Kwanzan Cherry Trees – 1970
One of WPBF’s earliest capital projects was planting more than 200 Kwanzan cherry trees in groves in Tibbits Park on Broadway and on the grassy median of outer Mamaroneck Avenue. Purchase price alone of each tree was $100. Funding for the Mamaroneck Avenue project came from donations, primarily memorials to loved ones and in honor of other respected individuals. A large bronze plaque inscribed with the names of those honored and remembered is attached to a boulder at the entrance to Leslie B. Gillie Park on Gedney Way. Years later, the groves in Tibbits Park inspired the city’s annual cherry blossom festival in early May. These trees, in their protected park setting, have flourished and attained full height and are a beautiful spring spectacle. Those along Mamaroneck Avenue, however, damaged through the years, have been gradually replaced by hardier varieties of flowering trees although cherry trees continue to be planted in protected areas, including a number in Turnure Park off Lake Street.
Malmud Parklet – 1973
In 1972, when the grand granite staircase of the old County Courthouse was being destroyed to widen Main Street, Robert Pollack, a WPBF board member, began exploring the possibility of saving the granite steps that were in excellent condition. (He estimated their value at $40,000.) Pollack convinced Ernie Pachianna, owner of Trumid Construction Co. to “recycle” the steps. The following year, the Malmud family expressed an interest in contributing to a parklet around a large copper beech tree on Quarropas Street where the old White Plains Public Library had been demolished.
The tree, planted in 1900, had been saved in 1968 by tireless efforts of Theodora L. “Teddy” Russell, a WPBF founder and VP. The tree had been designated for removal to make way for a new courthouse and county parking garage. She succeeded in getting plans for the garage redesigned – at considerable cost.
A lovely garden was planted around it, and some of the rescued granite steps were installed as benches. (Other steps were used as benches elsewhere in the city.) Read more about the copper beech tree below (under the year 1981).
Schulmerich Carillon – 1974
In 1969, when WPBF members made their first Urban Design Odyssey to visit eight cities in five European countries to gather ideas for the future of White Plains, they made an interesting discovery in Amsterdam. They learned that the bells playing from the Royal Palace were produced by a Schulmerich carillon (pronounced kar-i-lon) made in Pennsylvania. A carillon is a set of stationary bells hung in a tower which plays music at regular intervals. The Schulmerich Co. is the world‘s largest producer of carillons and bells and one of only four producers of hand bells in the world. The Schulmerich Carillon, today an electronic device, has the equivalent of 111 bells.
When Westchester County began construction of a new courthouse in 1970, WPBF wanted to donate a carillon for the top story to ring throughout downtown and emulate some of the great and prestigious public squares seen in Europe. It took five years of fundraising and $25,000 to purchase the carillon presented to the county and dedicated Nov. 22, 1974. As the years passed and technology advanced, parts for the original carillon were unavailable, and a new digital Schulmerich carillon replaced it. Four speakers on the roof of the courthouse (above) broadcast the chimes that sound out the time and play concerts. WPBF chooses the selections to be played that include seasonal and patriotic pieces. The carillon also tolls for sad occasions, such as memorials, and can be programmed with up to 500 songs. (Read more…)
Kent Hawks Fountain – 1978
Often referred to as the Hawks Water Cascade, the G. Kent Hawks Fountain and Gardens was created in memory of a 37-year-old architect, a resident and a WPBF VP. It replaced a damaged and unsightly shell fountain in disuse for years and covered with weeds and brush.
Robert Pollack, another architect on the board, designed the rustic, woodland fountain constructed of boulders. Built at a cost of $25,000, the fountain was dedicated in 1978 on Westchester Avenue at the foot of Armory Hill. The Hawks family observed the 20th anniversary of Kent’s death on June 23, 1996, with the planting in his memory of a Kousa dogwood tree across a path from the fountain. Surrounded by tall office buildings, high rise apartments, busy vehicular traffic and The Westchester shopping complex, this quiet refuge in a woodland setting is a place for solace and contemplation. Two memorial benches have been installed in this area by the Leslie family in memory of their daughter Susan Locke Leslie.
Triantafillu Fountain – 1978
This landmark fountain in Tibbits Park at the corner of Main Street and North Broadway was designed by WPBF advisor Len Salvador and constructed by Al Doria of Doria Contractors. After five years of fundraising, the fountain was dedicated in 1978. Donations were made by many individuals and firms listed on a plaque next to the fountain. A substantial portion of the cost was contributed by the Triantafillu family.
Harry D. Triantafillu, a White Plains resident for many years, was an inventor, businessman and philanthropist. He invented Blue Coral, a treatment for cleaning, polishing and protecting auto and boat exteriors. He spent many years perfecting the product formula in White Plains where he and his wife lived most of their lives.
The final $14,000 needed to complete this major project was provided by Lila Acheson Wallace, co-founder of Reader’s Digest. Subsequently, she was also a long-time supporter of WPBF’s Adopt-a-Park program.
Eugene E. Russell Copper Beech Tree – 1981
As the story goes, a copper beech tree was planted in 1900 by Dr. George Gilbert Platt, a White Plains resident and a trustee of the White Plains Public Library, in what is now the Theodore Malmud Parklet on Quarropas Street. Platt had taken a cutting from a copper beech owned by Samuel Lee Parsons of Flushing. Parsons’ tree had grown from a cutting he had taken from a tree owned by Baron Deshon of Belgium in 1848. According to a 1980 Reporter Dispatch article, Dr. Platt planted the tree in anticipation of a new library being built at the corner of Quarropas and Grand streets.
In 1968 when Urban Renewal and plans for a courthouse and parking garage at that corner threatened to destroy the tree, Theodora L. “Teddy” Russell, a WPBF founder and VP, worked tirelessly to save the tree and was successful. In 1981, Mrs. Russell asked that the tree be designated a living memorial to her husband, the late Eugene E. Russell, a former assistant county attorney whose window overlooked the tree and who had first alerted the foundation to the tree’s impending fate. She set up a trust to provide for the perpetual care of the tree. Mrs. Russell died in November 1991 at the age of 83.
A parklet was created around the tree and named after the Malmud family who were major donors (read more about the Malmud garden above under the year 1974). In 2005, The Care of Trees (formerly Alpine), “adopted” the Eugene E. Russell Memorial copper beech tree, donating services to treat the tree for a fungal disease, reintroduce natural microorganisms into the soil and maintain it. But for all the efforts of well-meaning citizens, the magnificent copper beech whose dark purple leaves for over a century provided shade and a welcome “oasis in a mass of concrete,” as Mrs. Russell put it, succumbed to disease in 2008 and was removed. A new Rivers Purple Beech tree (Fagus sylvatica ‘Riversii’) has since been planted on the site, using funds from the Russell trust.
Edwin G. Michaelian Memorial Gazebo – 1984
The idea of a gazebo in Tibbits Park on North Broadway grew out of a discussion between two friends – Brian Wallach, a WPBF founder and first president, and Robert Pollack, an architect and WPBF VP – while enjoying a lunchtime concert in the park in 1979. Over time, various plans were proposed and studied until the current design was approved.
After a highly respected former county executive and former mayor of White Plains, Dr. Edwin G. Michaelian, passed away Sept. 9, 1983, it was decided to build the gazebo in his memory.
A fundraising breakfast was held at Pace University, where Michaelian had been Director of The Institute of Sub-Urban Governance. Hosted by Dr. Edward J. Mortola, then university president, the breakfast was attended by some 80 people, many real estate developers in Westchester County. The estimated cost of $50,000 to construct the gazebo was quickly raised in a competitive atmosphere. WPBF’s 1983 annual fall gala raised additional monies for landscaping around the gazebo.
Pollack designed the gazebo, and the construction firm of Rocco Briante built it, contributing a brick patio. Michaelian’s widow Joyce donated a copper weathervane, which sits atop the cupola.
Today, the gazebo is the site of regular spring and summer midday music events. During the winter holiday season, WPBF arranges for an evergreen tree to be placed inside the gazebo, which is then decorated by White Plains Recreation & Parks Department.
Peter Gisondi and his sons of Peter Gisondi Painting Co., a WPBF Diamond sponsor, have generously donated their company’s services through the years to power wash, restore and repaint the gazebo.
John C. Bailey Summerhouse – 1985
In 1979, a White Plains landmark, a rustic old summer house, located on South Broadway at the foot of Martine Avenue since 1906, had deteriorated so badly, it had to be demolished. At the base of the structure was magnificent stonework, an integral part of the background of the park and gardens below.
Six years later, sons of John C. Bailey, a long-time resident and supporter of the community, expressed a desire to WPBF to do something significant to honor their father. From 1937 until his retirement in1969, John Bailey was active in many community projects and served as executive director of the Civic and Business Federation, later known as the Chamber of Commerce. Replacement of the summer house was suggested, and a new project was born.
Robert Pollack, an architect and WPBF member, volunteered to design something in the spirit of the original summer house. Volunteers representing the White Plains Carpenters Union 53, DeLeo Excavating Corp., Interstate Building Material and the Lions Club of White Plains provided all of the work gratis. In true barn-raising fashion the new summerhouse was built in one day.
Renoda Hoffman Street Clock – 1991
On WPBF’s 25th anniversary, the organization purchased and dedicated a double-sided street clock to honor Renoda Hoffman, a beloved member of the WPBF board. She was White Plains City Historian for 35 years until her death in 2005. The clock, which stands at the corner of Main Street and North Broadway, has a Victorian-inspired design popular in America in the late 1800s. Hoffman had been asked to be on the committee to help choose the clock with other foundation members but was unaware it was to bear her name. That came as a great surprise when it was unveiled. (Read more…)
Holocaust Memorial Garden – 1992
The Holocaust Memorial Garden – Gates of Remembrance – created by the Holocaust and Human Rights Education Center, is located on Martine Avenue. Dedicated on Oct. 25, 1992, as part of UN Day, it was followed by a public meeting at the White Plains Public Library with speakers Kofi Annan, UN Assistant Secretary General for Peacekeeping Operations and Sylvan Barnet, UN Representative of Rotary International. WPBF participated in the dedication of the garden with the donation of a 16-foot Cedar of Lebanon tree. Several years later after becoming diseased, the tree was removed. Plans to donate a replacement tree are on hold until a proposed re-design of the entire garden is completed.
Welcome to White Plains over Train Trestle – 1995
Anyone entering White Plains from Route 119 onto Main Street is greeted with “Welcome to White Plains” positioned at a major gateway on the railroad trestle. A 30th anniversary gift from WPBF to the city, the sign is constructed of heavy gauge aluminum with an anodized finish and matte black graphics. Designed by Grafico, Elmsford, it is a montage of custom-illustrated landmarks in our city. For personalization, the artwork was done by a member of the art department of Grafico Finn O’Hare, a native son of White Plains.
The Basket – 1996
The Basket, located at South Broadway and Armory Place, was designed by Rudy Nabel of Nabel’s Nurseries and Robert Dean and built by Jack McGrath and William Strong. Made of cedar stained walnut, The Basket measured 18’x9’x9′ and took two months to construct. On dedication day, it took 15 men to maneuver The Basket from a flatbed trailer to the site at Armory Plaza. The inner liner was then filled with 2.5 tons of Nabel’s special potting mix and planted with seasonal plants.
WPBF had budgeted $5,000 for this dream basket. When costs rose to $18,000, it was Rudy Nabel’s gift to the city that was planted seasonally and funded through major sponsors of the Adopt-a-Park Program. It remained a White Plains showpiece until 2016 when it was badly damaged by a car. The City removed The Basket for repair, but it was determined that the damage was too extensive.
In a collaboration between WPBF and the DPW, a new basket was built and began blooming again in 2017. This basket weighs approximately 3,000 pounds and is made of red cedar that is naturally resistant to rot and insects. At night the basket is lit with LED bulbs in the basket handle and from the exterior.
Hendey Library Street Clock – 1999
This gift to the city honors the 28 years of service to the city by the late Mayor Richard S. Hendey as well as commemorates the centennial of the White Plains Public Library. Mayor Hendey was instrumental in locating the library to its present site on Martine Avenue. WPBF plants, maintains and waters the clock garden as well as all of the other many planters and gardens surrounding the Library Plaza. Among those attending the dedication was Hendey’s widow, Grace Hendey, seated in front in the blue suit.
The Flag Pole – 2004
This Flag Pole located in Tibbits Park is a joint project with the Rotary Club.
Sensory Garden – 2009
A very generous donation from the Irving and Sarah Selis Foundation enabled WPFB to create a garden that appeals to more than a visual sense. White Plains resident Carol Heller, a trustee of the Irving and Sara Selis Foundation, recommended the grant. The Sensory Garden is located in Theodore Malmud Parklet on Quarropas Street between Court Street and Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. Designed for the sight-impaired, the garden features fragrant lavender and sage to stimulate the nose, lamb’s ears to delight the sense of touch and rustling grasses – as well as a water feature with the soothing sound of water flowing – to reach one’s ears. There are also butterfly bushes to attract butterflies. The park is accessible to those with disabilities.
Golden Anniversary Street Clock – 2015
WPBF’s most recent gift to the city is a third street clock at the intersection of Mamaroneck Ave. and Bloomingdale Rd., dedicated Sept. 24, 2015, in honor of the organization’s 50th anniversary at a short ceremony that included remarks from White Plains and Westchester dignitaries. The dedication plaque reads: “In honor of all the founders and volunteers who made the 50th anniversary of White Plains Beautification Foundation, Inc., possible.” The 16-foot Verdin-post two-faced clock style is a Howard Replica and is visible to traffic both entering and leaving White Plains.