Heritage Facts Bundle #2
For 300 years the White Plains Presbyterian Church has been nurturing faith in our city. Heritage Facts, or snippets of history, appear in our Sunday bulletin every week. Check the index for other posts.
November – December 2012
HERITAGE FACT: White Plains was settled in 1683 by a group of English dissenters migrating from Rye, New York. When the Anglican Church confiscated the property of the Presbyterians in Rye, settlers came to “the white plains” in search of good soil for farming and freedom of religion, both of which they found here. Material had already been gathered for the construction of a sanctuary; so on May 27, 1714, land for the new church was transferred from Mr. John Frost of Rye to The Rev. Christopher Bridges, and our church was established.
HERITAGE FACT: The oldest planned road in White Plains is North Street, which was first known as the “Queens Highway.” This was in 1708. It was the “road to Rye.” North Broadway, the street on which this church is located, was originally used by the native inhabitants of this area. It can be found in the written record as early as 1697. At that time it was known simply as “White Plains Road.” The name was officially changed to Broadway in 1734.
HERITAGE FACT: Rockledge Avenue (the Northern edge of our property) was originally part of the “Dobbs Ferry Road.” It was begun in 1730. This was the direct line from White Plains to what was then known as Hudson’s River. Lake Street, as we know it now, was laid out in 1762 and was originally called “The Road to Connecticut.” Maple Avenue was the “Old York Road” to Eastchester. Together with N. Broadway and North Street, these were the main roads of White Plains in 1880.
HERITAGE FACT: Did you know that the Bronx River was named after Jonas Brönk who came to this country in 1639? Brönk was the first white inhabitant of Westchester. The Saw Mill Parkway is named after the lumber mill he operated on the banks of the river. The Native American name for the river was Ahquahung.
HERITAGE FACT: The photo above is the Guion Memorial, a 19th-century textile or mourning picture, typical of the period 1790-1840. It shows mourners gathered around the headstone of Monmouth Hart Guion (1771-1833), with the White Plains Presbyterian Church in the background. The church is the present stone structure, completed in 1856, the third sanctuary erected on this site. The Guions were one of Westchester’s pioneer families, with roots in Rye and White Plains. Louis Guion (c. 1654-1732), progenitor of the clan, was a Huguenot from La Rochelle, France, who arrived in New Rochelle, New York, around 1687. Read more HERE and in article by William Ketchum in the Spring 2012 issue of The Westchester Historian.
HERITAGE FACT: Do you know which President of the United States was the first to visit White Plains? Find the answer elsewhere in the bulletin. . . . ANSWER: Franklin Delano Roosevelt was the first U.S. President to visit White Plains. Both George Washington and James Monroe spent some time here, but neither was the president yet.
HERITAGE FACT – Pop Culture Reference: New York Times best-selling author Robert Tannenbaum published his legal thriller, Betrayal, in 2010. One of the central characters, a Manhattan newsstand owner named Warren Bennett, is known as “Dirty Warren” because of the obscenities that issue from his mouth. Warren suffers from Tourette’s syndrome, an abnormality in the brain which causes uncontrolled physical and verbal tics. And here we are: on page 106 the reader learns that Warren’s first signs of Tourette’s were his inappropriate outbursts “at the private school where he attended or while sitting in the pews at the White Plains Presbyterian Church.”
HERITAGE FACT: At the front of the sanctuary, below the pulpit, is a broken headstone from a portion of our cemetery which no longer exists. The remains were relocated, but many stones still reside in our basement vault. Take a moment to view the stone before it is returned.
The full inscription read: “In memory of Margaret Downing, Wife of Hart Purdy, who died March 1st, 1847. Age 52 years. I mo. 2 das.” On the portion of the stone that remains we can read the following verse
Behind I leave a partner dear
Faithful in life, in death most near
A father too I trust will be
To William Young remember me
My friends I’ve bid you all farewell
With Christ the Saviour, friend to dwell
To join the throng of angels bright
In heaven above the world of light