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In 1890, Walter Law bought James Stillman's 236-acre (96 ha) Briarcliff Farm and further developed it, later using the name Briarcliff for all his property.

Law's friend, Andrew Carnegie, called him "The Laird of Briarcliff Manor"; since the title appealed to all concerned, the village was named "Briarcliff Manor". It is conversationally called "Briarcliff", and often erroneously written as "Briar Cliff Manor" (although historically there has been little distinction).

In the early 19th century, the area was known as Whitson's Corners.

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After the community was incorporated into Briarcliff Manor in 1906, the New York Central and Hudson River Railroad put up a sign reading "Briarcliff West" at the village's Scarborough station.Soon afterward, attributed to the neighborhood's pride over their name, and "cliff".The lodge held the Edgewood Park School (1936–1954) and The King's College (1955–1994) Scarborough was incorporated into Briarcliff Manor in 1906, and the Police Department was organized two years later.The Village Municipal Building was built in 1913 and was opened on July 4, 1914.Briarcliff Manor has an elected local government, with departments including police, fire, recreation, and public works.

It has a low crime rate: a 2012 study found it had the second-lowest in the state.The name originated in Ireland as that of the family home of John David Ogilby, a professor of ecclesiastical history at the General Theological Seminary.Ogilby had named his New York summer home Brier Cliff after his family home in Ireland.In the New York State Legislature it is split between the New York State Assembly's 95th and 92nd districts, and the New York Senate's 38th and 40th districts.In Congress the village is in New York's 17th District.and the following year the Briarcliff Manor Public Library opened in the former Briarcliff Manor train station.