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Horace Greeley House was built between 1852 and 1854 as part of the development of downtown Chappaqua after the arrival of the railroad.
Mr. Greeley bought 78 acres just south of the village center, to assemble a farm and to serve as his family summer home. The entrance to the farm was on what is now Senter Street. Greeley first built a house on a wooded hillside in the southern part of the property (behind what is now the St. Mary the Virgin Church). Mrs. Greeley eventually found the “house in the woods” too dark and remote.
In 1864, Greeley bought the sunnier, more accessible house (the Horace Greeley House) on the main road. The original building was what is described as a “side hall” or “half” house – a very common layout, especially for relatively small dwellings.
He refitted, substantially enlarged it, and his family spent the summers there until after his wife’s death and his own in 1872. Greeley’s addition was made to the north end of the house. On each floor of the addition there was a relatively large room in front and a smaller one inback. Between the two rooms were stairways – from the ground floor to the first, and from the first floor to the second. The original stairways were removed. The kitchen was on the ground floor, at the back of the house. A cook was in residence, and may have lived in the room toward the front.
On the first floor, the enlarged front room of the original house apparently served as a front parlor for entertaining visitors. Behind it was the dining room, which looked out upon the farm. The front room in the addition was the music room, where the piano was located. Each spring the piano was shipped up from New York. Behind it is the stairway to the second floor, and a small room that served as a pantry.
The second floor is configured much like the first. Directly over the music room was a family parlor. The small chamber over the pantry was the bedroom of the resident maid. Over the front parlor room was the bedroom of the Greeley daughters, Ida and Gabrielle, and over the dining room was the Greeley’s bedroom.
In the 1860s the house was at the edge of the village center. The Greeleys didn’t occupy the house full time. As a rule, they spent only the warmer months in Chappaqua, and Greeley himself could escape from his arduous duties at the Tribune only on weekends.
After the death of Horace and his wife Mary, in 1872, the Greeley daughters and their cousin lived in the house during the summer of 1873.
Greeley’s daughter Gabrielle retained possession of the farm and the house in the village. She gave part of the farm to the Episcopal Church, as a site for the Church of St. Mary the Virgin. She gave the town land next to the railroad for a new station and an adjacent park. Another large section became the site of the Horace Greeley School – now the Robert E. Bell Middle School. The Chappaqua Library, the New Castle Town Hall, Temple Beth El, and the New Castle Community Center are also on land once owned by Greeley.
Gabrielle rented out the Horace Greeley House in the village until finally selling it in 1926. During the 1930s it became severely dilapidated, and was in danger of demolition. In 1940, it was rescued by two local citizens: interior decorator Gladys Capen Mills and insurance agent Frederick B. Stickney, and was restored under the direction of local architect Melvin P. Spalding. Mrs. Mills devoted the first floor to the Greeley House Gift Shop, and lived on the second floor. For a time, a restaurant was opened in the old ground-floor kitchen.
In 1959, the Greeley House was sold to David and Walter Swertfager, who enlarged the gift store to occupy the entire house. They also build a flat-roofed addition on the back.
In 1979, The Greeley Thematic Group of Buildings was placed on the National Register of Historic Places. In addition to the Horace Greeley House, the group includes the railroad station and its park, the Church of St. Mary the Virgin, and Rehoboth House.
In 1998, after the gift shop was closed, the New Castle Historical Society purchased Horace Greeley House. The society worked diligently to research the building, to document the reconstruction and to meet high standards of safety and historical accuracy. The restoration was under the direction of Stephen Tilly, architect, who specializes in historic preservation. The landscape has been restored under the guidance of Stephen Yarabeck of Hudson & Pacific Designs, Inc., historic landscape designers.