With all the diversions and distractions on parade past our front stoops 24/7, it's easy for Manhattanites to forget that the New York City metro extends beyond the rivers that ring our little island. Vibrant communities large and small spread in every direction, eastward out along Long Island, across the Hudson into New Jersey, and up into the sizeable gap between "The City," and "Upstate." Westchester County occupies part of that gap, and is home to both picturesque towns and villages with names like Sleepy Hollow and Pleasantville as well as cities like White Plains and Yonkers that are every bit as urbanized as Brooklyn or Queens.
Shoehorned in between Putnam and Rockland Counties and sharing a border with southwestern Connecticut, Westchester's 422 square miles are home to nearly one million people - almost half of them in multi-unit residential buildings, many of which are either co-ops or condos - who have come, according to Faye Desanto, manager of the Westchester County branch of Manhattan-based brokerage firm William B. May Company, for "the great schools, the small village life, the beauty of the surroundings," and the "very reasonable" 35- to 40-minute commute into the city.
The land north/northeast of New York City proper has only recently become a haven for commuters and their families, of course. Westchester's Colonial history and early development began within 50 years of Columbus's historic voyage from Spain.
Before the first white explorers, and later settlers, arrived in the Hudson Valley, the area was the domain of a number of Native American groups, including the Delaware, Mohegan, and Wappinger tribes. Before the arrival of the Europeans, the Hudson Valley tribes lived in tree-bark wigwams, fished and hunted game in the river and surrounding woodlands, planted and harvested small staple crops and maple syrup, and developed both water drainage systems and erosion-resistant tiered fields.
The first Europeans arrived in what is now Westchester in the late 16th and early 17th centuries in the persons of Italian explorer Giovanni Verrazano (in 1524) and Henry Hudson (in 1609). Lured by reports of fertile soil, temperate climate, and abundant natural resources, other Europeans began to filter into the area to settle.