100 Fascinating Facts About Westchester County

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81. Playland (above left) was the first/only government-planned amusement park in the country; it has been seen in many movies, such as Fatal Attraction and Big (above right), and was also featured in the music video for Mariah Carey’s 1995 song, “Fantasy.” The Dragon Coaster is one of only seven pre-1930 roller coasters in the country that is still, well, rolling.

82. Colonel Ichabod B. Crane, the Army officer and namesake of the spooked Washington Irving character (Col. Crane had met Irving in 1814), is actually buried in New Springville, New Jersey.

83. Of Westchester’s population, 21.8 percent claims Hispanic ethnicity, up from 15.6 percent in 2000.

84. According to an Elmsford town website, American soldiers during the Revolution often stole the tail feathers of Tory-owned chickens before storming O’Brien’s Château in Elmsford’s central square for a few hard-earned drinks. Betsy, the tavern’s barmaid, decorated their moonshine with the plumage; and thus, Elmsford birthed “the cocktail.”

85. A sizeable portion of the Montrose/Verplanck/Crugers shoreline is
composed entirely of red bricks. You can even hike through Montrose Point State Forest to “Brick Beach” and see for yourself. (The bricks also are visible from the Cortlandt Yacht Club and George’s Island Park.) They are one reminder of Verplanck’s glory days in the mid-1800s, when 10 factories pumped out 60 million bricks a year. 

86. The 19th-century invention of the Axminster and Moquette looms by the Alexander Smith and Sons Carpet Company in Yonkers supposedly allowed manufacturers to mass-produce carpets as precisely woven as those that were handmade. The factory, on North Broadway, remained the largest carpet manufacturer in the country until the end of WWII, but it left the county and spread out its operations to plants throughout the United States in 1954. What’s left of the mills has bounced between the city and various developers for the past decade.

87. And you think this past winter was snowy? Seventeen thousand years ago, the Wisconsin Glacier suffocated Westchester and most of New England under a mile of ice.

Photo by Don Sutherland

88. The oldest building in Westchester is the Timothy Knapp House in Rye. The structure dates back to 1667, when Rye was actually part of Connecticut; Timothy Knapp was first deputy to the court of Hartford. The home is now a library for the Rye Historical Society.

89. Philipsburg Manor and the Old Dutch Church in Sleepy Hollow and Philipse Manor Hall in Yonkers were all part of a vast network of mill sites belonging to the Anglo-Dutch Phillipse family. They might well have gone the way of the other Colonial-era manors, but the families were vocal supporters of King George III during the American Revolution, and the state authorities confiscated the lands of most leading Tories and auctioned them or retained them after the conflict.

90. Australian actor and prolifically vile ranter Mel Gibson was actually born in Peekskill and lived here until the age of 12, when his parents moved Down Under, which may explain why Gibson does not have an Aussie accent. We won’t, though, blame them—or take any responsibility for—anything else about him.

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