Pocantico Hills Residents Association

About Us

Pocantico Hills is a small hamlet located in the town of Mt. Pleasant, Westchester County, New York and it is named after the Pocantico River which runs from the highlands of the region westward into the Hudson River. "Pocantico" is the Wecquaesgeek Indians name for the river meaning "running between two hills" which probably is a reference to the two highest hills in the region: Buttermilk Hill and Eagle Hill.

The land is indeed hilly, part of the Housatonic Highland range, typical of the lower Hudson River Valley. The soil is rocky and the trees a mixture of deciduous maple, oak, nut, elm, and ash; pine appears in small but very dense regions where the soil tends to be dryer and more acidic. The Wecquesgeek natives were the regions first inhabitants who likely used the Pocantico area for hunting the deer, turkey, and small game that are still seen today.
 
The arrival of the Dutch and English settlers in the 17th and 18th century did little to change the remote, hilltop nature of what became known as Pocantico Hills.  Farming was never successful and the main thoroughfare was the commercial road between old Beekmantown (now Sleepy Hollow) and Bedford, today known as Bedford Road or NY state route 448. With it's sleepy 19th century beginnings, Pocantico seemed to be the place through which people would quickly pass rather than the place where a town would start.


However, the arrival of the railroad changed Pocantico Hills, as it did with so many other small, rural communities. The old Putnam Railroad Line stopped here on it's way to Brewster; and it installed a real railroad station at the corner of Lake Road and Bedford Road.  Two hotels, one of which was run by a stalwart spinster named Mrs. Clancy, thrived for many years across the street from the railroad station, and the hamlet was transformed into a popular summer retreat for some of New York City's wealthiest families. 

 
John D. Rockefeller, Sr. (1839 -1937), like his brother William (1841-1922), became very interested in the area by the late 1890's and eventually purchased many acres of land formerly used as apple tree and dairy farms.  In the first major book on Pocantico by the long time family land manager Tom Pyle the hill where John D. Rockefeller, Sr. would later build his mansion, Kykuit, in 1913, was described as follows:


"There was nothing else on that hill.  It was absolutely barren of any vegetation.  When you dug down a little way you hit bedrock.  To achieve the formal planting and gardens, hundreds of tons of topsoil had to be brought in by horse-drawn wagon.  Full-size elm trees were hauled in by special high-wheeled horse-drawn trucks, lashed to a boom, and held in place by guide wires, and lowered gradually by means of a winch. (Pyle T, Pocantico, 1964, p22)"

The Rockefeller family's larger than life presence in Pocantico changed and expanded it's destiny but also preserved the natural setting of the hamlet. The Old Putnam Railroad tracks were removed by 1937, the stores and hotels razed, and instead a number of homes were built, according to the specific designs of the Rockefellers, along the main road to house the various workers that had long time employ on the estate. A school was built by 1931, and a church in 1922, both of which are still fully functional today. The church has world-famous stained glass windows by Matisse and Chagal and attracts visitors year round for the fine craftsmanship and understated English countryside masonry prevalent among Rockefeller public buildings. 


In 1936, a large home for John D. Rockefeller, Jr. was finished, but sadly, never occupied, which houses today the archives for the Rockefeller Brothers Fund. In 2004, in memory of Peggy Rockefeller, Stone Barns Center for Food and Agriculture was established. In 2011, the building housing the archives of Historic Hudson Valley were erected on lands east of Bedford Road, just to the north of the Pocantico Hills School buildings.    

So, it also came about, that in early 1975, "in order to bring us together as a warm and responsive neighborhood", the Pocantico Hills Residents Association (PHRA) was first brought into being. Membership was, and still is, open to any resident of the Hamlet of Pocantico Hills, a geographical area defined by the Pocantico Water District No. 1 borders, as depicted on the Charles Sells Inc. map of September 1972 (revised February 28th, 1975). The first meetings of the PHRA took place in the Pocantico Hills Fire Department on a yearly and ad hoc basis.   

A board of directors and officers was established, and the first by-laws were accepted by public affirmation in 1978.  A Certificate of Incorporation was awarded to PHRA on March 18th, 1986.  In that same year, the PHRA, Inc. received recognition as a tax-emempt 501(c)(30 organization (small, non-profit entity).

The Pocantico Hills Residents Association has always been and is still very much active in welcoming new neighbors, raising awareness of issues of broad environmental impact and concern, and supporting grass roots efforts to maintain and enhance the natural and scentic beauty of our hamlet.


Our Latest Project
  1. around the Village Green...
    around the Village Green...
    Therefore, the PHRA initiated in 2011 a fund drive among the residents to raise monies to remove and replace the dying trees with new and healthy specimens. David & Nelson Rockefeller Jr. decided to pitch in as well and eventually matched the amount raised by the PHRA efforts.
  2. bordering Bedford Road...
    bordering Bedford Road...
    Today, the replacement trees have taken nicely to their new home and the original character of the green has been restored. The PHRA wants to thank everyone involved for their engagement, ideas, help and contributions to make this project an unequivocal success.
  3. Tree Replacements...
    Tree Replacements...
    The Hamlet of Pocantico Hills is arranged around a village green which was always framed by a number of homes and trees. Over the years these trees became storm damaged and sick. Eventually they started to die and began to pose a threat to some of the homes bordering the green.
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PHRA Inc.
P.O. Box 752
Sleepy Hollow NY 10591
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