Historic Pelham

Presenting the rich history of Pelham, NY in Westchester County: current historical research, descriptions of how to research Pelham history online and genealogy discussions of Pelham families.

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

Using the New York State and National Register of Historic Places Document Imaging Web Site To Research Pelham History

There is a Web site published by the New York State Historic Preservation Office dedicated to "New York's State and National Registers of Historic Places Document Imaging Project". The site allows visitors to search for properties in New York State that are listed in the Registers. Even more importantly, once a particular property in your area has been located, the Web site allows you to view and print the completed nomination form and photographs submitted at the time the property was added to the Registers. The nomination form, of course, typically includes a great deal of information regarding the history of the property and is an excellent secondary source for the local historian interested in learning more about local history.

The home page for the site is located at:

(You will have to click through a couple of disclaimer pages to get to the important home page.) There is an excellent set of instructions for use of the database on the home page of the site. To get started, you will observe a series of green tabs across the top of the screen. To begin your search, you must select one of the first three tabs. I prefer using the first tab, labeled the "Basic Criteria" tab.

By clicking on the tab you will see a search form that allows you to search on the following criteria: Property Name, County, Location, Level of Significance, NY National Register Number, Material, Architect, Historic Function / Use, Criteria, Criteria Consideration, Theme, and Multiple Property Component. In our quest to learn how to use this database, go to the "County" box and select "Westchester" from the County pick list. In the "Location" box, type the word Pelham. Go to the last of the green tabs at the top of the screen -- the one marked "View Your Result Set" and click on it.

You will see a result set containing six items. If you look very closely, you will notice that there actually are only three properties listed with a "Text" file and a "Photos" file for each of the three properties. The three properties are "Bolton Priory"; "Edgewood House"; and "Pelhamdale". We are going to look at the Edgewood House materials as we learn to use the system.

In the far right "View" column on the search results page, click on the little icon to the right of the "Text" reference in the fourth row down (Edgewood House Pelham Manor Westchester 90NR02549 Text). You should see a Security Certificate prompting you to decide whether you wish to trust the content you are about to download from Daeja Image Systems Ltd. You should click Yes and may also want to select the check box marked "Always trust content from Daeja Image Systems Ltd".

You next will see a "floating window" containing the nomination form for one of the buildings that formed part of Mrs. Hazen's School for Girls (also known as Pelham Hall). The structure no longer exists. Although it is on the National and State Registers, it was torn down a few years ago. You can read about the history of the School and the structure and will see a brief bibliography at the end of the document that will help you do additional research.

If you return to your search results page, you may click on the little icon to the right of the "Photos" reference in the fourth row down. You will be able to review the photographs of Edgewood House included as part of the National and State Registers nomination process. An example of one such photograph appears below.

As with all online searches, you must be overbroad and quite creative. Think of important local structures in which you might be interested. Are they likely to be included in the database? Think of surrounding areas -- i.e., Bronx County where the Bartow-Pell Mansion is located. Are there nearby structures in Mount Vernon (e.g., St. Paul's Church National Historic Site) or in New Rochelle (e.g., Thomas Paine's Cottage) in which you might also be interested? You must structure your search queries broadly enough to encompass such structures.

The database is a wonderful source of information about our local history. Indeed, you might be surprised and find it quite enjoyable to mine its contents carefully!

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