Lost Parks, Wacky Street Names

Q: Southbound on the Saw Mill Parkway, a few miles south of Route 119, there is an overgrown, abandoned roadway going up the hill. It looks like either an old driveway or a former exit. Any idea what it was and why it was abandoned?
—Richard Kaskawits, Ardsley           

A:First, Richard, focus on the road. But,second,congrats—you’ve found an old abandoned ramp in what is now V. Everit Macy Park. With a little help from Patrick Raftery, librarian at the Westchester County Historical Society, and Lucas Buresch, who runs the beautiful hidden-Westchester-history blog, Archive Sleuth (archivesleuth.wordpress.com), we learned that Macy was a famous philanthropist and civil servant until his death in 1930. We also learned that the aforementioned access ramp was originally meant to connect Park Avenue to the Saw Mill Parkway. But west of the parkway, Park Avenue was essentially decommissioned and the ramp was never used; however, it’s still there for the hiking.

V. Everit Macy

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Q: Why does Old Mamaroneck Road lead from White Plains to Scarsdale and Old White Plains Road lead from Scarsdale into Mamaroneck? What does Mamaroneck stand for? There are a lot of roads and avenues with this name. Why? Not to mention it’s very confusing when giving directions. And what’s with Palmer Road and Palmer Avenue?
—Marina L., Dobbs Ferry (formerly from Scarsdale)

A: We’re beginning to see why you’re “formerly from Scarsdale.” They probably couldn’t deal with all of your questions. Fear not—we can! This was actually not an easy question to answer. Props to our sources though: Lynne Crowley at the Larchmont Historical Society, Miriam Berg Varian of the White Plains Library, and Robert Hoch, who is president of the White Plains Historical Society. First, the meaning of the names: “Momorunuck” was a tribal chief of the Siwanoy Indians. It means “where the fresh water meets the salt water.” This makes sense as Mamaroneck is harbor-infused. “Palmer” is named for Samuel Palmer who purchased a large swath of land around 1700. As for the second part of your question, Hoch explains it best: “Many of the original roads were named after where they would take you. For many years, West Street in White Plains was referred to on maps as the ‘Road to Rye Neck.’ That name went out of use, and many years after that, the expansion of the Hutchinson River Parkway ensured that you were no longer able to get to Rye Neck on that road. Based on this, you can see how the same road could be the ‘Road to Mamamroneck’ in White Plains, and ‘the Road to White Plains’ in Mamaroneck and Scarsdale. Years later, ‘Road to’ was dropped, and in Mamaroneck and Scarsdale, it would simply be referred to as ‘White Plains Road.’ The ‘Old’ was probably added to Mamaroneck Road after Mamaroneck Avenue (the ‘new’ road to Mamaroneck) was constructed at the end of the nineteenth century.” As to why Old Mamaroneck Road leads from White Plains to Scarsdale? Well, it’s common for street names to change when the road enters a different community. Says Varian: “Actually, Old Mamaroneck Road is Route 125, which leads from White Plains all the way into Mamaroneck under various names (Secor Road, Palmer Avenue, Weaver Street).”

Q: What’s Westchester worth?
—Kate Sawyer, Mamaroneck

A: Breathe in, breathe out, breathe in, breathe…sorry, we’ve been in a numbers-induced panic attack ever since taking on this task. But we’re almost done. When we last heard from, well, us, we’d calculated the county’s worth at just a shade under $800 billion. All we had left was to calculate the value of all that stuff sitting in stores. Well, we tried to count every diamond, chestnut, and muffler lying around, but had no luck. So we turned to the best stat we could find—revenue.  All told, merchants bring in around $76 billion in revenue in the WC (thank you, U.S. Census Bureau). On average, a business is worth about 80 percent of its revenue. So let’s call it $60 billion. Taking out what we already calculated for real estate, we’ll say there is $55 billion worth of stuff sitting around waiting to be bought (and yes, we are aware this includes cash registers, “good will,” etc., but we only have like a paragraph here).

    So, on to our grand total. We know the list of what we didn’t include—the copper tubing under the streets, the cash hidden in banks, the value of your child’s smile—may be big bucks, but that’s what rounding is for. Thus (drum roll), our final calculation of the net value of the WC is $855 billion dollars. But we’ll round up and call it a cool trillion. And that, our friends, is what Westchester’s worth.

Our Westchester Home Design Awards event is June 26!

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