Larchmont, NY Named after the Larch Tree

Early Larchmont History

The earliest known settlers were the Siwanoy Indians, an Algonquin tribe. They harvested the rich marshlands for clams and hunted inland for bear, deer, racoon and muskrat.

In 1614, a Dutch sea captain discovered Long Island Sound after passing through Hell’s Gate. He reported seeing campfires in what is now known as Larchmont Manor Park. The indigenous population was not long for the area, once the British and Dutch began buying up the land. By 1720, only a handful of Siwanoys remained in what is now Larchmont.

The next century saw a steady increase in population, as first Quaker refugees from New England and then wealthy New Yorkers established estates in the area. During the late 19th century, Larchmont was known as a summer playground for New York’s elite. Many of the large Victorian “cottages” of that era survive in Larchmont Manor.

The summer residents chose to incorporate as a municipality in 1891. Today, Larchmont is a one-mile-square village within the Town of Mamaroneck, served by the New Haven line of Metro-North Railroad and several major highways.

The original larches of Larchmont are located to the side and front of the Manor House at Prospect and Elm Avenues in the Manor section of the Village. This house was built by Peter Jay Munro, the nephew of John Jay (first chief justice of the U.S.), in 1797.

Originally, however, the front of the house faced the Boston Post Road, which was busy enough at the time to create dust and noise. So Munro asked his Scottish gardener to plant trees to screen the house from the road.

The gardener sent to Scotland for seeds of the larch, which he knew to be a fast-growing and hardy species. As far as we know, these are the original trees, making them nearly 200 years old. None is left facing the original front of the house, so a number of them have probably fallen to weather and disease.

Larchmont was not so-named until nearly 50 years later, however. That is when Edward Knight Collins purchased the land from Munro’s heir. He remodeled the manor house and named the parcel, which extended down to the shoreline, to reflect the hilltop position of the house and its grand trees.

Most likely these, as well as most other larches in the village, are non-native European and Asian species that have been planted as ornamental trees. There are only two native North American species of larches, the eastern larch or tamarack, and the western larch. The eastern larch is more likely to found growing in more northerly, boggy areas, and doesn’t function well as a suburban lawn tree.

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