throughout the entire publication.”

In his introduction to Westchester County: A History, local historian Gray Williams said, “This book offers readers a double reward. Not only does it tell, in words and pictures, an engaging story of a long and colorful past, but it also provides us with a useful guide to the forces that have shaped that past.…”

In announcing the publication, WCHS Executive Director Katherine Hite said, “Because this book chronicles the county’s past from pre-history to the present, and includes much newly discovered information, it will be a valued resource for our county’s teachers and for all those interested in learning about the history of where they live.”

P. Gilbert Mercurio, prior CEO of the Westchester Putnam Association of Realtors, and currently a Trustee of the Historical Society, noted that the history book is “just plain fun to read—scholarly but not a bit stuffy.” He added, “Every Realtor should read this publication cover to cover in order to develop an enriched understanding of this wonderful county in which they live and work. Their clients and customers will appreciate having a copy, too. Consider Westchester County: A History as a truly classy closing gift.”

Author Field Horne holds a B.A from Williams College and an M.A. in Museum Management from Cooperstown. He has authored numerous works as well as consulted for history museums, government agencies, businesses and not-for-profit organizations. He was the editor and co-owner of Saratoga Life magazine, the Community History Editor of The Encyclopedia of New York State, an adjunct professor at Russell Sage College, executive director of the Saratoga County Historical Society, was selected as a Founding Fellow of the New York Academy of History, and is a member of many educational and historical organizations such as the New York State Department of Education’s Advisory Council on State and Local History.

Westchester County: A History is available in soft cover for $40, plus $14.95 shipping/handling/tax. Copies can be purchased through the WCHS website (www.westchesterhistory.com), or by mail, or in person at WCHS offices at 2199 Saw Mill River Road in Elmsford, NY, Monday through Thursday 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. (Phone: 914 592-4323).

Established in 1874, the Westchester County Historical Society is one of the oldest historical societies in the U. S. and the only organization that collects and promotes the countywide history of Westchester.