In the early 1700's, most of West Harrison, then known as Silver Lake, was owned by Daniel Merritt, who sold out to John Horton (of Horton's Grist Mill) in 1732. The following century, the Horton family sold property to a Mr. Underhill in 1833, who again sold to a Mr. Gainsborg in the 1890's. Mr. Gainsborg developed early West Harrison into a resort area, and many old-timers remember that before World War II, West Harrison had a hotel, a casino and an internationally known ski jump.
While Harrison's Purchase and Silver Lake saw early settlement, Harrison's downtown section did not develop until after the coming of the railroad in 1848. In the beginning, people had to flag down the train to get aboard, be after the station was built in 1870 and it became more comfortable to commute, the opening of the railroad in this fashion dramatically changed the character and center of activity in Harrison. Although there were farms in the southern end of town, wealthy business people from New York City bought the land for their country homes and many large estates were developed.
Harrison was developing in another way as well for the railroad brought in many Italian immigrants who bought plots to farm in Brentwood and Silver Lake. Today their descendants are part of the strength of our diverse community, as gradually there evolved the distinctive neighborhoods of Harrison and West Harrison that make up our unique town/village. In the first U.S. Census Report of the year 1790, the Township of Harrison was listed as having a population of 1,156, including 54 slaves. In 1880, it had increased to only 1,494. The town has retained its rural character to a greater degree than some of the other communities within a comparable distance from New York.
On March 7, 1788, New York passed legislation which divided its counties into towns numbering more than 100. "...and that all that part of said County of Westchester called and known by the name of Harrison's Purchase, shall be and hereby is erected into a town, by the name of Harrison." A real estate brochure of 1906 stated "Harrison is a good place to live. There are over 50 trains daily between Harrison and New York City, with a commutation of 10 cents trips." It was known as the New York, Westchester and Boston Railroad. Since 1927, when it became the New Haven Line, it has changed little, and is said to have been more efficient then!
Access to Harrison by road improved when the Hutchinson River Parkway reached Harrison in 1929. Few know that 60 years ago, another parkway was planned which would extend from White Plains to Port Chester along the present day route of Westchester Avenue. Land was sold and many houses were built by enthusiastic developers, but the plan was never completed. Today, Parkway Knolls extends from Westchester Avenue north two blocks to Parkview Avenue, and between Underhill Avenue and Croker's Pond, also known as Spring Lake.
Now the Town & Village of Harrison wishes to unite those of all ages and offers a comprehensive and diversified program of leisure time services under the auspices of the Harrison Recreation Department. Year round indoor activities are conducted in the department's three community centers. Programs are designed to meet the interests and needs of pre-schoolers through senior citizens.
Outdoor activities including swimming, tennis, softball, baseball, and picnicking are enjoyed in community parks and on school fields. Five day camp programs are conducted throughout the community during the months of July and August. Spicing the programs are special events including Spring Egg Hunts, Halloween Programs, Summer Concerts, and Sports Tournaments. An annual "It's Great to Live in Harrison/ Columbus Day Celebration" is held in October featuring a parade of marching bands and community organizations followed by a "fiesta" in the park across from the municipal building. Program brochures and fliers are available at the recreation office in the municipal building and community centers.
The Harrison Central School District is one of the geographically largest suburban school districts in Westchester. Harrison encompasses several micro-communities comprising a socioeconomically and culturally diverse student population. The district itself has one high school, one middle school and 4 elementary schools. The Board of Education has proudly and consistently pursued a mission of excellence and equity for all students. Parents and community members play an active role in supporting its high achieving district characterized by its superior standards and even higher aspirations. Respect for high quality education is evident by the consistent support of school budgets and an active education foundation.
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