History of Scarsdale
The town of Scarsdale (meaning rocky, craggy valley) was carved out of the pre-colonial manor belonging to Caleb Heathcote in 1788. Scarsdale's six-and-a-half square miles was home to only 281 people in 1790, a third of whom were Quakers living in the eastern section of town. The sleepy farm community grew very slowly for the next sixty or so years because, unlike the Westchester towns that bordered Long Island Sound and the Hudson River, Scarsdale had no access to navigable waterways. Traveling to New York City along twisty, sandy White Plains Post Road was a slow, uncomfortable journey.
Scarsdale’s fortunes turned around after the arrival of the railroad in 1846 made getting to and from New York City much easier. Farm crops could now reasonably be transported to the city for sale, and a few wealthy New Yorkers began to buy land and build country estates. While Scarsdale was inhabited mostly by white people during that time, Blacks also resided and worked in Scarsdale, often as farm laborers. The most historically significant of these residents, a formerly-enslaved man named Robert Purdy, bought five acres of farmland on Saxon Woods Road in 1856, establishing a legacy for his descendants and others, and making way for a diverse community that respects people of all backgrounds and religious affiliations.
Scarsdale began to change from a rural town to a residential suburb in 1891 with the creation of Arthur Manor, a 150-acre farm that was subdivided into lots for single family homes. As other farms and estates were developed into neighborhoods in the early 20th century, longtime residents and newly arrived professionals formed local organizations—including a nonpartisan election system—that set the tone for an unusually high level of volunteer civic engagement that continues today.
New schools were built in the late teens to accommodate the rapid arrival of families, and Scarsdale soon adopted a Village-wide zoning plan that firmly established it as a primarily residential community with neighborhoods clustered around the various elementary schools. Local businessmen cooperated to construct an attractive Tudor-Revival style center in the 1920s, and a housing boom resulted in the creation of a substantial number of homes, many of which are still standing.
After World War II, significant investments were made in community recreation, including the addition of public tennis and paddle courts and a swimming pool complex. Today, this venerable, leafy suburb is renowned for its schools, community spirit, and easy access to New York City.