July 2, 2016 “There are positive things happening with the Miller House,” says the Facebook group Daughters of Liberty’s Legacy (DOLL).
“The biggest battle has been won,” continues the post.
Conversations with Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino’s administration appear to lean toward the Miller House remaining at its location on Virginia Road in North White Plains. The County most recently considered relocating the historic home to nearby Miller Hill, but that plan appears to be off the table.
DOLL says its goal is to have the abandoned historic building renovated and opened to the public by October 2017.
As we approach the 240-year anniversary of the Declaration of Independence; the Battle of White Plains; and the 240-anniversary of the death of Revolutionary War patriots Elijah Miller and his sons John Miller and Elijah Miller, Jr.; DOLL asks us to take a moment on the 4th of July to remember the patriots who "pledged their lives, fortunes, and sacred honor" for the posterity of all.
The American Legion Auxiliary, Post 135 posted, “Miller House is the home of America's first veterans. Patriot Ann [Fisher] Miller, [wife of Elijah Miller], helped nurse the sick and dying soldiers on that property. The hill on her property became a fortification and helped turn back the British in November 1776.”
Members of DOLL remain involved in the conversations with the County about the future of the Miller House. They are hopeful more good news will follow soon.
Tour of the Elijah Miller House - Washington's Headquarters
By Sharon Tomback
December 19, 2015
On Friday afternoon, for the first time in more than five years, Westchester County opened the locked chain across the drive, unlocked the front door and allowed 20 citizens to tour the neglected, tarpaulin-covered National Register, State Register, and County and Town of North Castle designated Historic Site. The group was composed of county legislators and staff, representatives of Rob Astorino's administration including George Oros, as well as representatives of state elected officials, representatives of the press and Channel 12 News, and representatives from North Castle including Supervisor Michael Schiliro, Landmarks Preservation Committee Chair Susan R. Shimer and President of the Friends of Miller House/Washington's Headquarters Kerri Kazak.
The long-awaited and three-times-postponed-by-the-county-administration tour of the Elijah Miller House/Washington's Headquarters allowed the first look inside the abandoned building in more than five years. The last cancellation was due to an infestation of fleas from animals living in the building.
The many artifacts and reproductions in the collection used for several decades as educational tools for groups of visitors and school children lie scattered about on the floors and tables. Framed art and plaques are stacked against walls and resting directly on the rock floors. The unmistakable musty smell of mold is prevalent.
Attendees were given time to walk through the building. There was some side discussion as to whether moving the pre-Revolutionary War building is feasible, and if feasible, at what cost?
Legislators asked John Baker, director of conservation for the Westchester County Parks, Recreation and Conservation Department, to update the group on the status of the building. He said that the last full-time curator on site was in 1993 (more than 20 years ago) and that in 2000, there was a seasonal, part-time curator at which time the county only opened the building once or twice a year until volunteers from North Castle began staffing the building on weekends. Mr. Baker continued that the county then stopped opening the building because work needed to be done on the house.
He also said that the county has removed for safekeeping those items deemed to have historical significance. That collection was appraised in March of 2013 and was valued at about $23,000.
Legislator Mary Jane Shimsky asked Baker whether the tarpaulins on the building's roof added to the mold situation and whether they might be causing more issues. Baker said, "Yes, that is true. And the roof needed repair before the succession of tarpaulins were put in place."
He further explained that the building dates to 1738 and the county got it in 1917. Since 1917, heating, electricity and a bathroom were added. He believes the floors are original. Katie Hite, executive director for the Westchester County Historical Society, said that she believes the floors, both on the main floor and upstairs, are original. However, it should be noted that there are plywood sheets of wood covering much of the upstairs flooring, as well as the listing front porch. A series of raw wood 2" x 4" supports have been installed on the east side of the porch because that area is sagging and its posts are leaning at odd angles. Paint is peeling, inside and out.
Hite also said that Bruce MacDonald of the Westchester Preservation League, and Russel Watsky, a roofing contractor and member of the Westchester County Historical Society Preservation Committee, have examined the building and said that for the most part it is sound, but needs a lot of work since it's not in great shape. A follow-up question from John Diaconis, a representative from North Castle, revealed that these two men volunteered their opinions orally and that no written report exists.
Hite then said that the Landair Report, received by the County in 2008, recommended some things that are not for the best, including steel beams and the wall along Virginia Road. She said a new analysis and a new historic structures report are needed.
Shimsky asked what has changed since the 2008 report. Supervisor Schiliro asked whether it might not make more sense to have a professional review of the 2008 report and to supplement it rather than enter into a procurement process which might take up to two years. He said that the professional review would cost much less than a new analysis and historic structures report, and that the professional review would shorten the lengthy review process.
In response to a question about the shed taken down and removed from the property, Hite responded that the shed had no back and was a danger. Baker added that the shed had been built in the 1950s by the County Parks, Recreation and Conservation Department.
Hite then said, "We should determine the future use of the building." She was apparently suggesting that the historic use of the building is no longer appropriate.
The cement factory across Virginia Road was in full operation. The noise of the machinery was a stark reminder of the very much louder and more invasive noise of the Revolutionary War cannon, guns, horses, wagons, and screams of the wounded and dying soldiers, as well the prayers of those residents tending to them.
What Would George Washington Do? Editorial by Michelle Boyle
December 4, 2015 On this past dreary Wednesday December 2, the Town of North Castle received an unexpected blow when a bulldozer, two trucks and a team of workers with shovels were seen at 144 Virginia Road in North White Plains where they demolished the small old auxiliary building that once served as the visitors’ center to the former Miller House Museum.
Fait accompli, the Miller House is a county park and the county did not give notice to the Town of North Castle of the demolition.
Kerri Kazak, president of the Friends of the Miller House/Washington's Headquarters, said she spoke with John Baker, director of Westchester County Parks, Recreation and Conservation Department, who said, "The building was collapsing, so they took it down.”
The property is the location of the Miller House/Washington’s Headquarters. History tells us that on two separate occasions General George Washington used Elijah Miller’s home as his headquarters as he fought the Battle of White Plains. But what would have happened if Washington arrived and the buildings were in disrepair? Common sense says he would have had his troops repair it.
Why hasn’t Westchester County taken steps to preserve Washington’s history in North White Plains rather then demolish the small building? What’s the future of the Miller House? Westchester County has clearly stated in the recent past that they are considering moving the Miller House from Virginia Road to Miller Hill Park, a parkland also owned by the county. The intention would to be to use the Miller House on special occasions and have a caretaker live there.
What does Westchester County Executive Robert Astorino intend to do with the Miller House property? He is known to be in favor of public/private partnerships to run the county’s parks. Has someone approached the county to operate a recreation facility on the property? Perhaps a bubble for an ice skating rink? Am I hot, Rob? If not that, then what?
On Friday December 4, Sharon Tomback, North Castle’s Co-historian, wrote an e-mail to Katie Hite, president of the Westchester Historical Society, who serves as Westchester County’s historian, and to John Baker. At a County Board of Legislator’s Committee meeting held on August 25, Hite said, "Do we restore the Miller House in place or move it away from the cement factory across the street?"
Since that meeting, over the past three months, a tour of the historic site has been schedule and rescheduled three times. The latest cancellation was due to an infestation of fleas presumably from animals living in the building, said Tomback.
North Castle Supervisor Michael Schiliro visited the site on Wednesday December 2, and took photos of the abandoned foundation, trucks on the property and the current condition of the Miller House.
Tombak asked Hite and Baker if North Castle could be assured that: "1) artifacts left on the porch in the rain are now protected and in the possession of the county historian? 2) fleas and sources thereof have been exterminated and that the building is free of fleas? 3) the historic property is protected and all furniture and other artifacts are safely under whose protection? 4) the building is structurally repaired and maintained for safety? 5) the North Castle Town Clerk, North Castle Supervisor and she will be added to the distribution list for notification of any work to be performed at this site?"
Tomback closed the e-mail, “I know that we all want the same thing: to meet our responsibilities to save and preserve this most historic site for those who come after us."
Concluded Kasak, “As winter fast approaches, the fate of the [Miller House] historic building continues to look bleak.”
North Castle’s Miller House / Washington’s Headquarters: Questions Remain Unanswered Editorial by Michelle Boyle
August 30, 2015 On August 25, Westchester’s County Board of Legislator’s Committee on Labor/Parks/Planning/Housing Committee held its recent second meeting about North White Plains’ Elijah Miller House / Washington’s Headquarters. Chaired by Mary Jane Shimsky, Legislator of the 12th District, the agenda item for the meeting was to look for a strategic plan for the Miller House. The meeting was attended by a small group of County officials and North Castle representatives and residents.
“There’s a Rashomon effect going on,” said Shimsky. “Everybody has a different perspective. They see the condition of the Miller House, and there are different ideas of what to do with the house.”
The Elijah Miller House in North White Plains was George Washington’s headquarters from October 28, 1776 to November 10, 1776 and again from July 20, 1778 to September 1778. In 1976, the U.S. Department of Interior placed the Miller House on the National Register of Historic Places.
How fortunate for the people of Westchester County to be stewards of two properties used by General Washington to defend our nation. As the 238th Anniversary Commemoration of the Battle of White Plains, the White Plains Historical Society reenacted the colonial time event at the Jacob Purdy house on October 26, 2014. The Jacob Purdy House was also used as General George Washington’s headquarters in 1778 and possible as well in 1776, before the Chatterton Hill battle. The Purdy home was purchased by the Battle of White Plains Monument Committee in 1963 when it was repaired and restored. In 1973, the home was moved to its present site on Park Avenue and deeded to the City of White Plains. In 1979, the house was placed upon the National Register of Historic Places.
The Miller House is known as the most important historical landmark in North Castle as it remains in its original location. Kerri Kasak, president of the Friends of the Miller House/Washington’s Headquarters, quoted a recent memorandum from Westchester County Historical Society to Deputy County Executive Kevin Plunkett, “If we are to be good stewards of our historic resources, it is important that the Miller House remains part of the County’s fabric and landscape.”
Kasak added, “To be good stewards we must understand that the Miller House is not only part of the County’s fabric and landscape, but the house and the property that it sits on is an integral part of our nation’s fabric and landscape as it played an important role in its formation.”
Katie Hite said that the Historical Society serves as the County’s historian. A former County group but later disbanded, Historic Preservation Advisory Committee, first discussed this project in 1996. She said that there has been a back-and-forth with the following questions: Do we restore the Miller House in place? Or, do we move it because of the cement factory located across the street? Over time, North White Plains’ Virginia Road has become more industrialized.
In 1976 a cement plant was built opposite the Miller House. In the recent memorandum to Plunkett, Hite wrote that the Westchester County Historical Society had offered a new location for the Miller House to be relocated to Miller Hill Park, another County-owned property in North White Plains.
Michael Smith, out-going legislator of the 3rd District which includes North Castle, said the grounds of the Miller House shake from the trucks of the cement factory.
Rather than have the Board of Legislators commission another study of how the Miller House could be moved and at what cost, a knowledgeable engineer should be consulted to determine if there are any valid reasons to move the Miller House.
The following questions should be answered: • Do the trucks from the cement factory disturb the structure of the Miller House? • Does the dust from the cement factory present any danger to the historic preservation of the Miller House? • How can the Miller House parking area can be improved to accommodate buses?
The Miller House remained a popular destination for student and camp field trips up until 2010 when the doors closed. The building then began to deteriorate from neglect, to its current shored-up state with 2 X 4s and a series of tarps covering the roof.
In 2010, the County Board of Legislators commissioned a $88,000 study to determine what steps should be taken to preserve the Miller House. The Board approved a bond financing of $1.3 for the restoration of the Miller House. They also considered moving the house to Westchester County’s Kensico Dam under County Executive Andrew Spano’s administration. The Legislators' report said, “The County can recoup part of its $1.3 million contribution by selling the land that the Miller House now occupies.” But the $1.3 million budget line was then vetoed by the newly elected County Executive Robert Astorino. Astorino’s veto was overridden overwhelmingly by a bipartisan majority of the Board of Legislators. Yet no further action had been taken.
“The desperate state that the Miller House is in today, is not due to its location; it is a result of neglect by its owner, the County of Westchester,” said Kasak.
Before the Jacob Purdy House was moved to Park Avenue, it was located where the Galleria Mall is today. Similarly, if there is an interested party in buying the Miller House property, let’s see some transparency from County Executive Astorino’s office. Several questions remain about Astorino’s veto of the County Legislators’ recommendation to refurbish and restore the Miller House.
Such inaction provokes other questions:
Are there other potential uses for the Miller House property that Astorino believes are more beneficial to the public? Has a developer offered to move the Miller House and use the property for affordable housing? Has a private enterprise offered to purchase the property for other business purposes, possibly the cement plant?
When Rob Astorino became County Executive, Hite said that he didn’t have the staff to support the Historic Preservation Advisory Committee which had responsibility to maintain the County's historical sites and properties. The Advisory Committee has since become part of the Westchester Historical Society which has assumed responsibility for the County’s historical sites, including the Miller House which needs the most help at the moment, added Hite.
Gray William’s book, “Picturing Our Past: National Register Sites in Westchester County”, says of the Miller House and the Purdy House, “The county has very few houses of the Revolutionary era and it is lucky to possess both of the these survivors.” Hite is one of two editors of Williams’ book that was published in 2003.
Why is the Westchester Historical Society adamant about moving the Miller House rather than refurbishing and restoring it where it has been situated for past 300+ years?
Reviewing the options and the climate for small museums, Hite said that they have come to the conclusion that the best way to save this house is to move it to Miller Hill Park, which is also owned by Westchester County. The house can be easily taken apart as a post and beam building, she continued, But it’s expensive. Everything must be numbered and then reassembled, preferably by a conservation specialist, in the new location at the top of the hill.
As many federal historically designated properties are used as a caretaker’s home, Hite said that the Miller House could be open to the public several times a year. “I don’t believe another small museum will be able to make it financially. To put that house back together and put all the money and effort into that without an organization that has the provable financial wherewithal to do what’s necessary to create a museum, is not realistic.”
A group of patriotic North Castle citizens has formed such an organization, a non-profit group, Friends of the Miller House / Washington’s Headquarters. The mission of the Friends is to aid in the historic preservation and ongoing operation of the Miller House and to contribute to the support, including the financial support, of its cultural and educational programs.
The Friends group has already received a commitment of tens of thousands of dollars from private businesses, noted North Castle Town Supervisor Michael Schiliro in comments before the County committee. "It’s a treasure we would like to preserve," he added.
The Friends are prepared to operate the Miller House as a museum, as long as the County is obliged to refurbish the building and create an environment that is conducive for visitors.
There’s no precise cost estimates to move the Miller House to Miller Hill, but Hite said there are many preservationists on the White Plains Historical Society. “We have talked with a mover from Connecticut who has given a rough estimate that it would cost somewhere in the $1 million range to move a post and beam house like this.” The total estimate discussed was about $2 million which included site work at the proposed location of Miller Hill.
“The preservation of our historic structures might seem expensive,” responded Susan Shimer, chairman of North Castle’s Landmark Preservation Committee. “However, I am certain that, in doing so, we reap many benefits, some intangible and some financial. These bring tourists to our County and improve the lives of our citizens.”
What will the next steps be to get towards a mutually acceptable consensus so the Miller House does not fall into ruin?
"Everyone wants the house preserved," said Shimsky. "Yet, there has to be an agreeable way to move forward to see some productive use of the Miller House.” Cost estimates must be further considered. She said that the Board of Legislators will discuss this option among themselves, hopefully before the end the year when some of their terms might expire.
The Friends will present a proposed operating budget to reopen the Miller House as a tourist destination. They should also present a financial plan to show support of the Miller House as an historical museum that may further wxhibit Hudson Valley’s role in the American Revolution and how the Battle of White Plains halted any further British invasion into New England.
The Miller House: To Move or Not to Move Is the Question
July 23, 2015 At the Westchester County Labor/Parks/Planning/Housing Committee meeting on July 21 there was reference to the receipt of a letter addressed to Kevin Plunkett, the Deputy County Executive, from the Westchester County Historical Society recommending that the County-owned Miller House/Washington’s Headquarters on Virginia Road be moved to Miller Hill Park. Miller Hill is a nearby County-owned park also in North White Plains. The move would keep the historical landmark as a County asset.
The County Historical Society’s recommendation is to allow the use of the Miller House for only special occasions such as Washington’s birthday. What’s being further considered is to dismantle the home, move it piece-by-piece to Miller Hill Park and refurbish it to its original condition. This was also done with the historical Brundage Blacksmith Shop that was eventually moved to the Smith's Tavern Complex in Armonk.
In an attempt to keep the historical preservation of General Washington’s headquarters during the Battle of White Plains in October 1776 from collapsing, the Friends of Miller House/Washington's Headquarters and the Town of North Castle requested that the County refurbish the house at its current location.
In 2008, LandAir, the professional consulting firm hired by Westchester County, advised among other things that if a move were to ever be considered, the building would first require structural repairs.
These past seven years, the County has allowed the building to continue to rot without those structural repairs. There have been tarpaulins placed over the roof of the shrine dating to before the American Revolution. Many have questioned the County's path to maintain the infrastructure that has belonged to the taxpayers of Westchester County since 1917 and is standing in the same spot since before the American Revolution.
LandAir also suggested to build a wall around the Miller House property. Would that not be a less pricey path than further desecration of both the house site and the Miller Hill site?” asked Sharon Tomback, North Castle Historian.
Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino has indicated to keep the house at its current location across from a cement factory is irresponsible. That is due to the constant wear and tear on the building from the factory dust and ground pounding from the construction trucks.
In 2010, Astorino vetoed the Westchester County Board of Legislators' $1.2 million approved funding to refurbish the Miller House and then move it to an approved site at Kensico Dam. His veto was overridden by the Board of Legislators, and only needed Astorino's signature to allow the rehabilitation and move to proceed. The funding has since expired.
Following Astorino's refusal to sign off on the funding, a proposal to move the Miller House to Town-owned Fountain Park in North White Plains was floated four years ago. But that was met with resistance by local community groups and citizens. The current administration of the North Castle Town Board had declined to move the Miller House to Fountain Park, as well. They said that the County was trying to unload its financial responsibilities onto North Castle’s taxpayers.
An issue for moving the Miller House to the Miller Hill Park location is the oversight of the historical landmark. It’s being considered if the home can serve as a residence for a Westchester County employee. “Having a resident there,” said Kathleen O’Connor, Westchester County Parks, Recreation and Conservation Commissioner, “it will be maintained, with no vandalism.”
Owned by the citizens of Westchester County, Miller Hill Park, approximately three acres in size, includes an open field of about two acres and a narrow strip of grass, with an old stonewall bordering the field, which includes earthworks, a flagpole, a Congressional plaque, and an engraved map of the overview said Tomback. Westchester County Parks Department records indicate that Miller Hill Park is the only Revolutionary War battle site in Westchester County still in its natural setting.
A standing metal marker was placed at the field in 1976. The marker reads: “Miller Hill - Shots fired from this hill, Nov. 4, 1776, by Col. John Glover’s troops ended Battle of White Plains and turned tide of Revolution.”
There’s a small marker under a tree that identifies the “Liberty Tree” planted to commemorate the Bicentennial 1776-1976. The Congressional plaque states, “October 31, 1776 - Following the engagement on Chatterton Hill Washington’s army retired to new lines extending east from this point. These earthworks protected the right wing of Washington’s army. Erected by Act of Congress May 18, 1926.”
On October 28, 1776 when the “battle” for Chatterton’s Hill was fought, British troops advanced north. They were stopped in North Castle from atop of Miller Hill. The battle is commonly referred to as the Battle of White Plains. At that time, the land west of the Bronx River was in Philipse Manor, so technically, sadi Tomback the “battle” was fought in Philipse Manor. Chatterton’s Hill became part of White Plains around 1914.
Ed Woodyard, who is president of the Friends of the Miller House but acting as a private citizen, attended the July 21 meeting at the County Office Building. He said, “Until the funding is in place to move the building and the powers-that-be sign off on it, the Miller House will stay where it is, and stay in its current condition. We've been there before with the Kensico Dam proposal.”
A moving van from Morgan Manhattan was parked at the Miller House on July 21, while the County meeting was underway. All of the remaining contents of the Miller House have been removed. That included “Washington’s table and chairs at which he directed the battle,” described Woodyard.
According to O’Connor, all the Miller House artifacts and historic objects have been documented, categorized and safely archived for storage in a facility in the Bronx.
“Men and boys bled and died on both sites – men and boys fighting to establish our nation,” concluded Tomback. “In addition to the many functions served at the Miller House, the grounds and the house served as a hospital for soldiers wounded during the fighting during the timeframe of October through early November 1776.”
She asked, “Where is the County’s sense of honor? Where is the County’s sense of shame?”
John Diaconis, a candidate for Westchester County’s Board of Legislators, said, “I am pleased that my candidacy has cast light on Miller House and has finally gotten the County to take some action after many years of delay. I just hope this is not another empty promise, as has been the case in the past. I look forward to reviewing the details of the proposal.”
“We’re trying to figure out what the next move is,” said O’Connor.
Restoration of Washington’s Headquarters Caught in Politics
July 10, 2015 Desperation and frustration during the election campaign for the county legislator has caused heated accusations over the restoration of the Miller House/Washington’s Headquarters on Virginia Road in North White Plains.
At the June 24 North Castle Town Board meeting, Ed Woodyard, the president of the Friends of the Miller House/Washington's Headquarters, spoke of Westchester County’s neglect of the historical landmark that has been shuttered since 2004. Woodyard said the Friends want to docent the museum and give visitors a historical place to come to, but right now it’s not safe. “The County of Westchester, in regard to the Miller House, is like ISIS blowing up Palmyra, Syria,” he said. “Right now the County of Westchester is no different than the Taliban blowing up the religious symbols.”
Woodyard said he was referring to an article that appeared in the New York Times that morning: Ben Hubbard’s “ISIS Appears to Destroy 2 Playmra Tombs, Faulting Wreckage in Photos.”
Furthermore, Woodyard said, “The intentional destruction of a historic monument is unacceptable whether it is done by a terrorist organization or by a democratically elected official. We cannot condemn anyone for such destruction in the Middle East and Asia if we allow such destruction here in the U.S., even when it’s in our own backyard.”
Although there is a distinct difference between malicious destruction and persistent, willful neglect, Woodyard’s words have put the issue of the Miller House on the front burner. And, unfortunately, those words have now been woven into the campaign for county legislator.
Westchester County Legislator Michael Smith and Anthony Amiano, his aide, attended the June 24 North Castle Town Board meeting. Smith spoke about negotiating a solution to the Miller House. No negotiations were discussed; however, residents, Supervisor Schiliro, and committee members spoke about the necessity of Westchester County, which owns the property and building, to stop stalling and to restore the historical landmark.
In addition, Schiliro said he can’t believe that the County is questioning the legitimacy that Washington ever was in the building or slept there. “This is inexcusable,” he said.
In a guest column that appeared in the Examiner on July 7, Amiano said, “The radical Friends group has not publicly retracted the [ISIS] comment and is even running a representative of the organization for the Board of Legislators.”
First and foremost, the Friends of Miller House/Washington’s headquarters group is not made up of so-called radicals. In fact, the members of this non-profit organization are dedicated volunteers who are highly regarded residents of North Castle. They are well respected because they understand, appreciate and fight for the historical preservation of the headquarters of General George Washington back in October 1776 during the Battle of White Plains.
The Treasurer of the Friends of the Miller House is John Diaconis. Diaconis has attended multiple meetings with County and local officials, representing the Friends to help solve the Miller House dilemma.
Diaconis has announced his candidacy as a representative of the Board of Legislators, a position currently held by Michael Smith. Diaconis is supported by many who stand by him and share his concerns about the Miller House. Amiano misspoke when he said the Friends are running a representative of their organization. Although they may support him, they are not “running him.”
Woodyard says Diaconis was not privy about the analogy regarding the ISIS destruction of Islamic historical monuments. Nor does Diaconis stand by that remark as Amiano has wrongly accused in a feeble attempt to start a mud-slinging contest that helps no one.
At the July 8 Town Board meeting, Supervisor Michael Schiliro said he was upset with Amiano’s column and asserted that if this is how Smith feels about North Castle, he should put his name to the column.
Smith has not responded to our question if he is truly in support of his aide Amiano’s water-carrying column.
Amiano said that the discussion of the Miller House at the June 24 meeting should receive a Tony Award for a “Broadway-worthy performance.” Yet Amiano fails to understand that the public comments were made by people of North Castle who are passionate about saving the Miller House because the County’s shameful neglect is no longer acceptable.
“To criticize the volunteers in this town is so distasteful,” retorted Schiliro.
Furthermore, Amiano said that Smith “was the single elected official to get movement on the property with the help of a previously willing and able town administration.”
A deal was negotiated with the County and former Supervisor Howard Arden and Town Board Member John Cronin to move the Miller House to a town park in North White Plains. At that time, that process did not involve everyone on the board, or any committees that are involved with the Miller House, or community members, said Schiliro. No one else was aware of this deal and none of them support that relocation today due to the difficulty of the narrow and steep roads for visiting buses filled with school children.
“Of course the Astorino administration embraced that,” said Schiliro. “They were getting this obligation off of their books. They want [the Miller House] on Town property so it is not their responsibility any more.”
The current condition of the Miller House is inarguably deplorable by everyone. Schiliro asked, “What progress has been made since Smith’s been in office? There’s been no progress for decades.”
County Executive Rob Astorino’s office has asked Schiliro to tell the County what he wants done with the Miller House. Schiliro has repeatedly said, “the recommendation is to repair it on site.” And the Town passed a resolution saying, “the best option is to repair the Miller House on site.” As implied by Amiano, that no other elected official has done nothing, is a foolish statement, replied Schiliro emphatically.
On July 8, Schiliro read a letter from Smith that said, “Legislator Smith has communicated the Town’s position to the Executive Office. We are currently awaiting next steps and look forward to a resolution.”
“We had hoped, and what was pleaded was, that we would get the support of County Legislator Smith, who was not put there by the County,” said Schiliro. “He was put there by the residents of this Town.” He said he hoped Smith would communicate our wishes back to the county and “unfortunately, our County Legislator is communicating the wishes of the County back to us. That this board was criticized, and to pretend that we are doing something theatrical here, is deplorable,” concluded Schiliro with noticeable conviction.
Although the County has said that the Kensico Dam is not an option to relocate the Miller House, Schiliro said he would like to look at that relocation again.
Chairman of Landmarks Preservation Committee Weighed In on Miller House
Letter To the Editor:
July 8, 2015 The Town of North Castle has a Landmarks Preservation Ordinance which requires that “No owner or person with an interest in real property designated as a landmark … shall permit the property to fall into a serious state of disrepair ….”
An important historic landmark in North Castle is the Elijah Miller House. It was the headquarters of General George Washington in October 1776 during the battle of White Plains. It has been designated as a landmark, not only by the Town of North Castle but also by the State of New York and the Federal Government. Miller House has been owned by the County of Westchester since 1917 and for many years was open to visitors, including school children, who could experience a taste of our nation’s early history at this special property.
Unfortunately, in recent years the County has allowed the property to fall into disrepair. As required by law, the North Castle Landmarks Preservation Committee issued an order directing the County to undertake the repairs necessary to preserve this historic landmark. That order was issued over two years ago, on April 23, 2013. Nothing was done by the County, and, on July 23, 2014, the Town of North Castle adopted a Resolution requesting the County to begin repairs at once.
Still nothing was done. A tarp simply remained over the building, and a chain at the entrance blocks access.
At the Town Board meeting of June 24, 2015, the Town Supervisor and the citizens of our Town, including me, as Chair of the Landmarks Preservation Committee, urged Michael Smith, our representative on the County Board of Legislators, to use his position to see to it that the County undertake the necessary repairs. I continue to press for such repairs.
I am appalled that, if the County does not fulfill its obligations as owner and does not repair Miller House promptly, the American public will lose the history that this building represents. I am also very dismayed by the County’s failure to follow the law.
The North Castle Landmarks Preservation Ordinance is applicable to everyone owning a Landmarked property in Town, and that includes the County. Why should we expect our citizens to follow the law, if our elected officials do not? How can we expect owners of landmarked properties, owners with far less resources than our County, to maintain their properties in good repair, if our County ignores that obligation?
I urge the County to repair Miller House promptly and implore Michael Smith to join with us to obtain that result.
Susan Shimer, Chairman North Castle Landmarks Preservation Committee
Washington Headquarters in North White Plains Must be Saved Editorial by Michelle Boyle
June 28, 2015 No one could argue that the Elijah Miller House/Washington Headquarters in North White Plains is not in deplorable condition. The options to repair and restore the building were considered by the current North Castle Town Board a year ago when Westchester County Executive’s office asked Supervisor Michael Schiliro what the Town Board would like to see done with the building.
Westchester County owns the property and the Miller House. The Westchester County Board of Legislators determined that $1.2 million should have been allocated to restore the historic building. In 2010, Executive Rob Astorino vetoed the Board of Legislators' vote to fund the renovation and relocation of the project. At the June 24, 2015 Town Board meeting, County Legislator Michael Smith said those allocated funds have expired.
The building stands in disrepair, covered with a tarp, emptied of artifacts, shored up with two-by-fours, chained in and locked. The building is as an eyesore on Virginia Road.
The County Executive's office wants the historical building to be moved from its location since it was built by Elijah Miller in 1738. The County refuses to allow the building to be moved to Kensico Dam Plaza, which seems ideal. Therefore, the current North Castle administration says they want Westchester County to repair and restore the house at its current location.
At the June 24 meeting, Smith said he was there to negotiate a deal to address the Miller House, yet he neglected to offer any options.
North Castle Town Historians; Supervisor Michael Schiliro of the Town; and Sharon Tomback of the North Castle Historical Society; and many other residents who spoke passionately at the June 24 meeting, had no intentions to negotiate. In fact, everyone who spoke was disgusted that Westchester County refused to take responsibility for this treasured piece of history where General George Washington planned the Battle of White Plains. The constituents made it clear to Smith that they wanted him to tell Astorino that it is Westchester County's legal and moral responsibility to maintain the building. Smith reluctantly agreed to deliver their message.
It appears unlikely that there would be an agreement with Westchester County to pay for the building renovation if the headquarters remain on Virginia Avenue in North White Plains. North Castle could try to apply its newest Zombie legislation to renovate the building and put a lien on it. But to recover the expenses from Astorino's administration could mean years in court. North Castle could wait until Astorino is out of office to work with a new administration. But what if the building collapses between now and then? Action must be taken now to avoid that from happening.
Everyone involved in the Friends of the Miller House, North Castle Landmark Preservation Committee and the North Castle Town Board want to see Westchester County take care of the property, yet that doesn't appear to be happening anytime soon.
Schiliro said the Town Board wants the building to be fixed where it is located on Virginia Road across the street from a cement factory that is not the ideal location. In 2013, Astorino's administration was in agreement with North Castle's Arden administration to move the building to Fountain Park. The park is located in a residential neighborhood of North White Plains. Although the park itself could be an ideal location for the building, the route to get there is narrow and hilly which is a challenge for school buses. For decades, students visited the historical site to learn about the history of the Revolutionary War in Westchester County. The Fountain Park location is also an isolated area which may create a security issue.
Another North Castle relocation considered has been the Smith's Tavern complex on Route 22. This option would most likely require that Westchester County donate the building to the North Castle Historical Society. The Historical Society has said they don't want the financial burden of the ownership of the building. They have also said there's not sufficient space for the building to be located near Smith’s Tavern. But the possibility to relocate the Miller House onto the North Castle Historical Society's property should be considered by an engineer. It was also mentioned that the Smith’s Tavern location would not be the original historical site of the Miller House and that would affect its landmark status. Yet, other historical buildings located at the Smith's Tavern Educational Complex; the Brundage Blacksmith Shop, and the old school house were donated to the Historical Society and were relocated there from their original locations in North Castle.
The Smith's Tavern location should be reconsidered if Westchester County were to agree to repair the building and fund the relocation. If the County would consider to privatize the property on Virginia Avenue, where the building is now, and then turn the money from the sale of that property over to the Historical Society, that could lessen the burden to fund the maintenance and operation of the building.
The purpose of the non-profit organization of the Friends of the Miller House/Washington Headquarters is to raise funds and operate the Miller House as a museum. Already, private donations of over $30,000 have been committed to the Friends. But that's not nearly enough. Additional private donations should be raised to maintain this historical treasure before it's too late.
Now Is the Time to Restore Historic Washington’s Headquarters Editorial By Michelle Boyle
Updated August 3, 2014 All of the interested parties agree that the Elijah Miller House/Washington’s Headquarters is desperately in need of repair. Westchester County and the Town of North Castle have met to discuss that the repairs of the national treasure should take place.
On July 23, 2014, Supervisor Schiliro and the current Town Board adopted a resolution which “requests the immediate repair and restoration, by its owner Westchester County,” at its current location.
In 2010, Westchester County’s Legislation passed a $1.2 million bond to move and restore the Miller House.
In 2012, an agreement was made in a closed-door meeting with North Castle’s Arden Administration and Westchester County’s Astorino representatives to move the historical building from its original and still current location on Virginia Road in North White Plains to the nearby Fountain Park.
In 2013, then Town Board member Michael Schiliro sat in on a number of non-profit Friends of the Miller House/Washington’s Headquarters meetings where the members of the Friends expressed frustration about the stalemate between the County and the Town and the relocation agreed to with the prior administration behind closed doors.
Anthony Amiano, legislative aide to Westchester County Legislator Michael Smith, says that since January 2014, Legislator Smith has contacted North Castle officials several times to discuss reaching a solution, including the possibility of a public/private partnership.
As a sitting Board of Education trustee for the Valhalla School District, Amiano agrees that the prospect of using the Miller House as an educational resource is valuable. But he says the Town of North Castle seems to be advocating a questionable solution in an inappropriate location where taxpayers’ money would be spent to repair the historical building.
A solution may remain somewhere between the two points of view of where the dilapidated building should be repaired. County Executive Astorino says that the restoration and relocation should be supported by using public/private funds. Astorino vetoed the Legislator’s approval of the bond and nothing has been done to the building. Today the house stands in disrepair and Astorino can only hope that its imminent collapse doesn’t occur under his watch. The involved parties need to sit down at an open-door meeting to resolve this and take action before the treasure collapses.
North Castle’s Washington Headquarters Continues to be Topic of Discussion while it Crumbles
July 15, 2014 At the North Castle Town Board work session on July 9, Sharon Tomback, member of the Friends of the Miller House/Washington's Headquarters (MH/WHQ) presented an outline of the history and current condition of the now-abandoned Elijah Miller House on Virginia Road in North White Plains. Since the mid-1800s, before the Civil War, the house was also known as Washington’s Headquarters. George Washington planned the Battle of White Plains in the home's front room; the battle was decisive in keeping the British from advancing into New England. The table at which Washington sat to plan the battle as well as the chairs are still in that front room.
Supervisor Michael Schiliro says while a formal vote by the Town Board is not taken at a work session, “the Town Board will reach out to Westchester County with “the [Friends of MH/WHQ's] recommendation to keep the Miller House where it is and to repair it on site.
In October 2008, the Westchester County Board of Legislators commissioned an analysis of the repairs to be done. In 2010, the County Legislators adopted a bond act in the amount of $1.3 million to finance a capital project to restore and relocate the Miller House. Over the following year, the County Executive Rob Astorino vetoed the bond act; the Legislators then overrode Astorino’s veto. While the discussion continues over where, when and if to move the historic house, Schiliro suggested that the repairs be done to the building at its current location as preventive maintenance. The sum would be far less than the $1.3 million and need the recommendations of an engineer.
County Legislator Michael Smith says that the County secured the funds to repair the Miller House under the concept that is was to be moved from Virginia Road to nearby Fountain Park in North White Plains. The County would like to see a solution, says Smith, but there will be no investment, nor will the County be part of the investment at the current site. Smith says he would like to see a public/private partnership formed to deal with the issues of the Miller House.
Across the street from the Miller House is a cement plant that causes Virginia Road to not be the ideal location for the Miller House, but this is no reason to not repair the building, says Ed Woodyard, President of the Friends of MH/WHQ.
The Friends of the Miller House/Washington's Headquarters is a non-profit organization. Woodyard says the volunteer group is an adjunct committee to the Town’s Elijah Miller House Committee which serves in an advisory capacity to the Town Board on issues regarding the Miller House. The Friends will support the programming, staffing and the docents, says Woodyard; however, those responsibilities do not include financial support for the maintenance of the building which is the responsibility of the owner: Westchester County.
Westchester County has owned the Miller House since 1917. The White Plains Chapter of the National Society of the Daughters of the American Revolution (NSDAR) provided valuable services to the Eljah Miller House/Washington Headquarters from 1917 through 1994, says Tomback. In 1994, the NSDAR signed a contractual agreement with Westchester County and New York State Attorney General to underscore the County’s ownership, responsibility for the building, and its contents as a "museum".
The building is currently abandoned and rotting. The condition of this historical landmark is a public disgrace. Plants and moss are growing from the roof that the County has maintained with a tarp, replacing one tarp after another over the years. In evidence of the violation of this 1994 agreement, there have been on-going appeals to the County to protect and preserve the home as it was intended: as a "museum". In a series of letters and a recommendations dating back to 2005, Tomback quoted from a letter addressed to the County Parks Superintendent written by Rob Astorino, when he was a County Legislator, “As you know this County facility has fallen into repair and is in need of attention. The residents of the Town of North Castle want assurance from the County that this national historic landmark will be protected and preserved.”
Kerry Kasak, Secretary of the Friends of the MH/WHQ, says that the 1994 Assurance of Continuance with the Daughters of American Revolution, Westchester County and the State of New York clearly spells out the County as the owner of the Elijah Miller House. Subsequently, the County is in violation of its responsibility in the care of the building and its collection of the museum's artifacts. The New York State General Attorney’s office has been in on-going contact with Westchester County to be sure that the County carries out its obligations, says Kasak. In addition, she says that the County is in violation of North Castle's Town Code that prohibits an owner of a landmarked property to allow that property to go into a state of disrepair. In October 2013, The North Castle Landmarks Preservation Committee hand-delivered a notice of violation to the County for proper restoration and repair of the Elijah Miller House.
While Tomback spoke at the work session, images of the Miller House on a screen behind her revealed the building to be in a dire state of the disrepair. “How will you help to save the Miller House/Washington’s Headquarters that is a national historic treasure?” asked Tomback in her concluding statement.
Discussions of the Miller House over the last four years have included suggestions to move the House from its current location to the nearby Town-owned Fountain Park on Intervale Avenue in North White Plains. But area neighbors are opposed to this idea due to years of vandalism in the park, including burning of a building at that site some years ago. Another location that was considered is the County’s Kensico Dam in North White Plains, but Schiliro says neither option is viable. “We can kick this around for another couple of years to try to find another location in North White Plains, but in that period of time the building could fall down,” says Schiliro.
“It is time for the County to step forward, live up to its responsibilities and repair it," says Tomback. “If the County comes up with a great idea to move it, we can explore that at that time.”
The Miller House was built in 1738 supposedly by Elijah Miller’s father. Maureen Keller, a member of the Friends of MH/WHQ, says the historic building and furniture still inside are from when both main battles of White Plains, including the Battle of Chatterton Hill, were planned. The remaining furniture in the building, year after year, goes further into disrepair, as does the building, said Keller who also took the photographic images that highlighted Tomback's presentation.
New York State and the National Registry have confirmed the authenticity of the home as Washington Headquarters during the American Revolution in 1776, 1778 and 1781. The patriotic widow, Ann Miller, lived in the house until her death in 1819. And one of her daughters, Sarah Miller Cornell, continued living there until she died in 1838, says Tomback. Elijah Miller died during the Revolution in August 1776 as did two of his sons later that year, both dying three days before Christmas; he is buried between his sons in the churchyard cemetery of the First Presbyterian Church in White Plains which is celebrating its 300th anniversary this year.
The Miller House "is a building that represents a defining battle of the Revolutionary War,” says Woodyard. “The Battle of White Plains marked the end of northern progression by the British army. This is a big moment in our history. The home is a great emblem of why we are free people today.”
In October of last year, a group of North Castle and Westchester Citizens met; it included the Elijah Miller House Committee, Friends of MH/WHQ, the North Castle Historical Society, the Landmarks Preservation Committee and members of the Town Board. According to John Diaconis, treasurer of the Friends of MH/WHQ who was at the meeting, the group voted unanimously to recommend that the County repair and renovate the home at its present location, and to open the building to visitors as a museum as was done for decades.
Diaconis continued, “The Friends are ready to fund-raise and act as a partner.” Furthermore, Diaconis said, "We cannot raise any money while the building is dilapidated." He estimated that it would cost under $100,000 to get the building in operating condition for visitors.
At the July 23 Town Board meeting, Schiliro says the Town Board will place a resolution on the agenda to move forward with the recommendation for Westchester County to repair the Miller House at its current site. In the meantime, discussions are on-going among groups wanting to preserve and restore the historic landmark museum with representatives of the County and the State of New York. Woodyard said that a report on the progress of those discussions may be ready by the time of the next Town Board meeting.
A National Treasure Needs to be Saved
March 27, 2013 One of the most neglected historical treasures in North Castle is the Miller House Museum of Washington Headquarters, located on Virginia Road in North White Plains. The home has been owned by Westchester County since 1917 and was operated with the assistance of the Daughters of the American Revolution.
The small building currently stands with a tarpaulin over the roof; it has been neglected, left with broken windows and is generally in poor condition. At the Westchester County level there is a dichotomy on how to best preserve and relocate this important historical monument.
The Westchester County Board of Legislators had allocated $1.2 million for the Miller House restoration in 2010. The amount was determined by an architectural firm that specializes in historical preservation, says John Nonna, former county legislator, in a letter dated June, 2010. Nonna said, “However, we realized it makes no sense to spend these funds to renovate the Miller House in its current location, a commercial zone. At the suggestion of the architectural firm, another location should be determined that will be more accessible to visitors." The cost of the move, at that time, was an approximate $700,000 additional. "But, rather than seek additional bond funds, the remainder of the funds will be supplied through private donations,” added Nonna.
But since the discovery of a 1994 Assurance of Discontinuance document that says Westchester County is responsible for the content and the museum itself, and therefore Westchester County has the sole responsibility for the maintenance and preservation of the Miller house, regardless of where the funds come from, says Edward Woodyard, President of the Friends of the Miller House/Washington's Headquarters.
North Castle citizens founded a nonprofit organization, The Friends of Miller House/Washington Headquarters. At their meeting on March 21, Sharon Tomback, a member of the board, said, "We have a building that has survived and under our watch (the taxpayers of Westchester), it is going to fall."
The Friends have researched and documented facts indicating that the Miller home, which was built in 1738, played an important role in American history, dating back to the “Battle of White Plains” in 1776. "We want to re-establish the recognition that over 200 years ago, when the Miller House was known as General George Washington's Headquarters, it was to be acknowledged in its right place in the history of Westchester County. It still does not have its proper designation," said Doris Watson, a member of the Board of the Friends of Miller House and the North Castle town historian.
Board members of The Friends of the Miller House discussed the status of the relocation of the Washington headquarters. Although reassured by Supervisor Howard Arden that the Friends of the Miller House would be invited to a recent meeting, that was not the case; the meeting was held among the chief of staff of the Westchester County Executive Office, the head of the Parks Department, the head of Department of Public Works, and a number of other county officials who met with Supervisor Arden and Councilman Cronin. John Cronin and Howard Arden did not attend the Friends meeting, but Cronin sent an abbreviated email describing the meeting with the county.
Cronin's email regarding the meeting said, "Support is great and issues to be resolved include approved bond and potential need for additional funding and how that would be handled; ‘alienation’ of house/property; refresh of quotes and determination of a company to handle the move and renovation.
“The County Legislator has it on their agenda this week and I’m not sure of the outcome of their meeting. Please update me on your fundraising.”
Friends President Edward Woodyard said, "We are puzzled by the abbreviated summary in John Cronin's e-mail about the recent meeting with the county." The Friends Board asked questions about the county meeting, including why the Friends were not included in the meeting and what the outcome of the meeting was. The Friends will request, once again, to attend meetings between the Town of North Castle and Westchester County.
Friends Board Member and former Westchester Park Commissioner Charles Pound, who was responsible for the Miller House for 20 years, said, "Unless we throw down the gauntlet and say that we are going to be involved in these things or else, we should just turn it over and let somebody else worry about it. This is mixed up in county politics and even though the bond was approved, they can't spend a penny of it unless it goes through the necessary channels. The county executive has been against this thing, there's no question about that. And there's no sense of us talking about the money that will be coming from the county, even though they have the legal responsibility, according to the New York State Attorney General."
Ed Woodyard read a letter from Susan Shimer, chairwoman of the North Castle Landmarks Preservation Committee. "The LPC is prepared to order the owner of Miller House to wit the County of Westchester to repair the Miller House, pursuant to section 126-24 of the Town Code B which states, “No owner or person with an interest in real property designated as a landmark ... shall permit the property to fall into a serious state of disrepair so as to result in the deterioration of any exterior architectural feature which would, in the judgment of the LPC, produce a detrimental effect upon ... the life and character of the property itself.
Examples of such deterioration include the following: (1) Deterioration of exterior walls or other vertical supports. (2) Deterioration of roofs or other horizontal members. (3) Deterioration of exterior chimneys. (4) Deterioration or crumbling of exterior stucco or mortar. (5) Ineffective waterproofing of exterior walls, roofs or foundations, including broken windows or doors. (6) Deterioration of any feature so as to create a hazardous condition, which could lead to the claim that demolition is necessary for the public safety."
The Friends of the Miller House voted together to order the owner of the Miller House to be in compliance with section 126-24 of the North Castle Town code.
If Westchester County is considering giving the Miller House to the Town of North Castle, The Friends of the Miller House have many questions about the potential agreement:
1. What are the costs and who is responsible for the relocation and restoration from the Virginia Road site to the new site? 2. Where will the new site be? 3. What is the Town of North Castle going to be responsible for? 4. Is the county going to give the Town money in an endowment for the maintenance and insurance? 5. Which agency is going to handle the operations of staffing, recruiting and coordination? 6. Will the Town be responsible for the building and grounds? 7. Will the Friends provide funding for the "extras", as is the arrangement with The Friends of the North Castle Library? 8. Will there be any additional tax burden to the residents of North Castle? 9. Is the county looking for the Friends to raise the funds, and if so, how can the Friends raise money if they don't know what is happening?
Councilman Michael Schiliro, the only Town Board member in attendance at the March 21st meeting, recommended that the Friends request a work session to start the discussion with the Town.
"The work session with the town is key," said Woodyard, "to educate the Town as it goes into negotiations with the County -- and to define what those roles will be. The FMH/WHQ wants to make sure that the Town is not promising anything to the County that it cannot deliver, particularly anything that involves the FMH/WHQ. We don't want the Town speaking for us and when it mentions us, we don't want the Town or the County telling us what our role might or might not be in the future of the Miller House."
The Miller House Update July 16, 2010 County Executive Robert Astorino vetoed the original Board of Legislators' June 21 vote of 14-2 in favor of using allocated funds to restore and relocate the Miller House to Kensico Dam in North White Plains. The Board of Legislators have revoted with the same results of 14-2 vote in favor of overriding the County Executive's veto.
North Castle's Miller House Committee is looking to form a non-profit organization to raise private funds in support of the historical landmark of Washington headquarters from the battle of White Plains.
Armonk resident Howard Arden, as treasurer of the Friends of Westchester County Parks said, "We have raised over $500,000 in funds to restore historical landmarks at Muscot Farms. As a non-profit organization, the Friends of Westchester County Parks have offered to receive donations made to the Friends of the Miller House." He stated, "This is especially important since tax-payers can't afford to support the restoration of the project. The people who are passionate about this preservation should support it." Arden, also as a member of The Rotary Club, announced the Rotary Club's donation of $500 to the North Castle Historical Society as seed money in support of the Miller House. This donation is intended to set a precedent for the 20 other countywide historical societies. Arden said, "It is time we stop waiting for handouts and start working towards funding this project." Supervisor Weaver, has offered his business's Westchester County Airport hangar location to hold a fundraising event. Weaver said, "I look forward to restoring the Miller House and making this historical site part of North Castle again."
July 2, 2010
On July 1, County Executive Rob Astorino vetoed the Westchester County Board of Legislation's approval of a $1.3 million bond, including $100,000 in previously authorized bonds of the County, to finance the capital project to restore the historic Miller House. However, given the June 21st 14-1 vote in favor of the bond, the Journal News reports 12 votes needed override the veto would be likely.
The Ann and Elijah Miller House, built in 1738, was the site of George Washington's Headquarters during the Battle of White Plains. It is presently located on Virginia Road in North White Plains.
Local Armonk residents speaking on behalf of the bond were North Castle Town Supervisor William Weaver who spoke of a plan to incorporate private donations to help offset the cost to move the building to a new location, most likely at the Kensico Dam, and to restore the home. He said that the Miller House serves to remind current and succeeding generations of the Battle of White Plains and of the fight for American freedom and liberty.
Rich Nardi, a member of the board of directors of the North Castle Historical Society and a member of the Miller House Committee, read a statement from the NCHS in support of the measure as did Ed Woodyard, also on the NCHS board, who read a statement from Town Councilman John Cronin and cited three of his ancestors who fought in the battle, one of whom (from Massachusetts) died in it and is buried in White Plains.
The funds will go to moving and restoring the historic farmhouse which is listed on several national and state historic registers. The County assumed control of the house and property in 1993; previously the County shared responsibility of the house with the Daughters of the American Revolution.
WHY THE MILLER HOUSE SHOULD BE SAVED By John Nonna
June 2010 The Miller House is a monument to the Revolutionary War and the special place in the history of that war occupied by the Battle of White Plains. It is one of the few relics of the Revolutionary War in Westchester County. Please read more of County Legislator John Nonna's OP Ed piece on the Miller House.
Will George Washington’s Historic Headquarters Be Restored in North Castle?
Updated January 25, 2013 Supervisor Howard Arden, Councilman John Cronin, and North Castle residents who are members of the Friends of
the Miller House recently met with representatives from the County Executive’s office to discuss the renovation and moving of the Elijah Miller House from Virginia Road in North White Plains. The building that was built in 1738 was said to have been used during the American Revolution as General George Washington's headquarters, during the Battle of White Plains in 1776, and again in 1778.
The Miller House was originally purchased by Westchester County and opened to the public as a museum in 1918. Unfortunately, the museum has been closed for several years, as a result of neglect and the deteriorating conditions of the historical building.
In 2010 the county legislature passed a $1.3 million bond to finance the restoration and relocation of the Miller House to Kensico Dam. County Executive Robert Astorino vetoed the measure, and said the restoration and relocation should be supported by private funds. The Westchester County executive office is now open to the possibility of using public/private funds to support the project.
At the January 22, 2013, North Castle Town Board meeting, Arden asked the Town Board for an approval to authorize Fidelity Title, Ltd to perform a title search of deeds and maps of Fountain Park, for a maximum fee of $850. The purpose is to determine if the property in North White Plains is part of the original Miller Farmstead. "We are in the process of hopefully getting Fountain Park in a condition that might be able to receive the Miller House Washington Headquarters," said Aden.
Arden added that there has never been a title search performed on the property, and the Town Board authorized the funds to determine if Fountain Park is considered part of the original 600-acre Miller Farm. If it is part of the original Miller Farm dating back to 1738, moving the Miller House to Fountain Park would allow the home to maintain its historical landmark status.
Councilman John Cronin and Supervisor Arden had initiated the drive to find the relocation of the Miller House to Fountain Park that is the old ski-tow, Councilwoman Diane Roth said. She also explained that County Executive Robert Astorino is motivated to help resolve this ongoing problem, specifically, the Miller House falling apart and not having a place to go.
"Several of us met with the County, who was receptive to moving the Miller House," said John Diaconis, treasurer of the Friends of the Miller House. "The President of the Friends of the Miller House, Ed Woodyard, has also worked tirelessly to move this process forward. We also appreciate any efforts that the Town Board could make in dealing with the County Executive. A number of the Friends would also like to participate in the discussions with the county," Diaconis added. The offer is still open as a group of the Friends would like to be involved in those discussions because they feel they could help.
Cronin said he would love to have the Friends help in the process. More discussions will determine if the county will issue a bond for the renovation and move, and if so, how much and what role the Friends will play. The Friends of the Miller House is a 501 non-profit organization. Woodyard, who has also been a long-standing member of the Friends of the North Castle Library, said he would like for the Friends of the Miller House to play the same role as the Friends of the North Castle Library Inc.; they currently "provide the ‘extras’ that make the library so special.”
The plan to restore the Miller House in Fountain Park will help open Miller House’s door to busloads of students and visitors once again. And it will also recover an historical treasure in North White Plains.