Somers Town History In Good Hands

SOMERS, N.Y. - Some towns have a historical society but no town historian. Some only have historians. Some have neither. Somers has a Town Historian who works in close conjunction with the historical society. Both have their offices on the third floor of the Elephant Hotel.

Doris Jane Smith is only Somers' third historian. Her predecessor, Florence Oliver, died just three months ago at the age of 96. Fondly called "Mickey," Oliver was historian for over 40 years. "I won't be here for 40 years," said Smith. "I'm already 70."

Smith said she feels like she has stepped into a golden opportunity. "We live in such a wonderful area," she says. "You just get out of the car and take a walk."

As a case in point, she offers the alleyway on the side of Bailey Park.  “You'll see various forms of architecture,” she said. “The first apartment house in Somers was built on the alleyway. Blacksmith Barlow had his shop there. You can still see his wrought iron.”

"If you stand in front of the Elephant Hotel and look to the right, you see where Mr. Johnson owned a garage. He loved motorcycles. People came from all over on weekends to ride their bikes around Heritage Hills before they built the condos."

Smith's interest in history is practically genetic. Her family in America dates back to the 1620s. They were blacksmiths. Her father's first love was the Hudson River. He would take the family for walks and tell stories along the way. Her grandfather was a mounted policeman in Yonkers, and the first to be killed there in the line of duty.

One of her dreams for her new office is, "to consolidate in terms of space. On the other side of this wall, there is a treasure,” she explained. “I want to encourage people to come in and do research. I want to see kids come to the third floor with an assignment and do hands-on research with good source material. We need to protect and preserve what we have. Many generations will come back."

Smith said she gets calls from near and far from people seeking genealogical and historical information. "One man called from Florida to ask about William Bailey, the circus man. Other towns have a statue of a war hero -- we have an elephant."

The Somers Museum at the Elephant Hotel is open to visitors on Thursdays from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. and by appointment. Guided tours of the town are also offered. Call (914) 862-2014 for further information. Leave a message if there is no answer.

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