History of the Horace Greeley House


HGHouse7-24Horace 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. 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. On the first floor of the original house was the front parlor, which was used for entertaining visitors. Behind it was the dining room, which looked out upon the farm. The kitchen was on the ground floor, at the back of the house. On the second floor were two bedrooms.

Mr. Greeley substantially enlarged the house. Greeley's addition was made to the north end of the house. On the main floor a music room was added where the piano was located. Each spring the piano was shipped up from New York. Behind the music room is the stairway to the second floor, and a small room that served as a pantry. The second floor addition consisted of a family parlor in the front and small chamber over the pantry served as the bedroom for the resident maid.

In the 1860s the house was at the edge of the village center. The Greeley's 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 the following summer.

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 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 built a flat-roofed addition on the back.

RehobothIn 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 (at right).

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 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.

The Horace Greeley House and property have already become a central element in downtown Chappaqua.

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