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Energy Upgrades Help the Tarrytown Historical Society Preserve Its History

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January 23, 2022

— By Lily Carey

Regulating the temperature and climate of your home is no easy task – especially for a historic building like the Jacob Odell house, home of The Historical Society serving Sleepy Hollow and Tarrytown.

“We have lots of really delicate objects,” said Sara Mascia, Executive Director of the Historical Society. “A lot of these materials need really appropriate environments for them to be preserved in.”

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The Historical Society preserves centuries-old artifacts in the Jacob Odell house, from its first floor historical exhibits to its library full of local records and documents. All of the Society’s artifacts were made, used, and even worn locally.

Yet preserving these artifacts in an ideal climate is a major concern, says Mascia. Built between 1848 and 1850, the Jacob Odell house originally used an old and inefficient boiler, and had no air conditioning. Without proper heating and cooling, the Historical Society’s artifacts risked being damaged.

This all changed several years ago, when the Historical Society heard about the option of heating and cooling with clean, efficient heat pumps. As a not-for-profit organization, the Historical Society received a grant to make energy efficiency upgrades from the New York State Thruway Authority during the construction of the new Tappan Zee Bridge.

“We were able to put solar panels up on our roof, and also heat pumps,” said Mascia. “The heat pumps provide both heat and air conditioning, which is great for an old house like this.

Doug Fox, energy advisor, in front of the outdoor unit for the heat pump at the Historical Society

During the process, the Historical Society consulted with the Tarrytown Environmental Advisory Council (TEAC), a group of volunteers that works with the town on environmental goals. The TEAC helped the Society in deciding what types of renewable energy to look at for their project, and has helped many other homeowners with related home energy efficiency projects.

Mascia emphasized that “preserving the original fabric of the house” was especially important for the Historical Society.

Fortunately, the contractors were able to install the Historical Society’s heat pumps behind the walls of the building, regulating temperature without disturbing the house’s character. The air-source heat pumps used in the Jacob Odell house are typically installed onto the side of the building, and use a compressor to heat air from the outdoors and move it indoors.

“We were able to create an environment here that not only protects the historic fabric of the building, but makes us a little bit greener,” said Mascia.

By combining the air-source heat pump system with the solar panels installed on the roof, the Historical Society was even able to lower their energy costs. Mascia has especially noticed how the project combined the Historical Society’s goals of preservation, sustainability, and lowering energy costs.

The Jacob Odell house is just one of hundreds of buildings across Westchester to have upgraded its energy systems through state grant programs. Information and assistance for homeowners to make similar energy upgrades are available through EnergySmart Rivertowns, a partnership between Sustainable Westchester, NYSERDA, and the governments of Tarrytown, Irvington, and Sleepy Hollow.

Eligible homeowners can receive incentives, rebates and financing assistance and connect with contractors to install heat pumps, insulation, water heaters and more in their own homes through EnergySmart programs. TEAC has also partnered with EnergySmart Rivertowns to spread the word about these programs and help homeowners in the Tarrytown area complete their own projects. 

Overall, these programs proved to be incredibly helpful to the Historical Society and the Jacob Odell house, said Mascia.

“This whole system has helped us to preserve a lot of our artifacts and objects,” she said. “I can’t recommend it enough.”


If you’re interested in making similar energy upgrades to your own home – or if you want to volunteer to spread the word about these programs – contact Sustainable Westchester’s EnergySmart Rivertowns at EnergySmartHomes@SustainableWestchester.org or contact TEAC for more information.

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