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Yonkers Gallery


City of Yonkers, New York (Enter Yonkers' Hudson River Gallery)

Yonkers became a European settlement in 1646 when Dutch settler Adriaen Van Der Donck purchased land along the Hudson River from the Harlem River north to the Yonkers-Hastings border. A variation on Van Der Donck’s title Jonkheer (young gentleman) became its name. 

Frederick Philipse bought a vast amount of Westchester land along the Hudson in 1672, including the land that Van Der Donck had owned.  This tract of land became Philipsburg Manor under English royal charter, and Yonkers became the administrative center of the manor.  The manor was confiscated after the Revolutionary War, as the Philipses had remained loyal to England.

With easy access to New York City markets by way of the river, Yonkers prospered as an agricultural community throughout the late-17th and 18th centuries.  It became a town in 1788, was incorporated as a village in 1855 and a city in 1872.

In the 19th century, still benefiting from its location on the river, Yonkers transformed itself from an agricultural center to an industrial one.   Saw mills, textile mills, hat factories, sugar refineries, breweries and an elevator manufacturer sprang up, first taking advantage of their location on the river to transport goods, and later taking advantage of the railroad that was built along the river’s bank.  Wealthy citizens built mansions along the river, some of which survive.

Yonkers grew rapidly after the coming of the railroad, overtaking Bedford as the largest population center in Westchester by the middle of the 19th century.  But during the 20th century, the industrial base began to decline as production costs steadily rose in the Northeastern part of the U. S.  Industry began to move out and Yonkers, the fourth largest city in New York State, struggled to find a focus.

As Yonkers begins the 21st century, it has again turned to the Hudson River to remake itself.  There is renewed interest in reviving the waterfront, with ferry transport to New York City from the restored Yonkers pier, luxury condominiums, restaurants, and the Otis Elevator building transformed into the main branch of the Yonkers Public Library. There are many more plans on the drawing board to revitalize the waterfront that has been so important to Yonkers’ past, and may well hold the key to its future.