NORTH SALEM, N.Y. -- The North Salem Historical Society played host to an old-fashioned Strawberry Festival on Sunday at its headquarters at The White Elephant, 81 Keeler Lane.
The building, which dates back to the 1700's, was originally the sheep-shearing shed of the Keeler Homestead and it has the quaint honor of having been North Salem's first automobile garage, used to protect the town's first auto.
In the mid-twentieth century it became the art studio of well-known illustrator, H. Winfield Scott. He gave classes in painting and drawing and ran a consignment shop for art supplies, which is how it earned the name, White Elephant.
Thanks to local philanthropist, Ruth Keeler, the building was deeded to the historical society when she passed away in 2003. "It was a mess," said Debby Moore, past president of the society. "It was filled with junk and paint supplies. The floor was stained concrete. There was no insulation -- but there were lots of mice. "
Three years ago Keeler's estate gave them a grant to redo the building and today it is warm, clean, charming and mice-free. It has earned a place on both the state and the National Register of Historic Places.
The Strawberry Festival is an annual celebration, prepared and served by society members. This year, it was society president, Cynthia Curtis who baked pans and pans of shortcake. The strawberries came from "whoever gave us the best deal."
In addition to the homemade strawberry shortcake, there was live music by Maggie Seligman and Martin Aronchick and a raptor demonstration by Master Falconer Lorrie Schumacher.
The current exhibit at the White Elephant is "Children of North Salem from the late 1800's to the 1930's." It is open to visitors by appointment.
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