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.