By Deborah Notis
The North Castle Historical Society, established in 1971, is rich in local and national history. Headquartered at Historic Smith’s Tavern on Bedford Road in Armonk, the North Castle Historical Society has a membership of almost 500 addresses with 23 trustees.
The North Castle Historical Society is dedicated to promoting and encouraging the study of North Castle’s history. Historians affiliated with the North Castle Historical Society engage in continuous research to uncover new insights into the history of North Castle. The historians also work to preserve buildings of historical and architectural interest.
“We invite our community to learn and celebrate our vibrant history,” states Sharon Tomback, the Recording Secretary for the North Castle Historical Society’s Board of Trustees. She points out several noteworthy points of interest in the area, including the Widow Brush House, known to many residents as La Cremaillere Restaurant, the Middle Patent Rural Cemetery, which is the oldest cemetery in North Castle, and the Elijah Miller House, which served as Washington’s headquarters in 1776.
Historic Smith’s Tavern, the headquarters of the North Castle Historical Society, is a landmark property. Throughout the 18th and 19th centuries, the tavern provided multiple, unique purposes. At some point, Historic Smith’s Tavern served as everything from a military headquarters, a taproom and a town hall to a stagecoach stop and post office. In the 20th century, Smith’s Tavern was a private residence, a schoolhouse and even a restaurant.
In addition to the North Castle Historical Society’s headquarters at Smith’s Tavern, the Society operates three other historical buildings–the Brundage Blacksmith Shop, the East Middle Patent One-Room Schoolhouse and the 1798 Quaker Meeting House. Each ancient building is furnished to reflect the colonial era. Brundage operates a forge and other tools that would be used in a traditional, colonial era blacksmith’s shop. The Schoolhouse accommodated first through eighth graders throughout the 19th and 20th centuries. Furnished like a colonial era classroom, the schoolhouse has a working school bell that can still be rung by visitors.
The North Castle Historical Society hosts several rotating exhibits. Period clothing, quilts, colonial era photographs and photographs from collections, dolls, shoemaking, and postage and greeting cards from various collections. “We have wonderful volunteers who staff the Educational Center on Wednesdays and Sundays. They welcome both drop-in visitors and pre-scheduled groups,” notes Tomback.
Every year, local fourth grade classes schedule a Colonial Crafts Day with the North Castle Historical Society. The students spend approximately five hours doing up to 13 separate activities. They make candles, quilt, perform tinsmithing, watch the blacksmith at work, practice writing with a quill, make butter and participate in various other workshops designed to give them a flavor of colonial life.
The North Castle Historical Society also hosts several community events throughout the year. They sponsor meetings and lectures. This year, they planned a wine tasting and a Halloween Haunt. The wine tasting took place at the Historic Smith’s Tavern’s Educational Complex on August 2nd. The Halloween Haunt, scheduled for October, will also be held at Smith’s Tavern. Pumpkin decorating, games, snacks and ghost stories are planned for this fun-filled afternoon. Both of these events serve as fundraisers and are open to the community. The objective is to increase local awareness about as well as help raise funding for the North Castle Historical Society.
Interestingly, the North Castle Historical Society does not receive any government support. With donations and volunteers, it maintains the inside and outside of the historic buildings, runs all programs, and continues to research the vital history of North Castle. The trustees hope residents will donate their time and funds to help to keep these buildings and their programs relevant and available to the community at large.
“There are hundreds of interesting history lessons in North Castle,” notes Tomback. If residents want to learn about The Battle of White Plains, the Underground Railroad stop between North White Plains and Armonk, or the history of the Kensico Dam, the information is available through the North Castle Historical Society. And the North Castle Historical Society encourages people to invest in the history that makes North Castle a historically unique place to live.
Deborah Notis is a freelance writer and owner of gamechanger, LLC, a free referral service connecting Westchester families to highly qualified instructors.