Clarkstown residents brought dozens of items of town history to Town Hall Saturday in the first of several planned collection days seeking artifacts of local history for use in celebrating the town’s 225th anniversary this fall.
Clarkstown was created in 1791 when it and Ramapo split off from the Town of Haverstraw to form separate townships. Ramapo occupied the western portion of Rockland County while Clarkstown took the central portion, centered along both sides of the Hackensack River.
Clarkstown’s actual creation date was in March of this year, but the celebration is being held in October as part of the county’s participation in the statewide “local history month” observance. That celebration is being coordinated locally by the Historical Society of Rockland County, in conjunction with several smaller historical societies, museums and organizations throughout Rockland.
In Clarkstown, the lead agency is the town’s 225th anniversary committee, formed by the Town Board in early spring.
That 15-member agency meets weekly every Friday at 1 p.m. in a third-floor conference room at Town Hall in New City, and has been busy collecting Clarkstown’s history and determining how best to publicize and display it to the general public.
One such effort is being spearheaded by Boy Scout Troop 97 of New City, which is taking the lead in building display cases for collected artifacts at Town Hall. This involves searching out, collecting and documenting hundreds of artifacts from local residents, businesses and organizations, identifying their history; and writing descriptions of the items to place with them in the cases they are constructing.
The display cases will be permanently mounted on the walls of the front lobby of the main floor at Town Hall, located at 10 Maple Avenue in downtown New City, where they will remain on permanent exhibition.
Leading the effort for the Scouts is 17-year-old Carrington Gregori, who is making the celebration his Eagle Scout project for his 100-member troop, one of the largest in Rockland County.
Gregori already has more than a dozen fellow scouts assisting him in various phases of the large-scale project, and several of them showed up last Saturday, along with several more adult advisors and members of the celebration committee, to receive actual loans and donations from town residents and organizations.
There will be several more collection days as well from now through October, most of them to be held either at Town Hall or at senior citizens clubs and other large organizations scattered around the township which Gregori and his fellow Scouts will now start visiting to help publicize the project.
For individuals interested in donating, and groups that would like a Scout visit to describe the project, Gregori can be contacted for dates, times and locations at home at 845-825-3781 or reached by e-mail at email@example.comMessages for Gregori can also be left with Paula Tobin, clerk to the Town Board, at 639-2056. Tobin also coordinates the committee meetings, and can be contacted for upcoming dates and other activities.
Typical of items brought in Saturday were a collection of original maps, surveys, architectural drawings and other paper documents relating to the history of the Reed Farm and its later reincarnation as the Tolstoy Foundation for Russian refugees on Lake road in Valley Cottage, brought in by Robert Parsekian. He said he obtained the items from the estate of Mrs. Sarah Reed after she died, and had never been sure about what to do with them.
“I sensed they had historical value to the community,” Parsekian said, “but there was no local organization interested in preserving them. When I heard about this collection drive, I figured this was the best place for them in perpetuity, right here in Clarkstown Town Hall, where the farm and the refugee center have played such an important role.”
A much smaller but nonetheless fascinating item was an early Rockland Gas Company bill brought in by Risa Hoag of Nanuet. The bill was in the name of her parents, for their Nanuet home, and described Rockland Gas (the forerunner) as the main provider of natural gas throughout the county, and with several retail stores located in local communities selling gas and electric appliances such as stoves, refrigerators and light bulbs.
Betty Nussbaum of New City brought in several items of early hamlet history, including an iron shoe mold from the Eberling Shoe Factory, located in the 19th and early 20th century on New Hempstead Road in downtown New City, where the Rockland County Office Building is now located.
Nussbaum also donated an early glass milk bottle from the Strawtown Dairy, run by the Kolke family on Strawtown Road in West Nyack, now the site of a 1980’s housing development.
Several other items have been donated by members of the 225th anniversary committee, such as Larry Kigler of New City who weekly contributes post cards, photographs, traffic signs and a wide variety of historical objects pertaining to Clarkstown’s history.
All of the items will be on permanent display at Town Hall, in the cases being built by Gregori. In conjunction with the lobby displays, the current display there of current and former town officials is expected to be moved to interior walls of the adjacent town Board meeting auditorium. Anyone with knowledge of photographs or portraits of any of those earlier officials dating as far back as 1791 is also urged to contact Tobin so the committee can follow up and obtain copies.
In September the anniversary committee will begin a publicity campaign to announced the grand opening of the new exhibit, and events connected with it such as illustrated history talks, lectures, area guided tours and similar activities throughout October and the fall.