Op-Ed: Saving a Vital Piece of History in Tarrytown: The Acker Farmhouse
by Richard Rose, Tarrytown Village Historian
Living in a community like Tarrytown attracts residents who value the charm and atmosphere of a historic village. Tarrytown is full of life with its restaurants, RiverWalk Park, Music Hall and most importantly its history. We can walk the Main Street Historic District, the pathways around the lakes and soon, the new Mario Cuomo Bridge, eat at great restaurants, and attend houses of worship of our choice.
And, now we have the opportunity to landmark a cottage, originally built on the Frederick Philipse Manor Estate. This estate initially extended from the Bronx to Croton, consisting of a large portion of Westchester County. The cottage was built in the Old Dutch style and has been expanded twice since its original construction in approximately 1750. This is the oldest building standing in Tarrytown today and is owned by the Unification Church. The cottage is located at 740 South Broadway, just north of Taxter Road on what was once the Old Broad Way.
It has been substantiated through extensive research that Steven Acker and his family were tenant farmers who lived in this cottage. Acker was a hero of the American Revolutionary War and is recognized at the Revolutionary War Monument in the Sleepy Hollow Cemetery. A later owner, John Forkill, was a friend of Washington Irving who lived nearby at the end of Sunnyside Lane. Irving spent time with his friend Forkill at the cottage.
The Philipse family members were Loyalists during the Revolutionary War, and, consequently, their entire estate was confiscated by the Patriots and sold at auction. Jacob Van Tassel then purchased the property containing the cottage and several other buildings. Since he was also a tenant living on the estate, he had the right of first refusal at the property auction in the mid-1780’s.
This cottage is unique because it helps us remember and understand the importance of the common man in the development of Tarrytown and Westchester County. They did the physical labor that made the area economically successful. Without the average worker and farmer, the great estates could not become so productive. They were the soldiers and the laborers.
The Tarrytown Board of Trustees has held two public hearings to consider landmarking this property. This is the process by which landmarking has taken place for other buildings and neighborhoods in order to protect their historic nature. The Historical Society and many other community members support our maintaining this important property as part of our rich local heritage.