Chappaqua Railroad Depot and Depot Plaza
The Chappaqua Railroad Depot and Depot Plaza site, located along the Metro-North Harlem train line in Westchester County, New York, includes the historic train station, along with the semicircular plaza adjoining it. The station building now houses a café, which has maintained the original floor plan of the depot and incorporates the old ticket booth as an active element. The Chappaqua Railroad Depot and Depot Plaza, which were constructed in 1902, are on land that was donated to the railroad and the Town of New Castle in 1901 by Dr. Frank M. Clendenin and his wife Gabrielle, daughter of Horace Greeley, the founder and former editor of the New-York Tribune newspaper. The Chappaqua Railroad Depot and Depot Plaza is included in The Greeley Heritage Landmarks in Chappaqua, which were listed on the National Register of Historic Places in April 1979.
Backstory and Context
Horace Greeley (1811-1872) was a prominent figure of the mid-nineteenth century who founded and was editor of the most influential newspaper of its time, the New-York Tribune. Greeley was also very active in his support of progressive causes, antislavery in particular, and in politics, as a founder of the Republican Party, a supporter of Lincoln, and a candidate for president in 1872. Beginning in 1852, he established a summer home in the hamlet of Chappaqua, where he assembled a farm of about 78 acres, located in what is now a major part of the village center. After Greeley’s death in 1872, the land was inherited by his daughter Gabrielle (1857-1937).
Starting in 1846, when the tracks of the New York and Harlem Railroad reached the area, the Chappaqua hamlet grew up around the main railroad crossing. In the early years, farm products made up a bulk of traffic along the line from Chappaqua to New York City, but by 1900, agriculture in Westchester was in decline. In Chappaqua, as commuters to New York City began to grow in number and the hamlet center expanded, the original passenger station became increasingly cramped. Despite some resistance, particularly from neighborhood business proprietors, there was increasing support for building a new station on a larger site.
Popular sentiment became a consensus in 1901, when Horace Greeley’s daughter, now Gabrielle Greeley Clendenin, and her husband, Reverend Dr. Frank Montrose Clendenin, donated a site for the station on land from the former Greeley farm, south of Main Street. The new station was dedicated in June 1902, and has remained in operation ever since. Designed by the architectural office of the railroad, the station resembled several others on the division. It was designed to be fire-resistant, with masonry walls and a tile roof. The broad eaves of the roof and an extended canopy along the tracks sheltered passengers from weather and the sooty smoke of the trains.
The donation by the Clendenins included not only the site of the station itself but also the semicircular plaza adjoining it. In 1928, the plaza was named for a neighbor and close friend of theirs, Alfred H. Smith, who had been president of the railroad until his untimely death in a riding accident in 1924. Both the station and its plaza are included in The Greeley Heritage Landmarks in Chappaqua, which were added to the National Registry of Historic Places in April of 1979.
- Chappaqua History Committee and Gray Williams. New Castle: Chappaqua and Millwood. “Images of America” series. Charleston, SC: Acadia Publishing, 2006.
- “Chappaqua Railroad Depot and Depot Plaza, 79003210.” National Register of Historic Places. United States Department of the Interior/National Park Service. 1977. https://catalog.archives.gov/id/75315501
- Greeley, Horace. Recollections of a Busy Life. New York: J.B. Ford & Co., 1868.
- New Castle Historical Society. “Stop 11: Greeley’s Concrete Barn (now the Rehoboth House), https://www.newcastlehs.org/walkinghoracegreeleysfarm/stop-11/
- Williams, Gray. Horace Greeley and the Greeley Family in Chappaqua. New Castle Historical Society, 2016.
- Williams, Gray. Picturing Our Past: National Register Sites in Westchester County. Westchester County Historical Society. 2003.