Brewster is located in the Town of Southeast, approximately 50 miles (80 km) north of New York City in Putnam County. With its winding country roads and beautiful reservoirs, Southeast is a picturesque and tranquil community. The Town of Southeast surrounds the independent and separately governed 134-acre (0.54 km2) Village of Brewster. Although the Town of Southeast is the larger municipality, the area is commonly referred to as “Brewster,” the name recognized by the Post Office and designated as zip code 10509.
The village of Brewster derives its name from its founder, Walter Brewster, and the New York and Harlem Railroad depot he invited to his property. Brewster’s Station, New York, (sometimes just “Brewster’s”) appeared on maps, on postcards and in directories of Putnam County throughout the second half of the 19th century. Although referred to as a village since it formed in 1849, it officially incorporated as the Village of Brewster, New York, in 1894.
In 1886, historian William Smith Pelletreau published The History of Putnam County, New York. In his second chapter on the town of Southeast, he wrote: “The land now  embraced within the limits of the village of Brewster consists of a farm which was sold by the commissioners of forfeiture to Peleg Bailey, in 1781. A portion of it afterward passed into the possession of Bailey Howes, his grandson, who sold 98 acres to Gilbert Bailey, April 1st 1833. Two other tracts containing 39 acres were sold to Gilbert Bailey, by William P. Downs and Frederick Parks in 1838. On the 17th of February, 1848, Gilbert Bailey sold the whole tracts, estimated at 134 acres, to James and Walter F. Brewster, for the sum of $8,000.”
“At the time of the purchase, the New York and Harlem Railroad was finished and trains were running as far as Croton Falls. The road was surveyed as far as Pawling, and the prospect of its being continued to that point seemed certain, and to the new purchasers of the farm it seemed just the place for a station.”
“The New York and Harlem Railroad was finished to this place and the depot was built in that year, and what is now  the Main street was opened, for the purpose of allowing the stages from Danbury to come to the station. Previous to this the firm of Crosby and DeForest had run a line of four horse stages to Croton Falls, from Danbury. The first new house in the place was built by Walter F. Brewster, in 1850 and stood in front of the present  Methodist church.” That house, now listed as the Walter Brewster House on the New York State and national historic registers, is owned by the Landmark Preservation Society of Southeast.
“The Harlem Railroad’s extension of its mileage in 1849 proved advantageous to Mr. Brewster, who needed all sorts of materials in his building activities. Large shipments were billed simply to ‘Brewster’s Station’ for lack of better designation. This is the apparent origin of the village’s name, which many years ago was shortened to Brewster.”
“Brewster” vs. “Southeast”
The town of Southeast contains the village of Brewster, though each of those municipalities have independent governments, separate highway departments and separate courts. It is a common mistake to believe that the name “Brewster” refers to the entire surrounding town, rather than just the village.