|Remembering Paul Melone
Paul W. Melone, a founder of the Tappantown Historical and other civic organizations, died on August 12, 2008. He was 96. While
there are many memories of Paul’s sixty years of tenacious, dedicated, and visionary activism that we could include in this
memoriam, we are offering two:
one a fond remembrance of Paul by his friend, neighbor, and fellow history maven, Jules Loh, author of Treason: The Arnold-Andre
Plot; the other, a more formal tribute to Paul by former THS President Thomas LaValle on presenting Paul with the Tappantown
Historical Society Fellowship Award at the Annual Awards Dinner in February, 2005.
The Essential Paul Melone
by Jules Loh
(reprinted courtesy of the South of the Mountains )
What greeting might Paul Melone have had last Aug. 12 when the angels welcomed him to Paradise? True to form, he might have
asked, “How can I help?” In his 96 years here on earth, heaven knows, Paul Melone rarely missed a chance to lend a hand, or, for
that matter, to attend a meeting, form a committee, help a neighbor. The essence of Paul Melone’s very being was service. When I
think of Paul, I picture him with his sleeves rolled up.
Nearly a generation separated us in age but Paul and I, friends and neighbors, were both veterans of New York journalism -- print
journalism, a significant subgroup of a fraternity we both cherished. Overlapping friendships, habits and hangouts of our youth
seemed to keep us in life as we aged. I had been with AP and Paul had worked at PM, the successor of New York’s Herald Tribune
and then, for 28 years, at Newsweek. When one of Paul’s nieces showed an interest in journalism ,he brought her to work with him
to mingle with some Newsweek reporters and editors. When she herself took a job on a Florida daily, Uncle Paul was downright
People with problems tended to gravitate to Paul. An Italian cousin needed lodging while getting settled in America. Paul took him
in. A pharmacist needed housing while doing Alzheimer research at Rockland’s Nathan Kline Institute. Paul provided it. And when I,
widowed and alone in a five-bedroom home, needed a smaller place, Paul found it. After WWII Paul had been one of the Army vets
who conceived and built the Hickory Hill co-op in Tappan, a housing innovation at the time, and later its sister condominium, Hickory
Hill II, where the Melones lived. When a neighbor died seven years ago, Paul tipped me off to the vacancy and I was first in line.
Paul belonged to every group in Tappan that had members, it seemed to me, at least the ones that held meetings, and very often I
followed along. I came to find out, though not from Paul, that he had been president of nearly every organization in town, often its first
president. He was the guy who got things going – the library board, the civic association, the Tappantown Historical Society, the
Orangetown Museum. To Rocklanders, Paul was Mr. Tappan. If the subject was Tappan, the saying went, Paul Melone wrote the
book. Well, no. Wilfred Blanch Talman, the Rockland historian and journalist, actually wrote that essential volume, Tappan 300
Years, 1686-1986. But it was Paul Melone, editorial artist, who designed and laid out every page.
Paul got things moving, all right. Danforth Toan, the Hickory Hill architect, was a lifelong friend of the man he called The
Implementer. “Paul would push like a team of oxen for what he felt was needed,” Toan said, “then persuade others to get it done.”
He offered the park in Tappan is an example. “It was an eyesore, a swamp, before Paul started implementing,” Toan said. “Paul
pushed and pushed the project until it became a cause; then, finally, we had a lovely place with green grass and a bridge over a
duck pond. Paul Melone made it happen.” He also was the implementer, says Toan, the prime mover behind Tappan’s Historic
Zone. It required implementing the legislature, a historic achievement in itself, to make New York the first state with such a legally
defined and regulated area.
Rocklanders remember Paul tooling around the county in a rattletrap Volkswagen big enough to accommodate Betty and her
wheelchair. Alzheimer’s had ravaged Betty’s mind even more than her body. Theirs was a love story, beginning to end. Paul met
Betty at a WWII USO Club where she was a hostess and he awaiting the Army’s orders to ship out for Normandy. He landed on
Utah Beach on D-6. Before he left, Betty said, “I’ll wait for you to come back.” Paul said, “If you wait, I’ll come back.” She did and he
did. Until death did they part.
Fellowship Award for Paul Melone
presented by Thomas LaValle
The Fellowship Award is given rarely. It acknowledges extraordinary service and achievements of outstanding significance which
have affected the historic community of Tappan. With great pleasure and appreciation, the Tappantown Historical Society presents
the Fellowship Award to Paul Melone.
For more than 50 years, Paul has been a quiet, (sometimes not so quiet) effective driving force for historic preservation in Tappan.
In 1954, he helped found ans was first president of the Tappan Civic Association. Out of this group grew an initiative, in 1964, to
create a special zoning overlay to protect historic structures and limit permissible type of structures in the heart of Tappan. Paul and
others in the Association collected signatures and proposed an historic zoning law. After some controversy as to the proposal
being too restrictive, the Tappan Historic Areas Law proposal was made into law on December 31, 1965. A board of review
(HABOR) was create to enforce it. This Civic Association project gave rise to the Tappantown Historical Society, a group dedicated
to work exclusively for the preservation of Tappan’s heritage. Paul has been president and board member of THS over his many
years of association with the group and is currently an active, contributing member.
Two projects that Paul worked on have enriched the community immensely. One is the Tappan Library and the other is the Tappan
Memorial Park. Paul was there from the start as the collection of books from Shanks Village was moved to the Tappan Grammar
School and from there to the Moritz Funeral, the site of the present library. The building was restored and the Tappan Library
opened to the public on January 5, 1964. Creating Tappan Memorial Park was truly an act of preservation as a developer was
asking for a permit to put a two-story commercial building on the land behind the library. Working with other community leaders,
Paul stopped the developer and made the park a reality. It was dedicated in May, 1972.
In the forward to the book Tappan: 300 Years, Paul Melone is saluted as “prime mover of the book over the ten years of gestation.”
The book, a compendium of Tappan’s history, took a long time to come out as townspeople weighed in over the years with
corrections, additions, subtractions, resulting in revision after revision. Throughout, Paul stayed the course with diligence and
persistence: researching and writing, composing and laying out, being responsible for the overall graphic design. It was an
enormous project, for which we are all grateful.
Paul’s contributions continue to the present. As a capstone to an inspiring lifetime of dedication to the preservation of historic
buildings and the historic area, Paul with his usual patience and tenacity in negotiations made sure that the integrity of The Stable
would be preserved best by selling it to the Tappan Library. One week ago, those negotiations were consummated. The Library
now owns The Stable. This is a cause for celebration.
Thank you, Paul, for your vision of what Historic Tappan could and can be. Thank you for nudging people and getting difficult things
done. Thank you for representing the Society and your fellow citizens – asking questions and testifying – at countless Town
meetings. Thanks for following up and seeing things through. And thank you for never, ever, giving up.
Vol. 30, No.1 (Jan.-Nov., 2011) Tappantown Historical Society, Box 71, Tappan, N.Y. 10983
Annual Meeting Honors
Christ Church Sparkill
Members and guests gathered at the Carriage House on the DeWint House grounds on November 4,
2011, for the 46th Annual Meeting of the Tappantown Historical Society to elect officers and to celebrate
the designation of Christ Episcopal Church in Sparkill as an historic site by the New York State and
National Registries of Historic Places.
Elections for officers and board members followed the Annual Report and the Treasurer’s Report.
Officers elected to two-year terms are Chris Gremski, 2nd Vice President; Lucille Starink, Treasurer; and
Nancy Russell, Corresponding Secretary. Directors elected are Joe Napoli, a two-year term; and Susan
Gewirtz and Pam Peters, one-year terms.
The evening’s program, The History of a Sparkill Landmark: Christ Church and Its Famous Architect,
followed the business part of the meeting. The Reverend Thomas Faulkner, Rector of Christ Church, and
Steven Mitchell, the church’s historian, spoke of the church’s beginnings in 1848 as the Rockland County’
s original Episcopal Church, whose first home was in a Piermont warehouse known as the Lime Kiln
The history of the present fieldstone structure designed by the prominent architect Charles Babcock and
built in1864 was the focus of the talk. This history was, in fact, a mystery until only last year when
handwritten documents from 1884 were discovered in the archives of the Episcopal Diocese of New
York. This discovery has led to many others and to the documentation of the church’s significance as an
historic site, which in turn, led to its listing on the state and national registries.
A complete account of this fascinating story can be found in Freely Given, which can be read and
downloaded (for free, of course) on the church’s website, www.christchurch-sparkill.org..
For an overview of the Society’s activities in 2011, please read the President’s Annual Report.
Changes to By-Laws Considered
Since their original adoption in 1966, the by-laws of the Tappantown Historical Society have been
amended several times in an effort to reflect the changing needs of the Society. For example, over the
years, offices have been added, dropped, and reinstated; an endowment fund was created to purchase a
building and then when that goal was deemed unrealistic, the fund was converted to an investment
account; changes in dues and operating
procedures have been made when needed. The last change was made in 1997.
Over the past year, several board members have looked at the by-laws to see what remains relevant
and what needs updating or eliminating. At its October 27, 2011 meeting, the By-laws Committee agreed
to propose the following changes to the by-laws to be voted upon at the December 6, 2011 regular board
Article 3:- Officers
1. Keep the office of Assistant Treasurer. Position will be filled either by election or unanimous
appointment of the board.
2. Delete the sentence that is crossed out, “ The officers shall be residents of, or those actively
engaged in business, or property owners in Tappan” and replace with “The officers shall be elected from
the membership at large,” which had been typed above the original sentence.
3, Keep “All officers shall be limited to two (2) consecutive terms in the same office.” Add “There may
be an occasion when flexibility of the rule is needed, for example, if there is no one to fill the office and the
present officer is willing to continue. In that case, an
officer’s term may be extended for another two-year term by the unanimous vote of a quorum of the board
4. Change “All checks must be signed by the Treasurer and another officer as appointed by the board
of trustees” to “Checks over $1000.00 must be signed by the Treasurer and another officer who is a
5. Change the requirement of an auditing report at the annual meeting to read “An auditing committee
of two members shall examine the books and vouchers at a regular meeting after the annual meeting and
within the first quarter of the new fiscal year.”
Article 7: Annual Meeting and Membership Meetings
Change the date of the Annual Meeting of the Society from the second week in October to the first Friday
Article 8: Dues
1. Delete the sentence”The principal and interest on this Endowment Account shall be expended only
for the purchase, operation, restoration and maintenance of a building in the Historic Zone. (Voted on at
November 14, 1997 board meeting but not removed from by-laws.
2. Delete the sentence,”A Book of Remembrance shall be kept by the Treasurer.”
All members are welcome to attend the board meeting on December 6, 2011 at the Carriage House on
the DeWint House grounds at 7:30 pm.
The Year’s End:
Decorating for the Holidays
Natural wreaths, swags and roping adorned many of the buildings in the historic district and all around
town, and. many places glowed with the soft illumination of candles in windows during the 2010 holiday
season. The tradition of decorating for the holidays with natural materials and lighted candles in the
windows began long ago with the Tappan Reformed Church and the Volunteer Fire Association of
Tappan. Over the years, many of the homes, restaurants, and businesses joined in keeping this tradition
Once again this year, the Tappantown Historic Society will be wrapping the lampposts along Main
Street and around the Memorial Triangle on Kings Highway with natural greens, pine cones, and red
ribbons. If you can spare some time between 2 and 4 pm on Sunday, November 27, please call 845-359-
1923 or email us at email@example.com.
The Year in Review
The President’s Annual Report
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” Vezzitti, 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 successful
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 spring.
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 Erie
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 your eye.
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.
The Annual Report was followed by the Treasurer’s Report and the election of officers.
The Turkey of Tappan
This handsome fellow was seen trotting along Main Street on the morning of November 6 and
photographed by board member Chris Gremski. Since then, he has been seen in backyards and along
Ben Franklin might appreciate the free range panache of the Tappan Turkey. He preferred the American
Wild Turkey (Meleagris gallopavo) to the Bald Eagle as a symbol for America. In a letter to his daughter
Sarah Bache on January 26, 1784, Franklin was critical of the choice of the Bald Eagle by the Cincinnatti
Society of America for its seal.
Franklin wrote, “ ... the turkey is in comparison a much more respectable bird, and withal a true original
Native of America. He is besides, though a little vain and silly, a Bird of Courage, and would not hesitate to
attack a Grenadier of the British Guards ...”
(Excerpt of letter, GreatSeal.com)
No Grenadiers now, but lots of traffic and a few chefs from the local restaurants to challenge this Bird of