“The Old Dutch Church is a community treasure,” noted the Reverend Jeffrey Gargano, Pastor of the Reformed Church of the Tarrytowns. “Built by Frederick Philipse in 1685 for himself and his tenant farmers, many of whom were enslaved Africans, people have come from all over the world to visit it, thanks to Washington Irving.”
But, not every visitor has been able to have equal access to our local historic destination. This is why Rev. Gargano and his congregants, as stewards of this historic and cultural landmark, are asking the community to help raise funds so that all those who wish to see the Church’s historic interior, worship in its pews, and participate in the church’s many cultural events will soon be able to have that ability. As Rev. Gargano says, “Now is our opportunity to finish what our forebears have begun, expanding the Church so it is accessible for everyone.”
In the old days, the road was at grade level, so worshippers could simply walk up both paths leading to the church, and those with mobility challenges could do so without difficulty. But, as North Broadway was re-graded and expanded for the car traffic that was replacing outmoded carriages, revisions to the Church’s exterior approach made it impossible for those with physical impediments to enter without extreme hardship.
Rev. Gargano’s narrative describes why this accessibility project is so important: “I recently officiated at a wedding in the Church, and one of the bridesmaids had a severe disability. She had to be carried up the stairs by others, which was not only humiliating and embarrassing for her but disconcerting for all of us at the service.”
Currently, the narrow exterior landing is unsafe and needs to be expanded; uneven stones provide the only stairway access; no ramp exists for the disabled, the elderly or those in wheelchairs; and outdoor lighting is inadequate. Cemetery paths are not compliant with the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA), railings need repair, and portions of the building’s masonry are crumbling. These conditions and more necessitate bridging “The Old Dutch,” as it is lovingly called, from its 17th century origins into the 21st century.
And fund-raising to reach the $350,000 goal has begun with a generous bequest of $152,000 from the estate of Julia, Paul and John Vydarey who were life-long members of the Reformed Church of the Tarrytowns. In addition, over $26,000 has been raised from proceeds garnered at the Old Dutch Church Fest. The Friends of the Old Dutch Church will be seeking grants through the ADA, other community charitable organizations, and individuals who wish to give to the non-profit 501C3 through crowd-sourcing on the gofundme.com/odc-accessibility-project site.
Revered Sleepy Hollow resident, Len Andrew, Esq,, will co-chair the accessibility project with Rev. Gargano. Kamen Tall Architects PC, a restoration, preservation and design firm based in Ossining that specializes in historic building preservation will be designing the project work, with Joanne Tall as architect. Hudson Design Build, based in Peekskill, will be the project manager. And, Ossining landscape designer Elizabeth Hand-Fry, who specializes in native species planting, will determine the horticultural design.
Renovation, restoration and preservation will begin with a ground-breaking after Easter so that worship will not be interrupted. And, work is expected to be completed by the end of summer, 2017. Naming opportunities for donations to such individual projects as portions of the path to Washington Irving’s gravesite, benches and garden areas will be noted by discreet plaques throughout the exterior site.
Another giving opportunity will bring in the New Year. Save the date to hear the nationally and internationally recognized Vera String Quartet, on January 3 at 7:30 p.m. in the Reformed Church of the Tarrytowns for a benefit performance. All proceeds will benefit the Old Dutch Church of Sleepy Hollow Accessibility Project.
The community is also encouraged to join the Friends of the Old Dutch Church mailing list at: odcfriends.org, and gofundme.com/odc-accessibility-project where you can learn how to support the preservation, renovation, and maintenance of our local treasure for future generations.