Named in 1870 for the tidal creek that played a vital role in the early settlement and success of Orangetown, the Hamlet of Sparkill was known first as Blanch’s Crossing, then Tappan Slote, and Upper Piermont. It was part of lands included in the Van Purmerant and Tappan Patents of the late 1600s.
It was here at the head of the Sparkill that shallow-draft sloops passed through in the late 17th, 18th and early 19th centuries carrying people and freight from the Hudson into Orangetown’s interior, and back out again with people and produce for transport to New York. Aside from the disruptions created during the Revolution, life before and after the war was peaceful.
Beginning in the 1820s and into the late 1800s, steamships and railroads changed life for everyone. Depot Square, the hamlet’s business center, was a busy and important intersection for passengers and freight on the Erie Railroad that connected Piermont to western New York in the 1850s, and the Northern Railroad that linked Sparkill with Jersey City in 1859 and Nyack in 1870. Since the early 1900s little has changed architecturally in the square, which also included one of the area’s first A&P grocery stores, and Sparkill’s first post office, established in 1872.
In 1847 Eleazar Lord, the influential land-owner and three-time president of the Erie Railroad donated 200 acres of land that became Rockland Cemetery, which was destined at first to be America’s national cemetery, but passed over for Arlington Cemetery in Virginia. In 1928 the landmark Route 9W viaduct was constructed over the Sparkill. Two historic churches, the Christ Episcopal Church, built in 1864, and the St. Charles AME Zion Church, established in 1865, remain active in Sparkill. Along what is now Route 340, St. Agnes Home, one of the largest Catholic orphanages in the New York area opened in 1884, and the regionally renowned St. Thomas Aquinas College was established in 1954.
Sparkill Viaduct ca.1927 - The building of the Sparkill Viaduct was prompted by a bus accident on July 23, 1926 that killed 11 passengers returning to Brooklyn after a day’s outing at Bear Mountain. After this fatal accident, the State of New York approved construction of a wider, safer viaduct, which was completed in 1928. The viaduct spanned 1,260 feet length. Over time, this Sparkill landmark showed signs of aging, and was completely replaced in 2002. (Courtesy HSRC)
Police Station, Depot Square Taken in the 1930s, this photo shows three Orangetown Police cars parked outside police headquarters in Depot Square. The Police Department and the Justice Court were located on the upper floor. The Orangetown Police Department was formally established in 1935 with Fred Kennedy named as police chief. The police department was moved in 1961 to the Orangetown Hall and in 1992, moved to larger quarters in the new Town Hall building. (Sally Dewey Collection)