CARMEL, N.Y. - Putnam County Executive MaryEllen Odell and the Putnam Legislature hosted an evening celebration commemorating the 200th birthday of the Historic Courthouse in Carmel.
A special unveiling of new outdoor lighting donated by Entergy replaced the traditional blowing out of birthday candles at the conclusion of the hour long festivities, county officials said.
Odell, who was away attending a NYSAC Board Meeting, sent her regrets in a message read by Legislative Chairman Carl Albano.
“The evening of June 12th will be a history lesson for all of us and a salute to Denis Castelli whose love of history and talent as a photographer will be greatly missed. Thank you to the staff and volunteers at the Historian’s office,” she said.
Albano, who filled in for Odell, welcomed the judicial dignitaries who included District Administrative Judge Hon. Alan D. Scheinkman, New York Supreme Court Justice, Appellate Division, Hon. John W. Sweeny, Jr., Putnam’s Supreme Court Justice Hon. Victor Grossman, Putnam County Court Justice Hon. James F. Reitz and James T. Rooney and Kent Town Justice J. Peter Collins.
Members of the Mahopac Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 5491 served as the Color Guard for the ceremony. Albano presented the group with a proclamation thanking them for their service and volunteerism.
“There is nothing more moving than watching a well-trained color guard and the volunteer members of VFW Post 5491 add a solemn and dignified display to any occasion,” he said.
Following the Pledge of Allegiance led by Sweeny, Albano introduced Deputy County Historian Sallie Sypher who gave a condensed but enlightening history of the Historic Courthouse whose construction costs in 1814 was $6,000.
“The courthouse was a 30 x 40 unadorned rectangle until the 1840’s when it was gussied up some,” she said referring to the addition of the Corinthian columns that still stand today and to other decorative measures that were made. Sypher recounted the 1924 fire at Smalley’s Inn when sparks of fire ignited the courthouse roof and the 4-to-2 vote by the supervisors to rebuild the charred structure. In the 1970s and ‘80s New York State officials declared the courthouse unsuitable and the county was instructed “to build a new one.” In 1988, preservationist, notably Brewster’s Eleanor Beach Fitchen, banded together and eventually won their battle to have the original courthouse restored.
Christina Micciolo, a clerk in the Historian’s office, gave a brief talk on the many trials of Henry Warren whose stagnant and foul smelling dykes on Constitution Island were blamed for numerous cases of malaria in the village of Cold Spring.
Albano thanked the staff of the Historian’s Office, Archivist Reginald White, clerk/researchers Catherine Wargas and Tim Crawford, along with volunteers Elizabeth Allison, Joseph Gyscek and Fred M. Sturzenbecher for their efforts in preparing the evening’s program and historical displays.
Richard Shankowitz, a longtime friend and fishing buddy of the late County Historian Denis Castelli, paid tribute to “the smart kid” his father predicted would be a great success. Shankowitz noted that Castelli, who passed away unexpectedly in April, “enjoyed a second career of public service” and “doing many random acts of kindness” following his retirement as a computer analyst in 2000. Castelli’s widow, Athena Arvan, was also present in the audience.
Afterwards, Angelina Mendez sang “God Bless America” and the indoor ceremony concluded. Guests enjoyed a birthday cake and sparkling cider before going outdoors to watch as Entergy Representative Brian Vangor of Carmel led the countdown and threw the switch to illuminate the new lighting.
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