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Rockland County, NY

Rockland, with 176 square miles, is (with the exception of the City’s boroughs) New York State’s smallest county. Once the territory of Monsey Indians, it began life in 1686 as Orangetown, an English provincial township of Orange County. In 1798, as the infant New York State established external borders and internal divisions, it became Rockland county.

When Henry Hudson happened upon the river here, he thought he had found the fabled “Northwest Passage” and laid anchor in the Tappan Zee, off what is now the Village of Haverstraw, where family groups of Monseys – the Tappans, Nyacks and Naurashawns  -  encamped along the river’s banks. Although the Dutch who benefited from his explorations were unsuccessful in maintaining west bank settlements early in the 17th century, the place names they chose stuck: Dunderberg, Sparkill and High Tor.

Coastal marshes and the Ramapo/Highlands mountain chain that runs south-northeasterly through this area, made many parts difficult to reach. A single inland passage, the Ramapo Pass, was the only break in the mountains. With an 1820’s growth surge in steamboat business at Rockland river ports came the impetus to build a pier and road over the marshes to Tappan Landing. In 1838 the Piermont pier area becoming the terminus for the Erie Railroad, planned to serve New York’s southern tier, stating in Rockland and reaching lake Erie by 1851.

By the 1920’s Rockland was becoming an artists’ colony. Painters Henry Varnum Poor and Edward Hopper; actors Burgess Meredith, Katherine Cornell and Helen Hayes; playwright Maxwell Anderson and composer Kurt Weil all lived here. Rockland today is one of the fastest growing, most ethnically diverse counties of New York. The limits to its land area makes its citizens keenly aware of the importance of protecting its historical resources and unique history.

 

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