History of Eastchester
When the town of Eastchester was founded in 1664, it included all the land between the Bronx and the Hutchinson rivers, from the Eastchester Creek in the south (where Co-Op City now stands) to the Scarsdale border in the north. The original settlers signed a covenant stating that its citizens would "help and counsel each other" and "that provision be made for the education of the children." It would not be until January 26, 1726, however, when Captain Joseph Drake and Jerimiah Fowler were elected at a town meeting to be the "overseers of ye school in ye town," that we have an official record of the first school.
That same year, plans were made for educating the children when a lot "was layed out for a schoolhouse in the woods, near John Vail's." This schoolhouse was built at the southern junction of California Road and Route 22, a block from the present site of Mt. Vernon High School. Sadly, this school was destroyed during the American Revolution.
By 1795, the New York State Legislature had made provisions for education throughout the state with an annual appropriation, and provided for school commissioners in each town to oversee school affairs. Election of local school board trustees began in 1812, when the Legislature called for these officials to replace the school commissioners. The position of superintendent of common schools (a group of schools in the same geographical area, sharing services) was added in 1844.
In an earlier and simpler age school districts were willing to forego district lines and merge services without political, legal, and social implications. In 183 5 students in present day Bronxville, Tuckahoe, and the southern end of Eastchester began to attend the Marble School in present day Mt. Vernon. Students at the northern end of town had to walk a considerable distance to attend school. A land grant in 1864 allowed the construction of another schoolhouse, located where the CVS parking lot on Tuckahoe Avenue stands today. The Marble School was taken down from its original site in 1869 and rebuilt at the intersection of California Road and New Rochelle Road. Today it is operated by the Eastchester Historical Society and offers exhibitions on how children learned in a one-room setting. An excellent historical library is located behind the schoolhouse and is available to the public though the Society.
The establishment of union free school districts in New York State began in 1859. The term "union free" refers not to the workers' unions we know today, but instead means an independent school district, sharing no services or connections with any other district, as opposed to the "common schools" of the past.
After 1892, when Mt. Vernon was incorporated as a city, the present school districts began to take shape. In 1894, a union free school district covering parts of present day Eastchester and Tuckahoe was created. Residents of Tuckahoe later sued the school district and won, forming a separate district.
In 1899, the University system of New York State granted a charter to the Waverly Union School, located in present day Eastchester (called Upper Tuckahoe at the time), which housed grades kindergarten through twelve. This charter marks the beginnings of the Eastchester Union Free District.
Waverly School, circa 1907
The history of the school district in the twentieth century is fascinating. Waverly was the center of the Eastchester educational community, until Eastchester High School was completed in 1927. Waverly continued to serve as an elementary school until 1983. From 1984 through 1989, the building was rented by the Young Adult Institute, a private concern. In 1990, it was refurbished and opened as the Waverly Early Childhood Center.
The Wilmot School near the comer of White Plains Road and Wilmot Road was a K-8 school that serviced the north end of town after 1909. When the Greenvale elementary school was erected in 1936, the Wilmot School was put to use as Eastchester's Town Hall. In 1964, the clubhouse of the Oak Ridge Country Club was converted into the present Town Hall, and the Wilmot School was torn down. The Cooper School, located in the northern end of town, was an elementary school built in the 1920s. It was demolished in 1980 and the land sold to a private housing developer. The original schoolyard lives on as Cooper Field, leased to the town of Eastchester at the rate of one dollar per year. The Anne Hutchinson School, another elementary school, was built in 1953, and additional classrooms constructed several years later. A primary wing was built at the Greenvale School in the 1950s.
A junior high school was added to the High School in 1955, and two years later another wing was constructed to make up what is now known as Eastchester Middle School. The original gym and an auditorium were built at the High School in 1932, and a second gym was opened there in 1985.
As we look back on the milestones of the past 100 years, we also look forward as the Eastchester Union Free School District continues to update and maintain existing facilities during its second century.