The Tale of Westchester County

The Tale of Westchester County

 At the time of European contact in the 16th and 17th centuries, the Native American inhabitants of what would become Westchester County were part of one of the Algonquian people. It was named after the city of Chester in England. Title deeds given to European settlers have turned out to be able to supply considerable information about the sub-tribes in the region and their locations.

 The first Europeans to explore Westchester were Giovanni da Verrazzano in 1524 and Henry Hudson in 1609. Manors were held by a single proprietor, while patents were held by groups of associates. The lords of the manors and patents leased land to tenant farmers and provided many essential services to the tenants. Westchester County was an original county of the Province of New York. At the time, it also included the present Bronx County, which became a County it self in January 1914. By 1775, Westchester was the richest and most populous County in the colony of New York. In 1798, the first federal census recorded a population of 24,000 centered in northern Westchester.

 In 1800, the first commercial toll road, the Westchester Turnpike. Expansion of the New York City water supply system also impacted local development, constructing new bridges and roads, aqueduct and dams, causing flooding of thousands of acres. It had enormous impact on the growth of both Westchester and New York City. In the 1840s, the railroads came to Westchester, and he Hudson line was completed to Peekskill in 1849. The railroads contributed to a population shift from northern to southern Westchester. By 1860, the total County population was 99,000 and the largest city was Yonkers. Many small downtowns, centered on a railroad station, flourished. New York City traces its roots to its 1624 founding as a trading post, got it’s present name only in 1664. New York City served as the capital of the United States from 1785 until 1790. Since then it has been the country's largest city.

The period following the American Civil War brought vast fortunes to a new class of entrepreneurs in the New York area, and many built large estates in Westchester. The large landowners in Westchester were mostly Loyalists, and after the war their lands were confiscated by the state and sold. Many local farmers were able to buy the lands they had previously farmed as tenants. Several magnificent mansions of this era are preserved and open to the public. Among them are Lyndhurst in Tarrytown, Kykuit in Pocantico Hills, the Jay Heritage Center in Rye, Caramoor in Katonah and Glenview in Yonkers.

 During the 20th century, the primarily rural character of Westchester would yield to the suburban county known today. Between the County's railroad network and the proliferation of the automobile in the early 20th century, working in New York City and living in the country became possible for the middle class. With the need for new homes for new families following World War II, multistory apartment houses appeared in the urbanized areas of the County, while the market for single family houses continued to expand. By 1950 the total County population was 625,816. Nowadays County has a population of 949,113 according to the 2010 Census, which is almost a million people. According to 2006 HUD data, the median income for a household of one person in the county was over $75K and the median income for a family of four was over $96K.

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