Opening of Lincoln Depot Museum Celebrated in Peekskill


Rick Pezzullo | Oct 20, 2014 |

examinerEleven years of planning to mark an historic moment in the City of Peekskill and the history of the United States was celebrated Saturday with the long awaited opening of the Lincoln Depot Museum on South Water Street.

Local officials participated in a celebratory ribbon-cutting ceremony for the museum, the only one of its kind in New York State dedicated to the life of Abraham Lincoln that has gained national attention.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA“We are proud of the result of our many years of hard work,” said Museum President and Westchester County Legislator John Testa (R,C/Peekskill), who served as Peekskill mayor from 2002-07 when the historic building was acquired and grants were awarded. “There has been a tremendous amount of research, planning and collaboration to achieve this success. We finally made it.”

The original Peekskill Train Depot where Lincoln visited on February 19, 1861 in front of about 1,500 people to deliver a short speech en route to his inauguration as President of the United States was restored and renovated by the Lincoln Depot Foundation, which was formed in 2007, the same year Governor George Pataki, a former Peekskill mayor, obtained $3 million in grants for the project.

A full-size, bronze statue of Lincoln, created by sculptor Richard Masloski, depicting the way Lincoln addressed the crowds during his only stop in Westchester County was unveiled on October 27, 2007 and stands prominently outside in front of the museum.

“This is a true treasure for our community and the city,” said Cortlandt Supervisor Linda Puglisi, whose father was a historian in Rockland County. “We are here as stewards of the history of our community.”

Equally impressed was state Assemblywoman Sandra Galef (D/Ossining), who recalled visiting the train depot and envisioning what it would take to transform it into a museum.

“It is just a miracle. It just shows it takes time and a lot of commitment from a lot of people,” she said. “It took a lot of people to say yes. This is a dream that can come true. I know visitors will flock here.”

“This is just another wonderful reason to come to Peekskill and celebrate our wonderful place in American history,” added Deb Milone, executive director of the Hudson Valley Gateway Chamber of Commerce.

The initial exhibit, “New York and Abraham Lincoln: The Indispensable Relationship,” features more than 100 artifacts on loan from collectors, as well as part of the museum’s growing permanent collection. Special exhibitions are planned in the future and a lecture series will be established.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Through December 21, the museum will be open on Saturdays and Sundays from noon to 5 p.m. Admission is free for Peekskill residents.

Next month, the first phase of site work to transform the grounds to the Lincoln Depot Plaza will begin with proper grading of the property, the installation of historically appropriate fencing, creation of pedestrian and service entrances, a boardwalk along McGregory Brook and construction of a platform on the west side of the building.

The second phase is planned for 2015 with the construction of a Support Building which will house a museum gift shop, administrative offices, meeting/presentation room and public bathrooms. The work will be funded from an $8.3 million riverfront grant received from the state.

Mayor Frank Catalina said the museum will trigger a series of development projects in the city.

“This museum is important because I feel it will start the domino effect of things moving again in Peekskill. This is the first domino to fall,” he said. “It’s an attraction and it shows we’re ready to turn the page. It will open the floodgates of more things that have been held up.”

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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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