Yonkers is one of the largest cities and the largest city in New York and Westchester County. Yonkers borders Manhattan (to the south) and is less than 20 miles from the heart of New York City. Other surrounding communities include Mt. Vernon and New Rochelle (to the east) and White Plains (to the north). The busy Hudson River flows along Yonkers’ western border and the New York City borough of the Bronx is directly south of the city.
Yonkers history of traces back to the late 1640’s when Adriaen Van der Donck received a land grant from the Dutch East India Company and built one of the New World’s first saw mills at the junction of the Hudson River and Nepperhan Creek. Van der Donck was often referred to as Jonk Herr (“young nobleman”), a phrase which would later be used to describe his land (“Jonk Heer’s land”). This phrase evolved into “the Younckers” and finally Yonkers. The land’s strategic location fostered its development into a major trading center and the birth of a diverse community. Farming was predominant in Yonkers through its early history, but a vibrant waterfront and innovations in travel later accelerated the development of industry in the city. At various times Yonkers served as a prime center for carpet and hat manufacturing, and the world’s first elevated mass transit system was created in the city. Yonkers was incorporated in 1872 with a population about one-tenth of what it is today.
Things to See and Do in Yonkers
The best-known attraction in Yonkers is its harness racing track, Yonkers Raceway. The track has recently undergone renovations and has incorporated legalized video slot machines into its facility. Another of the city’s treasures is the Hudson River Museum. Founded in 1919, the Museum of Westchester is housed in the restored Glenview mansion and features a planetarium along with spacious galleries for art exhibitions. The Yonkers Police Museum features artifacts, photos, and exhibits which chronicle the city’s police force going as far back as 1866. The Philipse Manor Hall, built in 1682, is an elegant Georgian mansion which served as Yonkers’ first City Hall from 1871 through 1908. The building, one of the region’s oldest surviving structures, is used today for celebrations and ceremonies, special exhibitions, musical performances, and public meetings. Sherwood House, built in 1740, has been restored and furnished with appropriate period antiques, and is open to the public for tours conducted by hostesses dressed in period costume.
Annual events in Yonkers include the Yonkers Hudson Riverfest, a multi-cultural festival held each fall which draws tens of thousands annually to enjoy ethnic food, crafts, exhibits, and entertainment for all ages. The Untermyer Performing Arts Festival is an annual performing arts series held on Saturday nights in the summer. These free events, which take place on the banks of the Hudson River, include opera, dance, music, and street theater. The Yonkers Philharmonic Orchestra, formed in the early 1960s, gives performances five times per year in the city.
The Village of Yonkers (then extending approximately two miles along the Hudson River) was incorporated on April 12, 1872 with a population of approximately 7,500. On June 1, 1872, Governor Hoffman signed the charter establishing Yonkers as the first in Westchester County to be incorporated and designated as a city. The population had grown to about 20,000 by that time, and today there are nearly 200,000 people residing in Yonkers.
In the late 1640’s (about 20 years after Peter Minuit bought Manhattan Island), Adriaen Van der Donck received grant of land from the Dutch East India Company which he called Colon Donck (Doncks ColonyÂ), and built one of the first saw mills in the New World at the junction of the Hudson and Nepperhan Rivers. Van der Donck was referred to as Jonk Herr (“young Gentleman” or “young Nobleman”) by reason of his status in Holland, and these words evolved through several changes to the Jonk Heer’s land and The Younckers, The Yonkers and finally to the present Yonkers. The area acquired by Van der Donck passed into the hands of the Philipse family in the latter part of the 17th century, and Philipse Manor Hall was erected at this juncture of the two rivers in the early 1680s. Yonkers’ strategic location fostered its development into a major trading center and its early settlers (including Native Americans, English and Dutch) created a diverse community. Yonkers was a small farm town in the 1700’s but many businesses soon began to emerge: the saw mills and grist mills multiplied, land development increased, and blacksmith shops, taverns, and general stores came into being. The waterfront still remained the key, providing pause for sloops and stagecoaches. Innovations in travel – via both land and water – accelerated the development of the industrial era in Yonkers, and the first railroad station (built in 1848 on the site of present day Yonkers Station) contributed to more occupations and trade.
A stone mill (possibly the city’s first industrial site) was built during 1805 -14 in the Tuckahoe area of Yonkers. It was used as a cotton factory until 1852 when the Hodgman Rubber Company bought it, and thus began yet another industry. Yonkers innovators such as Elisha Otis created the first safety elevator and Yonkers became a center for carpet and hat manufacture, in addition to establishing the first sugar industry in 1862. And in 1867, the first elevated mass transit system in the world was created in Yonkers.
Dating from 1893, the Yonkers public library offers the professionalism of a major urban library system combined with the responsiveness and “personal touch” of a small community library. It offers the area’s most extensive fine arts collection and an ever expanding commitment electronic information services in addition to magazines, audio and video cassettes, records and compact discs, government documents and research tools. Ongoing programming includes lectures and presentations, homework help for children, live theater, literacy courses for adults, taxpayer assistance, exhibits showcasing the work of local artists and photographers plus a host of other activities. The business section subscribes to Standard and Poor’s, Dun and Bradstreet’s, Moody’s and others.
The Yonkers Public library is currently the only public library in Westchester open seven days and five nights a week (except for the summer months). The library’s three branches are: Grinton I. Will, 1500 Central Park Avenue Getty Square, 7 Main Street Crestwood, 16 Thompson Street. For additional information visit the Yonkers Public Library site.
Hudson River Museum
Hudson River Museum Founded in 1919, the Hudson River Museum of Westchester is one of the city’s treasures, Its facilities at the restored Glenview mansion (built 1876) include spacious galleries for constantly-changing art exhibitions and the technologically-advanced Andrus Planetarium, Westchester’s only public planetarium. Focusing on art, history and science, the museum offers a balanced program of lectures, family art workshops, classical music, the SummerJazz Series, children’s programs, a museum shop and dining at the cafe with a panoramic view of the river and Palisades. This spectacular setting is also available for weddings, corporate gatherings and other special occasions.
The Museum is located at 511 Warburton Avenue, Yonkers, with abundant, free on-site parking. Admission: Adults $3; children and seniors $1.50, members free. Open: Wednesday, Thursday and Saturday 10:00 A.M.-5:00 PM., Friday 10:00 A.M.-9:00 PM. Sunday Noon – 5:00 P.M. For further information call (914) 963-4550 or visit the Hudson River Museum site.
Philipse Manor Hall State Historic Site
Philipse Manor Hall Built in 1682 for Lord Frederick Philipse, this elegant Georgian mansion was the seat of the 18th century Manor of Philipsburg. Philipse Manor Hall’s history includes service as Yonkers’ first City Hall (1871-l908). Today, it offers holiday and ethnic celebrations, local history exhibitions, special tours and programs, musical performances, school tours, children’s programs, special exhibitions, and often plays host to community organizations and public meetings. The building is one of the region’s oldest surviving structures and remains a vital element of Yonkers history.
Philipse Manor is located at 29 Warburton Avenue, at Dock Street, off Larkin Plaza. Open April through October, Wednesday-Saturday 12:00 noon to 5:00 p.m. and Sunday 1:00 – 4:00 p.m.. Open November through March for group tours by appointment. Free on-site parking. For information call (914) 965-4027.
Sherwood House was built in 1740 by Thomas Sherwood, a tenant farmer of Lord Philipse, whose Manor Hall is described above. The land on which Sherwood House stands now belongs to Consolidated Edison, which generously donated the building to the Yonkers Historical Society and rents the property to the Society for a nominal fee. The Society restored the house, furnished it with appropriate period antiques, and in 1962, opened it to the public. Hostesses in period costume conduct visitors on tours. Groups by appointment.
Sherwood House is located at 340 Tuckahoe Road, just off the Sprain Brook Parkway Tuckahoe Road exit. For further information, call (914) 965-1243, 965-0836 or visit the Yonkers Historical Society site.
Yonkers Police Museum
Rutledge Museum Founded in 1978 by recently retired Deputy Chief George Rutledge, the Yonkers Police Museum take visitors back in time as far as 1866. It features artifacts, photos and a 1964 Police Motorcycle, among other items, and recognizes all those who have served Yonkers in Police Blue.
The museum is located in the Cacace Justice Center, 104 South Broadway, For more information, visit the Yonkers Police Department site.
The Yonkers Hudson Riverfest is an environmental and multi-cultural festival held annually at the Yonkers Recreational Pier and vicinity and attracts thousands. It offers free all-star entertainment for all age levels, exhibits, kids’ hands-on workshops, crafts and ethnic foods.
The City of Yonkers Department of Parks, Recreation and Conservation sponsors numerous cultural events, including the Untermyer Performing Arts Festival, an annual performing arts series held on Saturday nights in summer. These free events, in a setting of formal gardens on the banks of the Hudson River, include opera, dance, modern and classical music, chamber music and street theater.
The Yonkers Philharmonic Orchestra, a semi-professional, 65-piece community organization, is sponsored by the Fine Arts Orchestral Society. The orchestra, an integral part of Yonkers life since the early 1960s, performs five times per year: four times at Saunders Trades and Technical High School and once in an open-air setting during Summer at Cross County Shopping Center. The orchestra and Society annually hold a concerto competition, awarding thousands of dollars in prizes.
Other events include the Yonkers Male Glee Club, a group of 45 voices offering free concerts each May and December, the holiday children’s theater, and numerous special ethnic and commemorative community celebrations.