Homeless; Abandoned in White Plains

When is enough, enough?

Properties sold to developers who then abandon their plans are often left in worse condition than what was there before. This lot in White Plains between Windsor Terrace and Amherst is one of these properties. Long gone are the house and parking lot that people used in the neighborhood. Left is an ugly unmaintained lot as it has been for years. Sidewalk is in need of a redo especially being across from a school.

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Dr. Martin Luther King Jr Boulevard

The former Grove Street was renamed  Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. to honor the civil rights leader of the 20th century in 1997.

A statue of Dr. King stands on the street in front of the Westchester  County Court House. It was dedicated  on January 15, 2007 and was created by Milton L. Sherrill.

Nearby, the Martin Luther King Jr. Freedom Library is located at the Thomas H. Slater Center at 2 Fisher Court and is run by the Westchester Martin Luther King Jr. Institute of 250 Bryant Avenue. Information about the organization and library can be found at http://www.mlkwestchester.org.

What’s in a Name? Bloomingdale Road vs. Bloomingdale’s

Bloomingdale Road in White Plains is where one can find Bloomingdales’ Department Store. But, contrary to what one might think, it is not the reason for the name of the street. The name comes  from the former psychiatric hospital  Bloomingdale Hospital (or Bloomingdale Asylum) that is now the New York-Presbyterian Hospital, Psychiatry. The original hospital property extended from Westchester Avenue to Heatherbloom Road. Most of the grounds were covered by parkland developed by the Olmsted Company.

The former Bloomingdale Asylum of New York City (NYC) opened in 1821 in upper Manhattan at 116th Street along what was then Bloomingdale Road. This area was known as “Bloomingdale.” The name can be traced back to colonial times when the Dutch occupied Manhattan. Today the street is Broadway and the area is Morningside Heights. The former hospital grounds are now part of Colombia University with Buell Hall as the only remaining building from the former hospital.

In 1868, the NYC hospital bought farmland in White Plains in hopes of opening an annex to their hospital but construction did not begin till 1888 after the NYC hospital closed in 1880. Construction lasted till about 1895.

Bloomingdale derives from the Dutch name Bloemendael and its use goes back to the time when the Dutch occupied New York City (New Amsterdam). The region in Netherlands from which the name originates is where tulips are grown and means “valley of flowers.”

On the other hand, the surname for the Bloomingdale brothers who founded the Bloomingdales’ Department Store derives from German or a Bavarian dialect. Bloomingdale is the Americanized version of the Jewish German surname Blumenthal. In German, it means “flower valley.” Bavaria existed from 1806 to 1918 as a Kingdom and today it is a free state in Germany.

Bloomingdale’s of White Plains opened in 1975 on land leased from the hospital. The first Bloomingdale’s branch in Westchester County was in New Rochelle. A year after, opening its White Plains store, the one in New Rochelle closed. The store expanded in the later part of the 1990’s.DSC02903

What’s in a Name? White Plains’ Bar Building

The Bar Building of White  Plains located at 199 Main Street dates from 1926. Back then it was the tallest building constructed between Manhattan and Albany but today it is overshadowed by Westchester’s tallest buildings in the Ritz Carlton Complex.

The name for the building comes from its location and for the occupation of most of its tenants, lawyers. The building was built across from the former Westchester County Court House that was demolished in 1978. The Galleria Mall was built in its place. Avoiding demolition itself, the building was saved from the Ritz Carlton construction project and was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2007.

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The use of word “bar “in reference to the law or legal profession has a number of meanings. Barring furniture in medieval Europe was used to divide a court room between the areas where the trial participants were located and where the public was allowed to watch the trial. Today, court rooms continue to use a physical barrier (i.e. railing) to separate the two areas. The term “bar” also refers to the steps and procedures one must take to become a licensed lawyer, to the whole legal profession and to the governing body that regulates and reviews the conduct of lawyers.

Cemeteries of Westchester County

The three volume spiral bound Cemeteries of Westchester County by Patrick J. Raftery is a great resource for information about the cemeteries of Westchester County, NY . Books are available at local libraries and for sale at the Westchester County Historic Society. The following is from the Historical Society website:

A  comprehensive reference work of the County’s cemeteries, as well as a detailed history of the families who have settled here over many generations. From the forward by cemetery expert Gray Williams: “Patrick Raftery has made an enormous contribution to the history of Westchester with this definitive catalog of all its known churchyards, family graveyards and public cemeteries, including both those that still exist and those that have disappeared. He has combined exhaustive documentary research with painstaking observation and photography to provide what will unquestionably prove to be an enduring reference. But from his detailed descriptions there also emerges a revealing account of how the commemoration of the dead has evolved over the centuries and of how this evolution reflects changes in society itself.”

Sources for Further Study of White Plains

Listed are sources from White Plains, New York: A City of Contrasts:

Online Internet Sources:

Places for Research:

  • Local History Collection and Archives at White Plains Library
  • Westchester Historical Society and Westchester County Archives located  in Elmsford
  • Rye Historic Society

Books to Read:

  • Yesterday in White Plains (1981) by Renoda Hoffman
  • Buckout (2018) Eric Pleska
  • It Happened in Old White Plains (1989) by Renoda Hoffman
  • The Changing Face of White Plains (1994) by Renoda Hoffman
  • The Battle of White Plains (1991) by Renoda Hoffman
  • Historic White Plains by Thomas Rösch (1976)
  • The Jews of Westchester, A Social History by Baila R. Shargel and Harold L. Drimmer (1994)
  • Native New Yorkers, The Legacy of the Algonquin People of New York by Evan T Pritchard (2002)
  • On the Streets Where We Lived, A Pictorial Study of African Americans Living in White Plains, New York From the Beginning of the Twentieth Century by Harold A. Esannason (2011)
  • Westchester: The American Suburb edited by Roger Panetta
  • Cemeteries of Westchester by Patrick Rafferty (2011)
  • The Westchester Historian- Under the Apple Tree: The History of Golf in Westchester County by Dr William Quirin (Summer 2009)
  • Franklin Mile Markers on the Old Post Rd: by Cahal Whelan (2015)
  • Westchester County Airport by Kevin Patterson (2017)

 

Books on Bronx River and “The Hills” of West Harrison

History Books recently published that might be of interest to those drawn to this website are The Bronx River in History & Folklore by Stephen Paul Deville and The Freedom Journey by Edythe Ann Quinn.
The following two excerpts are from the back of the book The Bronx River in History & Folklore and Amazon.com:

The Bronx River flows for twenty-three miles through Westchester County and the heart of the Bronx. It is New York City’s only freshwater river, and it is exceptionally rich in history, folklore and environmental wonder. From Revolutionary War battlefields to native forests and lost villages, its lore and remarkable history are peopled with an array of legendary characters like Aaron Burr and the redoubtable Aunt Sarah Titus. Today, the once-polluted river is revitalized by decades of citizen activism, and it once again plays a unique role in the diverse communities along its length. Stephen DeVillo traces the river’s long and colorful story from the glaciers to the present day, combining human history, local legends and natural history into a detailed portrait of a special part of New York.
Stephen Paul DeVillo is the former development coordinator at the Bronx River Alliance, where he contributed a series of Bronx River stories for their newsletter. He develops walking tours for the Alliance’s Bronx River Rambles that explore the river’s history and environment, and has given historical walking tours for other organizations, including the Friends of the Old Croton Aqueduct and NYC H2O. He is a longtime member of the Bronx County Historical Society and the East Bronx History Forum.

The following information comes from the White Plains Library website about Edythe Ann Quinn” and her book:

Through wonderfully detailed letters, recruit rosters, and pension records, Quinn tells the story of thirty-five African American Civil War soldiers and the United States Colored Troop (USCT) regiments with which they served. The men all came from The Hills, an African American community near present-day Silver Lake. Their ties to family, land, church, school, and occupational experiences at home buffered the brutal indifference of boredom and battle, the ravages of illness, the deprivations of unequal pay, and the hostility of some commissioned officers and white troops. At the same time, their service among kith and kin bolstered their determination and pride.
Dr. Quinn is a Professor of History at Hartwick College in Oneonta, NY. She received a Gilder-Lehrman Institute Fellowship for African-American Research and is an experienced teacher, lecturer, and researcher. She used materials from the White Plains Collections and other local libraries, historical societies, and archives in her research for Freedom Journey.

Information about the Bronx River and “The Hills” can also be found in my book White Plains, New York: A City of Contrasts and this website.

Battle of White Plains Video

White Plains Library has made available a video of the Battle of White Plains and the video is on YouTube. There is a link to the video on my FB for book. The following info is from their website:

Battle of White Plains on YouTube

We are happy to present “The Battle of White Plains” in honor of the 239th anniversary of the battle, which occurred in October 1776. This video is an overview of the Battle of White Plains and the larger Invasion of New York in 1776, one of the largest engagements of the American Revolution. Learn how the newly formed Continental Army fought under the command of George Washington to prevent the British Army from taking over the Hudson Valley.  The British hoped to cut in the colonies in half at the Hudson Valley, and the Battle of White Plains was an important moment in the campaign.

Through maps, pictures, animations, quotes, and narration, this video walks viewers through the background to the Battle of White Plains and the details of the engagement itself–especially the role of the many hills that define the borders of White Plains.

Video Editing and Animation was completed by Austin Olney, Digital Media Specialist. Research Assistance and Narration was completed by Ben Himmelfarb, Librarian for White Plains History. Narration was completed by Teens from the Edge, Ben Himmelfarb and Austin Olney.

White Plains’ Library Digital Collection

The White Plains Collections contains many fascinating and informative photographs of buildings, people, events, and landscapes. While there are some photographs included in our general collection, many are part of special collections like the John Rosch Collection, featured here. Rosch owned a photography studio in White Plains and was the first City Historian. This collection contains photographs attributable to him as well as photographs he collected or reprinted. Coverage is generally from the 1870s to the mid-1940s. Rosch was interested in the history of White Plains as well as civic life, and this is reflected in his coverage of dedications and parades.

The White Plains Collection is here for people to use. We assist people–regardless of their level of experience–with historical and genealogical research. We encourage you to contact the Librarian for White Plains History and browse our website for help with your research.

Digital Culture of Metropolitan New York is a service of the Metropolitan New York Library Council

Origins of Names for Places in White Plains

What’s in a name? How does a place get its name? Names are used for identification or as a point of reference. Having different names for places helps distinguish the differences between them.

Many of the first roads in White Plains were referred to on maps as to where they would lead. “The Road to Rye,” for example, referred to the former Indian trail that the first settlers used to get to the area. Today, the street is North Street.

As White Plains grew, so did the number of streets. Many roads were added and given names. At times, the names would change though this rarely happens today. Name changes require city government approval. A common trend, though is giving a street a secondary name. Signs for these sections are blue and are hung above the green signs designated for the entire street. Many of these blue signs honor people who have made major contributions to the city.

Many places in the city were named after former residents. Other names relate to the city’s beginnings before and after the Colonial period. Many places have names connected to the American Revolution and the Battle of White Plains. A number of places were named for US Presidents. A few have Native American roots while others are named after geographical features. Then there are the unusual ones like those named after horses.

White Plains’ Library website now has an interactive map of city giving origins for streets.

https://www.google.com/maps/d/viewer?mid=1WvlOinVQnWh4KGDmEN7YPFfg4II&ll=41.051377923959095%2C-73.77009249608925&z=20

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