The Scarsdale Inquirer – Hometown newspaper of Scarsdale, New York 10583

 

Historic milestone marker to be preserved


By LINDA LEAVITT

A prerevolutionary milestone marker has been removed from in front of Wayside Cottage on Post Road last Friday to the home of Rachael Perkins Arenstein, a local art conservator, where it will be restored and ultimately displayed in village hall.

The marker, made of brown sandstone, reads “XXI miles to N. York, 1771.” In his “History of Westchester County,” published in 1886, Thomas Scharf wrote, “Just below the Varian cottage, and close by the roadside, stands an ancient mile-stone, dating many years back, and being one of the few antiquities of the town.” The Varian family owned Wayside Cottage for close to 80 years.

Harry Hansen, in his book, “Scarsdale,” imagined that the legend on the marker “must have been scanned by the lone horseman who carried the mails in his saddlebags, by footsore Continentals trailing British raiders, by drovers who herded their cattle to market and by dust-covered passengers on the jolting stage traveling from New York to Hartford and Boston.”

The milestone originally read “XXIV miles to N. York,” but most of the V was chipped off when a car hit it around 1908. After that the marker was encased in a protective boulder by the White Plains chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution and the Town Club of Scarsdale. In 2008, it was separated from its boulder and moved from its original location south of Wayside Lane to the grounds of Wayside Cottage.

Lucas Meyer, a board member of the Scarsdale Historical Society, noted that the “shelter” for the marker was deteriorating and said it would be “much better to have it in a climate-controlled environment. We had originally wanted to put it inside Wayside Cottage, but the Junior League didn't want it there. Hence, village hall.” He said the restoration is a joint effort of the historical society, the Junior League and John Bensche.

Bensche got involved in 2008 when he wrote to the village suggesting that the stone be moved from where it stood with the boulder. In a memo to village manager Al Gatta, Bensche advocated bringing the stone indoors: “The inspirational and aesthetic benefit of being able to see the stone at the side of the road is not enough in our minds to outweigh the damage likely to ensue from prolonged exposure to road salt, dirt, grime and exhaust,” he wrote. But the conservator was not hired and the stone stayed outside. “I did not give up the cause,” Bensche wrote. “I solicited help from others, including Mayor Flisser, who helped push the project along toward where we are today. Rachael’s expertise proved to be a turning point in the process, as the notion of building some sort of shelter over the stone in the Wayside garden was finally abandoned and the decision to move it indoors was taken.”

Arenstein’s company, A.M Art Conservation, is providing the conservation services free of charge. Arenstein lives next to her parents, Brad and Phyllis Perkins, on Rectory Lane. She has a degree from Cornell and a degree in art conservation from the University of London where she studied at the Institute of Archaeology, UCL. She has worked at several major museums, including the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian, the American Museum of Natural History and the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

“We enjoy working on pieces of real historical and community significance and I didn’t want to see anything go awry with this project given that it is practically in my backyard!” Arenstein wrote in an email to the Inquirer. A horizontal break in the stone is no longer stable, she said, having been repaired with an “unappealing” mixture of plaster, epoxy and concrete. Arenstein intends to replace the old fill material with more stable conservation-grade materials. “We’ll have to stabilize some of the delaminating pieces that were below ground and we’ll reattach the large detached fragment,” she explained. “If the condition allows, we may try to remove some of the concrete from the previous stone embedding. The marker will need an appropriate mount that will hold it securely and a vitrine to allow it to be displayed safely in village hall.”

Wayside Cottage is thought to have been built around 1717 and so was at least 50 years old when the marker was placed outside it. The Varian family sold it to Charles Butler in 1853. Over the years it has been an inn, a clubhouse for the Scarsdale Woman’s Club and the village library. It is now owned by the Junior League of Central Westchester.


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July 27, 2012

The Scarsdale Inquirer  • P.O. Box 418, 14 Harwood Court, Scarsdale, NY 10583  • (914) 725-2500  Fax (914) 725-1552 • www.scarsdalenews.com

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SCARSDALE INQUIRER/JIM MACLEAN

Eugenie Milroy and Rachael Perkins Arenstein give the marker a preliminary cleaning.