The Village of Florida
The Village of Florida, N.Y., had its beginnings 300 plus years ago in a highly fertile, ancient lake basin.
In a grant of land, called the Wawayanda Patent of 1703, a large area was called the Florida Tract.
A hamlet located at the intersection of two free-flowing streams in the early 1700s was originally named Brookland.
The name of Florida was officially given to this populated, industrial area in the 1760s. Florida, in Latin, Floridius Aetas, means land covered with red flowers.
The second earliest Presbyterian Church in Orange County was established in 1741. During the Revolutionary War, Florida became an important corridor for troop and supply movement from Newburgh to Philadelphia and beyond.
As social, commercial and industrial entities flourished, Florida became a thriving 18th and 19th century community. Among the diligent farm-working families came prominent doctors, lawyers, merchants, craftsmen, etc.
Most noteworthy was William Henry Seward, Secretary of State under Presidents Abraham Lincoln and Andrew Johnson. He is most noted for negotiating the treaty to purchase Alaska from Russia. His father, Samuel Sweezy Seward, established Seward Institute in 1848, and it still thrives today as a public school.
In 1946, Florida became an incorporated village. Florida in the 21st century is a vibrant, growing, productive community.
Note: Upcoming Events
4th GRADE HISTORIC WALKING TOUR: Every year the Historical Society works with Golden Hill Elementary School to lead the students on a 6 stop tour of the Village, exploring its history and the workings of the local government.
RENOVATIONS: Last year the porch was restored and painted. In 2020 the first floor bathroom was gutted and renovated, the bathtub removed for better access and use, and the vanity updated. An insecure accordion door was replaced with a door made to match the others on the first floor.
Short History of our Society
In 1989 we began with a small group of interested people who appreciated the history related to the Village of Florida and the surrounding area. We were also concerned with the recording, preserving, and sharing of this unique history.
After a tedious process, we were chartered by the New York State Board of Regents in 1994.
The Village of Florida allowed us to use a shed on village property, which was converted into a Greek Revival-style museum for the display and protection of historic items, donated primarily by community members.
Mr. Raymond Green, a founding member of the Florida Historical Society, hoped that his family home could become a museum honoring the history of the Village of Florida. At his passing, Ray bequeathed the Green family home to the Florida Historical Society. This became the "new" home for our Society.
Birthday celebrations honoring William Henry Seward in May have given the Historical Society, school children, teachers and community members the chance to get together to celebrate local history.
Our first published book, Florida, Orange County, an Early Look at its Faces, Places and, Winding Staircases is available at The Florida Library, Sterling Bank and from the Historical Society (845-651-7466).
Our second published book, Touching all the Bases, Places and Faces in Early Florida, New York, by J.J. Kimiecik (author and lifetime resident) is also available at The Florida Library, Sterling Bank and from the Historical Society (845-651-7466).
Our motto says, "Dedicated to Preserving Florida's History." We will continue to pursue that goal.
2020 Historical Society Graduation Scholarship
The winner of the 2020 Historical Society Graduation Scholarship was S.S. Seward Institute graduating senior, Alice Mazur. She created an excellent pencil drawing of the historic Mortimer Mapes House as it appeared (following a 1930's restoration) in a photo taken in 2013. This drawing helps to document the history of the Victorian Gothic Mapes House restorations since it was built ca. 1877. Presently, it is undergoing restoration to bring it back to the original 1877 appearance. The Florida Historical Society is grateful to Alice for her time, talent and attention to detail in helping to preserve the history of this important house. Due to the Corona Virus the award was given without the usual ceremony.
Girl Scouts and Boy Scouts Highest Awards
Over the years we have worked with both Girl Scouts, to earn their Gold Awards, and Boy Scouts, to earn their Eagle Awards.
Boy Scout Levi Ward built 3 picnic tables and 6 benches to use in the Green Homestead back yard.
Boy Scout Mark Pennings restored the Library Research Room, adjacent to the Green Homestead Library where books can be spread out for research.
Girl Scout Searra Bell restored the Victorian Bedroom from ceiling to floor, furnishing it with Green family period Victorian furniture found on the 2nd floor and attic.
Girl Scout Natalie Miller restored a long room with shelved used most recently as a stamp room by Raymond Green. An abundance of books from around the house were placed on the shelves, added to by Natalie.
Girl Scout Emily de Jong created an herb wheel garden in the back yard. She leveled the ground, removed grass and weeds, outlined the garden with bricks and placed a beautiful birdbath in the center. Herbs were planted and maintained.
National Honor Society
The Florida Historical Society had also worked with the National Honor Society's Community Service Projects. Searra Bell renovated another bedroom in the Green Family Homestead, the circa 1840 Children's Room. Beginning with one of two ca. 1840 cannonball beds gound in the house, other Green family furniture of the same period were gathered together in this room. They were complimented by plenty of games found in the attic, both early and as late as Monopoly.
For her senior project, Searra Bell assisted one of the Historical Society Trustees in renovating the 18th Century Bedroom. Beginning with a canopy bed found in the Green Homestead attic, appropriate fabrics were chosen, the room repaired and repainted, ca. 1800 accessories were added to complete the room.