History of the Chamber

Since 1893 the mission of the Yonkers Chamber of Commerce has been to "serve, build and promote a progressive city."

The Chamber's legacy of service began, officially, on May 1, 1893 when William F. Cochran, a leading Yonkers businessman, entered the old City Court Room and rapped his gavel to officially sanction what was to become a tradition to the local business community. The Yonkers Board of Trade was born. 

Cochran was appropriately elected the organization's first President, for it was he who earlier in the year discovered the value of a Board of Trade. Upon returning from Amsterdam, New York, to visit his brother-in-law, Cochran realized that the two locales shared a number of critical characteristics, not the least of which was a location along the network of waterways that tied much of New York State together in trade and travel. Alongside the Mohawk River, Amsterdam boasted a booming carpet industry, similar to the economic climate of Yonkers, thus forging ahead as a manufacturing community.

Federal Sugar refinery

Federal Sugar Refinery, now American Sugar Refining

A number of prominent citizens, fifty-two to be exact, gathered to sanction what would later become Yonkers' leading business organization. They had signed an original call on April 17 to set this meeting. In many cases, the signers are as well-known throughout Yonkers today as they were in those times. Philanthropists and innovators including Alexander Saunders, John E. Andrus, Edward Underhill, Frederick Shonnard and James V. Lawrence were among them.

The agenda for the Board of Trade centered on timeless issues such as the development of the city's four-and-one-half mile waterfront. The members believed that waterfront development was the key to the continued growth of what was then a bedroom community to New York City. Although growth along the Hudson River did occur at various times and in diverse ways, waterfront development continues to remain an integral component of the future success of Yonkers.

A decade later, the Board of Trade continued to address issues of concern and helped establish a visible and viable business community. In 1903 the decision was made to form a Chamber of Commerce, and the process to make this a reality was put into place. On December 8, 1913, the Yonkers Chamber of Commerce officially became the 325th certified member of the United States Chamber of Commerce. Akin to other not-for-profit organizations, the Yonkers Chamber of Commerce has experienced lean times as well as years of flourishing membership. Throughout its long history, however, the Chamber has remained firm and committed to the goal of protecting and promoting the well-being of all business interests in Yonkers.

The Chamber of Commerce has served as the guardian and advocate of business, and works to foster a healthy relationship with government to establish programs designed to enhance business opportunities and attract new commercial establishments to the city. The Chamber of Commerce represents a diversified membership of retail, industry, professionals and service organizations, etc. from major corporations to "mom and pop" stores. Each member is treated with the same respect and concern, regardless of size.

From its earliest beginnings, right up to the present, a professional staff has always provided Yonkers residents as well as out of town visitors with a wealth of information about the community. The Yonkers Chamber of Commerce continues to remain an advocate of business, a partner in government, and an educational resource to ensure a flourishing and vibrant economy.

Many things have changed since the turn of the last two centuries. Technology has enabled information to be transferred faster than the speed of light. New inventions have made doing business more convenient and cost effective. One thing, however, has remained constant — the mission of the Yonkers Chamber of Commerce “to serve, build and promote a progressive city.”


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