BY ROBERT KNIGHT
ROCKLAND COUNTY TIMES
Two New York State legislators came to West Nyack Monday bearing gifts of gold for Clarkstown officials and historic preservationists – state grant money to help restore two local historic homes owned by the town, one of which is reportedly the second-oldest house in Rockland County.
State Senator David Carlucci and Assemblyman Kenneth Zebrowski Jr. told a gathering of nearly two dozen local officials and residents at the 10 a.m. ceremony on Germonds Road that they are jointly working to secure funds to restore the 1728 Vanderbilt/Budke house and the adjoining 1820 Traphagen House.
The two men did not specify whether the money would come from existing funds within state agency budgets or from legislation they would introduce to gain additional monies in the state’s annual budget. Nor did Carlucci or Zebrowski indicate how much money they hoped to gain for the restoration project, but town officials said they are hoping for about $100,000 to get the work started.
Clarkstown Supervisor George Hoehmann was effusive as he stood in front of the two historic homes and said how proud he was that his township had acquired them from a developer and halted their certain destruction, and was now fully committed to their total restoration and re-opening as a museum and community center.
The two homes sit on a nine-acre parcel of vacant former farmland on the west side of Germonds Road, midway between Bardonia and Parrott Roads. The farm was originally part of a much larger operation of several hundred acres that stretched from Route 304 to the Hackensack River, and from Germonds Road south nearly to Old Nyack Turnpike.
The four-room stone house, handmade from quarried local red sandstone and huge tree trunks cut into logs, began about 1728 as a one-room cabin. For over a century it was the home of the Vanderbilt family, ancestors of those who decades later became famous millionaire business, civic and community leaders, and whose spectacular 19th century mansions, stretching from New England to the Old South, are major tourist attractions today.
Hoehmann hopes that a restored Vanderbilt home in West Nyack will be the centerpiece of a similar attraction, putting Clarkstown in the equally enviable position of being a major tourist destination.
In the mid-19th century the Vanderbilts sold the farm to George Budke Sr., who continued rising fruits, vegetables and animals there, and raised his own family in that same tiny sandstone home, now enlarged to four rooms on the ground level, a root cellar, and a huge attic.
His son, George H. Budke, would become Rockland County’s official historian around the turn of the century, a title he held for nearly half a century until he sold the property just before World War II and moved to New York City. The buyer was the Traphagen family, who continued farming the land until the death of the last heir, Hugh Traphagen, a few years ago.
Unlike the Vanderbilts and the Budkes, the Traphagen’s apparently never lived in the stone house, but preferred the comfort of the much larger white frame house closer to Germonds Road. That home, with more than a dozen rooms, began about 1820 as a single room cabin and was enlarged in the 1850s, 1870s and early and mid 20th century. It was occupied by a caretaker as recently as two years ago, and is in excellent condition.
The only thing preventing its occupancy and use today is the fact that asbestos was discovered inside, and must be thoroughly removed and remediated prior to human re-usage. While Clarkstown works on that project, the town is also upgrading the utilities such as water, sewer, gas and electric, doing some of the work with in-house labor and contracting out for more complex efforts.
The older Vanderbilt house, however, is a far different matter. Neglected and unoccupied for nearly 80 years, it has deteriorated badly. Restoration experts will have their work cut out for them.