NORTH SALEM, N.Y. – The sleepy little up-county town known as North Salem has some interesting facts you may not know:
• America’s first rhinoceros lived on June Road. The rhino and other circus animals were housed on the property of John J. June, who was an active partner in America’s first syndicate circus, known as June, Titus and Angevine, in the early part of the 19th century.
• North Salem established the first Central School District in New York State. The 1925 plan included the building of North Salem’s first high school on Route 22 in Purdys. The building has since become the Westchester Exceptional Children’s School.
• Vivian Vance, aka Ethel Mertz of “I Love Lucy,” lived on Titicus Road. Vance and her husband purchased the old schoolhouse at 288 Titicus Road, near the North Salem Town House.
• The town of Purdys was literally moved across Route 22. Before the building of the New York Waterways System, Purdys was a bustling commercial community with more than 70 shops and dwellings, located on the current site of the Purdys Metro-North train station and Interstate 684.
• Mountain Lakes Park was the site of an exclusive 19th-century men’s club. The Port of Missing Men was a hunting, fishing and dining resort catering to wealthy New Yorkers who came north for a taste of country wild life. During Prohibition it was known as Anderson’s Tea House. The building is gone, but the entry pillars still stand.
• Mr. and Mrs. William Randolph Hearst Jr. lived at Titicus and Grant Roads. Mrs. Hearst was the Master of the Hunt and lived there until her death in the 1990s. The property is now Snow Hill Farm, home of Black Angus cows and organic products.
• The origin of the Balanced Rock is still a mystery. Most experts agree that the 60-ton granite boulder at 667 Titicus Road traveled to North Salem on the last glacier from New England. But how did it end up perched on limestone pillars?
The sources for these facts include an interview with Town Historian Susan Thompson; "The School at Pine Tree Corner" by Helen G. Trager; "Historical Landmarks of the Town of North Salem" published by the North Salem Historic Preservation Commission; and "Formation of the Town of North Salem" and "History of North Salem Schools in the 19th and Early 20th Centuries" by James Lundy.
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