Championing Local History
By Paul Hicks
The Westchester County Historical Society has chosen Suzanne Clary of Rye as one of the 2018 recipients of its Sy Schulman History Award, which will be presented at the annual meeting in June. The award honors Sy Schulman, Westchester’s chief planner in the 1960s, who championed the cause of preserving and promoting the history of the county.
The award is given annually to individuals or organizations that have demonstrated a strong commitment to historical research, historic preservation, or the teaching of local history, and have, as a result, elevated the public’s appreciation of the history of Westchester County. Suzanne Clary’s achievements as head of the Jay Heritage Center for the past decade meet all of those criteria.
The Westchester County Historical Society (WCHS) was founded in 1874 as a member-based, not-for-profit agency incorporated by the State of New York to serve Westchester citizens. Among its current trustees are several from Rye: Jan Kelsey, William Ketchum, and David Parsons (who also is Treasurer); Susan Morison, another longtime Rye resident, is an honorary trustee.
The Society’s mission is to collect and preserve books, maps, manuscripts, photographs, newspapers, and other materials pertaining to the history of Westchester, to promote the knowledge and understanding of that history, and to advocate for the preservation of the County’s architectural heritage.
Among the many important items in the collection is a deed from a Native American sachem (chief) named Shanorock to John Budd, who was one of the earliest settlers of Rye. Dated November 11, 1661, it is one of eight documents recording a series of land purchases, which formed the Town of Rye.
Located in the Westchester County Archives and Records Center in Elmsford, WCHS shares a reading room with the Archives, which holds historically significant public records of the County. It is open to the public on Tuesdays and Wednesdays from 9 to 4.
A significant part of the WCHS mission is the protection of important historic buildings, districts, and landscapes. It is compiling a data base of those that are worthy of preservation, beginning with all the County, State, and National Register sites listed to date. Sites suggested by individuals will be evaluated and, if deemed worthy, will be added to the list.
WCHS is also the primary source for purchasing books in print about Westchester history, such as “History of Westchester County, New York” by J.T. Scharf (1992 reprint of the 1886 edition) and “Picturing Our Past: National Register Sites in Westchester County” by Gray Williams. A complete list of their new and secondhand books for sale can be found on www.westchesterhistory.com.
The Society’s award-winning quarterly journal, The Westchester Historian, publishes the latest scholarly research on Westchester history. Published since 1925, it has been indexed (1925-1989 and 1990-current) and microfilmed. One of the issues contained a fascinating article about the Rye Meeting House and the village of Milton.
Residents of the Rye area are fortunate to have the leaders of the Rye Historical Society, the Landmarks Advisory Committee and the Jay Heritage Center all working creatively for historic preservation, especially Suzanne Clary.