When 10-year-old Mira from Berkeley CA was assigned a school project related to colonial history and the middle colonies, she began by doing a search on Google, which yielded a great amount of information about the Tappen House on Green Street in Kingston’s 1658 Stockade National Historic District. Below is a description of her project which included creating an 1/8″ = 1′-0″ scale model of the Tappen House. In August, Mira and several members of her family traveled to Kingston and through arrangements made by the Friends of Historic Kingston, were thrilled to actually visit the Tappen House.
We hope Mira’s research project will inspire teachers locally to use the resources of Kingston’s 1658 Stockade National Historic District as a living laboratory.
My name is Mira, and I live in Berkeley, California. This year, my fifth grade class had a research project to write an essay, recite a speech, and make a creative project about anything having to do with the colonial period. At first I wanted to research the New England colonies, but I learned that most of the people who lived there were not open to other religions besides their own. So instead I chose to learn about the Middle Atlantic colonies because of their religious tolerance.
For my creative project, I thought about making a small cardboard model of a whole colonial town, but since I could not find any pictures of one on the web I decided to just make a house. My dad found that on the Library of Congress Historic American Buildings Survey website there were amazing pictures, floor plans, and facades of historical colonial houses. A facade is a drawing of a single exterior face of a building. I looked at all of the examples from the middle colonies but almost none of them had facades of all the sides of the houses. In fact, the only one that did is called the Tappen House (or Vandenburgh-Hasbrouck House on the website). In addition, it looked relatively simple to make and cozy. It is located in Kingston in the Old Stockade District.
So I turned to the computer and downloaded all of the Tappen House’s drawings, pictures, and historical and descriptive data sheets. Then I put them in a project binder along with other pictures of the house on the web. After that, I basically made a model kit of the house using the computer program Adobe Photoshop. Next, I printed the finished elevations off the computer, glued them to cardboard, cut them out, and then attached the pieces together to make a model.
As I read all thirteen of the historical and descriptive data pages about the Tappen House, I learned that it was burned down by the British in 1777 in the Revolutionary War and then rebuilt. The Tappen House is two stories high plus it has an attic and basement to store the harvest. It is special because it is one of the few old houses left in America with exterior walls that are made of stone rubble. Also, the Tappen House is possibly the oldest house in Kingston and was the first post office there. It is named after Cornelius Tappen who lived in it and was the deputy county clerk in 1777. He saved many records when the British burned Kingston. After reading about its history, this house wasn’t just a couple of drawings anymore. It was far across the country in Kingston, New York with a history and real people who lived in it. The Tappen House was really coming alive to me.
Even after my project was turned in I still wanted to know more about the house. My dad discovered the Historic Friends of Kingston website and learned that there was a tour of the Old Stockade District. Every summer my family and I go back East to visit our relatives. It just so happened that we would be in Connecticut the day of the next tour. We thought that it might be possible to drive to Kingston and experience the Tappen House in real life. After convincing our relatives to take us to Kingston, I became really excited. Then my dad called up the Friends of Historic Kingston to see if it would be possible to take a tour of the inside of the Tappen House. He explained about my project and how much I wanted to keep learning about the Tappen House. The answer was‚ I think it’s owned by a bank, and I don’t think that can happen. I’ll still look into it though. Four days before going to Kingston, we got a call that we would be able to see the inside of the Tappen House. I squealed and jumped up and down in eager anticipation. It would be such a great opportunity because this house is not open to the public.
This is me in front of the Tappen House. It is a ‚Äúsaltbox‚Äù style house which means that it is shaped like an old fashioned saltbox. It became a saltbox after colonial times when it was rebuilt and the lean-to in the back was added.
While we were in the Tappen House, I realized that it was bigger than I thought and was amazed by how thick the exterior walls were. This is because they are made of stone. The Tappen House used to be one room per floor, but it gradually had more rooms added. It was fun imagining activities going on in the house and how the furniture was arranged.
Aside from visiting the Tappen House, I looked inside the Persen House, which was interesting because I got to see some artifacts of the colonial time period that had been excavated from underneath it. I also went in the Hoffman House attic where I saw stairs going to the roof. In colonial times, men would have watched out for enemies through a little hatch up there. I also went on the walking tour of the Old Stockade District and got to see many other historic houses.
Here I am next to the living room fireplace. This would have been the main family hearth. Originally, this room was the only one on the first floor, but eventually the house had more rooms added on to it.
Visiting Old Kingston is a wonderful way to experience American history. Living in California, old stone houses are very unusual. Even though I didn’t make a model of a Middle Colonial town, I got to visit one which was even better. I am really glad I studied the Tappen House because it led me to the history of a very important time when America was defining itself. The Tappen House inspires me to learn more about American history so I may have more awesome adventures like this one in the future.