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Being “Old”, “Having a History” and “Being Historic” What does it all mean?
By: Riley Wentzler & Felicia Barber
What do you think “Historic” means? Or to phrase the question slightly differently, historic buildings and houses are special, they are somehow different from the rest. What do you think makes historic homes and buildings special?
The true meaning of a word…
We have all heard the phrase, “This historic home… “or a similar phrase, “This historic building,” before. However, very often we don’t stop to think about what historic means. It doesn’t just mean the building or house has a story or “history” behind it. Everything has its own history: trees, movies, weapons and yes, buildings, because we as humans are story telling mammals. That is what separates us from: horses, dogs, and cats. We tell stories about everything. Accordingly, everything in Greenburgh from the smallest house or park to the largest road in town, has a history (meaning unique story) behind it. Yet not everything in Greenburgh is truly “historic.” What does this term, “historic” mean? If you used a thesaurus, you would get words like: “ old,” “ancient,” “an antique,” but is that really all it takes for something to be historic, for it to be old?
Greenburgh has plenty of old buildings: The Odell House in Hartsdale built in 1732, Sunnyside on the Irvington/Tarrytown border built in 1835, The Mead House in Dobbs Ferry built circa 1855, The Castle Hotel and Spa in Tarrytown built in 1910, and the Belvedere Estate also built in 1910 etc. Some of these buildings are historic, others are not. Why? Because to answer the previous question, “No, being old is not all it takes for a building to be historic,” contrary to what a thesaurus would lead a person to believe.
“Historic,” as defined by the National Register of Historic Places, means one of three things connected to a famous person or a pivotal event in our state or national history or having architecture “which embodies the distinctive characteristics of a type, period or method of construction.” We realize this definition might be confusing to our readers.
So, here are three examples:
The Odell House & Sunnyside
The Historic Hartsdale Train Station
“Historic” or Just “Old”? Apply your Knowledge to Test Your Understanding:
Below are three houses in Greenburgh. Are they “Historic,” or just “Old”?
There is a house on 379 Mountain Road in Greenburgh’s Village of Irvington located on 4.6 acres of land. This house is built in the Colonial style and it was constructed in 1860. Like almost everything else in the Town of Greenburgh, the land on which the house located used to be part of Philipsburg Manor, meaning, that it once belonged to the Dutch Carpenter turned iron and copper merchant Vredyck Filipsen, who arrived in the area in 1653, and eventually changed his name to “Fredrick Philipse” and became an English slave-trader in 1680. Philipse died in 1702.
The house is surrounded by lovely woodlands of: oak, maple, walnut, hickory and ash trees. It is located on one of the highest points in southern Westchester County (Personal Communication from Luba S. Sydor - Licensed NYS Real Estate Salesperson employed by Houlihan Lawrence). So, dear readers, based on the criteria we have laid out for you, “Is this home, historic, or just old?” (You can submit your answer at firstname.lastname@example.org). By the way, regardless of whether this house is historic or just old this house and 3.3 acres of land happen to be for sale for $970,000. It has: three bedrooms, two full baths and a family room (Personal Communication from Luba S. Sydor - Licensed NYS Real Estate Salesperson with Houlihan Lawrence). The remaining 1.5 acres next door will be sold separately.
House # 2
There is a house on 8 Thomas Street in unincorporated Greenburgh located on 1.74 acres of land. It is located next to the Sunningdale Country Club. This house is built in the Colonial style and it was constructed in 1736 (https://portal.onehome.com/en-US/property/aotf~1037457987~GHVMLS?token=eyJPU04iOiJHSFZNTFMiLCJ0eXBlIjoiMCIsInNldGlkIjoiODQ4NDAyOTUiLCJzZXRrZXkiOiIzNzgiLCJlbWFpbCI6IkdhcnkuQ29ubm9sbHlASEdBUi5jb20iLCJyZXNvdXJjZWlkIjowLCJhZ2VudGlkIjoxMDA5MTUsIlZpZXdNb2RlIjoiMSJ9&searchId=fc446230-47fb-309b-bd26-3e37ce9255c7). This house was, at one point , the home of General François-Jean de Chastellux, General George Washington’s interpreter whenever he met with General Jean-Baptiste Donatien de Vimeur Rochambeau of the French expeditionary forces during The American Revolution. So, dear readers, based on the criteria we have laid out for you, “Is this home, historic, or just old?” (You can submit your answer at email@example.com) It has 5 bedrooms and 3.5 bathrooms. By the way, regardless of whether this house is historic or just old this house is also for sale. The price is $1,289,000.
House # 3
There is a house on 8 Edmarth Place in Greenburgh’s Village of Hastings located on 0.35 acres of land. This house is built in the Victorian style and it was constructed in 1891. It is located in the Tower Ridge neighborhood (https://portal.onehome.com/en-US/property/aotf~1040253152~GHVMLS?token=eyJPU04iOiJHSFZNTFMiLCJ0eXBlIjoiMCIsInNldGlkIjoiODQ4NDAyOTUiLCJzZXRrZXkiOiIzNzgiLCJlbWFpbCI6IkdhcnkuQ29ubm9sbHlASEdBUi5jb20iLCJyZXNvdXJjZWlkIjowLCJhZ2VudGlkIjoxMDA5MTUsIlZpZXdNb2RlIjoiMSJ9&searchId=fc446230-47fb-309b-bd26-3e37ce9255c7) which was built for the employees and executives of a sugar factory (Personal Communication from Arthur Riollo Licensed Associate Real Estate Broker employed by Compass). So, dear readers, based on the criteria we have laid out for you, “Is this home, historic, or just old?” (You can submit your answer at firstname.lastname@example.org) It has 4 bedrooms and 2 bathrooms. By the way, regardless of whether this house is historic or just old this house is also for sale. The price is $1,400,000.
How to Preserve A Building & Conclusion:
How to Preserve A Building:
We have spoken often of the various historical societies in Greenburgh as the “guardians of history”, but, a person doesn’t have to be a member of one of those societies to preserve our history. Anyone can do it, including you. There are many old and beautiful buildings in Greenburgh which residents understandably would like to see preserved. In order to do that with your house or any other building you must fill out the National Register of Historic Places Nomination Form. (To see that form, click here: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1SSKpq1jR7AfaiSdB9PnAD65Q_5sEKWeVfWF4Hexf0kU/edit?usp=sharing). On that form, in addition to providing the name and address of the property, you must also provide the justification for historic status. Once an application is submitted, it will be reviewed by the National Park Service. Then if they approve, the building/house will be added to the register.
In conclusion, all buildings have a history because we as humans are story telling mammals, and there are certainly many old buildings in Greenburgh, but not all old buildings are historic. Historic houses and buildings are different than other old structures and, therefore, truly special. Now you know why. They are special either because of their: connection to famous people, connection to pivotal events or because of their architecture.
Previous Slices of History include:
About the Authors:
We are both Town Historians at Greenburgh Town Hall and we are engaged to be married and are currently looking for permanent employment.
I was born and raised in a small rural town in central Pennsylvania. In high school, I took every honors course available including four years of Spanish. I received A’s in all of them. I graduated third in my class of 146 students. This brought me to Edinboro University of Pennsylvania. Once there, I continued my trend of academic excellence. I graduated summa cum laude in Political Science with a minor in Spanish and a Master’s in Communication Studies, with a G.P.A of 3.94. It was also there that I met my lovely fiancée, Felicia Barber. My Master’s in Communication has promoted public speaking, teamwork, and customer service. My Political Science degree has developed my research skills using computer-based tools and provided me with experience using the Microsoft Office products. My minor in Spanish has facilitated my bilingual capabilities. During my internship at Greenburgh, I created the petition for the State Roads project using website tools. My diverse education and areas of interest have provided me with a wide range of skills. I look forward to finding a career opportunity in business or government. To suggest a topic for next week’s article, you can contact me at email@example.com, or to help me find employment, you can contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I was born in New York City and raised in Hartsdale, New York. I graduated from Ardsley High School. I recently earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in Graphic Design at Edinboro University of Pennsylvania. It was here that I met my fiancé, Riley Wentzler. As a result of my academic excellence, I won a scholarship every year. I learned and applied many graphic design skills to projects during my summer internships and at school. I am proficient in using Adobe graphic design applications including Photoshop, Illustrator and InDesign. For my Identity/branding course at Edinboro, I created logos to appear on the tee-shirts of Physical Education majors. For a veteran’s upcoming event, I used a typeface to focus the reader to the soldier in the poster. For the State Roads Legislative Campaign project, I created the embedded graphic-photo that accompanied the petition I am looking for a job to utilize my skills as a Graphic Designer in an agency, print shop, company or government To suggest a topic for next week’s article, you can contact me at email@example.com. To learn more about my artwork or to help me find employment you can contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Two Interviews with the authors:
CoreLogic Inc . (2023 , (NOT GIVEN) (NOT GIVEN)). 8 Thomas Street Scarsdale, NY 10583. Retrieved from Onehome.com: https://portal.onehome.com/en-US/property/aotf~1037457987~GHVMLS?token=eyJPU04iOiJHSFZNTFMiLCJ0eXBlIjoiMCIsInNldGlkIjoiODQ4NDAyOTUiLCJzZXRrZXkiOiIzNzgiLCJlbWFpbCI6IkdhcnkuQ29ubm9sbHlASEdBUi5jb20iLCJyZXNvdXJjZWlkIjowLCJhZ2VudGlkIjoxMDA5MTUsIlZpZXdNb2RlIjoi
CoreLogic Inc. (2023, (NOT GIVEN) (NOT GIVEN)). 8 Edmarth Place Hastings-on-Hudson, NY. Retrieved from Onehome.com: https://portal.onehome.com/en-US/property/aotf~1040253152~GHVMLS?token=eyJPU04iOiJHSFZNTFMiLCJ0eXBlIjoiMCIsInNldGlkIjoiODQ4NDAyOTUiLCJzZXRrZXkiOiIzNzgiLCJlbWFpbCI6IkdhcnkuQ29ubm9sbHlASEdBUi5jb20iLCJyZXNvdXJjZWlkIjowLCJhZ2VudGlkIjoxMDA5MTUsIlZpZXdNb2RlIjoi