Pearl River, New York

Pearl River is a hamlet and census-designated place in the town of Orangetown, Rockland County, New York, United States. It is located east of Chestnut Ridge, south of Nanuet, west of Blauvelt, New York, and north of Montvale and Old Tappan, New Jersey. The population was 15,876 at the 2010 census.[1]

Pearl River, New York
Edward Salyer House on South Middletown Road in Pearl River.
Location in Rockland County and the state of New York
Pearl River, New York
Location within the state of New York
Coordinates: 41°3′32.8″N 74°1′12.9″W
CountryUnited States
StateNew York
  Total7.2 sq mi (18.6 km2)
  Land6.8 sq mi (17.7 km2)
  Water0.4 sq mi (0.9 km2)
240 ft (73 m)
  Density2,200/sq mi (850/km2)
Time zoneUTC-5 (Eastern (EST))
  Summer (DST)UTC-4 (EDT)
ZIP code
Area code(s)845
FIPS code36-56902
GNIS feature ID0960056

Pearl River is 20 miles (32 km) north of midtown Manhattan and lies just north of the New Jersey border. It is the first (traveling north) of three New York stops on New Jersey Transit's Pascack Valley Line.

In 2011, ranked Pearl River 78th on its annual "100 Best Places to Live" list.[2]


In 1696, Pearl River was originally part of a larger portion of land known as the Kakiat Patent that was granted to Daniel Honan and Michael Hawdon. In 1713, the land was split into north and south plots. After the Revolutionary War, the land was further divided and sold.[3] Pearl River was a portion of land made up of woods and swamps originally called Muddy Creek.[4]

In the early 1870s, the town was divided into five different parts: Middletown, Sickletown, Pascack, Muddy Brook, and Naurashaun.[5]

There are conflicting accounts on how Muddy Creek came to be named Pearl River. According to some historians, a town resident named Dr. Ves Bogert found small pearls in mussels that thrived in Muddy Brook and, upon hearing this, Mrs. John Demarest, the wife of the president of the New Jersey and New York Railroad, suggested the name "Pearl River" to her husband.

Another account was that the name change was made to make the station stop sound more appealing on the railroad passenger schedules. The third account was that Julius E. Braunsdorf wanted to enhance the hamlet's business image by renaming it Pearl River.[3] In any event, there is no body of water near the village called "Pearl River", the most significant stream is "Muddy Brook."

Muddy Creek was purchased by industrialist Julius E. Braunsdorf, a German immigrant, in 1870. He donated a long strip of land right through the center of his property to the New Jersey and New York Railroad to enable them to bring an extension of the line from Hillsdale, New Jersey north to Nanuet.

Braunsdorf was the "Father of Pearl River" and established Aetna Sewing Machine Company to produce his patented home sewing machine in 1872. Later that year the first post office was established in the hamlet and from then on it was known as Pearl River.[4]

Braunsdorf invented and manufactured the carbon-arc light bulb in 1873, 6 years prior to Thomas Edison's carbonized filament version. They were installed and used on ships in New York harbor for loading and unloading operations. He also designed generators, one of which powered the first incandescent electric lights, which he also invented,[6] in the nation’s Capital.[3]

When Braunsdorf designed the street layout, the only existing streets were Pearl Street and Washington Avenue. He drew a wide main street through the middle of town and called it Central Avenue. Parallel to Central Avenue he drew Franklin, after his hero, Benjamin Franklin. To connect Washington, Central, and Franklin he drew three streets and named them William, John and Henry after his three sons.

Braunsdorf built:

  • 1872 – The Aetna Sewing Machine Company, the largest factory in Pearl River, and ceded land to the railroad company so workers from New York City could get to his factory.
  • 1872 – The Pearl River Post Office and became the first Postmaster.
  • 1873 – Two brick train stations (Passenger/Freight) still in use today.
  • The Pearl River Hotel
  • Low-cost housing for the factory employees that he attracted from Germany and Scandinavia.

In 1894, Talbot C. Dexter moved his Dexter Folder Company to Pearl River. On August 25, 1885, Dexter filed a patent for an automatic folding machine that changed the way newspapers, books, and magazines were folded and assembled. Between 1885 and 1913, Talbot C. Dexter filed many patents, some still in use today.[3]

Dr. Ernest Lederle established the Lederle Antitoxin Laboratories in 1906. In 1930, it became Lederle Laboratories, a division of American Cyanamid, and during World War II, Lederle was a major supplier of blood plasma.

In 1931, Gottfried (Fred) Schmidt - Invented the automatic pinsetter. Brunswick was not interested in an automatic machine at that time. In 1937, AMF acquired the patent rights to this early machine—The “Sch-Bec-Roy” which stood for Schmidt (inventor), Beckerle (bowling alley proprietor) and McElroy (blueprint designer).[6][7]


Pearl River is located at 41°3′32.8″N 74°1′12.9″W (41.0591,-74.02025).[8] According to the United States Census Bureau, the CDP has a total area of 7.2 square miles (19 km2), of which 6.8 square miles (18 km2) is land and 0.3 square miles (0.78 km2), or 4.87%, is water.


As of the census[9] of 2000, there were 21,042 people, 5,539 households, and 4,209 families residing in the CDP. The population density was 3,273.2 per square mile (877.9/km²). There were 5,636 housing units at an average density of 823.8/sq mi (318.1/km²). The racial makeup of the CDP was 72.37% White, 6.39% African American, 0.05% Native American, 7.16% Asian, 0.02% Pacific Islander, 0.57% from other races, and 0.68% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 6.44% of the population.

There were 5,539 households out of which 33.6% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 64.4% were married couples living together, 8.4% had a female householder with no husband present, and 24.0% were non-families. 20.7% of all households were made up of individuals and 8.3% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.79 and the average family size was 3.26.

In the CDP, the population was spread out with 25.3% under the age of 18, 6.0% from 18 to 24, 29.3% from 25 to 44, 24.7% from 45 to 64, and 14.6% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 39 years. For every 100 females, there were 93.6 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 91.3 males.

The median income for a household in the CDP was $76,692, and the median income for a family was $91,618. Males had a median income of $58,966 versus $39,452 for females. The per capita income for the CDP was $31,417. About 2.2% of families and 3.4% of the population were below the poverty line, including 3.1% of those under age 18 and 4.7% of those age 65 or over.

Pearl River has a large Irish community and hosts under the auspices of the Ancient Order of Hibernians the second-largest Saint Patrick's Day parade in New York state, typically on the Sunday following St. Patrick's Day.[10] This large Irish-American population also supports the largest youth Gaelic Athletic Football team in the United States.[11]


Pearl River is the site of Blue Hill Plaza, Rockland County's first commercial skyscraper, with 21 stories of office space.[12] Companies with offices in Blue Hill Plaza include Syncsort and Hunter Douglas.

In 1906, Ernest Lederle, the former commissioner of the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, founded Lederle Laboratories (which became Wyeth and is now Pfizer) on a farm which now encompasses 550 acres (2.2 km2), 40 buildings, and until recently employed around 3,200 workers. The number of employees here has dwindled to the hundreds since the Pfizer takeover.[13][14]

Roads and pond at complex named after scientists and inventors

In 2016 Rockland Community College will open its IFG Campus - IRG is a nationwide real estate development and investment plans to open in the Fall 2016 a regional technology innovation center in Pearl River at the location which was formerly Pfizer.

This campus will provide extensive internships and workplace experiences for student interested in technology and scientific research. A second 3D SMARTT Lab, the first on is located at the Rockland Community College Haverstraw Center, will open on this site and will focus on Proof of Concept/Manufacturing Sandbox.


The community is served by the Pearl River School District. Pearl River High School is located at 275 East Central Avenue and serves students in grades 8 through 12. It currently has 1055 students enrolled. 96% of the class of 2009 continued on to college, university, or technical school.

Emergency services

Fire departments

Excelsior Fire Engine Company #1 of Pearl River is located on the three-way intersection of Michael Kernan Drive, Hillside Avenue, and Route 304. Pearl River Hook & Ladder Company #2 is located on Central Avenue, next to the Central Avenue Field. [15] [16]

Medical services

Pearl River has an alumni-founded ambulance corps. that has a station located at 15 N. Pearl Street, AKA: Route 304. [17]

Police service

Police service for Pearl River is provided by the Orangetown Police Department.


Josephine Pucci, a member of USA Hockey's Women's National Team, is from Pearl River.

The Pearl River High School Pirates have athletic programs such as baseball, basketball, football, swimming, softball, ice hockey, field hockey, bowling, soccer, track, and wrestling.[18]

The 2010 Pearl River High School girls softball team won the New York State Championship.


Historical markers

  • Cuyper-Van Houten House, 66 Sickletown Road
  • Johannes Perry House, 49 Elizabeth Street
  • Scherer House, 599 Orangeburg Road

Landmarks and places of interest

  • Braunsdorf Park Pearl River, Central Avenue & South Main Street – Named after Julius Braunsdorf, first industrial developer of Pearl River and inventor of various models of sewing machines, newspaper printing presses, carbon arc light bulbs, and electric generators. His sewing machine factory is now the Dexter industrial complex. Braunsdorf installed first indoor lighting in the world in the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C.
  • Edward Salyer House. (NRHP)
  • Jacob P. Perry House, 15 Sickletown Road – Built in 1801, it is one of Rockland County's oldest Dutch Colonial Style houses located in the historic Nauraushaun area. (NRHP)
  • Maria's Rock, front lawn of Lederle Laboratories, North Middletown Road – An 18th- century legend tells of a little girl named Huffy who wandered from her home in nearby Tappan and died of hunger and exposure. Tradition says that villagers found her bones near the massive boulder.
  • Orangetown Museum & Archives – 213 Blue Hill Road
  • “The Spot” - The formerly wooded area along Railroad Avenue
  • Pearl River United States Post Office (NRHP)
  • Van Houten Farms, 68 Sickletown Road – Located on the eastern edge of Pearl River. Adjacent is the Van Houten/Kuyper Dutch Sandstone House, the main section having been built in 1732 and purchased by Van Houten circa 1812.
  • Mel's Army Navy Center, 25 South William Street - established in 1955 and is one of the oldest independent retailers in Rockland County. (Out of Business now)

Notable people


  1. "Profile of General Population and Housing Characteristics: 2010 Demographic Profile Data (DP-1): Pearl River CDP, New York". U.S. Census Bureau, American Factfinder. Retrieved February 9, 2012.
  2. "Money: Best Places to Live 2011". CNN.
  4. Curry, Jack (May 15, 1988). "IF YOU'RE THINKING OF LIVING IN: Pearl River". The New York Times.
  5. Green, Frank Bertangue. MD, The History of Rockland County
  6. Peckman, Herbert Pearl River Then and Now. Brief Narrative of one man's love for a community, 125 Anniversary
  8. "US Gazetteer files: 2010, 2000, and 1990". United States Census Bureau. February 12, 2011. Retrieved April 23, 2011.
  9. "American FactFinder". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved January 31, 2008.
  10. "Cardinal Dolan to be in Pearl River for 50th Annual St. Patrick's Parade". Rockland County Times. March 15, 2012.
  11. "Solid As A Rock". Hogan Stand. November 27, 2010.
  13. Blue Hill Plaza, Office Listings
  14. Pharmaceutical Research jobs – Locations
  15. Pearl River Hook & Ladder Co. 1. Accessed June 3, 2018.
  16. Excelsior Engine Company. Accessed June 3, 2018.
  17. Pearl River Ambulance Corp - Pearl River, NY. Accessed June 3, 2018.
  18. Athletics- Home Accessed October 16, 2015.
  19. Kuehnert, Stephanie (November 28, 2016). "Don't Do It 'Cause You Think You Have To: An Interview With Lori Barbero". Rookie Magazine. Retrieved May 17, 2018.
  • Knight, Robert P. Centennial history of Pearl River, New York. Pearl River Centennial Committee, 1973
  • McDonald, Brian. My Father's Gun: One Family, Three Badges, One Hundred Years in the NYPD
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