100 Fascinating Facts About Westchester County
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You know a lot about the county. After all, you eat fabulous meals in the restaurants here, buying the kids last-minute birthday gifts in the boutiques and faking an infectious disease so you can catch an Oscar winner’s midday Q&A at our cinemas. You know the local gossip and the back roads. So we got past all that and are bringing you 100 facts about our history, geology, architecture, health, government, and place in pop culture. We’ve got colonial roads, carpet factories, and captured spies, to say nothing of Presidents, pirates, and plutocrats. Lions and tigers and bears? Not so much, but turn the page to read about elephants, alligators, UFOs, and 97 other fascinating, illuminating, informative, eye-opening, fun, and funny facts about Westchester.
1. Westchester spreads out over approximately 500 square miles, making it larger than more than 40 countries and territories, including the U.S. Virgin Islands, Lichtenstein, and the Vatican City.
Sleepy Hollow Country Club photo by Marta Kujawa
2. The hills of the Sleepy Hollow Country Club—whose Club House was constructed as a private home in 1893 by Colonel Elliott F. Shepard, husband of Cornelius Vanderbilt’s granddaughter Margaret—do their rolling over a massive 338 acres. The home represents one of the last projects of the Gilded Age–defining architect Stanford White (who also designed the Washington Square Arch and Fifth Avenue mansions for the Astors and Vanderbilts before he was murdered by his mistress’s husband). In 1910, the building was purchased by William Rockefeller (John D.’s younger brother), who sold it to the Club’s organizers the following year. The Club’s 27 original directors included Rockefeller, John Jacob Astor, James C. Colgate, Percy A. Rockefeller, Cornelius Vanderbilt, A.O. Choate, Oliver Harriman, and V. Everit Macy.
3. On a stone wall toward the north of Pondfield Road in Bronxville, there’s a plaque that reads, with more than a hint of political incorrectness, “Sunset Hill where, in the year 1666, Gramatan, Chief of the Mohican Indians, signed a deed transferring Eastchester to the White Man.”
4. New York State Assemblyman Mike Spano and his brother, one-time State Senator Nicholas, are just two of the 16 children of former County Clerk Leonard Spano and his wife, Josephine. Despite Leonard’s service in the administration of another Spano—former County Executive Andrew—the two are not related.
5. In 2003, Donald Trump told the New York Times (in characteristic fashion) that Seven Springs, his 55,000-square-foot, 1919 home, was “the biggest house and best house in Westchester.” The house has 17 bedrooms, 29 bathrooms (which the Times called “decrepit”), 36 fireplaces, a walk-in steel safe then holding Windex, and an empty indoor marble pool. Trump bought the property from The Rockefeller University in 1995 for $7.5 million. In 2009, Seven Springs caused a bit of a stir when it was discovered that then–Libyan dictator Moammar Gadhafi was staying there in advance of a U.N. meeting.
6. According to astronomer and “ufologist” Philip J. Imbrogno of The John J. McCarthy Observatory in New Milford, Connecticut, the Indian Point nuclear power plant in Buchanan was visited by UFOs twice in July 1984. Indian Point supplies about 30 percent of our electricity. In his book, Night Siege: The Hudson Valley UFO Sightings, Imbrogno described the crafts as looking like “an ice cream cone” and a “boomerang.” Several other citizens in the area reported flying objects during this period.
7. Contrary to popular assumption (and basic logic), the Cross County Mall in Yonkers is only a small neighbor of the much larger Cross County Shopping Center, which includes a Macy’s, Sears, and a branch of Westchester Community College.
8. According to the MTA, the average weekday inbound ridership on Metro-North from Westchester is 74,785. On weekends, it’s 52,774.
9. Our largest park, Ward Pound Ridge Reservation (the entrance of which is weirdly in Cross River), is a spacious 4,315 acres, making it more than five times the size of Central Park’s 843 acres. In total, our 50 parks count almost 18,000 acres of green space.
10. Beware of alligators in Chappaqua. In August 2008, a three-foot alligator was found living in a Chappaqua pond. The gator set up shop in the Pinecliff Sanctuary, and no one knows how it got there. A day after the critter was seen, a wildlife services company caught it. To the person who let an alligator loose in Westchester County: we have too many deer and our taxes are too high to be worrying about predators lurking in local ponds.
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