Inner Ring Suburbs Pre-WWII By Emily Gebhardt
Hastings-on-hudson, new york
A cozy riverfront community with sweeping views of the Manhattan skyline, Hastings-on-Hudson is a quiet village nestled along the eastern bank of the Hudson River…The village has long been a haven for writers, artists, and academics…
In this section, I will compare and contrast Hastings-on-Hudson to Yonkers, based on Hanlon’s definitions of inner-ring suburbs. Lying just north of Yonkers and picturesquely situated on the Hudson River, Hastings-on-Hudson is a village in the town of Greenburgh. Unlike Yonkers, Hastings in 1900 was much smaller and had a population that was comprised of artisans and manual laborers, as opposed to large factory owners and their industrial workers. Beginning as a Dutch settlement in the 1600s, the area began to prosper two hundred years later when stonecutting and quarrying brought economic stability to the town.
While we classified Yonkers as a mixed-satellite city/suburb at the turn of the twentieth century, Hastings would be more “…middle-and working-class housing…multifamily housing, and industry. Poor planning and weak zoning had made this primarily residential type of suburb resemble a small independent city, with a mix of foreign and second-generation population and pockets of African Americans. Residents were not professional and most did not commute to work.” Hastings relied on Scottish and Irish laborers for the hard marble quarrying that supplied stonecutters in Charleston, North Carolina from around 1865-1871. “By the 1880s, Hastings Pavement was producing hexagonal paving blocks which were used extensively in Central Park…Between 1895 and 1900, Hastings Pavement produced 10 million such blocks…By 1891 the National Conduit and Cable Company had established an operation on the waterfront producing cable for utility companies here and abroad.”
Hastings clearly differs from 1900s Yonkers in that it had hardly any city commuters and was more locally oriented. Like Yonkers, however, the town also experienced worker strikes during the early teens of the twentieth century. The Cable Company of Hastings employed over a thousand workers at the turn of the century, and many of those who were employed wanted their wages raised from $1.50 to $1.75 an hour. According to an archived New York Times article from 1912,
[T]hree men and one woman were shot at Hastings, N.Y., yesterday in a fight between the striking wire and tube mill men…and the police and specially sworn deputy sheriffs who, ever since 1,200 of the company’s mill workers went on strike, a week ago, have been guarding the company’s extensive milling plant on the Hastings water front…About 100 shots were fired altogether, and practically all the shooting was done by the police—and special deputies, many of whom admitted to newspaper men later in the day that they had become excited because a crowd of strikers and strike sympathizers were throwing stones…
This sort of tension between worker and wealthy owner was exceedingly common, perhaps even cliché in early 1900s suburbs—especially in suburbs that had a wide enough economic base for strikes to really matter and to make a difference. In addition to the wire mill workers, many eastern European immigrants moved from the inner city (New York City) to Hastings when Frederick Zinsser founded his chemical company there in 1910. Using natural power from the mighty Hudson River, Zinsser and company lasted until 1947. During WWI the company made and supplied the United States’ government with mustard gas.
According to Bernadette Hanlon, a place like Hastings-on-Hudson would fit into the “middle-class inner-ring suburb”, just like Yonkers.Vi This means that Hastings in 1900 would have a median income that was 10% higher than the rest of Westchester County. The population was mostly white, being either American or European born. “Middle-class inner-ring suburbs of the Northeast…were typically the whitest among [other] regions… The Northeast’s middle-class inner-ring suburbs were typically located in the metropolitan area of New York…A few middle-class black inner-ring suburbs were identified in the Northeast…”
While Hastings-on-Hudson was a working community with people from many walks of life, it was still romanticized both at the turn of the twentieth century much as it is today. The work of artist John Ludlow Morton helps to quite literally paint a picture of Hastings during the mid-1800s to early-1900s. His painting View of Hastings-on-Hudson
…shows that the penetration of the railroad, which precipitated the invasion of the wealthy, had not really altered the rural landscape, which still retained considerable pictorial charm…“despite the metropolitan proximity of the place…its rural aspect is as excellent as though no such highways as the Hudson and its railroad touched its threshold…” The enduring pastoral character of Westchester…attracted many artists from New York City to explore the country’s gentle hills and vales.
This sort of yearning for residency in picturesque enclaves and paintings of pictorial landscapes of Westchester County at the turn of the twentieth century is directly correlated to the development of the suburb. Hastings-on-Hudson wanted to be different than a place such as Yonkers. It did not want to be directly linked to New York City, thus most of the residents did not commute in 1900. They were artisans, miners, and manual workers. While the town had a rail station, there was no streetcar or trolley service to the station. This left travelers very little other option than to be driven or picked up. This sort of limited access to the station also meant that certain socio-economic groups would have a harder time migrating out of Hastings for a weekend trip to New York City.
Hastings-on-Hudson is a prime example of a twentieth century middle-working-class inner-ring suburb because it was 1) far enough away from Manhattan to not have daily commuters, 2) it was pastoral enough to satisfy the aesthetics of those of higher incomes, and 3) it encouraged a sense of upward mobility for those still in the working class, such as the marble miners and the owners of private artisan shops. It was smaller than Yonkers, which made it more exclusive and more “country-like”. At the same time, however, it was close enough to big business to not be left out of the metropolitan-area’s contributing economy. Through a combination of small and big business, the wealthy and the working class, Hastings-on-Hudson emerged at the turn of the twentieth century as the “country” inner-ring suburb of Westchester County, New York.
 Hastings-on-Hudson. March 14th, 2012. <http://www.westchestermagazine.com/WestchesterMagazine/Neighborhoods/Westchester/index.php/name/Hastings-On-Hudson/record/2343/.><http://hastingshistoricalsociety.blogspot.com/2009/04/john-p-davies-historical-map-of.html.>
 Panetta, 56.
 Hastings History. March 14, 2012. <http://hastingshistorical.org/Hastingshistory.html.>
 “Hastings Pavement Company in 1889”. Drawing. Hastings Historical Society. Apr. 19, 2012. <http://hastingshistoricalsociety.blogspot.com/2009_07_01_archive.html.>
 “Four Shot in Riot in Hastings Strike.” New York Times on the Web 25 Jun. 1912. March 14th, 2012. < http://query.nytimes.com/mem/archive-free/pdf?res=F60B10FC3A5E13738DDDAC0A94DE405B828DF1D3.>
 “Hastings Railroad Station circa 1900”. Photo. Hastings Historical Society. Apr. 19, 2012. <http://hastingshistoricalsociety.blogspot.com/2009_08_01_archive.html.>
 Records of Zinsser & Company, 1910-1947. March 14th, 2012. <http://hudsonriver.westchesterarchives.com/hastings-on-hudson/hastings-on-hudson-gallery/zinsser-co.>
 “Frederick G. Zinsser”. Photo. Hastings Historical Society. 19 Apr. 2012. <http://hastingshistoricalsociety.blogspot.com/2009/04/mystery-photo-annual-outing-of-zinsser.html.>
 Hanlon, 119.
 Maddox, Kenneth W., “The Lure of the Country”. Westchester: the American Suburb, ed. Panetta, Roger. (New York: Fordham University Press) 120.
 John Ludlow Morton. “View of Hastings-on-Hudson”. Painting. 19 Apr. 2012. <http://www.feelbyte.com/John-Ludlow-Morton/View-of-Hastings-on-Hudson-320547.html.>