THS Annual Report 2008
Good evening. Welcome to the 43rd Annual Meeting of the Tappantown Historical Society. I am Carol LaValle, and as president, I am
here to give the Annual Report for 2008. Quite a lot has been accomplished by a dedicated core of members and volunteers. I would
like to thank especially the members of the board during my first year as president for their diligence in attending monthly meetings,
in giving sound advice , and for their vigilance in adhering to the Society’s mission of education, preservation, and protection of the
community’s heritage. They are officers Jackie Shatz, first VP; Lucille Starink, 2nd VP; Chris Gremski, Corresponding Secretary; Pam
Peters, Recording Secretary; Geri McCauley, Treasurer; and board members John Morton, Susan Gewirtz, Sally Dewey, Ginny
McCarthy, Keith Walker, and Joe Napoli.
First, to review our major activities: the Awards Dinner, The Plant Sale, the Concert in the Park, and Colonial Day. On the stormy
evening of Feb 22 at the Annual Awards Dinner at the ‘76 House, we recognized Pam and Joe Printz for their renovation and
restoration of their 1890 Victorian on Andre Hill, Heidi and Alan Boucher for the restoration of their Greek Revival House at 34 Oak
Tree Rd, and Catherine Dodge, who received the rarely given Fellowship Award for a lifetime of service to the community. Thank you
Peter Schuerholz and Ginny McCarthy for your work on the Awards Committee and thank you to Edna Nitopi for arranging the menu
with Rob Norden.
After a few rainy days, the sun shown for the 40th Annual Plant Sale on May 10, with its array of perennials, herbs, and shrubs from
members’ gardens; annuals, baskets, and vegetables from Stokes Farms in Old Tappan; jams and jellies by Ginny McCarthy and
Geri McCauley, and baked goods by Edna Nitopi. We are particularly grateful to master gardeners Winifred Strakosch and Lois Reid
and to the many volunteers who helped with setting and cleaning up, watering plants and manning the tables; to the 15 local
business who donated prizes for the raffle, and to the Tappan Reformed Church for the use of their beautiful tree-shaded lawn
across from the Post Office.
Weather foiled our two other events: The 4th Annual American Roots Festival on June 14 organized by John Morton and co-
sponsored with the Tappan Library. It featured the folk tunes of Jaybird. Thank you to this intrepid trio of Bob Jones on fiddle and
bass, Sam Zygmuntowicz on mandolin and guitar, and Jody Kruskal on concertina. They played to a small but appreciative audience
in the Tappan Memorial Park as thunder rumbled, rain swept in, and distant flashes of lightening brought an early end to the
afternoon. For the first time in 24 years, Colonial Day, Sept. 27 and its rain date, the 28th, were completely washed out,
disappointing the many demonstrators, volunteers, and enthusiastic supporters, especially children –one of whom says that
Colonial Day is “better than Disney World.” It was a wise decision to cancel both days made by Colonial Day chairs Lucille Starink
and Geri McCauley in consultation with Harold Jones, Superintendent of the DeWint property. Rain began on Thursday and
continued on and off through the weekend. The grounds never dried out to allow for the intense traffic of the Colonial Day activities.
Still, we hope the months of preparation and the expenses incurred will see us through Colonial Day in 2009.
Some projects have come to fruition: a survey of business owners in Tappan and a report on their parking needs by Tom LaValle,
John Morton, and June Starke influenced the Town Council’s decision that there will be no parking in the triangle between the Green
and the Reformed Church. Thus, a year-long controversy was settled in favor of preserving the historic and aesthetic value of the
Green. Also, the value of the Society’s archives has been appraised with an eye toward future restoration of the 1704 Division Patent
and the Bogert family collection of 18th and 19th century documents. The Gaeta Collection of prints relating to Major John Andre has
been beautifully rematted and reframed with archival materials by Orangetown Town Historian and Director of the Orangetown
Museum Mary Cardenas and curator Elisabeth Skrabonja. By the way, some of these prints can be seen in the exhibit A Spy in Our
Midst opening this weekend at the Salyer House on Blue Hill Road in Pearl River. Thank you Mary and Elizabeth for your careful
attention to the historic and aesthetic values in your preservation of these prints.
Continuing our goal of cooperating with other town institutions, The Library Committee consisting of Tom LaValle, John Morton,
Marilyn Schauder, Geri McCauley and myself visited several libraries in the area that house historic materials in order to see how
THS and the Tappan Library might collaborate on a room in the library that would contain the Society’s materials. The committee
has made seven recommendations about the ideal characteristics of a such a space and hope to meet with the library board to
discuss plans for the Stable.
In a similar spirit of collaboration, Thano Schoppel, John Morton, Jackie Shatz, Alexis Starke, Walter Aurell, who is an architect with
Colgan, Perry, Lawler, and Aurell, who have bought Molly Samett’s place ( the Bartow House), met with Reverend Hoover of the
Reformed Church and Jim Dean, Orangetown Superintendent of Highways, to discuss the Town’s drainage plans for the area in
front of the church and along Kings Highway. Plans are not final on this project, but our suggestions were taken seriously and Jim
Dean told me today that we will be in on the decisions re; curbs, sidewalks, trees, and plantings.
Speaking of trees and plantings: THS hopes to collaborate with the Reformed Church and the library in adopting the small, scruffy
triangle at the intersection of Greenbush and Kings Highway. Joe Napoli has agreed to look into suitable plantings for the spot.
Also, John Morton met with arborist Paul Cowie, whom THS hired to give an independent assessment of the vulnerable Norway
Maple in front of the church. He gave a thorough evaluation of the tree and made recommendations for its protection and eventual
replacement. His report has been passed on to the town council, Jim Dean, and the Church.
Board Member and architect Keith Walker helps with our preservation efforts by attending the monthly HABOR meetings to represent
our concerns that building plans are applied in accordance with historic district law. Thank you, Keith.
Two of our enduring projects under Sally Dewey’s stewardship are the Thrift Shop in Piermont and the guided walking tours of
Tappan. Sally, along with volunteers Jackie Shatz, Ginny McCarthy, Winifred Strakosch, and Lani Turner put in hundreds of hours for
the benefit of the society. Oddly enough, in a time that calls for thrift, business is off at the Thrift Shop despite an abundance of high
Walking tour requests from elementary school classes and adult groups are fielded by Sally, who schedules our enthusiastic and
knowledgeable guides Janet Galloway, Peter Schuerholz, and Thano Schoppel. Kathy and Harold Jones here at the DeWint House
are especially helpful with the tours. Another aspect of our educational mission is the awarding of a $500.00 scholarship to a
graduating senior who has shown a proficiency in American history. This year’s recipient was Rainier Rondina, who is now
attending St. Thomas Aquinas College in Sparkill.
Inevitably, THS has been drawn into two controversial issues in the community and has taken a public stand in opposing these two
proposals: one, the sale of Oak Tree Park by the South Orangetown School Board and the other, the proposed O & R substation
planned for Oak Tree Rd. While neither parcel is in the historic district, THS supports the community in preserving valuable open
space, park and recreation facilities, and sensitive wetlands. Our letters have been printed in Our Town and in our newsletter, and
sent to every conceivable public official and business interest.
Other contributions to THS’s efforts include Marilyn Schauder’s excellent article “Trees of Tappan,” for the April special issue of Our
Town featuring Tappan, a talk by Laurie Rispoli on her research into and book about Dutch tiles at the May board meeting, Chris
Gremski’s computer wizardry with which he maintains our website, updates our membership lists, prints our labels, and
corresponds with interested emailers, the delicious post- Memorial Day Parade brunch hosted by Thano and Jean Schoppel, the
superhuman job by Geri McCauley in organizing all the material, not to say detritus, that finds its way into the cage in the basement of
the library, and the savvy and sensible financial advice from Jim McCauley.
I particularly want to thank Pam Peters, our Recording Secretary, who cannot take on another term because of the demands of her
work schedule. We will miss her detailed notes, thoughtful comments, and droll sense of humor. Thank you, Pam, for also bringing
some of us into the twenty-first century by emailing the minutes and agenda. Pam and Jeff are selling their meticulously restored
house on Kings Highway for which they won an Achievement Award several years ago and are moving to South Nyack to begin
another restoration project on a down-at-heel- heels Tudor with a grand river view. We hope you stay in touch.
Finally, I would like to remember two THS members who died this year. Paul Melone, a founder and the third president of the
Society, died in August. Please take one of the memorial pamphlets we have published as a tribute to Paul. Virginia Ramsey died
Monday, Nov. 10. She and her husband Richard were active for many years in the society. Virginia was the sixth president of THS
and a long-time volunteer at the Thrift Shop.
[Treasurer’s Report and Election of Officers followed the Annual Report]
Tappantown Historical Society Annual Meeting
President’s Annual Report, November 13, 2009
Good evening, and welcome to the 44th Annual Meeting of the Tappantown Historical Society. Before I give the annual report, I
would like to dedicate this evening to Sally Dewey, who died yesterday morning. So much of this program had its genesis in Sally’s
research, so that it is indeed a bittersweet moment in which we honor her. Sally has been the heart, soul, and mind of THS for a
generation. She has left her mark as a researcher and writer, a genealogist, a walking tour coordinator, and thrift shop volunteer;
she has been the Historic Society’s secretary, treasurer, vice president, and the president from 1982- 86; she has been our archivist,
an indefatigable board member, a witty story teller, a wise counselor, and a trusted friend. With her sharp and subtle mind, Sally was
our collective memory. Whenever a question needed answering, a fact checked, a mystery explained, the solution was, “Ask Sally.”
We will not be able to hear her wonderfully detailed recollections and digressions, but, fortunately for us, she kept meticulous files
and records. Even better, they are almost all handwritten. To read her notes is to have a real sense of the extraordinary person who
recorded and interpreted the minutiae of local history for the future generations.
We will find another time to give Sally fuller tribute. Now we will move on to the meeting at hand.
2009 has been another year of accomplishments. I would like to thank the members of the board for their unflagging energy, sound
advice, and diligence in adhering to THS’s mission of education about and preservation of the community’s heritage. They are board
members Susan Gewirtz, John Morton, Ginny McCarthy, Joe Napoli, Keith Walker, and officers Jackie Shatz, 1st VP; Lucille Starink,
2ndVP; Chris Gremski, Corresponding Secretary; and Marilyn Schauder, Recording Secretary. I especially want to thank Treasurer
Geri McCauley, who is not continuing in her position. Geri has been assistant treasurer and treasurer on and off for many years and
has done a great job minding the books and keeping an astute eye on the numbers. Thank you for all the hours and the hard work,
Thank you also to former officers and board members Peter Schuerholz, Mary Cardenas, and Tom LaValle for your staying power
and to those who regularly attend our meetings: Don Higgins, Pat Sullivan, Alan Seebach, Heidi Boucher, and Tom Quinn.
To review our major annual activities: the Awards Dinner, The Plant Sale, the Concert, and Colonial Day. The Awards Dinner on Feb.
27 was attended by a record number of 89 members and guests. Achievement Awards went to journalist Suzanne Daycock for her
excellent series of articles on Tappan in 2007 and 2008 in Our Town.
William Beckmann was lauded for the restoration of the Mabie-Hennion House at 67 Main St., which houses his business,
Beckmann Appraisals, and for the installation of a stone wall and perennial border along Main St. by landscape architect Mary Ellen
LeWarn. Mary Cardenas, Director of the Orangetown Museum and Elizabeth Skrabonja, Curator of the Museum were honored for the
restoration of the Salyer House and specifically for the creation of the permanent exhibit, “A Spy in Our Midst,” which chronicles the
conspiracy between Major John Andre and Benedict Arnold. Founding member Ginny McCarthy received the Fellowship Award for
over forty years of service – service characterized by her intelligence, wit, and tenacity in maintaining the goals of education and
As a run-up to the Plant Sale in May, THS sponsored a Garden Group meeting in late March in the Manse Barn featuring a talk and
demonstration on container gardening by master gardener Lois Reid. Lois was on hand at the Plant Sale on May 9, and was joined
by gardeners Winifred Strakosch and Joe Napoli, who gave expert advice on planting, mulching, and watering. Stokes Farms
provided annuals, hanging baskets, and vegetable plants. Small trees and shrubs, and perennials from members’ gardens were
also available. Raffle prizes from local businesses and baked goods by Edna Nitopi also helped to make this one of our most
successful plant sales.
The Concerts in the Park, which THS and the Tappan Library had sponsored for several years, gave way to a weather-proof concert
in the Tappan Reformed Church on May 30. John Morton arranged for us to sponsor the Rockland Camerata in a concert
commemorating the Henry Hudson Quadricentennial with music from 1609 and three centuries of American music.
Perfect weather on September 26 brought people in droves to Tappan for the TRC’s Fall Festival and for the Historic Society’s 25th
Colonial Day. Several inspired changes in logistics and planning made the day run more smoothly than ever ( even at the
beleaguered candle-dipping table, once it got under way), and we had a small cadre of new volunteers who were crucial in making
the day a success. Thank you, Lucille, for your expert coordination of the complex elements of this major undertaking.
Two of our enduring programs under Sally Dewey’s stewardship are the Tappan Zee Thrift Shop in Piermont and the guided
walking tours of Tappan. Sally and volunteers Jackie Shatz and Ginny McCarthy put in hundreds of hours at the Thrift Shop for the
benefit of the society. Over three hundred elementary students and several adult groups toured Tappan under the enthusiastic and
knowledgeable guidance of Janet Galloway, Peter Schuerholz, Thano Schoppel, Keith Walker, and, here at the DeWint House with
Harold and Kathy Jones.
In addition, Ginny, Keith, and Rob Norden of the ‘76 House regaled 4th graders with the story of Major John Andre on Oct. 2, the
anniversary of his hanging. Students were shown where he was imprisoned in the ‘76 (old Mabie House) House, and then they
“walked the walk” to the site of the hanging on Andre Hill. Please take a look at the thank you notes on display from Ms. O’Brien’s
Fourth Grade class at Cottage Lane.
Board member and architect Keith Walker helps with our preservation efforts by attending the monthly HABOR meetings to
represent our concerns that building plans are followed in accordance with historic district regulations.
Another way in which we fulfill our educational goal is though the awarding of a $500.00 scholarship to a graduating TZHS student
who has shown excellence in American history. This year’s recipient was Bradley Silverman, who was a member of the TZHS History
Honor Society, an editor of the school newspaper, and a third-place winner in the NY State competition in May.
THS has several works-in-progress: headed by Marilyn Schauder, the effort to restore he damaged 19th century fence around the
Andre Memorial is moving along slowly but thoroughly so that we can give the County Highway Department a complete
recommendation for the restoration of the memorial.
A survey of Sears homes in Tappan is in its early stages, but eventually, THS hopes to publish an issue of The Drummer Boy
featuring these homes, in the same way that we have documented the 18th and 19th century houses.
The Tappan Library, the Tappan Reformed Church, and THS have adopted the small triangle at Kings Highway and Greenbush
Road, and after the town’s drainage and sidewalk project is finished, planting will begin in the spring with Joe Napoli and Jack
Higgins in charge.
The Archives Committee has its hands full trying to organize the materials we have in storage and that have been given us by
various members. THS now has a formal Collections Policy, and we will sort thorough the mountain of material in order to make
sure it is handled according to archival standards. Chris Gremski has begun to scan old postcards – a first step in digitizing our
We will also continue to work with the Tappan Library to create a Historical Society reading and resource area, and to help them in
their expansion efforts. Similarly, we will be helping the TRC in its restoration project, which is just about to begin. Many of you have
been concerned about saving the vulnerable Norway maple near the church. Unfortunately the two projects – the church restoration
and the drainage and sidewalk project – made it impossible to save the tree. Because of our efforts at having an independent
arborist evaluate the tree and make recommendations for both its possible preservation and eventual replacement, the town has
pledged to plant two trees of a significant size in a less vulnerable area near the church.
Our work on the tree ordinance will resume, and we hope to have a proposal by spring.
We have also sent a letter to the residents and business owners in the center of historic Tappan encouraging them to return to the
tradition of decorating their buildings with natural greens and placing candle lights in the windows.
We have received a few gifts. When Chase Bank took over Washington Mutual last year and closed its Oak Tree Road branch in July,
their manger arranged that THS be given two works of art; the paining of Main Street by Jane Toan, which is on the cover of Tappan
300 Years, and also the engraving of the Capture of Major Andre, which Ginny and Ed McCarthy worked on many years ago.
We have also received Paul Melone’s bequest and will be considering how to use his generous gift in a way to honor Paul and
benefit the community.
We will now move on to the business part of the meeting which be followed by our program on the restoration of the 1704 Division
Patent (see images) and wonderful food from Edna Nitopi and Jean and Thano Schoppel.
[Treasurer’s Report and Election of Officers followed the Annual Report]
Tappantown Historical Society Annual Meeting
President’s Annual Report for 2010
Good evening and welcome to the 45th Annual Meeting of the Tappantown Historical Society. I am Carol LaValle, president of the
historical society. 2010 has been an active year thanks to the support of our members, a growing number of volunteers, collaboration
with other community organizations and historic societies, and a dedicated board of directors who are thoughtful and diligent in
carrying out the society’s mission of education about and preservation of Tappan’s heritage.
The board members are directors Susan Gewirtz, John Morton, Michael Fiorentino, Ginny McCarthy, Joe Napoli, Pam Peters (who
has served the final year of Sally Dewey’s three-year term,) and Keith Walker. Officers are Jackie Shatz, 1st vice president; Nancy
Walker, 2nd vice president; Marilyn Schauder, recording secretary; Chris Gremski, corresponding secretary, and Lucille Starink,
treasurer. Thanks also go to former board members and other members who regularly attend meetings and offer insight and advice.
Now, to review this year’s major activities:
The Awards Dinner
On February 26, with wind gusting and snow still falling after 24 hours, 75 fearless guests gathered in the warmth of the ‘76 House
to honor this year’s recipients of the Achievement Awards. Clare and William Sheridan were honored for the gardens on their Kings
Highway property, whose banks of naturalized daffodils, perennial beds, specimen shrubs and tress, and a line of dogwoods provide
a lovely entrance to the historic district. Janet and Gil Galloway were recognized for the creation of the DVD Walking Through History,
which is, of course, the subject of this evening’s program.
Together with the Piermont Historical Society, we sponsored a program by historian and author Kevin Wright on “The First People:
The Tappan and their Neighbor.” Over 150 people filled the Manse Barn to hear Wright’s stories of the tribal life of the natives of the
17th century in Bergen and Rockland Counties and their relationship to the newly-arrived Europeans.
THS participated in the Orangetown Recycling and Earth Day Fair to promote the efforts of the National Trust for Historic Preservation
in encouraging the restoration of old structures and in stressing the compatibility of energy efficiency with historic preservation.
At the Fair, we noticed the recycling bins for cans and bottle being used by the Orangetown Highway Department. Simple metal
frames with openings for bottles and cans to be dumped into transparent bags encourage people to recycle these items separately
from other garbage. Could we get some for Colonial Day? Yes, indeed. The Orangetown Highway Department loaned us the
receptacles for Colonial Day and picked them up afterwards. Thanks go to Highway Superintendent James Dean and his assistant
Stephen Munno for their help in solving one of the more vexing problems of the event.
The Annual Plant Sale
Our only fund raiser, the Plant Sale on May 8, a rainy and windy Saturday, was like the Awards Dinner, an event that THS weathered,
literally, thanks to eager gardeners who, like their plants, really do like a little rain. One enthusiastic gardener
even arrived with the top down on his snazzy red convertible. Thanks go to organizer Joe Napoli and master gardeners Laurie
Rispoli and Winifred Strakosch, who offered expert advice on planting, and to our members and the Piermont Community Garden for
contributions of perennials -- some of which were unusual varieties. Stokes Farms in Old Tappan, N.J. supplied annuals, herbs,
vegetable plants, and hanging baskets. Raffle prizes from Tappan’s restaurants and businesses, Edna Nitopi’s baked goods, and
enthusiastic volunteers all helped to make this a successful event.
Also in May, the restored 1704 Division Patent, which was the subject of last year’s Annual Meeting, was on display at the Historic
Society of Rockland County’s Annual Dinner, which honored the local historic societies and museums in Rockland and Westchester
Concert in June
For the second year, the THS concert was held in the sanctuary of the Tappan Reformed Church rather than in the Tappan Memorial
Park to avoid having to worry about weather and noise.
The sanctuary’s intimate setting and superb acoustics were the ideal place to celebrate both the debut performance of the Klang
String Quartet and the completion of the restoration of the western facade and windows of the church. Organized by John Morton,
composer and THS board member, it was an evening of music, light, and grace in which the four accomplished musicians, Gregor
Kitzis, Yi-Ping Yang, Rieko Kawabata, and Michael Goeke, played a intriguing program of Mozart, Mendelssohn, and contemporary
American composers Ruth Crawford Seeger and Elliot Carter. We are making plans for a return of the Klang String Quartet in the
Perfect weather on September 25 brought crowds to the DeWint House grounds for our 26th Annual Colonial Day. This is our major
educational and entertainment event of the year and takes months of planning. DeWint House Superintendent Harold Jones, his wife
Kathy, their son and grandson, and Karl and Jennifer Best worked throughout the day helping with setting up and breaking down the
Several inspired changes in logistics and planning made the day run more smoothly than ever. Marilyn Schauder’s gift for public
relations advertised the event far and wide The many volunteers who helped with the craft activities, and the dedicated reenactors
and demonstrators who bring colonial times to life were essential to the day’s success. (Please go to www. tappantown.org. to get a
sense of the spirit of the day.)
Finally, thank you, Lucille Starink, chairwoman of Colonial Day, for once again making the complex elements of this day seem almost
Walking tours of Tappan are another way in which THS fulfills its educational goals. This spring, over 250 elementary school children
and several adult groups toured the historic district
Our knowledgeable guides are Thano Schoppel, Keith Walker, Janet Galloway, and Peter Schuerholz, here at the DeWint House,
Kathy and Harold Jones.
The Annual Andre Walk took place this year on October 1 in abysmal weather. Nevertheless, in his militia garb, Keith Walker regaled
the 4th graders from Cottage Lane elementary School with the story of Major John Andre’s capture, trial, and hanging. Students were
shown where he was imprisoned in the old Mabie House (‘76 House), and instead of the usual march to Andre Hill, students piled
into their school
bus and rode to Andre Hill where Keith recounted Andre’s doomed march. The bus driver, who never gets to hear the story in good
weather, was delighted.
Another way in which we further our educational goals is through the THS Scholarship, a $500.00 award to a graduating Tappan Zee
High School senior who has shown excellence in American history. Brett Herskowitz was this year’s recipient. He is now a freshman
at the University of Delaware.
The Thrift Shop
Board member Jackie Shatz and Shirey Parrish volunteer many hours at the Tappan Zee Thrift Shop in Piermont. Their hours of work
help support THS through quarterly disbursements based on their hours of work and on donations made in the name of THS.
Please support the Thrift Shop through volunteering, making donations, and purchasing whatever items may suit your fancy.
THS has several works-in-progress. We are working with representatives from the Tappan Reformed Church, the Orangetown
Highway Department, and the American Legion on a redesign of the large memorial triangle between the Manse and the Church.
Landscape architect Mary Ellen LeWarn has volunteered her time and talents in landscape design to create a plan for the relocation
of the monuments, the creation of pathways, and the replacement of trees that have been damaged by disease, and “pruning”
around utility lines. This project is still in the planning stage, but the group hopes to get started in the spring in time for Memorial
The small triangle to the north adopted by THS, the Tappan Library, and the TRC is almost ready for planting. The highway
department has installed a water system and topsoil, and also planted chrysanthemums earlier in the fall. All that is needed is a final
plan for planting, which Joe Napoli is working on for the spring.
We continue to support the Tappan library in its expansion plans and hope to have a small space to house our materials for reading
and reference. Cataloguing our archives is a slow process but often fascinating in what is unearthed from moldy folders and boxes.
The Bogert Papers, a collection of 18th and 19th century documents, which had been stored in the Historic Society of Rockland
County, was moved to the Orangetown Museum in February. Several years ago, appraiser Wyatt Day determined them to be valuable
as a body of documents recording a family’s transactions and also that some documents had separate individual value as records
of slave practices and women’s status.
Edith Hart, the paper conservator who restored the 1704 Patent, will evaluate their condition and make recommendations for
restoration work and for appropriate ways in which to store and display these materials. We hope some of these documents can be
used by local historians and for future programs on local history.
For the holiday season, THS will decorate the lamp posts on Main Street and around the Reformed Church, as we did last year.
Bob Press of Changing Heads Salon on Main Street is organizing a holiday evening for December 15. Main St. will be closed to
traffic between 6-7 pm so that people can stroll the block, listen to the Tappan Zee High School Madrigal singers, and participate in
other events during that hour. At our next regular board meeting in December, we will discuss ways in which THS can support this
The annual report was followed by the Treasurer’s Report and the elections for officers and directors.
Tappantown Historical Society Annual Meeting
President’s Annual Report for 2011
Good evening and welcome to the 46th annual meeting of the Tappantown Historical Society. I am Carol
LaValle, president of the society. Tonight we are celebrating the designation of Christ Episcopal Church
in Sparkill as an historic site by the New York State and National Registries of Historic Places. We will
hear about the history of the church after the business part of the meeting. First, the Annual Report.
Two thousand and eleven has been another year of action and accomplishment thanks to the support
of our members, volunteers, collaboration with other community organizations and historic societies,
and a dedicated board of directors who are thoughtful and diligent in carrying out the society’s mission
of education and preservation of Tappan’s heritage.
The directors are Susan Gewirtz, Michael, Fiorentino, Joe Napoli, Pam Peters, Jackie Shatz, and Keith
Walker. Officers are John Morton, 1st vice president; Nancy Russell, 2nd vice president; Marilyn
Schauder, recording secretary; Chris Gremski, corresponding secretary, and Lucille Starink, treasurer.
Thanks also go to former board members and other members who regularly attend meetings and offer
insight and advice.
In 2011, the National Trust for Historic Preservation emphasized the connection between preservation
of historic buildings and the conservation of the settings and the cultural landscapes in which those
structures stand and in which historic events took place. In Tappan, this natural connection is tangible
every day as we pass by the Tappan Reformed Church and the Manse, the DeWint House, the 18th and
19th century buildings in town, and as we travel roads that were Native American trails and colonial
Sometimes the 21st century literally collides with the 18th century, for example, when tractor trailers fail
to make the turn at Main Street and Oak Tree Road and knock over (for the third time) the protective
bollards outside Il Portico. To reconcile the demands for progress with the responsibilities of
preservation is a challenge. Our major events of the year help to meet this challenge and reflect the link
between preservation and conservation
The Awards Dinner in February recognized Mr. Anthony Viglietta, whose gardens at his home on the
corner of Windsor brook Lane have enhanced historic Kings Highway for 45 years.
Charles “Skip” Vezzetti, Rockland County Superintendent of highways and James Dean, Orangetown
Superintendent of highways were honored for their collaboration in restoration of the drainage
infrastructure, installation of granite curbing and brick sidewalks, and attention to many aesthetic details
in the center of historic Tappan. Their efforts ensure that future restoration, preservation, and
revitalization projects will have a secure foundation.
The Volunteer Fires Association of Tappan was honored for the new 9- foot black granite and its
surrounding landscaping which commemorates VFAT members who have died and is a record of the
history of over a 100 years of the fire department’s service to the Tappan community.
The 53rd Annual Plant Sale on May 7 was another way in which preservation and conservation come
together. It is our only fundraiser, and the proceeds help to defray the costs of the Concert and Colonial
Day. In addition to the annuals, herbs, flats of vegetables, and hanging baskets from Stokes Farms, the
perennial are donated by members from their gardens, many of them long-established, old, and
heirloom varieties. Organizer Joe Napoli and Master gardener Laurie Rispoli offered expert advice on
planting. Raffle prizes from Tappan’s restaurants and businesses in the historic area, the extraordinary
array of home baked goods, and enthusiastic volunteers and gardeners all helped to make this a
History and culture, the past and the present, melded on June 17 in our Annual Concert. The intimate
setting and superb acoustics of the sanctuary of the 1835 Tappan Reformed Church offered the perfect
space for the accomplished musicians of the Klang String Quartet, w who returned for their second year
to perform works by Mozart, Beethoven, Shostakovich, and the debut of a piece by Tappan resident and
composer John Morton. One member of the appreciative audience remarked, “It is rare to hear this
caliber of musicianship outside of New York City.” He added that it would be wonderful to have a music
series in the church that offered a variety of genres. Indeed it would, and we would like to involve other
local organizations in supporting such an effort.
Regrettably, Colonial Day, our major educational and entertainment event of the year scheduled for
September 24, was cancelled for the second time in 27 years. Cancelling Colonial Day was a difficult
decision to make, but the only one. The DeWint House grounds, the perfect setting for Colonial Day but
also a most vulnerable one, were saturated from heavy rains and an overflowing Sparkill Creek.
Cancelling is not a decision that can wait until the last minute. Over a hundred demonstrators and
volunteers, some coming from long distances, need to be notified. So, even though it was not actually
raining on the 24th, the grounds could never have sustained the traffic of re-enactors, demonstrators,
and hundreds of participants.
Walking Tours are another way in which THS fulfills its educational goals. This spring over 250
elementary school children and several adult groups toured the historic district. Our knowledgeable
guides are Janet Galloway, Marilyn Schauder, Thano Schoppel, Peter Schuerholz, Keith Walker, and
here at the DeWint House, Kathy and Harold Jones.
The Annual Andre Walk took place this year on Monday, October 3. Thano Schoppel met two classes of
4th graders from Cottage Lane elementary school at the ’76 House where they heard the story of Major
John Andre’s conspiracy with Benedict Arnold, his capture, trial, imprisonment in the ’76 House (then
the Mabie House). The group then walked from the ‘76 House to Andre Hill, the site of Andre’s hanging
on October 2, 1780.
Another way in which we further our educational goals is through the THS Scholarship fund, a $500.00
award to a graduating senior from Tappan Zee High School who has shown excellence in American
History. Matthew Zebiak was this year’s recipient. In his thank you letter to the society, Matt mentioned
that he had had an exceptional American History teacher, Stephen Sherman, who piqued his interest in
local history. We hope to meet Mr. Sherman and thank him for his efforts.
Ongoing projects are coming to fruition. Site work on the small triangle that THS, the Tappan Library,
and the Tappan Reformed Church adopted has been completed. A back-flow pump and sprinkler
system have been installed (last night the top soil was being watered!). Plantings have been designed
by Joe Napoli with an eye to height limitations and hardiness given the triangle’s vulnerable location.
Bulbs will go in soon, and in the spring, more perennials and seasonal annuals will be planted. And,
not to worry, the unattractive beige unit on the opposite corner that houses the pump will be screened
with shrubs ... soon.
The redesign of the Memorial Triangle is complete and is in the final stages of review by the town
board. While this is not a THS project, we have been involved in the planning, in the selection of trees to
replace those that are old, damaged, or diseased, and in the walkways that will facilitate walking tours.
Also included in the project is the planting of two trees to replace the Norway Maple on Kings Highway
that was removed during the restoration of the church and the installation of brick pavers.
The restoration of the 19th century iron fence around the Andre Monument on Andre Hill is a long-term
project that is the responsibility of the Rockland County Division of Environmental Resources, but THS is
looking into ways to fund an assessment of what is needed to restore the entire fence, not just repair the
damaged sections. The damaged sections were removed three years ago, and the site began to look
neglected and to be safety hazard, with one remaining gatepost tilting at a precarious angle and
fragments of footings jutting out of the ground. At our proposal, Michael DiMola, Parks manager for the
County Division of Environmental Resources had his crew dig up the enormous chunks of footings and
the gatepost and planted six boxwood shrubs that THS purchased for the site. Thus, some symmetry
and formality has returned to the site, and we will be planting perennials around the monument in the
The historic markers delineating the boundaries of the Historic Area are looking worn and need
repainting, and we are looking into that, as well.
To help with our preservation efforts, Board member Keith Walker attends the Historic Area Board of
THS joined with other local history groups this year for various projects. For the Sparkill History Project
on July23, a blindingly hot day, Marilyn Schauder collaborated with Mary Cardenas of the Orangetown
Museum and Marge Guenther from the Piermont Historical Society on a display of maps and charts
illustrating the history of travel through the Sparkill Gap from the first indigenous people through the
Dutch exploration and settlement to the beginnings of modernity with the coming of the New York and
On October 15, the 1704 Division Patent was displayed at the Piermont Reformed Church to augment a
talk by historian Firth Haring Fabend on Piermont as the gateway to the rustic capital of lower Rockland
County. Also, THS supports the Sparkill Watershed Alliance in its efforts to protect the Sparkill from
further degradation, and we would like to concentrate our efforts on where it flows through Tappan.
THS has had a long relationship with the Tappan Zee Thrift Shop. Board member Jackie Shatz and
Shirey Parrish volunteer many hours, which helps support THS through quarterly dividend
disbursements based on their hours of work and donation made in the name off the society. Please
support the Thrift Shop through volunteering, making donations, and purchasing whatever items catch
For the holiday season, THS will once again decorate the lamp posts on Main Street and around the
Finally, our gratitude goes to the Grand Lodge of New York Masons for their stewardship of the De Wint
House and for allowing us the use of this historic site. In particular, we thank Kathy and Harold Jones for
their exceptional care of this rare and lovely property.