Don’t look now, Indiana Jones, but tucked away in a quiet corner of Elmsford is a priceless cache of everything that was and is the county we call home. In fact, the Westchester County Archives on 2199 Saw Mill River Road has the 411 on us dating all the way back to the 17th century. Though some of the materials they safeguard would be somewhat more tedious to investigate than, say, the Holy Grail (see: mortgages), what really makes the Archives tick is the rich bounty of history they provide.
“The collection in the Archives is a treasure trove of Westchester history,” says Jackie Graziano, the Archives Reading Room manager. “Records are about people, and each record has a story behind it. When people come here to do research, we help them discover those stories, which reflect the growth and development of Westchester and its people.”
One of those people was escaped slave Lewis Brady. Born in 1773 on George Washington’s Potomac estate, Brady was sold at a young age to a Maryland colonel. Upon the colonel’s death, Brady fled north through Pennsylvania and New Jersey before ending up in Westchester, where he settled down, built a home, and made a life for himself. By the time of his death, in 1881 at the age of 108, he’d witnessed the birth, fracture, and rebuilding of our nation.
If centuries-old documents don’t pique your interest, perhaps the Archives’ vast collection of photos will. Want to see what Yonkers looked like in the 1920s? It’s there. Want to know what the Bronx River Parkway looked like while it was being constructed? Check it out.
The Westchester County Archives offers something for the history buff in all of us. Even more important, in an age of touchscreens and PDFs, it’s reassuring to know there’s a place to find history that you can hold in your own two hands.