This February the annual Lincoln events in Peekskill will hold a special meaning. It will be a once in a lifetime opportunity for us to participate in the events commemorating the Sesquicentennial (150th) Anniversary of President-elect Abraham Lincoln’s stop in Peekskill on his rail journey to his inauguration in 1861.
Lincoln left his home in Springfield, Illinois on February 11 of that year, making many stops along the way, but only one stop in Westchester County: Peekskill, on February 19, 1861.
This event has been recognized by the residents of Peekskill ever since. It even inspired the creation of the Lincoln Society in Peekskill in 1903, whose annual celebration of Lincoln’s visit will be held this February for the 107th time.
As a member and Past President of the Lincoln Society, I can tell you first hand that Lincoln’s visit, albeit a very short one, has had a significant impact on our area. Every year people come from far and wide to witness the reenactment of his speech and honor one of the greatest historical figures in American history.
In 2005 during my tenure as Mayor of Peekskill we were able to gain ownership of the actual train depot on the location where Lincoln stopped to give his speech in 1861. Since then, the Lincoln Society’s annual event has taken place there. Now on February 19, 2011, 150 years to the day, we will witness the reenactment of Lincoln’s speech performed by Fritz Klein, who is considered one of the nation’s foremost Lincoln actors. His participation is due to the National Park Service who has decided to recreate Lincoln’s historic train journey. Just as 150 years ago, Peekskill will be “Lincoln’s” only stop in Westchester.
February 2011 will also mark the start of the second phase of the restoration of the “Lincoln Depot” in Peekskill. In 2006 then Governor (and former Mayor of Peekskill) George Pataki assisted in obtaining $5 million in NY State grants to restore the depot into a museum, construct a visitor’s center on the site and create a plaza on the remaining land. The entire historic site will be operated by the Lincoln Depot Foundation, of which I am President.
Thanks to a grant by the Ginsburg Development Corp., the life size “Lincoln in Peekskill” statue was commissioned. It was created by renowned artist Richard Mazlowski and installed and dedicated in October 2007. Former Governor Pataki and other dignitaries were on hand, including Harold Holzer, who is regarded as the preeminent Lincoln scholar of our time.
Stay tuned for more information to follow on the events mentioned and progress of the Lincoln Depot Museum project. In the meantime visit my website to get further information on Lincoln’s visit, read his speech, see the before and after photos of the exterior (first phase) of the depot restoration, watch the slide show on the construction of the Lincoln statue and the photos and speeches from the dedication event.