This is Tappan, a hamlet 12 miles north of New York City and two and a half miles west of the
Hudson. It was settled by sixteen families - three of the men were free blacks - on a land patent
of 1686-7 obtained from the Tappan Indians of the Lenape tribe and Governor Dongan of New
York. These first settlers of Tappan were thrifty Dutch farmers. It is still conjecture, however,
whether the name Tappan is of Dutch or Indian origin.
Although Tappan has grown for over 300 years, much of its original character and charm
remain. One can see a unique cross-section of New York State architecture - from the DeWint
House, built in 1700 of Dutch brick and native red sandstone, to a split-level home built in the
1960s of modern materials. Tappan is a living town where history has happened.
In September 1780, General Washington had his headquarters in the DeWint House when
Benedict Arnold, commander of the fort at West Point, almost made good his plan to sell out to
the British. Had he succeeded, the British would have controlled the "Gibraltar on the Hudson"
and cut the rebellious colonies in two. Washington might then have lost the war. But British
Major John Andre, returning to the New York City from meeting Arnold at Haverstraw, was
apprehended in Tarrytown with damning evidence in his boot - the plans of West Point. Andre
was brought to Washington at Tappan.
Here Andre was imprisoned in Mabie's house, the Old 76 House, tried in the Dutch Reformed
Church by a military tribunal of fourteen generals, and hanged as a spy on October 2, 1780.
Yoast Mabie's house, that once stood on the site of the Bartow House, also figured in history on
July 4, 1774 as the site of signing of the Orangetown Resolutions. This document was an open
protest to the king and a bid for independence - ideas incorporated in our Declaration of
Independence, signed two years later to the day.
At the end of the war, in May of 1783, Sir Guy Carleton, the British commander, met with
Washington at the DeWint House to sign orders for peaceful evacuation of British troops from
New York City. The DeWint House, now owned and maintained as George Washington's
Headquarters at Tappan by the Free and Accepted Masons of the State of New York, was
dedicated as a National Historic Landmark by Secretary of Interior Stewart L. Udall, September
29, 1966. It is open to the public, 10 to 4 daily.
Tappan's historic sites lie within an 85-acre historic district established by an Orangetown
ordinance - first law of its kind in a New York State town - signed in the DeWint House,
December 28, 1966. In 1993 a central section of the historic district was placed on the State
and National Register of Historic Places.
In today's world of quick change Tappan is a rarity. The town is not a restoration. You will find
the sites authentic, standing where history placed them, altered only slightly by time. Here it is
possible for you to retrace the past with only a short walk.
|Mabie House - Old 76 House
Historic marker on Tappan Green near the Reformed Church
An old view of Oak Tree Road with the Tar
Barrell Elm in the center. (click to enlarge)
|Tappantown Historical Society, PO Box 71, Tappan, NY 10983
Tappan: A Walk Through History
|Historic Tappan, painted by Jane Noyes Toan, 1978