From Roads to Riches

County roads by any other names would not be as sweet.



Photo by Lauren Borkowski

The Cosmo Quiz: Can you find this building in Irvington?

Q: I’ve heard that there’s a building in one of the rivertowns that used to be the headquarters for Cosmopolitan magazine. Where is it? What is it now? Why did Cosmo begin in Westchester?
—Lenka Popp, North Salem

A: First, where is it? In Irvington. Around 1895-ish, alfalfa tycoon John Brisben Walker bought Cosmo, then a fledgling fiction magazine and, four years later, moved it to Irvington to avoid New York City’s overly obsessive tax man. But, being a tycoon, he had to show off with a new three-story mansion on Buckhout Street. However, the purlieu passion faded when another tycoon, William Randolph Hearst, put his name at the top of the masthead and whisked the steamy publication back to the City in 1905 and turned it into a women’s mag. But Walkers’s building still stands on Buckhout Street, today home to a number of small businesses, including Buon Gusto Restaurant.

Major Deegan built army bases across the state, and all he got was this lousy highway named after him.

Q: Who is this Major Deegan and why does he hate my daily commute so much?
—Peter Herger, Port Chester

A: Born in 1882, Major William Francis Deegan had nothing to do with the traffic-laden highway that bears his name. Rather, Deegan, a major in the Army Corps of Engineers, helped build Army bases throughout the state under the command of George Goethals (who supervised construction of the Panama Canal, and then also got stuck with his name on congested New York infrastructure). Deegan created, in part, the American Legion and was, at one point, New York City’s official greeter. He died following an appendectomy in 1932 (no word on whether it was road-rage-related).
Five years after his death, New York Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia named an approach route to the Triboro Bridge (now the Robert F. Kennedy Jr. Bridge) “Major William F. Deegan Boulevard.” In the mid-1950s, when Robert Moses finished construction of what is now the Bronx part of I-87, he copied and pasted Deegan’s name onto that thoroughfare. Contrary to your belief, Peter, Major Deegan does not hate your daily commute; some jerk on the intersecting Cross Bronx Expressway who forgot to fill his gas tank probably does, though.

Q: Why is the Cross Westchester Expressway called 287? Who numbers our highways? And why that number, and not, say, 285 or 286 or 18?
—Brana Stephens, Ossining

A: Interstates are numbered by the states using federal guidelines. You’ve probably noticed that almost all interstates either have two-digit labels or three-digit labels. The difference? Two-digiters are primary routes while three-digiters branch off from primary routes. If a primary route (two digits) is odd, it goes south to north; if even, west to east. Also, higher-number primary routes (again, two digits) are on the north or east of the country, lower-numbered ones, the opposite. Thus I-95 goes north to south on the East Coast. Usually, if a three-digit interstate starts with an even number, it starts at a primary route and ends at one. If an odd number, it starts at a primary route and stops. So, since the Cross Westchester Expressway starts at I-87 and ends at another major route (I-95), it gets an even first number. Why 287 and not 487? Primarily because it connects to an interstate branch of the same number in New Jersey. Got all that?
 

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