My recent interest in the history of the city of Yonkers all started with a post.
Not a blog post.
And one just like it across the street, minus the urn.
These posts stand not too far away from my daughter’s house. I had never noticed them in all the times I’ve driven by here, until she brought them to my attention. Fascinated, we spent some time speculating what the neighborhood might have looked like back in the days when these pillars were first built.
I moved to Yonkers in 2004, at the age of 38. Prior to that, I had lived my entire life in the Bronx. But I had only a mild interest in the history of either of these places.
However, these pillars, along with a story on PBS NewsHour, have sparked motivation to explore this city I’ve called home for the past 17 years. In the NewsHour story, a man by the name of Phil Kidd started a blog called Every Street Cleveland. Phil, an avid runner, needed motivation during the pandemic so he endeavored to run every street in Cleveland, Ohio. But he didn’t just want to keep his runs fresh and log miles. He was curious about the history of Cleveland, and wanted to share that history with others.
I’m no runner. But the idea of exploring where one lives speaks to me. I hope you’ll take the journey with me, whether you live here or not. But first….
Did you know?
As of the 2020 census, Yonkers has a population of 211,569.1 That makes it the third largest city in New York State, and the largest city in Westchester County. It consists of 18.3 square miles, of which 4.5 miles are waterfront space2 on the banks of the Hudson River overlooking the Palisades in New Jersey.
Founded in 1646, Yonkers formally became a “town” in Westchester County in 1790. After that, in 1855, it was incorporated into a “village”. Finally, in 1872, Governor John T. Hoffman signed the charter establishing Yonkers as a “city” – the first city in Westchester County. At that time, it had 20,000 residents.3
What’s up with that name, Yonkers?? It’s bonkers!!
About 20 years after Manhattan Island was purchased from the Indians, a Dutchman named Adrian Van der Donck received a land grant of the Colony of Nepperhan (or Colen-Donck) from the Dutch West India Company. As dictated by Dutch law, he bought the tract of land, called the Keskeskick, in the late 1640s. You can view a digital copy of the original deed for the land that was conveyed by the Native Americans to the West India Company on August 3, 1639 here.
Van der Donck was nicknamed De Jonkheer, meaning “young gentleman” or “young nobleman”, because of his status in Holland. It was from this nickname that the city name evolved, changing over time to “The Younckers”, “The Yonkers”, and finally to present day “Yonkers”.4,5,6
I hope you enjoyed this brief overview of how Yonkers came to be, and I hope you’ll stay tuned for more of my exploration.
1United States Census Bureau: https://www.census.gov/quickfacts/fact/table/yonkerscitynewyork/POP010220
2Yonkers Chamber of Commerce: https://www.yonkerschamber.com/city-of-yonkers/yonkers-at-a-glance/
3Yonkers Chamber of Commerce: https://www.yonkerschamber.com/city-of-yonkers/early-yonkers-history/
4Yonkers Chamber of Commerce: https://www.yonkerschamber.com/city-of-yonkers/early-yonkers-history/
6New York State Archives: https://iarchives.nysed.gov/xtf/view?docId=tei/A1880/NYSA_A1880-78_VGG_0030.xml