Ossining, a brief history
By William Joseph Reynolds
Early 17th century Dutch maps of the Hudson River Valley show an Indian village, whose inhabitants were part of the Mohegan Tribe, named "Sint Sinck." That phrase, when translated, means "stone upon stone" and refers to the extensive beds of limestone found in the southern part of the village.
In 1685, the Sint Sincks sold their land to Frederick Philipse who incorporated it into his land holdings known as the Manor of Philipsburg. The Manor comprised of about 165,000 acres and extended from Spuyten Duyvil Creek at the tip of Manhattan on the south to the Croton River just north of the Village of Ossining. The land was leased to tenant farmers of Dutch, French, and English origin.
The area remained with the family until the end of the Revolution when the last Lord of the Manor, Colonel Frederick Philipse, was imprisoned for being a British loyalist. His land was confiscated by the Commissioners of Forfeiture of the new State of New York and sold at auction. Many of the farms were sold to the tenant farmers who had work them, especially those who had supported the American cause. At this time the area became known as Sing Sing.
As the eighteenth century drew to a close, the Sing Sing hamlet became a successful port where local farm produce was shipped to New York City from docks at the mouth of today’s Kill Brook and Sparta Brook.
On April 2, 1813, Sing Sing became the first incorporated village in Westchester County to be state chartered.
In 1825, construction of Sing Sing Prison began. Native granite was used to build the first cellblock. Commerce and industry flourished throughout the 1800’s. The industrial growth included a shoe factory and a stove foundry, both of which relied on convict labor. As the prison became notorious, the village tried to distance itself from the prison’s harsh reputation and changed its name to Ossining on March 25, 1901.
Ossining - A current summary
Due to the history of the village, a number of Ossining structures are on the National Register of Historic Places, and the downtown shopping area has been deemed eligible for listing. In addition, the Sparta neighborhood has been designated a local historic district. Ossining’s role in New York’s heritage has been recognized by its inclusion, as one of only 14 areas, in an Urban Cultural Park System designed to attract visitors to the State.
Present day Ossining is a vital community with a vast range in types of housing, from the very modest to the luxurious estates, and a diversified population enjoying a healthy racial and religious mix. The Village of Ossining is situated within 3 square miles and according to the U.S. Bureau of Census, 2000 census 24,010 reside in this historic village on the Hudson River.
Residents of Ossining can conveniently reach New York City via the Metro North Railroad or major highways. Westchester County also has an extensive bus system which enables commuters to use public transportation to go anywhere in the county.
The Village boasts shopping centers; mini-malls, individual stores, and a historic crescent shaped downtown shopping area, which includes a variety of restaurants. The Arcadian Shopping Center contains banks, restaurants, a pharmacy, a supermarket, which caters to a variety of food needs, and stores for home decorating, gifts, toys and many other items. Additionally, the shopping center recently became home to a satellite campus of the Westchester Community College.
Ossining has an extensive recreational program for all age groups, including a summer day camp for local children. Students and adults enjoy classes, trips, sports and other activities throughout the year. There are programs especially designed for senior citizens such as swimming, art and dance. There is a publicly owned boat and canoe club and boat launching ramp, and a few private marinas.
Ossining is an active and caring community with services to fit most needs. The fire department and the ambulance corps, which includes an Advance Life Support Program, are made up of highly trained volunteers who take their jobs very seriously. There are services for seniors ranging from a nutritional program to club activities and trips, while the Ossining library is an extremely fine one with a busy schedule including children’s programs, adult classes and workshops, art shows, special exhibits, career information services and concerts. The Ossining Open Door Health Center has a sliding fee structure based on patient income. The Community Action Program (CAP) actively supports the interests of minorities and the poor, and the Interfaith Council for Action (IFCA) is involved in the rehabilitation of housing. The Ossining Historical Society Museum contains a wealth of information about the community and is staffed with knowledgeable and helpful volunteers. In addition, there are many other numerous volunteer organizations that serve the community.
There are numerous houses of worship in the Ossining area including:
In addition to Ossining’s public schools, there are three parochial schools in the area that include kindergarten through eighth grade. The Ossining High School, which was in the list of the country’s top 250 best schools in the year 2000, offers students a variety of enrichment opportunities, including two high school programs which offer college level courses. One of these is a free program of advanced placement courses, the other offers college credit courses under the supervision of Syracuse University.
There is a satellite campus of the Westchester Community College and in nearby Briarcliff Manor and Pleasantville there is Pace University.