Transportation: The Arteries of a City
Industrialization: The Inevitable Social Change
The Hudson River Railroad as the main transportation system between Yonkers and New York City was, for the most part, responsible for the great increase in population that turned Yonkers from a farming into an industrial center. In the period right after the completion of the Hudson River line to Yonkers (1850-1900) already established industries grew and new ones were formed. The Wearing Hat Factory originally established in 1828 had become the largest manufacturer of hats in the world, and businesses such as the Alexander Carpet Mills and the John Copcutt mills (burned in 1875) flourished. Growth of industry leads to demand for labor (cheap labor is favored) and the increase in transportation arteries (predominantly the railroad in late 18th century and early 20th century) meant not only that immigrant labor, mostly from Europe at the time, would be easily accessible, but that the transportation of goods in and out of Yonkers for production and consumption was more readily available.
The dynamic between production and consumption is a critical one to understand, not only in terms of transportation but the very social dynamic that began to take place in Yonkers in the turn of the 20th century. Although Yonkers was home to flourishing industries, in terms of population identity it became the home of the affluent city worker. Yes, Yonkers became a place of industry, but for the most part it was “home” for affluent city commuters. During the farming years Yonkers residents worked the land and lived from it in a “self-subsistent” existence, however, as transportation turned Yonkers into an attainable home surrounded by “natural” beauty, the land came to be valued for its beauty not for how much it could be exploited. Immigrants saw opportunity in industry, but as a suburb of New York City, much of the culture, policy and ways of life were wielded by the escapist ideas of city dwellers. For the homeowner in Yonkers, Yonkers was not the place of work but the place to escape from it.
The recreational habits (and even the fact that that they have one) tell of the very changes that transportation brought into the social dynamics of Yonkers. It wasn’t simply a farming community or a place of hard work and industry, but it became a place of leisure (as the earlier Hudson River Railroad publications were trying to sell), where home and nature combined.
This romantic idea of Yonkers as a “therapeutic suburb” predated the expansion of the railroad. With ideas of family and the social environment advocated by philanthropist Charles Loring Brace (1826-1890) and others, Yonkers, as other white suburbs in the United States, became an investment for the “ideal” family and a refuge from the “moral corruption” of the city. “Brace recommended that city workers “settle in pleasant little suburban villages” where they would have their “own small house and garden,” while children would grow up “under far better influences, moral and physical, that they could possibly enjoy in tenement-houses.” (David et al.).
Thus, Yonkers in the late 19th and early 20th century developed during a time with social demands for implementing a moral fabric and ideas of family thought to be impossible to flourish within the big city’s (New York) lines. However, this “moral fabric” favored monotony and exclusivity, and as the city expanded the reach of its roads, trolleys, and consequently buses and parkways, the question of whether discriminated minorities had access to this lifestyle became a central theme for one of Yonkers’ most significant transportation methods – The Saw Mill River Parkway.
 Yasinsac, Robert J. Alexander Smith and Sons Carpet Company. 2006. http://www.hudsonvalleyruins.org/yasinsac/hvarch/smith1.html (accessed May 7, 2012).
 Yonkers Historical Society, "History of Yonkers." Accessed April 26, 2012. http://www.yonkershistory.org/hiscode.html.
 Yonkers Historical Society, "History of Yonkers."
 Rothman David, and Panetta Roger , "Mindful of Children: Childcare in Westchester, New York 1840-1920," Westchester County Historical Society.