Inner Ring Suburbs Pre-WWII By Emily Gebhardt
BronxVille, New York
Located twenty-eight minutes north of Midtown Manhattan by railroad, the village founded by William Van Duzer Lawrence had magnificent houses on streets laid out to resemble twisting, countrylike lanes.
In this final section, I will compare and contrast Bronxville to Yonkers as far as it being an inner-ring is concerned. Like Tuckahoe, Bronxville is located in the greater town of Easchester, New York. White families migrating west from Fairfield, Connecticut settled the area in the late 1600s. Like many surrounding Westchester villages, Bronxville was mainly a farming community in the 1700s. Families such as the Underhills and Morgans tended orchards and farms until industry was introduced in the 1850s. By 1844, the Harlem Railroad reached Underhill’s Crossing (located by the family’s grist mill and factory). “…[T]he Underhills sold off most of their remaining land…” at this time and the village changed its name from Underhill’s Crossing to the modern “Bronxville”. Heavy industry reached the village after the arrival of the railroad, which brought commuters and wealthy entrepreneurs to the quaint country enclave.
New York City merchant James Prescott Swain purchased the old Underhill mill in 1844 and established a water-powered stone factory making screws and axles and grinding grist…At about the same time, the settlement attracted another family who would start on to become long-time residents. Alfred Ebenezer Smith built an axle factory on the Bronx River across from the Underhill mill. Smith married into the Morgan family and soon built a house on Pondfield Road…[his] Son Alfred Jr., was instrumental in Bronxville’s incorporation in 1898 and became the first Village Attorney.
The DeWitt brothers were some of the first commuters in Bronxville, arriving in the 1850s. Although their primary place of residence was in Yonkers, by 1855 “…one brother had built a house on Elm Rock Road.” Bronxville underwent a slow process of change through the 1860s-1890s. At first, the wealthy built homes in the area as “country getaways”. Residency became more permanent, however, as the village made efforts to entice the rich with pastoral parks and private communities.
This idealization of rural living was a counterpart to wariness of the evils of urban living. For those interested in getting a feel for country life before making a decision, the village had a good hotel. Real estate and railroad interests hoped that after a weekend in Westchester County, visitors would be so impressed by its beauty, the convenient commute, and the fact that the right class of people would be their future neighbors that they could not resist buying a home.
“William Van Duzer Lawrence (1842-1927) made a fortune marketing a patent medicine called Pain Killer…Lawrence used his wealth to pursue…the development of suburban real estate. In the fall of 1889…he came out…to the small village of Bronxville…” Lawrence ended up purchasing a large tract of old farm land in 1890, and developing it into the upper-middle class community of Lawrence Park. The lots were of irregular shape and were modestly sized. This made them perfect for those families seeking suburban refuge from the city, combined with the rural and aesthetically pleasing architecture of Tudor/Colonial revivals. “Lawrence’s business plan was designed to attract a congenial, homogenous population of upper-middle-class residents—professionals, business managers, and the like…Lawrence also believed that the residential development required a commercial element…” To fulfill this requirement, he built the Gramatan Inn in 1897 which burned to the ground only three years later. He then replaced it with the Gramatan Hotel, “…a dramatic complex in Spanish mission style…”
Like the recently developed Tuckahoe, Bronxville in the early 1900s-1940s was a wealthy residential suburb. “The residents were predominantly professional men who commuted, thought of themselves as self-sufficient, and shared an intense commitment to ‘keeping up with the Joneses….’ They showed the largest population growth in the 1920s, averaging increases in excess of 100 percent.” According to Hanlon, Bronxville would thus classify as an “elite inner-ring suburb”. These prototypes consist of about eight percent of inner-rings, with the suburbs usually having some history. Most elite inner-rings are old, and often descendents of the first settlers still remain. A “…third of the housing stock…was built before 1939. Some developed as early as the 1890s, and others can trace their beginnings to the early 1920s.” Over time, these types of suburbs have grown with slow introduction of industry to farming—and then found a happy medium between these two contrasting lifestyles. Most elite inner-rings are 90+ percent white with a homogenous ethnic breakup. 
Bronxville’s 1909 Westchester County Historical Pageant; “The Book of Words,” “…a public performance staged in the Bronxville woods, spoke ‘[T]o all who are weary of the dust and heat of the cities, with the jangle and clamor of daily life…’” This new exposition of “country suburb life” is a perfect expression of the overall yearning for a “better” or perhaps even “whiter” living experience. The pageant made no mention of immigrants, manual laborers, and other “undesirables”. Instead, “[T]he play [‘The Book of Words’] introduced the audience to key Dutch figures…to Anne Hutchinson, and to the Huguenots, as a prelude to the reenactment of the reading of the Declaration of Independence at White Plains.”  This sort of romanticism for the “old life” and of Bronxville’s history helped to further the image of an elite inner-ring suburb, by pointing out central historical figures. By doing so, the town’s representatives undoubtedly set forth a precedent of who, or what kind of people, should or would be allowed to live in Bronxville. By reviving old beliefs and local history, while at the same time progressing forward with transportation, Bronxville was able to achieve its goal of becoming a wealthy enclave suburb that was unlike the overcrowded and working class Yonkers. Bronxville did not have a huge concentration of artists, or bohemians, as did Hastings-on-Hudson, and unlike Tuckahoe it did not have a history as a “third class town”. By combining a small village of leisure with the Bronx River Parkway Reservation, and a quick route to midtown Manhattan, Bronxville really is a true representation of Hanlon’s elite inner-ring suburb at the turn of the twentieth century.
A Brief History of the Village of Tuckahoe.
 Troetel, 258.
 Bronxville, Westchester County. April 1st, 2012. <http://www.westchestertowns.com/php/towns/Town0088.php.> 2004.
 Photo History of Bronxville. April 1st, 2012. <http://files.leagueathletics.com/Text/Documents/3149/12968.pdf.> 2004.
 Bronxville, Westchester County.
 Troetel, op. cit. Williams, Gray. “Westchester County; Historic Suburban Neighborhoods”. Westchester: the American Suburb, ed. Panetta, Roger. (New York: Fordham University Press) 187.
 Williams, 188.
 Panetta, 56.
 Hanlon, 115.
 Panetta, 11-12