The unincorporated hamlet of Tappan is located in the southern section of the town of Orangetown, one of five towns of the 176 square mile Rockland County. The boundaries of Tappan are indefinite and are based mainly upon postal service zones.
Tappan, originally named Tappantown, was the first organized settlement on the west side of the Hudson River between New Jersey and Newburgh, New York. Tappan is situated near the Palisades in a fertile basin with gently sloping hills which is formed at the break in the Palisades for the Tappan Creek. The Dutch called this breech the "sloot" or "slote" meaning trench, most or ditch. The early Dutch settlers found this basin desirable both for its closeness to the Hudson River (for transportation) and for its fertile soil agreeable for cultivation. Tappan and its immediate vicinity was basically agricultural in nature in the seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries. Historically, this location was significant to the village due to the need for river transportation in the early years.