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 John G. Testa

Former District 1 County Legislator, John G. Testa is served five terms at the Westchester County Board of Legislators, spending the last 3 terms as BOL Minority Leader. John G. Testa is a lifelong resident of Peekskill who first entered elected public service as a member of the Peekskill Common Council in 1998 and then served three terms as Mayor. He previously served on the Conservation and Parks Advisory Board and Zoning Board of Appeals. John became an elected official eager to improve the City in which his family has lived for more than a century and quickly earned a reputation as a strong, independent, nonpartisan voice for fiscal responsibility. John received a BS degree in Technology from SUNY Oswego, where his academic achievements gained him induction into Epsilon Pi Tau, the International Honorary Fraternity of Technology. He earned his MS degree in Technology from the City College of New York. He began his teaching career in 1980 at Peekskill High School, his alma mater, as an instructor in Technology and Social Studies, retiring in 2013 after 33 years teaching. John has been a leader in support for the Arts Community in Westchester. He presided over the construction of the Peekskill Art Lofts, the establishment of the Hudson Valley Center for Contemporary Art, and the complete restoration of the Paramount Center for the Arts, originally a 1930’s movie house and helped bring critical funding to many Westchester programs. Legislator Testa received the “Advancing the Arts in Westchester Award” by ArtsWestchester. John has a been a leader on environmental issues for two decades and has a long record of initiatives he has supported and spearheaded. His active involvement in developing and promoting environmentally friendly policies began as mayor and continued throughout his time as Westchester County Legislator. His efforts consistently earned John the endorsement of the NY League of Conservation Voters. John’s most recognizable accomplishment has been his promotion and preservation of local history and historic landmarks, bringing an unprecedented focus on the region’s rich history, and its legacy of historic Victorian architecture. His roots in historical preservation stem from his experience as a Revolutionary War re-enactor and member of The Brigade of the American Revolution for 50 years. John was instrumental in securing the preservation of the Lincoln Depot, now the Lincoln Depot Museum, where he now serves as President. The museum was recognized in 2015 as one of The Best Museums in Westchester. He also secured the preservation of historic Fort Hill as parkland, a 40-acre parcel that was originally a Revolutionary War encampment site. Under his leadership, the United States Dept. of the Interior declared Peekskill a “Preserve America Community.” John was able to establish a record number of National Register designations of local structures, including the first Downtown and Neighborhood Historic Districts and supported the preservation of the historic Miller House in North White Plains. In 2017 John was named a “Champion of History” by the Lincoln Society in Peekskill. John and his wife of 37 years, Nancy, live in Peekskill and have two adult children, John, Jr. (fiancé Courtney Kelly) and Katy (husband Mike Mearon). John and Nancy recently welcomed the arrival of their first grandchild, Lacey Mae, in 2019.
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1 Response to Lincoln Depot Museum Interior Construction Begins

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