YORKTOWN, N.Y. – To make out the faded engravings on old gravestones, experts will reflect sunlight onto the face of the stone with a mirror. Under new light, centuries-old inscriptions will be experienced once again.
As one of Westchester County’s oldest towns, some artifacts in Yorktown need more than a mirror. Luckily, the community has a number of residents who are passionate about preserving the historic sites around town.
“We are very lucky that we have people who are dedicated to this,” said Supervisor Michael Grace. “They’re making great strides with their new program recognizing Homes of Historic Distinction.”
The town board recently met with members of the Landmarks Preservation Commission to discuss three new projects: the search and rescue of private burial grounds, the restoration of the old railroad station, and the deconstruction and restoration of Zino’s barn. Once completed, the town’s newest occupants will have three new ways to catch a glimpse into the lives of its earliest.
Of the three structures that sit on the site of the future Lowe’s at 3220 Crompond Road, one dates back to the 18th century. With the impending project, its destruction is unavoidable—almost.
The town is working with the Landmarks Preservation Commission to deconstruct and then re-assemble the building elsewhere.
Grace said someone who specializes in this type of historical preservation will lead the project, which will cost $54,000. Town officials said a new location has not yet been decided on, so the schedule for the project remains unclear. Grace said Lowe’s developers, Breslin Realty, and Lowe’s itself, might each contribute $18,000 toward the project.
Across the street from the Adams-Bernstein House, at 3147 Old Yorktown Road (Route 132), is a small, private graveyard nestled into the corner of the property. Private cemeteries are commonly seen on colonial properties and farmsteads, but are not always maintained to the same standards of publicly owned burial grounds.
Dr. Ed Pell, a member of the Landmarks Preservation Commission, approached the board with a proposal to purchase the land and repair the plot. Pell is also on the Yorktown Historical Society’s board of trustees.
“The Col. John Hyatt Burying Ground is the quintessential item representing the early history of present-day Yorktown,” Pell said.
Descendants of Yorktown’s first settler, John Hyatt, are buried on the plot along with members of the Strang, Ferris, Hughson and Travis families. There are 10 graves on the lot, the earliest dating back to 1759.
Parks and Recreation Department staff have documented the state of the tombstones, but that’s as far as the project has gotten. Grace said the town and commission are exploring grant options to fund the project, and eventually similar ones in the future.
In 1981, the railroad station that sits along the North County Trailway was listed on the National Register of Historic Places to commemorate the years it served as a cultural hub for the town.
According to the town’s website, in the 1800s, the station was once surrounded by five stores, a school, a hotel, two locksmiths, a wheelwright and two churches.
Although the station is just 400 square feet, the cost of restoring it to historical standards is anticipated to be about $300,000, town officials said.
The cost is worth it, according to Grace, who said that as far as he’s concerned, “it should have been done yesterday.”
The project is partially funded by grants through the Department of Transportation and town officials said they hope to complete it in time for the fall.