Situated on the eastern shore of the Hudson River, in an area called the Tappan Zee, (Tappan for the Tappan Indians who once lived in what is now Rockland County, and Zee meaning sea in the Dutch language), lies the village of Tarrytown, a village rich in history and of course, local legend. It is a village of rolling hills, twenty-five miles north of New York City. Tarrytown is now a community, within the town of Greenburgh.
Records show that the first residence in Tarrytown was built in 1645; however, the exact location is not known. The first white settlers were Dutch and that they were farmers, fur trappers, and fishermen. Tarrytown soil was light and loamy which was ideal for growing cereals; especially wheat. This led to the area being known as Wheat Town, or Terve Town, which later became mispronounced as Tarrytown. Washington Irving has had the distinction of being the first American writer who was recognized by the British and European community. There have been countless references, and movies made about his famous story. Our local high school is named Sleepy Hollow High School, and our local team is named the Horsemen.
One very important event occurred in Tarrytown, during the Revolutionary War. On September 23, 1780, three local militiamen, John Paulding, Isaac Van Wart, and David Williams, captured the British spy, Major John Andre. Major Andre was carrying papers describing the fortification of West Point, given to him by Benedict Arnold. A monument was erected near Patriot's Park on Broadway in 1853 followed by a large parade and dedication. There was another ceremony in 1883, the 100th anniversary. The height of the monument was increased and a bronze stature of John Paulding was added. There is a dedication in stone on the south side of the monument. It reads, "On this spot the 23rd day of September, 1780, the spy, Major John Andre, Adjutant General of the British Army, was captured by John Paulding, David Williams, and Isaac Van Wart, all natives of this county. History has told the rest. The people of Westchester County have erected this Monument, as well to commemorate a great Event, as to testify their high estimation of that Integrity and Patriotism which, rejecting every temptation, rescued the United States from most imminent peril by baffling the arts of a Spy and the plots of a Traitor....Dedicated October 7, 1853." On the north side of the block an inscription reads, "Their conduct merits our warmest esteem. They have prevented, in all probability, our suffering one of the severest strokes that could have been meditated against us"...Washington.
Gradually a few industries began to appear. In 1868 a wagon and carriage factory was opened on Orchard Street. An early leading industry was the Silver Shoe Factory on Washington Street opened by the Silver brothers in 1871. The Cooper Flour Mill opened a five story building in 1886 and refined 300 barrels of flour a day. John Brown had a boatyard and built fine yachts in 1890 near the Main Street Landings. He also had a cider mill and made some of the best cider in the county. The automobile industry began in the area in 1899 with the Mobile Company of U.S.A. and they manufactured Walker Steamers. They were followed by Maxwell-Briscoe, and then, The Chevrolet Motor Co. in 1915 that became the General Motors Assembly Division in 1918. The General Motors plant was in North Tarrytown, now Sleepy Hollow, but was often listed as the G.M. Assembly Division, Tarrytown, New York. During World War II the assembly plant was retooled to make wings for grumman torpedo bombers and was named Eastern Aircraft employing 10,000 workers, 2,900 of the workers were women.
The G.M. industry has always been very important to Sleepy Hollow and Tarrytown because they poured a great deal of money into the economy and hired so many people from both communities. Before the 1970's most workers lived in Tarrytown or Sleepy Hollow. Later, when more workers were hired outside of the villages, local residents could always tell when a shift ended at General Motors by the amount of traffic that streamed through the towns. More recently, Morse Business Machines have been selling copiers and scanners since 1998. Miller, Procktor and Nickolas, Inc. have been representatives for industrial boilers and pumps, and have provided repair services to large companies since 1981. On the southern end of town is the General Motors Training Center that instructs dealer technicians in the repair of specialty problems such as electronics. They have been in Tarrytown since 1955. General Foods became Kraft General Foods in 1989 and is involved in product development, packaging, and quality control. Hitachi has been in Tarrytown since 1984 and has their corporate offices here. The president of Hitachi America resides in Tarrytown. According to sources at Tarrytown Village Hall, more industry will soon be coming into Tarrytown.
At the turn of the century the Tarrytown skyline was filled with innumerable castle-mansions and Tarrytown was known as "Millionaire's Colony". "Millionaire's Colony" was the wealthiest place of its size in the world. There were more than 65 grand estates existing at the time. Kykuit was built by John D. Rockefeller in 1902, and has been the home to four generations of the Rockefeller family. Kykuit means "high point" in Dutch and has breathtaking views of the Hudson River. Kykuit is home to beautiful furniture, paintings and sculptures. The grounds contain wonderful terraces, fountains, gardens, and a large collection of 20th century sculpture. Kykuit also has a large collection of antique cars and horse drawn vehicles. Edward W. Harden built a Georgian brick mansion, Harden House, in 1909. Edward Harden was a noted war correspondent for the New York Times and was stationed in the Philippines when Admiral Dewey destroyed the Spanish fleet in Manila Bay, on May l, 1898. Harden was interested in the Maria Montessori system of education and allowed a section of his mansion to be used for a Montessori kindergarten. Ironically, today Harden's mansion is being used for the administration building for the Union Free School District of the Tarrytowns. The millionaires of "Millionaire's Colony" greatly contributed to Tarrytown's economy. Every mansion and castle was built mostly by local tradesmen, every estate had many local workmen, and every local merchant had his share of millionaire customers.
The Tappan Zee Bridge was completed in 1955 after three years of construction. It was built at the widest point of the river and was another great turning point in the history of Tarrytown. It was built to connect I-87 coming north from New York City, crossing the Hudson River at Tarrytown as I-87 crossed through Rockland County north to Albany. Later, the Tappan Zee Bridge was connected to the Cross Westchester Expressway (287) and with I-95. The six-lane bridge has been increased to seven lanes, and is currently carrying 135,000 vehicles a day. Many commuters from Rockland County cross the bridge travel through local streets and park near the Tarrytown Station to continue their commute to New York City by railroad. At times, this has caused a considerable increase in traffic through Sleepy Hollow and Tarrytown. Plans are being considered today by the NYSDOT to greatly increase the strength of the existing Tappan Zee Bridge at a cost of 1.3 billion dollars, or to build a new adjacent dual deck bridge with 8-12 lanes, or to consider the feasibility of building a tunnel. Today Tarrytown has a population of approximately 11,500 and the village has several decisions facing them that shall shape their future. Whatever the decision, the results will continue to influence Tarrytown for many years.