100 Fascinating Facts About Westchester County
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11. Horace Greeley, the mid-19th-century media mogul-turned-politician, was one of Chappaqua’s most revered citizens. Nicknamed “Old Honesty,” Greeley founded the New York Tribune, helped found the Republican Party, and even ran for president against Ulysses S. Grant in 1872. His name is now immortalized in the form of a county high school.
12. Some movies with scenes that were filmed here: Catch Me If You Can, Rabbit Hole, It’s Complicated, Baby Mama, Across the Universe, The Departed, Hitch, The Stepford Wives, Mona Lisa Smile, Two Weeks Notice, A Beautiful Mind, The Family Man, Riding in Cars with Boys, Unfaithful, and Big. HBO series such as Boardwalk Empire, Mildred Pierce, and Kevorkian also have been filmed here.
13. On the other hand, some movies that are supposed to take place here don’t. In 1995’s Die Hard With a Vengeance, after the bad guys rob the Federal Reserve Bank on Wall Street (see Tuckahoe Marble, No. 22), they proceed up the “Saw Mill.” Sadly, the filmmakers shot on the Merritt in Fairfield and the Taconic in Putnam instead. We can’t totally blame them, though: we wouldn’t want to drive a convoy of dump trucks up the Saw Mill either.
14. Founding Father John Jay was born in New York City, but his merchant father soon moved the family to Rye, and Jay studied with Anglican pastor Pierre Stoupe in New Rochelle before matriculating at King’s College (now Columbia) at age 14. The New York governor, co-author of the Federalist Papers, abolitionist, and first Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, retired to a homestead in Bedford.
15. In addition to the first American golf club and dozens of PGA tournaments in the county, Westchester is home to the U.S. Tennis Association. Located along the Platinum Mile in White Plains, the USTA offers a slew of tennis-related benefits to its 226 employees, including free after-work tennis lessons by pros and complimentary tickets to the U.S. Open.
16. While North Salem’s Sal J. Prezioso Mountain Lakes Park today has the highest point in Westchester at 982 feet, 230 million years ago, the pressure between Africa and what is now Connecticut created a jagged 40,000-foot mountain range in our county that dwarfed the Himalayas. The layers of Fordham gneiss found throughout the county also lie deep in the bedrock of Northern Africa.
17. According to historian Bruce Haynes and his Red Lines, Black Spaces, the Nepperhan/Runyon Heights neighborhood in Yonkers was one of the few areas around New York City that represented middle-class status for African Americans throughout much of the 20th century. In the early 1900s, the area housed mostly working-class railroad employees (both Italian and African American), but the neighborhood became more racially homogenous and underwent a “class gentrification,” with black salespeople, doctors, and lawyers moving in. In 1928, 26 years before the Brown decision, a lawsuit by Nepperhan residents desegregated the new Roosevelt High School on the east side of Yonkers on the basis that their taxes had helped pay for construction.
18. In 1996, before the new Yankee Stadium and when flashy ads for casinos seemed unthinkable, Yonkers Mayor John Spencer, County Executive Andrew O’Rourke, and New York Governor George Pataki all championed a plan to bring the Bronx Bombers to Yonkers Raceway. Yankees owner George Steinbrenner reportedly was dissatisfied with the stadium’s South Bronx neighborhood and “scouting...for a new home,” while the politicos wanted to revive the waterfront and ailing track.
St. Andrew’s Golf Club photo courtesy of Library of Congress
19. Among our county’s many firsts: the first elevator company (The Otis Elevator Company in Yonkers); the first self-made female millionaire (hair-care maven Madame C. J. Walker of Irvington, who was also the first African American female millionaire); the first American golf club (the 1888 St. Andrew’s Golf Club in Hastings); the first synthetic plastic, Bakelite (synthesized in 1909 by Leo Baekeland in Yonkers); and the first parkway (the Bronx River).
20. Athough the series was filmed in Los Angeles, the characters of pioneering 1970s TV series Maude lived in Tuckahoe. The outspoken main character, played by Bea Arthur, began as a left-leaning foil to Archie Bunker on All in the Family. She and the show continued to break TV taboos by openly dealing with controversies—like abortion, drug abuse, and alcoholism—after she was “spun off.” Current Tuckahoe Mayor Steve Ecklond is a Republican.
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