John C. Fremont, Mary Butler, Washington Irving, and Helen Gould Shepard are just a few of the names of legendary Sleepy Hollow and Tarrytown figures who have recently made their way into the Warner Library’s Hall of Fame.
Located on the third floor of the Warner Library in Tarrytown, NY, is the famous hall that commemorates the lives of historic individuals from the area who have made significant contributions to society during their lifetimes. Each year, tenth-grade students from Sleepy Hollow High School are invited to enter the essay contest sponsored by the Villages of Tarrytown and Sleepy Hollow, the Historical Society, Hudson Valley Writers’ Center, and Warner Library. Students must submit a 750-word essay on a chosen historical figure, which is then reviewed by a panel of judges. Papers are scored on historical accuracy, persuasiveness, and the overall quality of writing. The two winners of the contest are then invited to attend the Annual Awards Ceremony at the Warner Library. This year’s event was held on Wednesday, May 9. The winners were recognized for their writing and presented with a cash prize by the Mayors of Sleepy Hollow and Tarrytown.
Looking back on this experience as an essay contest winner from two years ago, I can honestly say that I thoroughly enjoyed all of the research elements that went into creating my paper. In the beginning of my sophomore year, based on my previous volunteering experiences at the Lyndhurst Mansion in Tarrytown, I decided to write about Helen Gould Shepard, a well-known philanthropist and daughter of railroad tycoon Jay Gould. I utilized dozens of books, resources on the Internet, and newspaper clippings from the Sleepy Hollow/Tarrytown Historical Society to learn more about Ms. Gould, which helped tremendously when it came time to sit down and write my paper. After spending so many hours researching, collecting articles, and learning about the life and accomplishments of Helen Gould, I felt like I had actually met her and knew her personally.
Of course, winning the contest was a great reward and I felt honored to have both my essay and the many accomplishments of my historical heroine recognized. The highlight of this experience, however, came from the wealth of knowledge I gained about the Gould family, as well as the exposure to historical resources that I probably wouldn’t have encountered had it not been for this project. Christopher Miller, a past winner and current senior at Sleepy Hollow High School, reflected on the historical nature of this experience. "I will always fondly remember the Warner Library Hall of Fame Contest. History has always meant a great deal to me, but I never seemed to have enough time to devote to local history. Participation in this contest gave me the opportunity to truly appreciate how our area fits into the patchwork of our great country. Plus, the prize money was very helpful to my college fund," Miller said.
Overall, I think this contest is a wonderful opportunity for high school students to learn more about the community they live in, as well as the people who have shaped it by their acts of philanthropy throughout the years. I am truly grateful that I was given the opportunity to participate in this program and that I was able to leave a "legend" along the walls of the Warner Library.