In the beginning was the land, and it was without names. From somewhere over the horizon the first wanderers reached northwestern Westchester and found the land to be rich and good. They remained and gave names to places--descriptive names by which others could identify them. Thus, the Indian name for Ossining was "a stony place"
Next came the Dutch, doughty burghers and traders. Accustomed to sailing the inland channels of their own country, they stayed close to navigable waterways. A stream was a "kill" or "creek," a "gat" was a passage, a "hoek" was a point of land. But the Dutch were also intensely practical. They accepted the Indian place names they found, altering them slightly to sound more like their own tongue.
Then came the English. They converted many of the names applied by the Dutch: "kreek" became "creek," "bosch" (wood) became "bush," and "hoek" became "point." A lake or a pool became a "pond," a word common in eastern England. Although the English were comparative latecomers, they remained for the longest time. Rejecting many existing place names, they made them over to fit the English language, choosing the names of towns in England or notable persons. The newly minted United States continued this practice.
Soon the land became layered with names. Always lurking in the background, the old names were remembered and kept alive by old-timers. Eventually even they became only a memory. Now-forgotten names of places and people molder on old maps and documents in dusty archives or accumulate moss on old tombstones.
Did you know?
- Auser's Flats. In Ossining; an area north of Cedar Lane, east of Route 9. It took its name from Joseph Auser, who lived on the west side of the Post Road.
- Claremont. The area around the intersection of Routes 133 and 134 in Ossining took this name from the home of Robert Havell, engraver of Audubon's famous bird and animal prints.
- Fourth of July Hill. In Ossining, between Main Street and Broadway; so named because it was the site of fireworks celebrations.
- Hubble's Corner. In Ossining; at Main Street and the Albany Post Road, G. &. B. Hubble had a hardware store here.
- Hunter's Landing. The original name of Ossining; from Elijah Hunter, who bought confiscated Loyalist land from the Commissioners of Forfeiture after the Revolution.
- Jordan Spring. A small hamlet in Ossining Town near Cedar Lane and Route 9A; it took its name from a spring on property owned by the Jordan family.
- Pleasant Square. In Ossining; at the intersection of Croton Avenue and the Albany Post Road, then the center of the hamlet of Mount Pleasant.
- Scarboro. Scarborough took its name from an English village, but between 1864 and 1928 the official post office designation was Scarboro.
- Shatemuc. Another Indian name for the Hudson River
- The name of the hamlet of Mount Pleasant was changed to Sing Sing in 1813. The name comes from the Sint Sink Indians, the original inhabitants, and means "a stony place." Sing Sing became Ossining in 1901.
- Strangtown. An area in Ossining named for the Strang family, who lived on Highland Avenue. The name comes from the French, L'Estrange.
- Stormytown. An area in the town of Ossining near the intersection of Route 9A and Croton Dam Road; the name has nothing to do with the weather. The Storm family farmed here in the 18th century.
- Torbank. The area in Ossining Town west of Route 9A around Ganung Drive took its name from the former estate of Peter Donald, an early linen merchant.
- West Briarcliff. Citizens became agitated when the New York Central changed the name of its station from Scarboro to West Briarcliff in 1909. An objector to the new name threw the offending station sign into the Hudson, and the railroad quickly restored the original name.
Zion's Hill. Robert Matthews, a religious zealot, gave this name in the 1830's to the estate known as Beechwood in Ossining. It was later acquired by Frank A. Vanderlip, a wealthy New York banker.
It is easily identifiable by the two buried Ionic columns at the entrance on the Albany Post Road (Route 9) from the facade of the old Merchants' Exchange on Wall Street completed in 1842.
The building later served as the U.S. Customs House.
The columns were removed when it was remodeled in 1907 to become the National City Bank. Only their capitals and the upper portion are visible above ground here.