Lincoln Depot Museum Interior Construction Begins


Lincoln Depot Groundbreaking Ceremony

Lincoln Depot Foundation President John G. Testa is joined during the ceremony by County Executive Rob Astorino and Foundation Board members Patrick Garvey, Paul Martin and Brian Caplan.

PEEKSKILL, NY—One of the most historic buildings in Westchester County is rapidly being transformed into what will be among the most sophisticated and exciting museums and educational facilities in the area, as Peekskill’s Lincoln Depot Building moves into an advanced restoration process.

A groundbreaking ceremony to celebrate the structure’s interior transformation and the creation of a new asset for all of Northern Westchester was held on Wednesday, February 9, 2011 at the future Lincoln Depot Museum, located at the junction of Peekskill’s Central Avenue and Water Street in Peekskill. The Museum’s most prominent feature right now is a life-sized statue of Abraham Lincoln giving his only speech in Westchester County, an event that took place on the depot site 150 years ago this February 19. The groundbreaking event marks the official start of the Sesquicenntenial Celebration of President-elect Abraham Lincoln’s visit to Peekskill as part of his historic trip from Springfield to Washington D.C. in 1861.

The creation of Lincoln Depot Museum had been a dream for many years but it didn’t become possible until Mayor Testa took office and the City gained ownership of the property. He also played a crucial role in obtaining a multi-million dollar grant from the administration of Governor George Pataki. Deeply interested and involved in history, Testa has donned a Revolutionary War uniform and served as a reenactor for 40 years. “I know first hand the power of historic preservation and tourism. We have the ability to create an educational and information showplace,” Testa says.

Lincoln Depot Board Chairman Patrick Garvey agrees. “The site will reflect Peekskill’s and NY State’s extraordinary historic connections with the Lincoln presidency under the theme, “Lincoln and New York, the Indispensable Relationship,” says Garvey. “The project has been the beneficiary of the vision and leadership of a duo of Peekskill former mayors; one of whom became New York’s governor, George Pataki; and one who continues to serve as Peekskill’s County Legislator, John Testa, who also was elected President of the Foundation’s Board of Directors. Prior to leaving office Gov. Pataki set in motion the economic development initiative that provided the funding for the project through the Empire State Development Corporation.”

Plans are for the Depot to be the hub of a network of sites throughout Westchester and the Hudson Valley region. There will be educational programs, lectures and special exhibitions that will enhance the impact of the site.

Heritage tourism can be a powerful engine of economic development. What the Lincoln Depot Foundation is seeking to bring to the mix is the creation of a single place where people can go to get information on historic events and the local inhabitants who played a role in events, such as the Underground Railroad, that shaped our nation. Due to Testa’s efforts while Mayor, Peekskill was designated a “Preserve America” Community by the US Department of the Interior. The continuation of this project will bolster that honor.

“It’s amazing to think that the first trains rolled on those tracks 162 years ago, and that hardly a day has passed since then without a train going by,” Testa says. “We live in a very historic area,” he says, “And that history is one of our most important assets. Our goal is to turn Northern Westchester’s past into a way to create a new path to the future, one where our area is among the region’s leading educational and tourism centers.”

That attractiveness is apparent in the restored Lincoln Depot exterior that was completed in 2006. In October of 2007 the “Lincoln in Peekskill” life-size statue was installed and dedicated on the site and has become a focal point to the project.

Originally, the depot served as both the passenger and freight station for the railroad until the present passenger station was built in 1874. Now work has begun on the depot interior to restore the space to reflect both the comfortable passenger portion of the building and the workmanlike warehouse environment that occupied the remainder of the space.

Where many projects in the area have stalled, the Depot project is in high gear. “Talking about plans won’t give a project the momentum it needs,” Testa says. “Action is what’s essential. And that’s what we’ve taken with the Lincoln Depot.”

About Legislator John G. Testa

John G. Testa, a life-long resident of Peekskill, began his first term on the Westchester County Legislature in January 2010. Prior to his successful run for the District 1 Legislative seat, he served 3 terms as Mayor of Peekskill from January 2002 until December 2007. Before becoming mayor he also served a four-year term as a Councilman. From his first days in office Testa worked tirelessly to set the City on the path of economic stability. Peekskill flourished under this plan, increasing the city fund balance to its highest in history. During John’s tenure in office, the NY State Comptroller’s Office named Peekskill one of the most fiscally sound municipalities in the State; independent auditors proclaimed Peekskill as being in its best fiscal condition in over 30 years; and Moody’s Investor Service agreed to upgrade its bond rating, resulting in further savings. The plan he put in place was so successful that it enabled the City of Peekskill to pass three budgets in a row with a 0% tax increase. These fiscal skills will prove valuable to Testa as he works to put the brakes on what has been wildly escalating county spending and unchecked government growth. He has pledged his efforts to work to consolidate services, eliminate wasteful spending and improve efficiency. In addition to the fiscal conservatism that served Peekskill so well, Testa worked to promote the city, attracting investment, jobs and an increased tax base. Over $100 million of private investment came to Peekskill in the forms of new residential construction, retail space, and the redevelopment of historic structures. As Mayor, Testa led a successful battle to stop the unfair and unsafe plan to send sewage to the Peekskill plant from outside the sewage/water district. John’s roots are deep within the soil of Northern Westchester. His father’s family has lived here for more than a century and his mother’s family is nearing that mark. He is proud that he was born in Peekskill and has lived and worked here all his life and, with his wife Nancy raised their two children here.
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1 Response to Lincoln Depot Museum Interior Construction Begins

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