Tappan Historic District

Orangetown Town, Rockland County, NY

Home | Whats New | Site Index | Contact | Search

The Tappan Historic District was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1990. Portions of the content on this web page were adapted from a copy of the original nomination document. []


The Village of Tappan is situated along the New York/New Jersey state line and is approximately two miles west of the Hudson River. The center of the Tappan Historic District is fifty feet above mean sea level and is bordered on the east by the Sparkill Creek, which runs into the Hudson River. Its major north/south road is Route 303. Other smaller roads run east and west and at diagonals through the center of the village. Its few industries are located along Route 303, as are modern shopping centers. Its old commercial area is on Main Street and Old Tappan Road. This original commercial section is the center of the Tappan Historic District and is located at the intersection of the old Kings Highway leading from Bergen County in New Jersey to Nyack, New City, Haverstraw and Kings Ferry at Stony Point. The roads eastward connect Tappan to the Hudson River landings and the roads westward penetrate the interior of Bergen and Passaic County (New Jersey) and New York State through the Clove or Ramapo Pass between the Ramapo Mountains and the Highlands.

The Tappan Historic Area map adopted by the Orangetown Town Board, on December 28, 1965, includes eighty-five acres and within that is the National Register Historic District, lying in the southern portion of the locally established historic area. The Tappan Historic District encompasses the historic commercial and residential core of the late eighteenth and nineteenth century village of Tappan. Boundaries were chosen to include as much of the village as it developed between 1700 and 1929 as retained historical and architectural integrity. The thirty properties that compose the Tappan Historic District lie on both sides of Main Street, roughly bordered by the Sparkill River on the east, by property lines on the south of Main Street, by Brandt Avenue on the west, by the property lines of the Greenbush Road Cemetery on the north. The west and south boundaries are somewhat irregular.

Tappan Historic District includes both commercial and residential buildings, most located on both sides of Main Street. The initial block of Main Street has a north/south axis and then bends toward the west at the southern end. The Tappan Historic District occupies the original block and the first block running towards the west. Outside the Tappan Historic District, the village consists of twentieth-century residences, a few malls and other commercial establishments, and some historic buildings, and is laid out in a grid pattern with naturally winding roads interspersed.

Most of the buildings in the Tappan Historic District are frame and are set close to the street. Only a few of the buildings have front yards; most have rear yards. The manse is the only building that is situated in a spacious setting. The Tappan Reformed Church has an eighteenth-century cemetery to the rear of the property that provides the building with more open space than the remainder of the district. The remainder of the buildings are located close to each other, creating a compact commercial/residential center. Despite the compactness, the Tappan Historic District possesses a rural village feeling with the Village Green and the Greenbush Road Cemetery supplying natural park spaces at the northern end of the district.

The buildings and sites in the Tappan Historic District reflect the development over time of this small rural village. The period of significance for the Tappan Historic District is 1730-1920. The Tappan Historic District possesses representative buildings and sites from each phase in the development of the area from 1730 forward. Unfortunately, however, none of the seventeenth-century (earliest settlement period) buildings survive.

There are five buildings in the Tappan Historic District which survive from the eighteenth century. Two of these were constructed of local sandstone. These include the '76 House and the Manse. They both ad frame additions appended to the original sandstone structure at a later date. The DeWint House, built in 1700 and located southeast of the Tappan Historic District, is also constructed of local sandstone and has a brick facade on the east elevation. The other three eighteenth-century buildings include the William DeVoe Store (presently the Tappan Free Library), the Parcells House and the Bogert-Stevens House. These three are braced frame buildings.

There are three Federal style buildings that were built between 1809 and 1835. The Morris Bartow House (118 Main Street) was constructed of Haverstraw bricks laid in the Flemish bond. Known locally as the "Federal House," this two-and-one-half story townhouse also reflects the influence of the Greek Revival style with its denticulated frieze, rectangular lintels of sandstone and doorway with transom and side lights. The William DeVoe House (99-101 Main Street) and the Dubey-Stephens House (100-102 Main Street) were constructed early in the nineteenth century as two-story, half houses of the Federal period. In 1889, the Dubey-Stevens House had additions and early in the twentieth century the William DeVoe House had an additional wing appended and the original second story removed. When the building which now houses the Tappan Free Library was altered in 1820, it too reflected the Federal style.

In the 1830s, there was a building boom in the village of Tappan. Six of the twenty-eight primary buildings in the Tappan Historic District represent the influence of the then popular Greek Revival style. These buildings were constructed between 1825 and 1843, with all but two being built between 1830 and 1836. Three of these buildings were constructed as three-bay, one-and-three quarter-story, side-hall plan types. They include the Rockland Academy, the Haring-Smith House and the Mabie-Hennion House. The Bogert House (77 Main street) was originally a three-bay, one-room-deep, side-hall plan example of the style; later additions included a two-bay section; expanding the building to five bays and a rear addition. These changes occurred in the 1850s. The Blauvelt House is a larger representative of the style, being three bays wide and two-and-one-half stories high.

The Tappan Reformed Church, built in 1835 of local bricks, is also reflective of this style. The original section of the Hennion House was a two-story Greek Revival residence; however, additions in 1860 changed the appearance so that the original character of the building is no longer evident. The original architectural influences are illustrated by the low roof, gable-end to street orientation and cornice with bold returns. While the Hennion House is reflective of Gothic Revival tastes due to the 1860s alterations, the other seven buildings noted above are excellent examples of the Greek Revival style prevalent in the 1830s. Some earlier buildings in the Tappan Historic District that received alterations or embellishments in the 1830s also portray some architectural characteristics of the Greek Revival style.

In addition to the Hennion House noted above, there is another building in the Tappan Historic District that reflects Gothic Revival style tastes. The Perry-Smith House is a miniature Gothic Revival style cottage with a steep gable roof that has a central gable over a center entry. It has a finely detailed scroll bargeboard on this central gable that continues around the eaves, as well as a Gothic-arched window.

There are six Victorian-period residences. Of these buildings, all but one are situated in the row of Main Street houses located on that section of the street that bends towards the west. The original section of Main Street runs north to south. The southwest corner of the Tappan Historic District is anchored by three of these buildings; the Ryerson Houses (#45 and #61 Main Street) and the Smith House (the late Victorian residence, 60 Main Street). Numbers 60 and 61 Main Street are large frame, five-bay, two-and-one-half-story residences that originally had clapboard siding, replaced in the twentieth century with wood shingle siding. Despite the siding, both buildings retain a high level of integrity and they are excellent examples of the Victorian-period tastes that replaced the Greek Revival preferences of earlier builders. In addition, there are several other buildings in the Tappan Historic District that reflect Victorian period tastes, including the Van Wardt House (83 Main Street), the Bartow-Van Wardt Building (89 Main Street) and the Bartow Building (107 Main Street).

The last building phase during the period of significance was in the early twentieth century. There are two buildings constructed in the Colonial Revival style: the Burton Store (19 Old Tappan Road) and Borcher's Stable (2 Oak Tree Road). Borcher's Stable was constructed in 1920 to replace a colonial era building and duplicates it in appearance and location. Other buildings in the Tappan Historic District that had additions in the early twentieth century also reflect the desire to repeat the architectural styles of an earlier time. While these two Colonial Revival buildings were constructed to enhance the early character of the community, there is one building, the garage of 107 Main Street, built circa 1920, that reflects the architectural idea of creating a modern streamlined appearance. This garage is sided entirely of terra-cotta tiles. Each tile is solid in color, although a number of different color tiles are used, including red, red-brown, brown, tan and yellow.

The Tappan Historic District as a whole represents the historic core of the village of Tappan and retains the feeling and associations of a small rural village. Outside the Tappan Historic District the remainder of Tappan is rapidly being consumed by the modern building which is sweeping the lower Hudson Valley. The Tappan Historic District remains as the core of this twentieth-century suburb, preserving the appearance, feelings and associations of Tappan's development from colonial times to the early twentieth century in its cluster of homes, shops and sites. The buildings and sites in the Tappan Historic District retain a high level of integrity. The few changes and alterations which have occurred do not intrude upon the architectural character of this community.


The Tappan Historic District, located in the southern portion of the hamlet of Tappan, Rockland County, New York, is historically and architecturally significant for its intact collection of eighteenth, nineteenth and early twentieth century architecture, and for its illustration of typical development patterns in a rural hamlet from the eighteenth through the early twentieth centuries in one of New York State's earliest settlement areas. The Tappan Historic District is situated on Main Street where it intersects Kings Highway, an important transportation link for the Dutch and English. This area was the major focus of development in the community throughout the 1730 to 1929 period of significance. The Tappan Historic District, with twenty-eight primary contributing buildings and three contributing sites located along either side of Main Street, spans four important eras of development, including the construction of the first permanent dwellings of Dutch settlers in the early to mid-eighteenth century, the growth and rebuilding which followed the Revolutionary War, the agricultural and commercial growth inspired by the promised development of the railroad industry in the nineteenth century and the construction and alterations to the hamlet's historic architecture in the early twentieth century.

The first settlers of Tappan were Dutch farmers who came in 1686 and established temporary homes. In the early to mid-eighteenth century, the settlers and their descendants built homes of a more permanent nature in the hamlet along the rural thoroughfare. Increased agricultural prosperity in the vicinity and the development of the hamlet into a crossroads village along Kings Highway led to the construction of new residences and additions to existing buildings in the period following the Revolutionary War. In the 1830s, a brief period of prosperity and growth began, nurtured by the optimism of the railroad industry. In the nineteenth century, residents created a central commercial area that catered to railroad builders and, later, railroad employees. This era saw several inns, hotels/boarding houses and small commercial enterprises established. The nineteenth-century residential and commercial buildings, mostly of a vernacular nature and representing local architectural styles, illustrate the slow acceptance by the rural community of the styles that swept the new nation during the nineteenth century. Cultural institutions developed here, as well. The Tappan Reformed Church, built in 1835, was the fourth church edifice constructed by that institution since the village was established in 1686. The building recalls the role that religion played as an integrating and socializing force in the village. The early years of the twentieth century were economically stressful to the village of Tappan.

Few new buildings were constructed, with only a few Colonial Revival style buildings recalling a more prosperous time. The Tappan Historic District as a whole is a remarkably cohesive unit that embodies the local development of the village architecturally. In addition to the buildings, there are also three contributing sites in the Tappan Historic District. The Village Green, which is located at the intersection where Kings Highway and Main Street meet, and was the location of the first county government buildings, is historically significant for its association with the early settlement of the area. The other two sites include the "old burying ground," located behind the Tappan Reformed Church and the Greenbush Road Cemetery, which includes the "new burying ground," the site of burials beginning in c.1750. The burials in the initial years of settlement were located in a vault beneath the church. This vault remains intact beneath the present church; thus, these sites recall Tappan's settlement and demographic history.

The land where Tappan (Tappantown) was established was purchased from the Native Americans on March 17, 1682. The name Tappan was conferred by the Dutch on the local group of Munsee Indians (The name first appears on maps made by the Dutch, in 1614-16, as "Top-paun"). This land purchase, which became known as the Tappan Patent, was made by a group of eight white men and three Negroes from Manhattan together with five men from New Jersey.[1] The Tappan Patent was divided into nine shares which were divided amongst the sixteen men. Each shareholder had approximately one square mile each, but the land was held in common. Although this agreement with the Native Americans was signed on July 1, 1682 in New Jersey, it was not confirmed by the colonial government until March 24, 1686, after an early state boundary line was determined. The land remained unused by the patent shareholders during this time as well. The present day center of the village (the Tappan Historic District). In 1704, eight of the original patentees were alive; the land was subdivided into lots amongst the shareholders and was no longer held in common.[2] A second land division was made in 1721.

The Tappan settlement was located in what was originally Orange County, but presently is Rockland County. Orange County was one of the first ten counties established, in 1683, in what would later be called the State of New York. Covering a large section of the Hudson River Valley, Orange County was divided by the Ramapo Mountains. In 1798, the southern section of Orange County, south of the Ramapo Mountains, was designated as Rockland County. Prior to the establishment of Rockland County, Tappan was chosen to be the seat of Orange County. The first county courthouse and jail were erected on what is now known as the Village Green and the county supervisors met here. The court house was located on the "Green" for more than eighty years until it was destroyed in 1773. By 1773, it was decided that a more centrally located area in the county would be preferable, so the county seat was moved north to New City. The Village Green, originally called "the Plains," (located in the north of the Tappan Historic District) remains as a triangular park space and is historically significant for its association with the early settlement of the area.

In the late seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries, Tappan consisted of a small cluster of homes surrounded by farms. The first homes in the area were simple below-grade, sod-roofed shelters or log houses which were constructed for a short period of occupancy. Most of these buildings only lasted twenty years or so. All of these temporary structures had disappeared by 1780 and were supplanted with frame residences and more permanent dwellings of local stone.

The earliest building still standing in the area is the DeWint House (National Register listed: 1966), built in 1700, by Daniel DeClark.[3] It is located to the southeast of the Tappan Historic District. The DeWint House is architecturally significant as an outstanding example of early vernacular stone architecture. The building's gable roof, two interior end chimneys and the cross-bond in which the brick front facade is laid are reflective of the early Dutch building practices in the Hudson Valley in the seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries. The DeWint House is also historically significant for its association with events of the Revolutionary War. The house served (as did the '76 House) as a meeting place for General Washington and his staff, due to the closeness of Tappan to occupied New York City. It is also historically significant for its association with the earliest settlement of Tappan by Dutch settlers.

In the center of the early village (and the center of the Tappan Historic District) stand the '76 House. The original section was constructed in 1753-55 of local sandstone and consisted of a five-bay, one-and-one-half story, one-room deep, center hall residence with a low pitched gable roof that runs parallel to Main Street. This building has had a number of additions and several alterations through the years. Since 1800, it has been used as a tavern or restaurant, expanding as the village of Tappan grew. The '76 House is architecturally significant as an example of an eighteenth-century vernacular stone building. It is also historically significant for its association with the events of the Revolutionary War, being the place of confinement of British Major John Andre before he was tried and subsequently executed on October 2, 1780.

The eighteenth-century resources of the Tappan Historic District in Tappan, Rockland County are a significant component of the Dutch colonial settlement landscape in the Hudson Valley. The study of North American settlement landscape as a material cultural reflection of the colonial past is an established historical pursuit. Scholars such as Meinig, Kniffen, and Glassie have identified settlement period culture hearths that correspond to geographically defined core areas of early occupation.[4] These settlement cores were centralized zones where relatively isolated cultures expressed their essential characteristics in unique ways. The record of this process is preserved in place names, land division patterns, architecture and other aspects of the settlement landscape. In many cases these culture cores later became source areas from which distinctive characteristics spread across broad areas of the North American interior. The architectural resources of these core areas are significant as tangible symbols of the unique settlement process that characterized European colonization of North America.

The earliest independent cultural hearths were established by European colonization along the eastern seaboard. Examples include southern New England, the northern hearth of early English settlement; the Hudson and Raritan Valleys, a center of early Dutch culture; the Delaware Valley, settled by an ethnic amalgam of Northern European and Scandinavian groups; and the Chesapeake Bay, an area in which English culture expressed itself in somewhat different ways than in New England. Of these settlement period areas, the Dutch Hudson Valley hearth is the only one that had its fundamental origins in New York State.

The Dutch colonial settlement area includes the Hudson Valley from Albany south, the western end of Long Island, and portions of northern New Jersey, particularly along the Raritan River. Unlike other source area, Dutch influences and styles rarely occur beyond this restricted range because of the overpowering influences of English immigration into the region during the last quarter of the eighteenth century. As a result, the architectural features that represent the Dutch colonial hearth are limited in number and exist primarily in a small portion of eastern New York State. This portion of the state has been an area of intensive development and modernization for decades and the processes of growth have had a negative impact on the number and quality of the region's historic resources. Dutch colonial architecture in the area, such as the examples found in the Tappan Historic District, is worthy of preservation because of its relative rarity and its historical significance. In addition to the three buildings constructed of local sandstone, there are three braced frame buildings constructed in the eighteenth century. They include the William DeVoe Store (presently the Tappan Library), the DeVries-Parcells House and the Bogert-Stevens House. These frame residences were originally small houses. Similar to the stone houses, they too have had additions and alterations incorporated into their design. Despite the presence of the changes, these buildings retain sufficient integrity to their construction date. These five buildings (two stone and three frame) represent the earliest structures of a permanent nature in the village and the early building practices of the Dutch in the Hudson Valley.

In the late seventeenth century and throughout the eighteenth century, Tappan was in a sound economic position, serving as a farming and trade community. At this time, Tappan was a small village, just a cluster of buildings surrounded by outlying farms, and began to grow slowly as a crossroads community. Tappan Landing in the Slote at Abram Mabie's Mill Dam (just north of the village) was the head of navigation, and merchandise for the interior farms passed through Tappan on their way to the Hudson River for transport to New York City. The two major roads in the lower Hudson Valley Region at that time were the Nyack Turnpike and Orange Turnpike, both of which passed through Tappan and terminated at Nyack and Piermont respectively. Nyack and Piermont were the two principal ports in the country for shipment to New York City. The Hudson River was the primary means of transportation prior to the construction of railroads. As the roads to the two major ports passed through Tappan, a small commercial center developed at Tappan with shops established to sell merchandise from New York City to farmers in the region.

The river was the preferred method of travel during the period prior to the establishment of railroads, as stage coach travel was considered dangerous, uncomfortable and expensive.[5] There were few stage coach routes through Rockland County; however, those that existed passed through Tappan. The stages in Rockland County catered mostly to local travel and trade. Tappan thus began to grow as a crossroads town in the eighteenth century with inns for travelers and stores to sell merchandise to travelers and farmers in the region. In the years prior to the Revolutionary War, the Kings Highway was a much traveled route. This road passed through the center of the village (and the northern portion of the Tappan Historic District). The '76 House was established as a tavern in 1800. Casparus Maybee built the house around 1755 and it was a frequent stop on King's Highway during the eighteenth century. During the 1800s it was used by customers traveling to and from New York City on the Kings Highway and by local farmers. It survives as an excellent example of a tavern/inn of the nineteenth century and represents this early period of development of the village as a crossroads town.

The Tappan Historic District is also historically significant for its association with events of the Revolutionary War. The village was the center of general staff activities of the Continental armies during the war due to its close proximity to New York City.. Although Tappan is close to New York City, it is at what was considered a safe distance from the British occupied area. In addition to general staff activities, Tappan was the site of the imprisonment ('76 House), trial and execution of British Major John Andre. The Grangetown Resolutions were also written and signed in the village on July 4, 1776. These resolutions were a statement denouncing the Intolerable Acts and establishing the idea of a non-importation agreement.

By the end of the Revolutionary War, Tappan was well established as a small rural village. However, many of the earliest temporary structures were gone or falling down and were gradually being replaced by permanent buildings. The period immediately following the Revolutionary War was one of rebuilding. A historic map dating 1780 shows a church and four other buildings on Main Street, the DeWint House to the south and the Tappan Reformed Church Manse to the north. Although the church shown on the 1780 map was replaced in 1835 (built on the same site and still standing), four of the other six buildings in the village at that time still remain in the Tappan Historic District. These buildings include the manse, 98 Main Street, which was the home of the Bogert family (descendents of early Dutch settlers in the area), the '76 House and the William DeVoe store. In addition, the DeWint House still remains to the southeast. The William DeVoe Store was a small commercial shop, built c.1750, which was expanded in 1820 and is presently the Tappan Library. Also on the 1780 map and still present are the old and new burying grounds and the village green.

The 1830s began a period of growth in Tappan. In 1831, a charter was granted to the New York and Erie Railroad and its first president Eleazar Lord (who lived in nearby Sparkill). This charter stipulated that trains for this company were only to operate in New York state. As a result of this, a terminal was established at Tappan Landing (later named Piermont). New York City passengers would arrive at Piermont via ferry. Construction of the railroad began at Piermont in 1831 and that town grew rapidly. By 1841, forty-six miles of track had been laid between Piermont and Goshen. It was probably thought that the prosperity Piermont was enjoying at that time would spill over to neighboring hamlets, and that over optimism prompted new buildings in Tappan to provide homes, inns and boarding houses for railroad builders and later railroad employees.

With the optimism inspired by expected prosperity from railroad business and the selling of previously unavailable land by the Tappan Reformed Church, a small growth in building occurred in the 1830s. Three buildings were constructed in the Greek Revival style in c.1830 in the village. They include the D.D. Campbell House (#34 Oak Tree Road), the Bogert House (#77 Main Street) and the Mabie-Hennion House (#67 Main Street). Five other buildings were constructed in 1835-36, including the new church building, the Blauvelt House (#31 Kings Highway) and the Haring-Smith House (#38 Kings Highway). These three buildings were also designed in the then popular Greek Revival style. The remaining two buildings constructed in 1835 were the Morris Bartow House and William DeVoe House, both built in the Federal style. Altogether eight of the thirty primary buildings in the Tappan Historic District were constructed between 1830 and 1836, six of these in the Greek Revival style.

There is one other fine example of a Greek Revival style building in the Tappan Historic District. The Rockland Academy was built in 1843 on a portion of the church land which was retained by the church after 1835. The Reverend Isaac Cole had the building constructed as a school and he taught there until 1864. In 1694, the first school was organized in the village under the charge of Hermanus Van Huysen. There have been four public school buildings developed through the years, which serviced the village and surrounding farms.[6] The Rockland Academy is the only educational facility which operated through the church and was located in the village. Since 1864 it has occasionally been used as a parsonage; however, it retains a high degree of architectural integrity to its period as a school.

After the slight growth spurt in the early 1830s, building in the village was sporadic for the remainder of the nineteenth century. The promise of prosperity the railroads inspired was never realized. A branch of the Erie Railroad, which went from Piermont Pier to Suffern, was established between 1838 and 1841. This, however, bypassed Tappan and left the revived town out of the mainstream for several years. In 1859, the Northern Railroad of New Jersey, a branch of the Erie, was put through from Jersey City, New Jersey to Sparkill, New York. This ran through the east end of Tappan, serving that community for one-hundred years (passenger service ended in Nyack in 1966; the line still carries freight). The West Shore branch of the New York Central Railroad came through Tappan in 1876. Passenger service was established at that time and continued until it was discontinued in 1959 (freight service has continued to the present day). Despite the addition of these lines to the community, growth in the village was minimal in the later half of the nineteenth century. Those buildings which were erected during that period were associated with the railroad business and were built as hotels, inns/boarding houses, small commercial shops for passengers or cottages for railroad employees.

Many of the buildings constructed in the village in the later half of the nineteenth century were erected in the anticipation of new business to be generated by the railroad or to house railroad employees. The Hennion House was converted to establish a small commercial shop on the first floor in 1860. Another small commercial enterprise was established at #107 Main Street, built c.1880. Several worker's cottages are still extant in the Tappan Historic District.

The last building phase during the period of significance occurred in the early twentieth century. At this time Tappan was suffering from economic distress and had limited growth. There are several buildings which were constructed at this time. Two of these, the Burton Store and Borcher's Stable were designed in the Colonial Revival style. Borcher's Stable was constructed in 1920 to replace a barn, built c.1850, and duplicates it in appearance and location. Other buildings in the Tappan Historic District that had additions in the early twentieth century also reflect the desire to repeat the architectural styles of an earlier time. There is one exception, the garage located behind #107 Main Street, which was built in a modern streamlined style. Baretta's Garage (an automobile repair shop), built in 1920, is unusual in that it is sided entirely with terra-cotta tiles. Each tile is solid in color, although a number of different color tiles were used, including red, red-brown, brown, tan and yellow. Glazed architectural terra-cotta was developed and refined in the 1870s. Originally desirable for its ability to mimic other building materials, in the 1920s and 30s it was also popular for its own decorative qualities and for its ability to create a modern appearance, as well as for its durable, fireproof, light-weight, ad maintenance-free qualities. Although the application of terra-cotta ornament on commercial buildings in New York City was common in the early twentieth century (use of terra-cotta declined after the 1930s), it is unusual to find a small-scale building in a rural environment constructed with terra-cotta. It is also unusual to find a building entirely sided in this material. The tiles on this garage are flat; the decorative modern appearance is achieved through the absence of applied ornament and the uniform appearance provided by the tiles. The only ornamental effect was achieved by the patterning effected in the positioning of various color tiles.

Tappan remained a rural hamlet with little growth until 1942, when Camp Shanks was established. The military post altered the environment of Tappan considerably by occupying 2,040 acres of land which previously had been residences and farms. Although the land use outside the historic district changed at this time, the core of the village (the Tappan Historic District) was affected only by an influx of consumers. The '76 House in particular became a favorite tavern/restaurant of the soldiers stationed at Camp Shanks during World War II.

In addition to the presence of Camp Shanks, Tappan has seen many changes in recent years. The village grew slowly, but steadily until 1910. Growth declined between 1910 and 1920, but the opening of the George Washington Bridge at Fort Lee, New Jersey, reversed the trend and population continued to increase after World War II. The opening of the Tappan Zee Bridge at Nyack, New York, in December, 1955, brought a surge of new interest in the area. However, the bridge and opening of the Palisades Interstate Parkway caused the demise of railroad passenger service that had passed directly through Tappan.

Currently [1989], the remainder of Tappan outside the Tappan Historic District is rapidly being consumed in the modern development sweeping the lower Hudson Valley. The Tappan Historic District, which represents the earliest settlement and development through 1920 remains, surrounded by modern suburban residences of people wishing to escape the urban environment of New York City. Inhabitants of Tappan recognized the cultural heritage this area represented. Tappan was an early community in the state to establish a protective ordinance (Local Law No. 4, Dec. 28, 1965) to preserve the historic character of the area. The Tappan Historic District, which is the center of the eighty-five acres protected by this ordinance, has retained the architecture, scale, harmony and ambience present prior to the construction of shopping malls and suburban housing surrounding it.

In addition to the buildings, there are three contributing sites in the Tappan Historic District. The Village Green, as previously discussed, is historically significant for its association with the earliest settlement of the area. The other two contributing sites include the Greenbush Road Cemetery and the "old burying ground." These two sites and the vault beneath the church contain all the burials in Tappan from settlement in 1686 to the present. While in more recent years, several cemeteries have been established outside the village to service the area, the cemeteries on the Tappan Reformed Church property (including both sites) have served as the principal burying grounds for this community throughout the history of the village. Both the "old" and "new" burying grounds retain an unusually large quantity of eighteenth century markers, some that are high quality examples of early funerary art and engraving.

The Tappan Historic District is one of the few localities in Rockland County that retains intact representative examples of architecture from each phase of its historic development. The Tappan Historic District has maintained its general setting, layout, and streetscape and has survived as an intact example of rural eighteenth-, nineteenth- and early twentieth-century village development.


  1. Tappan is the only colonial settlement on record in which freed slaves were equal partners with settlers of European descent in land transactions.
  2. The eight original patentees alive and in possession of their land included: Cuzin Haring, Garret Steynmelts, John DeVries, Jr., John Stratmaker, Peter Haring, Iden Van Vorst, Laubert Adricensen Smidt and Johannes Gerritsen Blauvelt. A portion of Iden Van Vorst's share of the patent is the location of the center (Main Street) of the village and the historic district.
  3. Daniel DeClark came to Tappan c.1687 and settled on a fifty morgan tract of land (approximately 200 acres) to which he gave the name "spert." His original dwelling may have been the north wing of the house, which is no longer extant. In 1700, he built this one-and-one-half story sandstone house. He sold the house to Johannes DeWint in 1746.
  4. Fred B. Kniffen, "Folk Housing — Key to Diffusion," Annals of the Association of American Geographers, 55, no.4, 1965, pp.549-577.
  5. Stage coach travel was expensive. Fare for one passenger was $8.00 for a one-way trip from Albany to New York City in 1803. Although the river was preferred most of the time, in the winter stage coach travel was often the only transportation available.
  6. Although education was established in 1694 in Tappan, it is uncertain where this took place. Hermanus Van Huysen may have taught classes in private residences or other public buildings. The first documented school was built in 1711, located on Greenbush Road northeast of the Tappan Historic District. This building has suffered from extensive alterations and is now a private residence. In 1860, the second school building, a one-room school house, was constructed west of the district by Cornelius A. Mabie. In the late-nineteenth century the third school, a lager building with two rooms and two teachers, was built, also outside of the district. This building burned in 1908. In 1910, the fourth school was established (also outside the district). It is now [1989] vacant and falling into disrepair.


Kniffen, Fred B. "Folk Housing — Key to Diffusion." Annals of the Association of American Geographers 55 (1965): 549-577.

Talman, Wilfred B. Tappan 300 Years, 1686-1986. Tappan: The Tappantown Historical Society, 1989.

Jettner, Alicia A., New York State Office of Parks, Recreation & Historic Preservation, Tappan Historic District, Rockland County New York, nomination document, 1989, National Park Service, National Register of Historic Places, Washington, D.C.

Nearby Neighborhoods

Street Names
Kings Highway • Main Street • Washington Street

Home | Whats New | Site Index | Contact
Privacy | Disclaimer

Copyright © 1997-2024, The Gombach Group