Local history resources at YPL

YPL loves local history! We offer resources for you to learn about your community’s past and discover your own family history. 

Our Local History Room at the Riverfront Library holds books on Yonkers and Westchester history, maps, dissertations, high school yearbooks, Yonkers city directories, a clippings file, and the microfilmed back-file of various Yonkers newspapers. There are chronological gaps in these holdings, and these items must be consulted on site in the library. (The library owns no vital records.)

We are pleased to be able to share some highlights of Yonkers local history through links to several wonderful vignettes about local notable Yonkers citizens: 

  • Learn about Ervin Saunders (1848-1909), for whom Saunders High School is named, also known for the “princely munificence” with which he endowed many institutions in Yonkers, including the Yonkers Public Library
  • Find out about the role played by the Rev. Albert A. Lings (1844-1915) in helping the City of Yonkers meet the demands of immigrants in the 19th century, and learn about the founding of St. Joseph’s Roman Catholic Church. Monsignor Lings’ history also speaks to the founding of St. Joseph’s Cemetery and how he helped feed hungry Yonkers residents during the Panic of 1893.
  • Curious about Philipse Manor Hall and who lived there? You’ll love reading about Thomas Clapp Cornell (1819-1894), one of Yonkers’ most prominent 19th-century citizens. Cornell, a civil engineer by trade, mapped and surveyed the City extensively, and had a hand in starting many Yonkers and Westchester institutions, some of which survive to this day. 
  • Find out about William L. Heermance (1837-1903), who fought in many battles during the Civil War, was held POW by the Confederates, and survived dramatic injury to receive the Congressional Medal of Honor, the only Yonkers resident to date to receive this award.
  • Did you know that Yonkers has a connection to the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln? Charles A. Leale (1842-1932) was on the scene when it happened and held the president’s hand as he died. Prominent local attorney Thomas Ewing, Jr. (1829-1896) also played a part in this tragic event, as he defended at trial those accused of conspiring in Lincoln’s assassination. 
  • Everyone’s familiar with Gorton High School, but what do you know about Charles E. Gorton, for whom it’s named? Mr. Gorton (1845-1922) served fifty years in the Yonkers Public Schools, and gave time and energy to many other local institutions. 
  • Anyone interested in Yonkers history really ought to become familiar with the Rev. Charles E. Allison (1847-1908), author of The History of Yonkers, Westchester County New York, from the Earliest Times to the Present. Rev. Allison also served as the first pastor of what became the Dayspring Presbyterian Church, and was one of the founders of the Yonkers YMCA.
  • The Rt. Rev. James E. Freeman (1866-1943) was not only responsible for overseeing the construction of the National Cathedral in Washington; he served for many years as rector of St. Andrew's Episcopal Church (now La Iglesia Memorial de San Andres). He is known in Yonkers for the eloquence (and length!) of the oration he delivered upon the laying of the cornerstone of our City Hall in 1908.

We hope you enjoy these biographical sketches!

(Please note that patrons may not access local history materials at this time. Please email mrobison@ypl.org with your specific request, and we will do our best to get the information to you.)