From the Office of the Mayor
By Mayor Mary Marvin
In light of our 125th anniversary celebration held on Sunday, October 1, I thought I would go into the archives and share some of the interesting history and unique facts about the Village to get us in the spirit.
• The Village encompasses just over one square mile at 666 acres. It is approximately 16 miles from midtown Manhattan and 2 ½ miles from the Bronx border.
• The Village’s first attempt, by petition to incorporate, was invalidated by the Eastchester Town Supervisor who declared the vote illegal because women had signed it! Now 53% of our Village population is female, and I dare say Bronxville women can move mountains when called upon.
• In fact, the Village was a hot bed of the suffrage movement and it has been chronicled that in 1911, Village women clapped so vociferously for their right to vote that they, “split from thumb to wrist their arm length suede gloves.”
• The actual first Village government was formed at “Dogwoods”, the home of Frances Bacon, newly installed Village President, at 61 Sagamore Road. Still familiar names: Bacon, Kraft and Chambers were our first governing body.
• As early as 1905, residents asked Village government to address the decayed bridge on Parkway Road, soon to be followed by a petition to increase the inadequate street lighting.
• Minutes of old Village Board meetings also included the observation of the complete submersion of the old Girl Scout Cabin on Paxton Avenue due to catastrophic floods in 1910 and 1938.
• The “Lowlands” neighborhood area near our present day school was also plagued by early flooding. In 1920, when the current site on Pondfield was chosen for the public school, a Village elder remarked that, “The only problem was that much of it was covered by water.”
• The first European settlers can be traced to the early 1700s with the construction of a sawmill on the Bronx River by John Underhill and the subsequent development of a village around 1850 so named Underhill‘s Crossing.
• With the coming of the railroad in the 1840s, the rural character of the village was radically changed. In 1852, the village was awarded its own post office and the Reformed Church constructed its first building in 1850.
• However, it took until 1898 for the village to become incorporated as a village in the Town of Eastchester. From this date forward, activity and development accelerated.
• The Hotel Gramatan was erected in 1905, Lawrence Hospital in 1909 and Concordia College in 1910.
• The railroad underpass was completed in 1916 and a building boom soon followed which quickly transformed the rest of the village into a bona fide suburban community.
• The opening of the Bronx River Parkway in 1925 made automobile traffic more accessible, resulting in the village being almost truly built out by the end of the 1920s.
• With building growth came population growth and by 1930 the village’s population had more than doubled to 6387 residents. It actually peaked in 1940 at 6888 and currently we have a population of 6395 residents which represents an increase of 72 persons since the 2010 census.
• The overwhelming majority of Village housing units (72%) were built before 1939.
• The Village functioned in its first year of incorporation (1898) with no ordinances. Our very first ordinance, (1899), protected us from public nudity, brothels, saloons, gambling, riots and profane language, all punishable with fines from $10-$50.
• Another first generation ordinance prohibited playing ball on Sunday; “hallooing or yelling after dark”, and gunfire “between the setting and rising sun” (apparently daytime gunfire was acceptable!).
• In a bit of high aspiration thinking, fire escapes would be required on all opera houses but churches were exempt.
• In 1899, houses could be built with no notice to the Village and without regard to size or placement as it wasn’t until 1922 that our first zoning ordinance was enacted.
• In terms of open space, Scout Field is a 2.29 acre park, of which only 0.29 acres are in the Village of Bronxville with the remaining acreage almost evenly split between the cities of Yonkers and Mount Vernon. As a consequence, the Village Police Department cannot patrol on land in other cities/jurisdictions.
• The Nature Preserve is the Village’s largest park/open space comprising 5.7 acres, 4.7 of which are actually in the Town of Eastchester.
• 60% of our residents live in single family homes while 40% reside in apartments, co-ops and condominiums.
• Over 20% of the land in the Village is tax exempt.
• The Bronx River was actually rerouted and the Village border changed to accommodate the original construction of the Bronx River Parkway in 1925, thus becoming the first multi-lane limited access parkway in North America.
• Bronxville has 2300 home address in the Village but over 10,000 area residents use it as their postal address.
• Palumbo Place is named for Joe Palumbo, the long time Village Public Works Director.
• Leonard Morange Park, on the west side near the train station, is named after the first Village resident to die in service of our country in World War I.
• Famous people who have called the Village home include President John F. Kennedy, Eddie Rickenbacker, Beat Generation writer Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Baseball Commissioner Ford Frick, Football Commissioner Roger Goodell, Elizabeth Custer, Jack Paar and Marvin Bower.
• The Village has no County owned roads and only one State road, Route 22. It is only Route 22 that cannot be repaved or upgraded by Village capital plan projects.
• With the exception of the Hasidic village of Kiryas Joel in Orange County, Bronxville is the only community that is co-terminus with their school district and thus the municipality issues both School and Village tax bills.
Clearly we have always been a unique community and Trustee William Kraft early on envisioned even greater things for us, writing on Village stationary that, “In the course of time, we will have one of the finest Villages along the line.”
In the kind words of famed architectural critic Paul Goldberger who spoke on the “Power of Place” at the Bronxville Historical Conservancy’s First Annual Brendan Gill Lecture, he observed that Bronxville as a community has been, “endlessly copied, but never matched