By Matt Smith
The holiday season is in full swing, and nowhere in town is that more evident than the New Castle Historical Society. You may have, earlier this month, already participated in the annual Tree Lighting ceremony, or sang with the community at Bell Middle School. You may have also created some old-fashioned crafts, or admired the festive Victorian decorations that adorned the Greeley House mantles. No matter which holiday activity you’ve chosen to indulge in, we’re sure you can agree: this is truly a magical time of year.
At the helm of all of the “holly jolly” festivities is NCHS Executive Director Cassie Ward, who took the reins of the organization from the now-retired Betsy Towl in February 2015. “I’m a trained public historian,” she says, of how she expresses herself through her work. “I absolutely love history and working with history. Whenever I can find different ways to connect people with history, whether it’s through a special event, through an education program, or maybe even through a research request, that gives me what I call” (and she beams as she says this) “history happy-chills,” which she explains to be her version of euphoria. In regards to taking on this new role at NCHS, Ward adds, “I feel like I’m following my bliss. [It] feels really good to share history.” And she’ll continue to do just that, with the slew of events NCHS has planned in the coming winter months.
To that end, if by chance you did miss any of the Historical Society’s cheery early-December offerings, you may be relieved to know that one event is still ongoing… and it’s sure to make your spirits bright: it’s the “Gold in Your Attic” Special Holiday Sale!
Run by Nancy Hurwitz and Fran Osborne, the sale is a “spin-off” of the booth regularly featured at the annual Chappaqua Expo. Community members can peruse a variety of holiday-related collectibles; among them, china, jewelry and silverware, to name a few. “They [also] have a lot of artwork, different pieces for the home [as well as] antiques [and] a lot of unique treasures,” comments Ward. “It should be a great sale.” ‘Gold in Your Attic’ continues at Greeley House through December 19th.
Another exciting upcoming event is the NCHS 50th Anniversary celebration, commemorating a half-century of “collecting and preserving New Castle history.” NCHS kicked off the year-long celebration with a party last month, which included a unique “Last Man Standing” cash raffle, wherein every ticket entered was pulled, with several revealing either a cash prize or an item donated by a local merchant. The grand prize–awarded to the “Last Man Standing,” as the title suggests–was worth up to $2,000. Proceeds from the evening went to financing the organization’s future programs. And yes, this November 14th bash has indeed already passed, but rest assured that many more events commemorating this momentous occasion, including a celebratory gala, will continue into the New Year and beyond. (Of note, NCHS will officially mark its milestone birthday in June 2016).
Ward remarked, too, that she appreciates these events because they elicit “a nice, jolly feeling” within the community; in “bringing everyone together,” they bolster the holiday spirit in town. As she and the other NCHS employees begin planning for the future, she hopes that their “exciting and innovative” new activities will continue to evoke that positivity year-round. “We will be expanding all of our programming (educational, historical services, community outreach, and special events–and hope that these programs will appeal to everyone–from children to parents and grandparents,” she says, of the plans for 2016. “All of the new programs will encourage the local community to interact with history in engaging and unique ways.”
And why is it so important that NCHS keep doing what they’re doing, and receiving community support? The answer is simple. “Sometimes, people will come [in] and they’ll tell me that they’ve never been [to NCHS] before,” Ward explains. “So, the more community activities we can provide and really get people involved with such a great cultural resource right in the center of their town, the better it is for us, and the better it is for the people of New Castle.”
The New Castle Historical Society & Greeley House is located at 100 King Street in Chappaqua. For more information on the organization, please visit www.newcastlehs.org.