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North Castle Preserves Acre of Local Revolutionary War Site

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North Castle
North White Plains resident Nora Kanze Manuele holds a Revolutionary War cannonball a relative found on Nethermont Avenue property. The North Castle Town Board has preserved the land that was used to track British troop movement during the Revolution. Martin Wilbur photo

With two votes last week, the Town of North Castle helped preserve a vital piece of American history at a local Revolutionary War site.

The board approved designating 16 Nethermont Ave. in North White Plains as open space and authorized the purchase of the adjacent parcel at 18 Nethermont Ave. for up to $165,000.

Together the two properties, which combine for just over an acre, are part of the site known to locals as Mount Misery where the patriots occupied the high ground that allowed them to track the movement of British troops during the Battle of White Plains from Oct. 28 to Nov. 6, 1776. That battle stemmed the British advance and helped the Americans begin to turn the tide of the war.

Nora Kanze Manuele, a nearly lifelong resident of North White Plains, played a key role in bringing attention to the historical significance of Mount Misery to Councilwoman Barbara DiGiacinto and other town officials.

She said longtime residents of the hamlet sometimes took for granted that it would always be preserved in its natural state. A 1938 editorial she unearthed from The North Castle Sun had urged the town to preserve the site.

“The history of George Washington flows in the veins of people from North White Plains because we were caught up with the wonderful things that those patriots and George Washington did for our country and for our area,” said Manuele, whose grandfather moved to the hamlet in 1919.

A relative of Manuele’s found a Revolutionary War cannonball on the land many years ago. She had toted it to recent board meetings to highlight the importance of preserving the land.

The vote for 16 Nethermont Ave., which has been a town-owned parcel, ensures that it will remain open space. With the help of state funding, the town will also buy the privately-owned 18 Nethermont Ave.

Supervisor Michael Schiliro said there is an abundance of historical significance in North Castle and town officials wanted to make sure they preserve as much of it as possible.

“It’s so important that we continue that legacy, that education, so as a new generation comes to town, it remains with them and they know how important it is,” Schiliro said.

Much of the remainder of Mount Misery has been developed with private homes over the years. Preservation of the two parcels received renewed interest among some of the local residents after a prospective buyer approached the town two or three years ago, said  Co-Town Historian Sharon Tomback.

Since Mount Misery is the highest point around, the Americans were able to track the British throughout Westchester, including the nearby Miller Hill, where they repelled the British, Long Island Sound and even down to New York City, she said.

“So stopping them at Miller Hill was a feat,” Tomback said. “We might be British today.”

It’s not entirely clear how the slopes got its name, although Tomback said it has been discussed among local historians that it may refer to the massacre of local Native Americans by the New Rochelle Huguenots at the site well before the Revolutionary War era.

Local historians and preservationists last week applauded the board’s votes and commitment to history. The town also played a key role in pressing Westchester County to preserve and refurbish the Miller House on Virginia Road at its original site. It served as Washington’s headquarters during the Battle of White Plains.

“The importance of the sites on Mount Misery cannot be given any less significance than those on Miller Hill or Miller House,” said Cynthia Abbott Kauffman, a North White Plains resident and co-founder of Daughters of Liberty’s Legacy.

“It was the strategy of using what was called the twin hills that stopped the British advance north and give George Washington and his troops time to move north to Fishkill, gather supplies and travel to what was known as the retreat to victory to Trenton where our patriots had their first and much-needed victory of the war.”

Tom Rice, a North Castle Historical Society trustee, said it will be important to not just preserve the property but eventually allow people to visit and fully appreciate its significance.

“It’s history, it’s important, it’ll be important to our children and to our children’s children,” Rice said.

DiGiacinto recognized Assemblyman Chris Burdick (D-Bedford) and state Sen. Shelley Mayer (D-Yonkers) for their support. Burdick said he helped secure $125,000 in state funding, and Mayer is also expected to acquire some funding toward the purchase and other expenses.

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