Historical society carves out a future
By Marie York
The Kingsbridge Historical Society, an organization dedicated to exploring the neighborhood’s storied past, is now looking to the future.
For much of this century, with declining membership and nowhere permanent to hold its meetings, the Bronx’s oldest historical society — founded in 1949 — seemed destined to slip into obscurity. In the last four years, the once-thriving and active society held just a handful of events, mostly sparsely attended walking tours of local historic sites.
“Slowly, people just stopped participating,” said Peter Ostrander, a Riverdale resident and president of the society for the past three decades. He was seeing the same lack of interest at other public meetings as well, he said, “It was just the trend.”
Then something fortuitous seemed to happen: a group of like-minded history buffs attending last year’s Riverdale Riverfest found each other and decided to reinvigorate the floundering organization.
“We realized it’s time to revitalize so we can bring everyone together, maybe those who are new to the community or have been here, to help them explore their history,” said Riverdale resident Thomas X. Casey, the society’s secretary.
Among the group’s top priorities were, most obviously, finding a permanent place to hold meetings and, more importantly, bringing the organization into the 21st century. Enter Nick Dembowski.
The local schoolteacher with a penchant for web design created an eye-catching, user-friendly website that features historic photos, links to historic documents and other historic organizations and, the pièce de résistance, a feature that allows visitors to overlay maps from the time of the Revolutionary War, as well as from 1885, from 1921 and a satellite image from 2006, to see how the Riverdale-Kingsbridge area has changed in the last four centuries.
In addition to serving as a learning tool for visitors, the website, www.kingsbridgehistoricalsociety.org, also allows the society to announce events, eliminating the arduous — not to mention costly — task of sending out mailings, Mr. Ostrander said.
Keywordshistorical society, kingsbridge historical society, thomas x. casey, history, revolutionary war, kingsbridge