With the late November demolition of Teaberry Port House of West Nyack still fresh in their minds, more 20 Historical Society of Rockland County members, wearing large red and white buttons declaring "History Matters," attended Tuesday’s Clarkstown Town Board meeting to ask about plans for the Vanderbilt/Budke/Traphagen House.
The house on Germonds Road in West Nyack is on property acquired by the town in 2011 as part of its Open Space Initiative.
Historical Society President Clare Sheridan told the board, “Part of the mission of the Historical Society is to promote the preservation, restoration, continuing and adaptive use of the County's historic buildings and sites. So we are here tonight to fulfill this mission and to express our concern that historic structures that have been designated as historic by the Clarkstown’s own Historic Review Board have been and are at risk of harm.”
Clarkstown Zoning & Code Enforcement Officer Joel Epstein said he expected town parks and environmental control department employees to take care of some rehabilitation work on the county’s second oldest house. He noted significant funding would be necessary for restoration. The sandstone house was the family home of George H. Budke Jr., Rockland’s best-known historian.
Sheridan spoke about Budke’s prominence.
“He was Rockland County’s premier historian and probably did more to assemble historical material about Rockland County's history than any other single person,” she said. “The New York Public Library, Manuscript Division, purchased much of his vast collection in 1933.”
Sheridan asked the board to be creative and proactive with its long range plans for the Vanderbilt house. She asked them to look at how the Town of Orangetown includes historic buildings, programs and staff in their budget.
“Historic preservation champions and protects places that tell the stories of our past,” she said. “It enhances our sense of community and brings us closer together. It protects the memories of people, places, and events that make up the history of our community.”
Jim Cropsey of New City, also a historical society trustee, spoke about the house’s ideal location near a stream, remnants of one or more mills and within walking distance of four schools. He said the town’s top priority should be to prevent further deterioration of the house.
Winston Perry, president of the Historical Society of the Nyacks, viewed the house as the “most venerable landmark in West Nyack.”
One New City resident who also lives in a sandstone house dating back to the 1800s criticized the town board for abandoning the Terryberry Port House and allowing destruction of part of the local heritage.
“You and United Water bear responsibility for this,” he said.
Supervisor Alex Gromack asked the county Historical Society to work with the town’s Historical Review Board and help with applying for grants.
“We view this as a very important historical structure in the town of Clarkstown,” said Gromack.
He also noted the town is a participant in the Rockland Community Foundation so people can make donations specifically earmarked to help preserve the Vanderbilt House.
Councilwoman Stephanie Hausner said the Historical Review Board is putting together ideas for the future of the Vanderbilt house and suggested a joint meeting between the boards in February.