Isabelle Keating Savell (1905-1988)

The historian and journalist Isabelle Keating Savell combined her love of writing and history to protect and document Rockland’s past. There were not many female journalists in the 1920s, and the few who worked in the field usually wrote for society pages. Savell wanted none of that. She wanted to work at the city desk, writing hard-hitting news stories. She went to New York City and got a summer job with the Associated Press. She worked briefly for the Nyack Evening Journal, then an eight-page paper. She spent the next eight years at the Brooklyn Eagle.

          Savell taught journalism at Sarah Lawrence College and did freelance work for the Sunday Herald-Tribune. She was also administrative assistant to Governor Nelson D. Rockefeller. She became the Senior Historian at the Historical Society of Rockland County in the 1970s. Her career in journalism and her interest in preserving history resulted in four books and numerous articles on the history of the county. Isabelle “was certainly one of the most energetic historians the society ever had,” said Senior Historian Emeritus John Scott. “She would exhaustively research something that anyone else would give up on.”

          Savell was deeply interested in historic preservation. She was one of the people responsible for seeing that Snedens Landing was formally designated a historic area by New York State. “Snedens is a living link to our colonial past,” she once said. “It has somehow managed to preserve its integrity, its character, and its beauty against all the uglifying forces of our times.” Savell also fought to have Rockland’s Tappan Zee shore, from Palisades to Hook Mountain, named a “scenic area.” This designation by the state Department of Environmental Conservation was designed to encourage beautification and discourage overdevelopment. Savell found out she was successful the night she died of cancer at age eighty-three.

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