NCN Online Archives

History of Teatown Preserve Explained

A presentation was held Sunday at Teatown Lake Reservation explaining the history of the 730-acre preserve that straddles Yorktown and Ossining.

Lincoln Diamant, past president of Teatown, which sponsored the event with the Yorktown Historical Society, said the Reservation was flourishing.

"To watch it grow and become such an important community resource, and when I say community, I don't just mean Yorktown, or Westchester County, but an important resource that makes New York State look good, pleases us enormously," he said.

Teatown's property includes numerous hiking trails of varying difficulty, a lake, nature center and Wildflower Island.

Members and friends of the Swope family were present to share their memories of growing up on the reservation. Gerard Swope purchased the land in 1922, and the Swope family owned the property until 1963 when the family decided to share its enjoyment of the land by looking for the proper stewardship.

They found the right relationship with the Brooklyn Botanic Garden, which agreed to maintain and supervise the property, and then later released it. The Reservation has been self sufficient, relying on program fees and donations, and today is a nonprofit corporation.

Eileen Argenciano, whose father was once the superintendent of the estate, has fond memories of Teatown.

"It just was a marvelous place to live," she said. "During the war and the Depression, it was self-sufficient. They had cattle, pigs and chickens. It was just wonderful."

David Swope, grandson of Gerard and Mary Swope, is pleased with Teatown's development over the years.

"The whole family is thrilled with how the community has developed Teatown. It's all that the people have done that has made Teatown like this," he said.

A common misconception is the name "Teatown" was brought over by the English farmers who settled the area.

"There is no record anywhere in England of the name 'Teatown,' so it's an indigenous American name," Diamant explained.

Diamant relayed a colorful narrative by chronicler John M. McDonald who conducted more than 400 personal interviews in the years between 1844 and 1851.

"There was a grocer living in this area who had fled from New York City at the time of the British invasion of 1776. He took with him several chests of tea, and secreted them away in hopes that they would appreciate in value. Some of the local patriot women of the Ossining area learned that he was secreting this tea in his house, and rode out to lay siege to the house," Diamant said.

"The grocer's name was John Arthur. His wife, and sisters-in-law, and other women of the house barricaded the house and prepared to put up battle," he continued. "The homeowner hid the tea in the cellar. He finally agreed to sell them a certain amount of the coveted tea. So that's the story of 'Tea' in Teatown. We suspect that's where the name came from."

Source: by Dominick Pilla, North County News, December 5 - 11, 2001, p. 21

Return to the North County News Online Archives