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Originally named the Chappaqua Historical Society and chartered through the NYS Department of Education, the Historical Society was founded in April 1966 on the 175th anniversary of the formation of the Town of New Castle. Exhibits were then set up at the Chappaqua Library. The first public meeting was on an afternoon in May, a Recollection Tea, at the First Congregational Church.
The first house tour, “An Afternoon in 18th Century Chappaqua,” was held on October 8, 1967 and attended by 600 visitors. Tours continued biennially until 1975. In July of 1968 the first “Antiques Fair” was held at Station Plaza and continued there every summer until 1980. Then it moved indoors to the Parish Hall of the Church of St. John and St. Mary. In the fall of 1981, it was moved again to a larger space in the Westorchard School, where it was held every November. The antiques show was an annual event for more than 45 years.
In October 1968, the Chappaqua Historical Society found a home – a Mini-Museum – in three tiny rooms rented for $25.00 monthly upstairs at the Holmes & Kennedy building, across from the Horace Greeley House. Members decorated the rooms and the Museum was opened to the public March 1, 1969. The ceiling in one room was so low it was difficult to stand up. In 1969 the Society’s permanent Charter was received from the State Department of Education.
With funds from memberships and the Chappaqua Antiques Shows, a Capital Fund was established in 1970 for the purpose of Acquisitions, Restorations and Future Building Needs. Gifts from members have subsequently been added.
The Society remained in the Mini-Museum until early 1971 when a 300 square foot space in the new Town Hall became available. (The Museum remained there until January 1985 – 14 years.) The Greeley Collection, purchased by the community in 1955 from Greeley Stahl, Horace Greeley’s great-grandson, for a museum, was then in a basement room in the High School. It was officially turned over to the Chappaqua Historical Society in 1970. A fund drive for $2,500 was necessary for the restoration of items in the Greeley Collection – Greeley’s desk and chair, the large oil portrait, busts of Greeley, pictures, etc.
In 1976 the Threadneedle House on lower King Street was donated to the Historical Society. It was thought this would be the Society’s Museum, but it was not possible as the building could not meet state and local building codes. In the fall of 1981, the building was sold and the proceeds were placed in the Capital Fund to be used for another museum building.
The Endowment Fund was established with a $2,000 legacy from the estate of Ida Roselle Washburn, widow of Howard Washburn, a long-time Town Supervisor, for the purpose of maintenance and operation of the Society’s Museum.
In 1984 the name was officially changed from Chappaqua Historical Society to the New Castle Historical Society in order to express more effectively its role as a Historical Society for the entire town.
Due to lack of space in Town Hall, the Museum was moved in January of 1985 to a former classroom at Roaring Brook School. In July of that year, better space became available adjoining the Bell School for a nominal fee and remained there until 1990. Then temporary quarters were provided at the Horace Greeley High School until the Society found a permanent home.
In early 1990, a home at 312 King Street became available. After many meetings with local and state officials, ownership was completed on February 25, 1991. Alterations were completed and the first permanent museum and headquarters after twenty-five years of existence was dedicated in September of 1992.
In 1998, after the local 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.
In September of 2000, the New Castle Historical Society dedicated the newly restored Horace Greeley House. The Museum and property have already become a central element in downtown Chappaqua.