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Yorktown is Tearing Itself Down

Out town is throwing away or selling our historic resources and the many benefits they could provide.

It is not an exaggeration to say that the Knapp family of Yorktown built and sustained our community since its earliest days. They served in the Revolutionary and Civil Wars, farmed the land, became notable figures in the industrialization of New York and were active members of the First Presbyterian Church where most of them are buried. Their homestead has stood for over two hundred years at 3372 Old Crompond Road, a venerable witness to Yorktown’s history and reslience that should be treasured.

Instead, it will be a pile of twisted wood and rubble in a few days unless our Town Board and Planning Department exercise their duty to protect historic resources as outlined in the Comprehensive Plan and work with the developer and the Yorktown Historical Society to save this house for eventual use on another site. 

This sad situation is not the fault of Neil DeLuca, the developer who is building the Crompond Crossing complex across from the Staple Shopping Center on route 202. He was unaware of the historic character of this house and has offered the town the amount he would be spending to demolish and dump the house to get it off his site. Frankly, he would like to see a positive outcome in this case. The Town Board and Planning Department, on the other hand, have no excuse since the house was listed in an inventory of historic structures compiled by an architectural firm as part of the Comprehensive Plan.  

Unfortunately, they have done absolutely nothing to achieve a positive resolution to this situation since this issue was raised last winter.

A recent inspection of the house after the last tenants left has confirmed that under the present aluminum siding, modern interior paneling and poorly built additions, an oak frame of early craftsmanship still remains. Each of the pegged tongue and groove joints of the roof rafters were individually cut and numbered and, based on what has been uncovered so far, the same is true of the wall framing as well. Both can be dismantled.

The frieze windows and doorway with side and transom lights from an early 19th century remodeling still exist and can be saved as well as the early brick fireplaces, which have been dated by experts to the mid 1700s, since the old mortar is very soft.

The amount of money required to record, dismantle and preserve these materials would require only a small fraction of the funds obtained from the sale of the Adams-Bernstein property on route 132 that was bequeathed to the town for use by the Yorktown Museum but was allowed to deteriorate and sold for a fraction of its original value to a private contractor.  

Other towns in our region recognize the spiritual, educational and monetary value in preserving what they have left of their past and have moved structures when necessary working with private groups and corporate sponsors.  Why can’t Yorktown? Isn’t that what our town motto is all about? 

The lack of electricity in my own frigid and dark home after the recent storm has made me appreciate the hardships that the early Knapps endured. Their lives and their world should not be forgotten. We must act now to preserve our history. If we wait for even a day this house-- and another bit of what made Yorktown special-- will be in a dumpster.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Dan Thaler November 08, 2012 at 10:47 AM
In the 70s I help dismantle a balloon frame building that was the oldest house in Deposit NY. After the plaster had been removed each beam was numbered. This way it could be easily reassembled. This is obviously more labor intensive than pushing it down with an excavator, but perhaps the contractor can be convinced to do this. The problem would be to find a dry place to store the wood till someone decides to reassemble it.
Jean-Francois de Laperouse November 08, 2012 at 01:15 PM
Thanks for your comment. I have one offer of storage in a large unused horse barn in Yorktown and am pursuing others. The developer will be praised now and remembered for years to come if we can save the frame and other elements from the house so it would be worth a little extra effort now.
William Primavera November 08, 2012 at 02:03 PM
Jean-Francois, since it seems that we have more time now, can't Neil's workers be utilized to disassemble the frame and other elements if we start now? Am I correct in assuming that the bricks from the fireplaces and chimneys can't be saved? Or can they?
Bob Rohr November 08, 2012 at 05:02 PM
All of these groups that spriung up to halt the construction of a retail store to preserve the "Historic Beatuty" of our connumity seem to have vaporized on this issue.. In this case we have a true Historic treasure and not a peep. I wonder why?
Jean-Francois de Laperouse November 08, 2012 at 06:39 PM
I don't really know how much time is available. Mr. DeLuca indicated to me last month that the demolition would happen at the end of October just after the tenants moved out. There has been a slight reprieve. The problem is that no meaningful inspection of the house could take place until the tenants were gone. Now we can confirm that the house is worth saving but dismantling it will take longer than a regular demolition. I am sure, however, that everyone involved will have an enduring sense of satisfaction if the house is saved.
Jean-Francois de Laperouse November 08, 2012 at 06:52 PM
It is stated in the Comprehensive Plan (p. 6-2) that 82% of respondents felt that historic preservation is important/very important to them. Support is there but hard to reach. Many people didn't notice this house since it was hidden behind a tall fence and pine trees but reconstructed on another site with the terrible alterations removed it could be an attractive symbol of Yorktown's past. Mr. Thaler and Mr. Rohr, please consider letting the town board know of your support for preservation. All we need at this point is relatively small amount of funding. The rest would be raised privately.
Dr. Edwin Albert Pell II Ph.D. November 09, 2012 at 07:29 PM
All The Knapp House should be retained, restored and treasured in perpetuity. Halt demolition. Who can make this happen? Thank you Ed Pell, Ph.D.

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