Ask Westchester, March 2012

Ask Westchester looks at ways the county does—or doesn’t—preserve our history.

Q: I’m 62 and a third-generation Mount Pleasant resident. My grandfather helped build the Kensico Dam and settled in North White Plains, near the Community Center. My question is: is there a plaque or list of names of men who worked on the dam? I know my grandfather did, but would like to find out more, if possible. He came here from Italy, then sent for my grandmother. I’d appreciate any information I could get on the names, dates, etc.
—Frank M. Gentile, via e-mail

A: According to our good friend David DeLucia, the county director of park facilities, there are no monuments or plaques to the men who worked on the dam (though a large stone plaque dedicated to Merritt H. Smith was built). We surmise this is because you’d need one heck of a big plaque. Approximately 1,500 men worked to build the dam—and finished it about three years ahead of schedule (ahem, Department of Transportation). In fact, the project was so large, the work camp had its own school and hospital. Today, there’s a movement by a local AFL-CIO affiliate to build a memorial to the broader set of all workers who lost their lives during the course of employment, but there’s no word on when (and if) that will happen. If it does, it would accompany The Rising, a 9/11 memorial already on-site. As for checking whether your grandpop officially worked on the site, fire off an e-mail to the New York City Department of Environmental Protection. It may be able to help.  

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Q: I recently read an article that said the county legislature had overridden a veto by the county executive to repair the Miller Farmhouse. What’s the Miller Farmhouse?
—Jeff Slott, Mamaroneck

A: Well, someone was clearly absent that day in eighth grade when, like, every kid in the county goes to the Miller House. Okay, maybe we had to look it up, too, but then it all came back to us. The Miller House is the spot where George Washington stayed during the Battle of White Plains. At the time, it was owned by Elijah Miller, a Revolutionary War militiaman, and his wife. Miller died in 1776, but the house remained in the Miller family into the next century. In 1917, the county purchased the house and turned it into a museum showcasing “Colonial artifacts, including the table and chair that were used by General Washington himself during his stay there,” thus providing literally minutes of entertainment for field-tripping youths for nearly 100 years.

Q: Which is the wealthiest town in Westchester?
—Todd Knifman, North Salem

A: Scarsdale. Well, actually, Purchase. Make that Mamaroneck. We mean…it’s confusing. Why? Because it sort of depends on what makes a town “wealthy.” If you go by household income, it’s Scarsdale, with a median household income of $208,750—just nudging out Chappaqua. If you want the locale most densely populated with millionaires, it’s Purchase. And if you want the location that is 14th in the country in terms of average household income, it’s Bonnie Briar Country Club in Mamaroneck, cashing in at more than $400,000 per household per year. (The Murray Hill-Heathcote area in Scarsdale was close behind at 20th.) But Todd, true wealth comes from having a loving family and good friends, right? Yes. Especially when those good friends live in Scarsdale or Purchase.

Photo courtesy of Town of Mount Pleasant

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