Tappantown Historical Society Annual Meeting
November 4, 2016
President’s Annual Report for 2016
Good evening and welcome to the 51st annual meeting of the Tappantown Historical Society. I am
Carol LaValle, president of the society. After a brief business meeting that includes the annual report,
the treasurer’s report, and election of officers and directors, we will turn to Allan Seebach and his
program about the history of the West Shore train line in Tappan.
This past year, the golden anniversary year of the founding of the historical society, has been busy
with organizing our local history room in the Tappan Library and sustaining our other efforts at
education and preservation. Thanks to the support of our members, volunteers, other community
organizations and historic societies, and a dedicated board of directors, we have had a successful,
satisfying year fulfilling our mission.
Our directors are Tom LaValle, Joe Napoli, Marilyn Schauder, Jackie Shatz, and Keith Walker.
Officers are John Morton, 1st VP; Chris Gremski, 2nd VP; Michael Fiorentino, treasurer; Lucille Starink,
asst. treasurer; Leslie Crunden, recording secretary; and Nancy Russell, corresponding secretary.
Leslie and Nancy are leaving the board at the end of their terms this year. Thank you both for your years
of serving on the THS board in a variety of roles.
Collaboration with and support by members of the community is crucial to THS’s ability to carry on
with its mission. The Annual Awards Dinner is one way to recognize these contributions. At February’s
Awards dinner, the 2016 Preservation awards went to the Tappan Library for its renovation and
expansion, which gave new life to Borchers’ Stable; to OLSH Church for the restoration of the Little
Chapel; and to Palisades historian Alice Gerard for editing and publishing the 4-volume Nicholas
Gesner Diary- 1829-1850.
In May, THS, the Orangetown Highway Department, and the Masons dedicated an elm tree donated
by the town and planted on the DeWint property to mark the completion of the Oak Tree Road Bridge
Project, which repaired, enlarged, and strengthened the 19th century bridge. The young elm tree is
planted 100 feet to the south of the site of the Tar Barrel Elm, and commemorates that fabled tree’s
use as a beacon to signal the end of the Revolutionary War in 1785. THS organized an exhibit on the
Tar Barrel Elm in the local history room and gave away dogwood saplings to mark the occasion. Also in
May, THS once again marched in the Memorial Day parade, and this time the THS contingent was led
by a fife and drummer, whom we hope to have back for next year’s parade.
Setting up the local history room has been a major project this year. Library director Sara Nugent
and the staff have helped us catalogue our books and other material. Ken Kral, local historian and
librarian whom many of you know, has been working through the year organizing 50 years of THS
records so that they will be available to the public. Quite a task! Last fall, when Reverend Donald Hoover
offered Ken office space in the Manse to sort through the many old files, Ken thought he would not need
more than a few months. Little did he realize that the letters THS really stand for Tappantown Hoarders
Society. He has made great progress filling the cabinet in the local history room with records that we
plan to digitize in the future. In the past several months, students and visitors have used the materials
in the room for research projects. THS is also part of an oral history project organized through the
Rockland County Library system, and we hope to begin interviews of Tappan residents soon. Another
way we help local students is through the THS Scholarship for Excellence in History, $500 given each
year to a graduating TZHS senior. This year’s recipient is Nicholas Lucic, who is now a freshman at
The Tappan Memorial Park has needed attention for awhile so this summer, John Morton met with
Orangetown Parks and Recreation superintendent Aric Gorton, who has helped improve maintenance
of the grounds, install plantings, and most important, repair the pump so that water now gushes from
the brook to the pond , keeping the pond clear and flowing. There is more to be done — new trash
cans, tree pruning — that we will continue to pursue. Other sites THS helps to maintain are the Andre
Monument and the small triangle, which was planted with over a hundred daffodils and tulips last fall by
Joe Napoli and Jack Higgins. The newly re-stored historic markers you may have noticed around town
are the result of a collaboration with the Tappan Reformed Church, the Orangetown Highway
Department, and THS. Once again this year, we will be decorating the lamp posts on Main Street and
around the Memorial Triangle for the holiday season.
Our membership in the Tappan Zee Thrift Shop is a significant help in sustaining our efforts.
Jackie Shatz and Rosy Dixon contribute many hours to benefit THS as do your donations and purchase
on our behalf. This is the 50th anniversary of the Thrift Shop — a fitting coincidence that underscores a
valuable long term relationship.
THS walking tours continue to be an important part of the THS program for both student and adult
groups. Guides Thano Schoppel and Marilyn Schauder gave tours for over two hundred people this
year, and Keith Walker led Cottage Lane 4th graders on the annual Andre Walk that commemorates the
trial and hanging of Major John Andre. Interest in Tappan has increased due to the TV series “Turn,”
the musical “Hamilton,” and a raft of new books on historical subjects, and, of course, the internet. One
group of family and friends from around the country — Georgia, Virginia, and California— found Tappan
on-line and included it in their visit to historic sites in Tarrytown and the Hudson Valley. Tappan is
becoming a destination — the Hamlet at the Center of the World.
Speaking of destination, Colonial Day was the place to be on September 24. Over 500 people
came out on a perfect fall day. Begun 32 years ago on a much more modest scale, Colonial Day is our
major educational event involving many gifted reenactors and demonstrators, volunteers for the
children’s craft tables, and the generous help of the entire Jones family. It takes month of organization
but seems to come together miraculously under the guidance of the chairwoman of the last 16 years,
Lucille Starink, a paragon of meticulous planning, super-human patience, and good humor.
The Historic Area Ordinance is at the heart of preservation in Orangetown, and THS was part of
the establishment of the Historic Area in 1964. This year, THS is a part of an advisory group to review
and make recommendations for revisions in the Historic Area ordinance, Chapter 12 of the Town
Code. The group includes residents of Tappan, Palisades, members of HABOR, Orangetown historian
Mary Cardenas, and Town Supervisor Andy Stewart and his deputy Allan Rhyff. The code was last
amended in 1997. With the recent demolition of the Lent House and increased pressures for
development, it is time to update the code where needed.
Our membership in the Tappan Zee Thrift Shop is a significant help in sustaining our ef-forts.
Jackie Shatz and Rosy Dixon contribute many hours to benefit THS and so do your dona-tions and
purchases on our behalf.
For the coming year, we will continue our usual activities and events. In addition, there is a concert
in March at the Tappan Reformed Church by composer and pianist Denman Maroney based on the
legend of Claudius Smith, a Tory outlaw known as the Cowboy of the Ramapos, who was hanged in
1779. We would also like to start a reading group to review and discuss the many works being
published that are of both general and local historical significance. We would also like to find a
replacement for the Plant Sale, which used to be our major fund raiser. Reluctantly, we stopped it two
years ago when it was no longer made enough money to justify the expense and effort, but we would
like to find someway to continue getting together to talk about gardening, plants, and ways to enhance
the appearance of the community.
Most important is the need to increase our membership, especially among the young families
moving into the community. We are looking into ways in which we might do that and also to involve
more volunteers in our events. We also would like to build up our financial reserves. Our investment in
the local history room was a significant way to fulfill THS’ commitment to education and preservation
for many years to come, but we now need to provide a basis for sustaining that commitment and other
projects that will ensure the character and quality of the historic heritage of the area.
Our success depends on our members, the many local organizations and businesses with whom
we collaborate to fulfill our goals — to name a few: the Masons, the Volunteer Fire Association of
Tappan, the American Legion, the Tappan Reformed Church, the Tappan Library, the Tappan Zee Thrift
Shop, the Historic Society of Rockland County, the Orangetown Museum, and the Town of
Orangetown. Many of you are here tonight. Thank you for your many years of support.
Directors and Officers elected for the 2017 -2018:
Betsy Walker, Corresponding Secretary
Joe Napoli and Larry Vail, 1-year director positions
Tom LaValle, 2-year term as director