History of Yonkers, Then and Now

Settled on the outskirts of New York City, Yonkers has rested on the edge of history – sometimes quite literally. The area’s storied reputation extends back to its chartering in the 1600s through to its firm commitment to keeping its identity as a separate town from New York City itself. The history of Yonkers includes quirks and turns such as being the town where Bakelite, the first fully synthetic plastic, was designed.

Yonkers’ history has culminated in its newfound revitalization, as the area has grown rapidly in wealth and development since the turn of the century. In honor of its history, the Daylight Yonkers project has recently taken off. Starting in 2010, the City of Yonkers exposed the formerly subterranean Saw Mill River so that the living river now flows freely throughout the midst of Larkin Plaza.

You can learn more about the Daylighting project, and its various stages of progression in this video:


Yonkers' Historic Milestones:

•1854 – Rudolph Eickmeyer invents the trolley motor in Yonkers.

•1867 – The Yonkers Patent Railway Co builds the 9th Ave “EL” in NYC (1st elevated mass transit system).

•1853 – Elisha Graves Otis (Otis Elevator) invents 1st safety elevator in Yonkers (later installed Eiffel Tower and Empire St Bldg).

•1860 – Yonkers becomes Westchester’s largest city.

•1861 – The county’s 1st streetlights are installed in Yonkers.

•1869 – St. John’s Riverside Hospital in Yonkers becomes the county’s 1st official hospital.

•1873 – The county’s 1st waterworks is established in Yonkers.

•1877 – The Alexander Smith and Sons Carpet Co of Yonkers invents the Moquette power loom to manufacture mass-produced carpets with precision of hand-knotted Oriental rugs.

•1888 – John Reid, a Scottish immigrant from Yonkers, plots America’s 1st golf course (St. Andrews Golf Club).

•1896 – Yonkers becomes the 1st city in NY to open municipal public baths.

•1899 – William H. Clark’s Empire City Trotting Club, later called Yonkers Raceway, opens its gates.

•1907 – Yonkers Leo Baekeland invents world’s 1st plastic.

•1914 – Edwin Armstrong, a college student from Yonkers, invents FM Radio and logs 1st broadcast from 544 North Broadway.

•1954 – The Cross County Shopping Center, Westchester’s 1st mall, opens in Yonkers.