Valhalla, New York

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Valhalla is an unincorporated hamlet and census-designated place (CDP) that is located within the town of Mount Pleasant, New York, in Westchester County. Its population was 5,379 at the time of the 2000 U.S. Census. The name of the town was inspired by a fan of the opera composer Richard Wagner, and the celebrated status of this hamlet comes primarily from its location as the burial places of the remains of numerous well-known people. This name is appropriate as Valhalla is also the Viking name for heaven.


History of Valhalla

Origin of name

Valhalla, New York, gained its name when it was necessary to name a new U.S. Post Office in the 19th century, due to the flooding of a pre-existing town and post office, Kensico, which is now underneath the lake created by the Kensico Dam (a part of the New York City Water System). According to local historians and published works, the wife of a postmaster was a devoted fan of the works of the composer Richard Wagner, and she shared that composer's interest in Norse mythology. Her preference led to the choice of name Valhalla, after the heavenly paradise of slain warriors in that mythology. The village still maintains its association with death through noted people who were buried in its cemeteries.

Kensico Cemetery

The Kensico Cemetery is a cemetery that was founded in 1889 in Valhalla at a time when many of the cemeteries in New York City were filling up, and several rural cemeteries were founded near the railroads that served the metropolis. Initially 250 acres (100 hectares) in size, the cemetery was expanded to 600 acres (2.4 km²) in 1905, but reduced to 460 acres (1.9 km²) in 1912, when a portion of its land was sold to the neighboring Gate of Heaven Cemetery.

The Kensico Cemetery is the final resting place of the actress Billie Burke, who played "Glinda", the "Good Witch of the North", in the classic film The Wizard of Oz. Also interred within Kensico Cemetery and Gate of Heaven Cemetery are the Big Band leader, Tommy Dorsey; the New Yorker cartoonist, Peter Arno; the former CBS-TV News President, Fred Friendly; the legendary New York Yankees star, Lou Gehrig; the film star & comedian, Danny Kaye; the film star Sal Mineo; the pianist, composer, and conductor, Sergei Rachmaninoff; the author Ayn Rand; the founder of the National Broadcasting Company, David Sarnoff; and the first Chief Scout Executive of the Boy Scouts of America, James E. West. It is also where is where the remains lie of Herbert Howard Booth, the son of the Salvation Army founder William Booth, who was the founder of the Salvation Army Musical Department.

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