White Plains, NY: A City of Contrasts

Entry is an updated version of the first 3 sections of the book White Plains, New York: A City of Contrasts by Sandra Harrison published in 2013. Remaining updated versions of the book can be found under different titles listed at the end of this entry. Original Book (soft cover & e-book) is for sale at Lulu.com; other online venders. Facebook page for book under this title is also maintained by author and gives daily info:

CONTRASTS: Today, White Plains (WP), New York (NY) is a modern city best known for its shopping centers, courts & services. Visitors come for work, study & entertainment.  A suburb of New York City, WP has an “urban” vibe offering services available to much larger cities.

In contrast, the City played an important part in the American Revolution when NY became an independent state; then a few months later the setting for a standoff between the American Continental Army & the British Empire. Had things not gone as they did, the American dream for independence might have been lost.

Throughout the city, one can still find remnants from earlier times. Many older structures have been repurposed converted into something completely different from their  original use.


BEGINNINGS: During the early 17th century, WP was home to members of the Weckquaeskeck tribe of the Mohican Nation . Evidence shows settlements on Fisher Hill. Natives referred to the area as Quarropas, which has been translated to mean “white marches” or “plains of white.”

Perhaps the best explanation for the city’s name is that there were once numerous wetlands on which a heavy white mist would often linger. Even though many of these wetlands are gone,  mists still hover over the city where the tops of skyscrapers disappear. There is another explanation concerning groves of white balsam but John Rösch dismissed this since there were no traces of the plant by 1874.


A number of old trails used by early inhabitants would become some of WP’s first roads. A number of streets still have Native American origins. Quarropas St is in the business district. Nosband, Shapham and Orawaupum Avenues were named after sachems (tribal chiefs). The name Kensico , which is used for a number of streets, comes from the English spelling of Chief Cockenseco.


In 1644, the British took control of the colony renaming it NY after James II, the Duke of York and Albany. The Dutch retook the area in 1673 but this only lasted till 1674 with the end of the Third Anglo-Dutch War. In 1683, NY was divided into 12 counties of which Westchester was one the Bronx was part of it. People who came to the county found an abundance of forests trees, wildlife, fertile lands and rocks that were readily available for trade, farming and building.  Traders who came to the WP area called it “White Plains.”

Settlers came from all over Europe including Scandinavia, Germany, France and Belgium.  Groups such as the French Huguenots and  Jews came seeking freedom, while Africans were brought to the colony as slaves.  Conflicts continued with Native Americans and often resulted in violence.


PURCHASE OF WP & COLONIAL TIMES: The Dutch, who came to N America following Henry Hudson’s explorations of 1609, set up trading posts, towns and forts along the Hudson River as far north as Albany (pictured mural from Yonkers building now torn down). The colony of New Netherland was established with New Amsterdam as its center.  Due to the high demand for furs back in Europe, the colony flourished.

The Westchester, the site of purchase of White Plains

On November 22, 1683, a group of Puritans from Rye bought 4,435 acres of land from the Weckquaeskeck and Siwanoy people.  The sale took place alongside a lake in the area where The Westchester Mall is now located. On the day of the purchase, WP was considered part of CT. Six days later, though , after a boundary settlement, WP became a part of NY. A drawing by John Rösch illustrating the purchase can be found at City Hall in the Clerk’s Office (pictured above). The library has a photograph in their digital collection that one can access that shows the rocks depicted in the drawing.

Soon after the purchase, John Richbell of Mamaroneck made a claim to the land. WP was part of a much larger purchase he made in 1661. John Richbell sent surveyors to the area but they were driven off. After Richbell’s death in 1684, his claim was sold to Colonel Caleb Heathcoat of Scarsdale but he too failed to reclaim the land before his death in 1706. The settlers petitioned the Governor to grant them a royal patent that would give them the rights to the  land but it was not till 1721 that a royal decree was made.  The city, though, did not forget John Richbell naming a street after him.


The settlers came from Rye by way of an Indian trail. This road appears on early maps  as the “Road to Rye,” but in 1708 it was called “Queen’s Highway” named for Queen Anne. Today, it is known as North St.  During colonial times, WP remained a village in the Town of Rye.


By 1697, the Village of WP was centered along another Indian trail where N & S Broadway are today.  By 1734, it was referred to as “The Village Street.”  Open space called “the Commons” was designated residential use. The commons became the center of Broadway and then Broadway Park. In 1898, Charles Tibbits, a community member, founded WP Village Park Association to improve the park that would later be renamed in his honor.


Running through the park, the Heritage trail with red & blue markers (pictured just left)  was created by the WP Monument Committee established in 1958; is now sponsored by the WP Historical Society. It is linked to Google maps at whiteplainshistory.org. An original map of the trail that includes different areas can be found on the Town of Harrison’s website (harrison-ny.gov). Monuments in the park include the Civil War, WWI and Christopher Columbus monuments (pictured below from left to right).


In 2009, the routes used by Generals George Washington & Jean-Baptiste Donation de Vimeur, comte de Rochambeau (of France) during the later part of the Revolution were designated as a National Historic Trail.  In 2016 makers were placed in Tibbits Park marking the route that comes through WP. Information about this trail can be found at the website nps.gov/warp/index.htm. Markers like these can be found elsewhere in the area.

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.

Saving the Gorilla

Article was written in 2009 and I published it in book with Lulu.com. I have copies if one wants one for children and/educational purposes.

Deep in the rainforests of Africa far away from civilization, the gorillas lived for thousands of years unknown to the outside world. It was not until the later part of the 1800’s when strange tales about these creatures reached the western world, that men came with guns. In a span of just over one hundred years, the gorilla has become one of the world’s most endangered species. In an effort to raise funds and awareness to the problems facing endangered species, the United Nations (UN) named 2009 the “Year of the Gorilla.”

Today, the number of gorillas left in the wild has been getting smaller at a faster rate. The cross river and the mountain gorilla are most in danger. Human activity is the main cause for the problem. The forests where the gorillas live are shrinking. Many of the people living in these areas are poor and after years of war, famine and disease have had little choice but to use the forests to survive. The forests are disappearing as foreign companies develop the land for logging, mining and farming. Hunting, poaching and the gorilla trade for live babies are increasing.

Gorillas naturally roam over large parts of the forests but as these areas get smaller, humans are living closer. Gorillas have been shot for eating crops. Tourists who bring money to the area increase the gorilla’s exposure to human diseases when they visit them in their natural habitat. Too much human contact can endanger gorillas by changing their defenses and gorillas die from human diseases.

Female gorillas do not have babies very often and many do not survive. As gorilla areas separate, mature females have a harder time finding new groups to start families. Because gorillas defend their members when attacked, entire groups of gorillas are killed by those trying to capture one infant.

Gorillas play an important part in the ecosystem. They move from place to place to avoid stripping an area of its plant life. Gorilla droppings contain undigested seeds that grow into new plants. Gorilla pathways are used by other animals. Broken branches, fruit and peel droppings left behind by gorillas are eaten by smaller animals. Gorillas do not hunt other animals and are rarely attacked by other wildlife.

As the forests shrink, natural resources are being replaced by air, land and water pollution. Climate changes have brought drought to some areas and flooding to others. Medicines made from forest plants are disappearing. Humans are endangering themselves by destroying the diverse ecosystem that they need. People all over the world have already been experiencing some of its effects.
male gorrila

But is the gorilla worth the cost of saving them? Many of the Africans living near the gorillas are struggling and their countries have a right to use the forests as they wish. Without the forests will the lives of the people improve? The future of the gorilla is now in the hands of the people who created the problem. If the gorilla is to have a chance of surviving, it is up to these people to work together in finding solutions to the problem.

If you wish to learn more about gorillas or other endangered species visit your local library. There are many websites on the subject and TV programs and movies you can watch. Join a conservation group or visit a zoo to find out more. Share what you learn and try to be a wise consumer. Support companies that sponsor conservation, preserve and sustain the forests. Recycle, reuse and reduce environmental waste.

**The text here and pictures was reworked into the published Oct.29, 2014, Saving the Gorilla book with Lulu Publishing and is available for view and/or purchase at Lulu.com.

Sharing My Written Creations with Others: Overview

I have written a number of books, plays and student materials over the years that I would like to share with the public. At this time I don’t really want to publish them even though I did try. Two of the children’s picture books were written while I was in college. “It Began As a Dot” was created as part of a Reading Readiness Program I developed for a class I took during my Junior year at Southern Connecticut College (now a University)and I wrote “The King of Nowhere,” for a Graduate course I took at Long Island University. I also wrote a novel called “When Being Special Isn’t,” back in the 80’s which I changed from an adult novel to a teen story (by eliminating the teacher) about two teens receiving Special Education in a high school similar to the one I taught in.

I did write a Gorilla story for “Highlights Magazine.” but it was rejected. I even took pictures at the Bronx Zoo to go with the book as well as writing to the Zoo to get permission to use them. I could make the book into a children’s picture book.

I also started two plays, “Gertler’s Dilemma” (a drama with 2 actors) that takes place on the eve of the Mark Gertler’s (Jewish British artist) death (his final suicide attempt) and “Not Just An Independent Woman,” a musical about a woman who becomes a successful NYC journalist/writer and gives this up to marry and raise a family with an artist who lives on an island in the Caribbean.

I also have an idea for a play/book about a murder mystery involving the theft of a doll house that I would like to develop more.

I did take a class on web design and was hoping to put up works to get feed back and to make the finished words available for others to read and use. I am going to see how this site goes.

During the last 3 years, I have worked on a picture book on White Plains and have gotten snagged on the dates of events which I keep finding different from the different sources that I researched. I also took the photos. I led one walking tour with Westchester Trails (WTA) but did not get much interest for my efforts (4 showed up but not much interested in my talk and 2 left after first half hour). I even wrote a walking tour pamphlet to go with it. Did send an e-mail to White Plains Historic society but did not get a response about leading walking tours. The city recreation dept. wanted a proposal, resume and references to do tour so I gave up.

I also have written “What’s in a Name?” an activity for children using the places of White Plains.

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