R5 Westchester–A Pictorial History

The New Year traditionally brings with it anticipation and excitement for the future. We’re all wondering, as you no doubt are, what’s in store for 2010. But this time of year also makes us reflect on our past, so we thought it would be appropriate to take a few moments (er, pages) to look back. Whether you’re a third-generation Westchesterite or a recent transplant, knowing Westchester’s history can help place what’s to come in proper context—plus, it’s fun.


In 1903, the area adjacent to New Rochelle’s Glen Island was known as “little Germany.” Notice the PC windmill.

This serious-looking, mounted police force was tasked with protecting the Valhalla aqueduct in 1918.

In 1906, Bronxville’s Village Hall was a one-stop shop for all of the town’s services, housing the post office, village hall, library, and fire department.

Forget the tornado that touched down in Westchester in 2006. The Chappaqua Cyclone of 1904 was way more destructive.

The car, spotted in Yonkers in 1914, boasts 30 miles to the gallon—a pretty good average even by today’s standards.

New Rochelle’s Main Street looked majestic in 1915, cementing its reputation as the “Queen City.”


When the Kensico Dam was still under construction in 1914, the scene resembled the building of the pyramids in Eygpt (with fewer slaves).

Though Main Street had shoppers, the residential part of White Plains of 1912 was hardly, how shall we put it, “Ritz”-like.

This is what “waterfront views” meant to the residents of Yonkers and Mount Vernon in 1913.

Ardsley residents gather to look at the aftermath of the “Great Fire” of 1914.

In Yonkers, men and many women all donned their hats and crowded around to see President Theodore Roosevelt speak in 1910.

On Mount Kisco’s Main Street looking east toward the railroad tracks in 1910.


Chappaqua looked quite pastoral in 1910.

Back in 1928, ladies wore hats, gloves, skirts, heels, and pearls to play a round of mini-golf at Playland.

No, they’re not off to stop a riot—the New Rochelle Police are riding in a parade on Lawton Street.

The Westchester County Center under construction. When it was completed in 1930, an opening gala featured famous singers, among them more than 1,500 local singers. The 50,000-square-foot structure cost $785,000 to build.

Students of Somers District Three attended a one-room schoolhouse in 1920, back when they didn’t have to worry about SATs and APs.

When the Bedford Farmers’ Club gathered to take this celebratory photo in 1927, it was already the club’s 75th anniversary. (It was started by William Jay, son of first Supreme Court Chief Justice John Jay.) Amazingly, the club still exists today.


According to nycroads.com, the Bronx River Parkway, completed in 1925, was North America’s first modern, multi-lane (but sans dividers) limited-access parkway. One assumes that, shortly thereafter, it was also the site or North America’s first traffic jam.

This is what Pleasantville’s train station looked like in 1936.

The Westchester County Center, completed and open for business in the 1930s.

In 1930, Ardsley residents used to be able to go ice-skating at Woodlands Park. Today, they have to go to Murray’s with everyone else.

Before Playland was built in 1927, residents complained that the area attracted rowdy, bawdy crowds. By 1930, when this photo was snapped, the amusement park and adjacent Rye Beach was safe for families.

Hachaliah Bailey, of Ringling Brothers Barnum & Bailey Circus, built the Elephant Hotel as a pit stop for other traveling performers. Not pictured: Old Bet, Bailey’s Asian Elephant that he paraded up and down the East Coast. Today, you can visit the third floor of the building to see The Somers Historical Society and the Museum of the Early American Circus.


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The Life Savers candy factory operated in Port Chester from 1920 until 1984, originally producing such unforgettable flavors as Wint-O-Green, Cl-O-ve, Lic-O-Riche, Cinn-O-Mon, Vi-O-let and Choc-O-Late (briefly). Today, the factory building is a cond-O.

And you thought traffic jams were a modern “innovation?” Look at 4th Avenue in Mount Vernon in 1947.

Brown Street and the Paramount Theatre in Peekskill, 1947.

Lord & Taylor in Eastchester—shown here in 1948.

The former Con Ed building, located at the corner of First Avenue and First Street in Mount Vernon, currently houses several County offices for the aging and senior programs and services.

Renovations underway for a planned Christmas Day reopening of the Rome Theater at 364 Manville Road in Pleasantville. Built in 1925, the original theater was renovated and expanded in 2001 to create the Jacob Burns Film Center.


Gramatan Avenue in Mount Vernon in the 1940s.

Mount Kisco’s Main Street, looking east, in 1950.

An October 1957 aerial view of one of the largest factories ever built along the Hudson River, the GM plant in Sleepy Hollow. Purchased by GM in 1916, it cranked out vehicles for its Chevrolet division until 1996, when the plant closed. It was torn down a few years later. Today the property sits vacant, awaiting possible residential and retail development.

Originally built to bring fresh water to Manhattan, the Old Croton Aqueduct (the Yonkers segment shown here in 1976) evolved over the years to become a popular bike and walking path. The portion running from the Croton River to Manhattan is a National Historic Landmark as well as a Historic Civil Engineering Landmark.

The Yonkers Public Library in Getty Square in 1978, at its original location at the intersection of Nepperhan Avenue and South Broadway. It was demolished to make the road wider, but its contents happily live on in the Riverfront branch at 1 Larkin Center.


The bustling ’burb of Bronxville sure has grown up; here the Metro-North train station in 1988, before all the shops and restaurants surrounded it.

Downtown Rye in the 1990s.


Photo credits: Ardsley Historical Society, Bedford Historical Society, the Bronxville Local History Room, Hudson River Museum, GM Archives, Jacob Burns Film Center, julia sexton, Katonah Village Public Library, Katonah Historical Museum, Library of Congress, Mount Kisco Historical Society, Mount Vernon Public Library, the New Castle Historical Society, New Rochelle Public Library Local History Collection, New York State Archives, North Salem Historical Society, Paramount Center for the Arts, The Port Chester-Rye Brook Public Library, Collection of the Somers Historical Society, Somers, NY, Town of Mount Pleasant Historian, Westchester County Archives, Westchester County Historical Society, Yonkers Police Museum

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