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Yorktown Landmarks Commission Celebrates National Preservation Month

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Town Supervisor Ilan Gilbert, right, presents a proclamation to Dr. Murray Brennan. Credits: Terry Naumann
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Hundreds enjoy a piece of Yorktown’s history at the home of Dr. Murray Brennan. Credits: Terry Naumann
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A crowd of more than 100 local, county and state dignitaries, history buffs, old house owners and members of the public joined Yorktown’s Landmarks Preservation Commission on Sunday, June 10, to celebrate the Hallock House, one of the town’s historic treasures. Owner Dr. Murray Brennan has worked tirelessly to preserve it for the past 40 years. The Yorktown Landmarks Preservation Commission organized and presented this first-time event as part of the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s “This Place Matters” Campaign, a 2018 initiative encouraging people to celebrate the places that are meaningful to them and to their communities.

Yorktown’s Landmarks Preservation Commission Chair Lynn Briggs introduced Town Supervisor Ilan Gilbert, who read a proclamation honoring Dr. Brennan. An internationally esteemed oncologic surgeon scientist, Brennan and his family have lived in the home for more than 40 years. Gilbert praised Brennan’s continued hands-on involvement with the restoration of his home and grounds. Brennan’s property has also been named one of Yorktown’s Homes of Historic Distinction. As Gilbert advised his audience, “Take a stroll through this historic place and travel back in time, keeping in mind how important these fast-disappearing sites are to our American legacy.”

Located on Broad Street in the town’s center, the Hallock House—as it has been named for its original inhabitants—once provided an industrial nexus for Revolutionary War-era Yorktown. At one time, the now 12-acre property contained grist and saw mills, as well as a forge and blacksmith shop, all powered by an 18th century waterfall and dam, both of which are being lovingly—and authentically—restored by Brennan. During the Revolutionary War, the site provided lumber, grain and bullets to Revolutionary War soldiers.

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Constructed in the late 18th century by family patriarch Jesse Hallock, the home began as a small one-and-a-half story building, which was expanded over the years, and eventually, in 1860, also became the hamlet of Yorktown’s first post office, where Hallock family members served as postmasters for some 20 years, until the traffic occasioned by the burgeoning New York and Putnam Railroad necessitated the post office’s removal to a site in Amawalk.

In the early 20th century, the property was purchased for the Amawalk Nursery. One of the barns was converted to a tavern and a small golf course (now the site of Brookside Elementary School) adjoined it. In 1932, after several fires, and in the midst of the Great Depression, the Amawalk Nursery closed, and the property languished until its purchase by the family of Brennan’s wife, Susan Chambers, in the 1960s. Brennan bought the place from his in-laws in 1981. He and his wife raised their four children there, and today, he continues to repair stone walls, restore dams and spillways and otherwise preserve this timeless and unusual 12-acre paradise in the center of Yorktown.

On behalf of the Landmarks Commission, Briggs thanked attendees, reminding them that while the day’s program heralded a surviving structure, every year another few of Yorktown’s architectural treasures fall to the wrecking ball. She cited the importance of community vigilance to protect our architectural legacy.

The Yorktown Landmarks Preservation Commission is always seeking applicants for traditional landmarking or the Homes of Historic Distinction Program. To qualify, homes must have historical significance based on age, architectural style, past ownership, or association with a person or event important to Yorktown’s history. Through the program, plaques designating the basic facts about each house’s history are fabricated and installed on or around the home. The Yorktown Landmarks Preservation Commission will work with each homeowner on appropriate wording for the plaque and will assist in research. The cost for the Homes of Historic Distinction application and the plaque is $100. Applications are available online at yorktownny.org/planning or by emailing nmilanese@yorktownny.org.

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