Westchester County Seat and Government

Entry is updated section on “County Seat” of White Plains, New York: A City of Contrasts:

COUNTY SEAT:  On Feb 4, 1758, Westchester’s court house was destroyed by fire.  It was in the former Town of Westchester (West Chester) in what is now the Bronx. White Plains (WP) was selected as the location for the county’s new court & the court house opened on Nov 7, 1759 at the Armory location. The court house was an attraction with trials & public hangings.

In July 1776, when the Continental Congress approved the Declaration of Independence in Philadelphia, Penn it was sent to WP to be approved by the NY Provisional Government that escaped NYC where the British had taken control. The document arrived in White Plains Court House on July 9 and was approved making NY a State and joining the other Colonies in Declaring their Independence from the British Empire. The document was read on the steps of the court house on July 11 after copies were made. A copy of the broadside can be found on the Westchester Archives website with a picture of the document that they have from 1776. There is a letter at the top from NY’s Secretary Benson declaring New York a State and this is why WP considers itself the birth place of NY state. Of course others question this because there was no new state constitution yet and the Americans had yet to win their independence. The fight in NYC area was not going well.

WP’s court house was destroyed in 1776 by fire after the Battle of WP.  After the Revolution, two court houses were built in 1787, one in WP (on the foundation of the first) and the one in Bedford (pictured below) that is still standing. From 1788 to 1870, WP and Bedford would share the role of county seat. Bedford’s court house structure remains and the restored structure can be visited. The building has a court room (pictured) on the main level but much of the structure contains historic exhibits.

In 1844, when trains started coming into WP, the center of the BD shifted to Railroad Ave (now Main St.). A new court house was built of stone from WP’s Davis Quarry on Railroad Ave  (located at corner on west side of Court St) and opened in 1857. The former court house on S Broadway  was demolished in 1863.  Additional buildings were constructed behind the Court house (including a jail). The NY Supreme Court opened in 1907.

By 1916, a new court house opened on Main St replacing the 1857 structure. The present court house (pictured) for Westchester County and NY State’s Supreme Court located on Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard was dedicated in December 1973. By 1978, all the former court buildings on Main Street (formerly Railroad Ave) were demolished to make way for the Galleria Mall construction.

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Numerous county, state and federal offices are located in WP. County offices are located in the Michaelian Building (pictured left) on Martine Ave.  The 1932 structure was named for Edwin G. Michaelian who served as County Executive from 1958 to 19730 and as WP Mayor and Councilman.

NY Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) is located at the WP Mall on Hamilton Ave. Federal Court House has been located at 300 Quarropas St in their own building since 1995 after renting a facility on E Post Rd since 1983. The IRS has an office on E Post Rd.

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The Westchester County Center (pictured below; dedicated in 1930) is located at 198 Central Ave had the same architect as the one that designed Playland.  

Other updated sections from the book can be found under the following entries for: WP and the American Revolution and War Remembrances from the Battle of WP, Westchester County Seat and Government, Waterways in White Plains, WP’s 1st Village St, WP Older Houses, Historic Traces in WP BD,  Houses of Worship, WP Schools History, Buried in WP,  WP Quarry & Farms, WP Historic Businesses & Organizations, Memorials in WP & WP Hospitals. Sources for book are listed in a separate entry Sources for Further Study of WP.

Other entries about WP (not found in the book) can be found on this website are: Demographics in White Plains, What’s in a Name: The Bar Building, Battle of WP video, Art in WP, The Arts in White Plains: Past and Present, Seeking History One Foot at a time: WP’s Walking Tours, Where is the Mamaroneck River in WP, What’s in a name? Bloomingdale Rd vs Bloomingdale’s, Presidents in WP, Martine Ave, Coloring for Adults: WP Photos, WP Neighborhoods, Origin of Names of Places in WP, Transportation in WP, How Well Do You Know WP?, Parking in WP, and Washington-Rochambeau Revolutionary Route National Historic Trail as well as many others.