If there’s one thing Westchester Magazine’s 10-year anniversary has taught me, it’s that Westchester has been around a heck of a lot longer than our publication has. No matter how thorough our reporting or how diligently we try to cover all aspects of the county, we still have a lot of catching up to do. Which brings us to Westchester history. Why is it so important to stop and take a look back? Shouldn’t we be going forward?
I don’t think that, as the old adage goes, we learn our history solely to avoid repeating our mistakes. Missteps, misunderstandings, and all-out blunders will always be a part of our history—and that’s not always a bad thing. (After all, it was probably a mistake that caused Major John André, who was carrying plans for the fortification of West Point given to him by Benedict Arnold, to be caught by Tarrytown militiamen during the Revolution, changing the course of the war and earning Tarrytown a righteous place in the story of America.)
Instead, knowing our history lets us know where we’ve come from. It lets us know how and how much we’ve changed—or if we’ve changed at all.
And, of course, history is fun. Students toting around AP textbooks may disagree, but our history, at least, is full of some juicy stuff: vagrants in leather outfits, trees from outer space, inventors, and innovators. And we know that we’re not the only ones who find all of it fascinating. Every time we put out a history issue—and this is our third in four years—it’s a huge hit. So we know we have some history buffs among our neighbors, too.
We were first wowed by Leslie Long’s photography when she shot for our May 2005 issue our “On the Westchester Waterfront” feature of beaches along Long Island Sound and the shores of the Hudson River. Then she traveled the back roads across Westchester to find the most distinctive stone walls to create a photo essay in our November 2010 issue that, I think you’d agree, was a beautiful testament to our county’s rich heritage. She further explores that heritage in this issue, with her gorgeous shots of some of the oldest buildings that dot the “Main Streets” around the county. Who knew the history behind these venerable old storefronts? Now we all do.
Apart from history, one of our other stories will appeal to all the bird-brains out there—a profile of Audubon President and CEO David Yarnold. It was written by Dana White, an Ossining resident and no stranger to birds herself. “My late father was a naturalist, so I was very aware of birds from an early age,” she says. “I could identify the more common species as well as their bird calls. I have his 1947 copy of Peterson’s A Field Guide to the Birds, which I use to identify birds in my backyard.” White has been a magazine writer and editor for 25 years, most recently at O, The Oprah Magazine.