Guest Columns

Mt. Misery Preservation Couldn’t Have Been Done Without Help of So Many

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By Nora Kanze Manuele

How many people does it take to protect and preserve a parcel of land on Mount Misery?

Actually many, but that is a good thing! Mount Misery is an important, historical and beautiful hill that served as a strategic defensive post in 1776 during the Battle of White Plains.  

While no shots were fired from Mount Misery as far as we know, the hill has long been recognized as a historic point of interest highlighting North White Plains’ important role in our nation’s War of Independence. If Washington and his troops had not succeeded in escaping to Mount Misery and hiding out in trenches they dug there, there might well be no United States of America today. 

Earlier this year, I brought to North Castle Councilwoman and Deputy Supervisor Barbara DiGiacinto my idea of working with her and others to protect the town’s portion of Mount Misery and an adjacent parcel. DiGiacinto was enthusiastic about my idea and referred me to the Town of North Castle’s Open Space Committee.  

Before drafting a proposal to committee Chair Kerri Kazak, I met with Edward Woodyard, president of the North Castle Historical Society, Co-town Historian Sharon Tomback and former Landmarks Preservation Committee chair Christine Eggleton. Kazak agreed that this beautiful tract of land, about one acre, should be preserved because of its historical significance as well as other important open space features. Thanks to DiGiacinto’s encouragement, momentum built.

The project picked up speed when at one of DiGiacinto’s monthly meetings in North White Plains, I presented my ideas to a group that included Assemblyman Chris Burdick, state Sen. Shelley Mayer and County Executive George Latimer. After I finished speaking, Burdick expressed immediate interest in the project. He also had several suggestions. One of them was to contact Constance Kehoe, president of Revolutionary Westchester 250.

Dr. Erik Weiselberg, principal historian for the group, had this to say about the hilltop under discussion:

“The troops on Mount Misery were critically important in the impasse that resulted after the Hessians had taken the Continental Army defenses at Chatterton Hill on Oct. 28…To visit Mount Misery and hear the words of the suffering private (Joseph Plumb) Martin brings a profound understanding of the experiences of the Revolutionary War – about Gen. Washington’s leadership and the experiences of the common soldier in the war that led to American independence.” 

Tom Rice, vice president of the North Castle Historical Society, joined our quest, and thanks to Kehoe, Tom and I were able to meet with members of other historical societies in Westchester: Croton, Hastings, Revolutionary Hastings and The Historical Society, Inc. serving Sleep Hollow and Tarrytown. White Plains Mayor Tom Roach is also keenly interested in this project. White Plains has watershed property that abuts North Castle’s property. This project is not only important in North Castle but has also reached into other areas of Westchester County.

In July, DiGiacinto, Rice and I welcomed Burdick and Mayer to Mount Misery. I am sure it was the first time since George Washington’s visit that we had so many honorable guests visit the site. 

We look forward to working on the preservation effort with County Legislator Margaret Cunzio and Latimer. They both were at the forefront of the restoration of the Revolutionary War-era Miller House, also known as Washington’s Headquarters, in North White Plains.

On July 27, the North Castle Town Board unanimously approved a resolution to preserve in perpetuity the town-owned portion of Mount Misery (16 Nethermont Ave.) by declaring it open space. At the same meeting, the Town Board unanimously voted to pass another resolution to purchase 18 Nethermont Ave., a contiguous parcel, also equally historically important. Once this property is owned by the town, it too will be designated open space.

A big thank you to North Castle Supervisor Michael Schiliro, DiGiacinto, Councilman Jose Berra, Councilman Saleem Hussain, and Councilman Matt Milim. Also, thanks to Town Attorney Roland Baroni, Mindy Berard, confidential secretary to the supervisor, Town Administrator Kevin Hay, Town Assessor Georgine Richardson and Town Clerk Alison Simon. These people worked diligently to make this happen. 

While we await the official completion of purchase of 18 Nethermont by the town, additional acknowledgments must go out to Cynthia Abbott Kauffman, a lifelong resident of Mount Misery, founder of Daughters of Liberty’s Legacy, president of the White Plains Historical Society and trustee of the North Castle Historical Society, who will be working with us on signage and other projects. Thanks also to our neighbor, Kaitlin Chieco, for her assistance and guidance as we begin to put in place a plan for fundraising to cover the costs of additional projects on Mount Misery. And thank you to an anonymous donor for helping underwrite a lovely new sign for the site.

Defending Mount Misery in the 21st century takes many – residents, historians and elected officials – all working together to save an important part of our country’s history.

Nora Kanze Manuele is a nearly lifelong North White Plains resident whose own family history in the hamlet dates back more than a hundred years.

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