Even though this thriving Village of 7,000+ has the most limited band of Hudson River frontage in Westchester – well under a mile – it is still considered one of the county’s “river towns.” But that’s not really what makes it unique. To find that out, you have to go back to the beginning – the late 1880s.
At that critical juncture, a man named Walter William Law – a transplanted Briton who had retired from the Alexander Smith Carpet Company in Yonkers for health reasons – came up “north” to buy some farmland and retire. That didn’t last long. From 1890 until the turn of the century, Mr. Law made more than 40 purchases of land totaling some 5,000 acres and built Briarcliff Farms. And that’s what makes Briarcliff Manor different.
While neighboring towns were busy with industry, shipping and commercial life on and near the river, Briarcliff was otherwise occupied. Though no less busy, the land
here was used to provide the finest milk, cream and butter to well-known hotels, restaurants and homes – even transatlantic ocean liners. In spite of great success, Briarcliff Farms operations just felt more like family work than large-scale enterprise. As a result, Briarcliff became more of a home than a typical business, and it remains so to this day.
Evidence that Mr. Law wanted it that way is everywhere. He built a railroad station, outfitted like a men’s club. It now forms the base of the newly-expanded library without major changes in architectural detail. He built one of the country’s foremost luxury resort hotels, The Briarcliff Lodge, which, alas, burned down in 2003. He set aside land for a park, which now bears his name and, with the nearby library, pool, tennis and paddle courts and playing fields, is the Village’s heart.
Although Briarcliff’s character is overwhelmingly residential, -- its homes range from expanded farm worker’s
cottages from the old days to millionaire’s mansions overlooking the river-- the community provides a comprehensive home base for its inhabitants. The busy town center on Pleasantville Road offers more than a dozen shops, restaurants, fire and police stations, Village Hall, Post Office and a residence for senior citizens.
There is an additional group of stores and restaurants across busy Route 9A.The Village has eight churches, including Briarcliff Congregational, built by Walter Law in 1896 and home to glorious Tiffany windows. St. Mary’s Episcopal, built in 1851, contains the only complete set of Bolton Priory stained glass windows in existence. Also Commodore Perry's home church, he provided its first bell –one he captured at the Battle of Tabasco in Mexico.
In the Village’s Scarborough area, golfers know the celebrated Sleepy Hollow Country Club, which was built in the early 1890s as Woodlea, a private home, for the granddaughter of Commodore Cornelius Vanderbilt. Designed by noted architect Stanford White, it is reminiscent of Newport’s mansions. Trump National Golf Club has a golf course designed by Jim Fazio. Its million dollar waterfall is often seen on television.
Fishing is available at Scarborough Park on the Hudson River, but bring your own tackle. You can walk, run or ride your bike on the North County Trailway – the old Putnam Division railroad right-of-way. Do the same on the Old Croton Aqueduct, a little closer to the river. The Village’s Scarborough Station is on Amtrak’s New York to Chicago main line.
Briarcliff’s schools are second to none in both academics and athletics. Placement in top-rated colleges is an annual ritual and the girl’s soccer team has won three state titles in a row. Their basketball team also won the State and Federation titles in 2008. Recreational facilities include several parks, trails and teams for children and adults in nearly a dozen sports. Briarcliff has been included in the country’s top 50 high schools on a comprehensive rating scale.
Briarcliff’s overwhelming emphasis is on providing everything needed for a happy and productive family lifestyle for residents, friends – and visitors. Whether you’re here for a few hours or a lifetime, you’ll undoubtedly feel at home.