History Matters in Clarkstown

BY MARIA MIRAKAJ BROWNSELL

Credit: Nyack Library

Recently at a town board meeting in Clarkstown, The Historical Society of Rockland County spoke about a property purchased by the town of Clarkstown in September of 2011. This property located on nine acres of land on Germonds Road in West Nyack is known as the Vanderbilt-Budke-Traphagen House.

“This house is one of our treasures and hopefully can be saved. Dutch Colonial houses such as this one are what lends character to our region and can be found nowhere else in the United States,” said Marianne B. Leese, Senior Historian of the Historical Society of Rockland County.

This sandstone house is said to be the second oldest home in Rockland County. Information is not clear on exactly who built the house but it is speculated that the Jacob Vanderbilt born in 1768 inherited the house from his grandfather who was also Jacob Vanderbilt. Upon examination of the construction materials of the house, author Rosalie Fellows Bailey estimates the date of the house around 1730 when the elder Vanderbilt moved to Rockland County.

“Notice how far up the gable end, the rough stonework is carried, the carefully laid stones at the corners, the small windows, and the steepness of the stable roof. Mud plastering, split laths and hand wrought nails are other evidences of its early age,” she wrote.

The original Vanderbilts had eight children in their Germonds Road home. Their third son later lived in the home with his wife and their seven children. His daughter Ann then inherited the house and lived there until sometime in the 1850s after she was widowed. The house was then sold to Henry Shriver for a short time until he sold it in 1868 to George Henry Budke Sr. from New York City.

His son, George H. Budke Jr., became the foremost historian for Rockland County. Budke compiled an extensive collection comprising of old land papers, Native American deeds, patents, surveys, and maps according to author John H. Bennett. In 1933, The New York Public Library Manuscript Division purchased the majority of his findings such as church records, wills, family histories, copies of tombstone inscriptions, and extracts from early newspapers.

If it weren’t for Budke and all his research, much of what we know about Rockland County’s past would not exist. Through his hard work, the history is now available for all to learn about, even in our local libraries.

Parks & Recreation crew performs repair work on Vanderbilt House after Hurricane Sandy damage

“All of us who have interested in the historical past of Rockland County owe Mr. George H. Budke a great debt of gratitude for his untiring efforts in hunting down, collecting, indexing and summarizing the written remains of Rockland County’s heritage,” wrote Bennett.

In 1934 the house was sold to John C. Traphagen. The house remained in the family until his son, Hugh Maxwell Traphagen, passed away two years ago at eighty-three years old.

The Town of Clarkstown purchased the house in 2011 after the house remained vacant for more than eighty years in order to preserve the history and avoid the tragedy of the Teaberry Port house that was recently torn down.

“Clarkstown’s plans for the entire property are in the incubator stage since there are many options and suggestions for this parcel, from parkland to farmland, sports or nature trail use. The fact that it is surrounded by Germonds Park is a big plus for any future plans from a standpoint of access and proximity of park services,” explained Joel J. Epstein.

Code and Zoning Enforcement Officer/Community Liaison for the Town of Clarkstown.

There are three phases for the house. The first phase is mostly about fixing parts of the house to avoid further deterioration. The roof will be replaced and any holes in the walls or foundation will be fixed. There are no utilities in the house and much of the inside walls and such are destroyed. This phase also includes the consideration of fundraising efforts with a “Save the Vanderbilt-Budke House” campaign as the town is already a member of the Rockland Community Foundation.

After the building is in a safe condition, phase two will then go into effect where the options of what to do with the building will be explored. Through the input of the town Historic Review Board, Parks and Recreation, the Historical Society of Rockland County, and the Heritage of West Nyack the future will be determined, with regards to funding.

The final stage will be carrying out the use of the building, including staffing of the space. It may end up as a place to look at and explore or used for the public in a different manner.

“Regardless of the future use of this scenic nine acre parcel, it is the intention of the Town Board to preserve the historic ‘Vanderbilt-Budke’ house on the property,” said Epstein.