In the late 1640's, the
Dutch West India Company issued Adriaen Van der Donck the grant of
the Colony of Nepperhaem, or Colon-Donck. He was referred to as
the Jonk Herr ("young nobleman" or "young gentleman")
as was appropriate to his status in Holland. Over the years, these
titles evolved as did the popular titles of his lands from "The
Djonk Herr's Land" to "The Younckers," then "The
Yonkers," and finally to the present "Yonkers." Van der Donck
built one of the first saw mills in America in Yonkers at
the junction of the Hudson and Nepperhan (Saw Mill) Rivers. The promising lands
acquired by Van der Donck passed into the hands of the Philipse
family in the latter part of the 17th century. The present Philipse
Manor Hall (shown above in what is known as the "Stauffer view," a sketch of the Manor Hall done as a real estate ad in 1784) stands proud at the juncture of the Hudson and Nepperhan
Rivers. Yonkers' strategic location along these heavily traversed
waterways fostered its development as a major trading center.
Early settlers of Yonkers included a diverse community of American
Indians, Dutch and English. A small farm town in the late 1700's,
Yonkers flourished and embraced a tradition of welcoming emerging
businesses. The number of sawmills and gristmills multiplied,
land development increased, and blacksmith shops, taverns, and
general stores came into being. The Yonkers waterfront, a consummate
lifeline for commerce, provided 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, trade, and progress
in the City.
Yonkers innovators went on to improve elevator (Yonkers inventor Elisha Otis invented the first safety elevator that made skyscrapers possible), carpet (Smith) and hat
(Waring) production, in addition to establishing the first sugar industry
in 1862. In 1867, funded by local investment, the first elevated
mass transit system in the world was created by Yonkers inventor J. P. Ackerley.
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, with Philipse Manor as its City Hall. 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
with a population of nearly 20,000.
In 1908, a new Italianate-style City Hall was erected in Washington Park and Philipse Manor Hall was sold to the state and designated as an historic site. Today, the Manor Hall, declared a "Save America's Treasures" site, contains a community art gallery and ongoing multimedia historic exhibits.
Today there are over 200,000
people residing in the City of Yonkers.
Proud Milestones of Thriving Culture and Industry
Adriaen Van der Donck, founder of Yonkers, was the first lawyer
in New Netherlands.
Yonkers was the first and only Patroonship erected by New
Netherlands in what is now Westchester County (1646).
Elisha Graves Otis invented the first elevator safety devices
in Yonkers in the year 1854; safety elevators made skyscrapers possible.
Rudolph Eickemeyer's mechanical inventions in 1854 so modernized
the hat industry in that Yonkers became its leading center.
The first street lighting in the United States was introduced
in Yonkers in 1861.
The first elevated mass transit system in the world was invented
in 1867 by Yonkers resident Charles T. Harvey and financially
backed by a group of Yonkers investors.
Samuel Tilden, former Governor of New York State and resident
of Yonkers was the first Presidential candidate to win the
popular vote but lose the electoral vote (1876), the second being Al Gore in 2000.
The first men’s golf club called "The Apple Tree Gang" was founded in Yonkers by
John Reid in 1888.
The first golf course in the United States was designed in
Yonkers in 1888.
- The first game of golf in the United States was played in
1888 near Lake Avenue on North Broadway.
- The synthetic plastic "Bakelite" was invented by
Yonkers resident Leo H. Baekeland in 1906.
- FM radio broadcasting was invented by Edwin H. Armstrong
of Yonkers in 1912. The tower built by Armstrong can still be seen atop the Palisades directly west of Yonkers.
- The first practical dynamo and the first practical electric
engine were invented and produced in Yonkers.
© Yonkers Historical Society