The Cunningham House is a handsome red brick four story townhouse, built in 1835 and listed on both the New York State and the National Register of Historic Places. It is located in the historic district of the Hudson River Valley hamlet of Tappan, New York, with its well-regarded Restaurant Row. Tappan, which is listed as a Historic District on the National Register, has recently been restored with brick-laid sidewalk, working lanterns and hitching posts. The National Register of Historic Places is the official list of the nation’s historic places worthy of preservation. Authorized by the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966, it is part of a national program to coordinate and support public and private efforts to identify, evaluate, and protect America’s historic and archeological resources.
The Cunningham House is set on a landscaped property with a private garden and is within steps of a New York City-bound commuter bus stop, as well as a half-dozen fine restaurants including the oldest tavern in New York State. The Tappan Historic District also has retail shops, a town park, a newly expanded and renovated library, and the historic (circa 1700) DeWindt House Museum and Gardens, famed for its many visits from General George Washington during the Revolutionary War.
There are four levels in the 3000-square foot structure, which was originally built to be an elegant family residence in 1835 by Dr. Morris Bartow. In the 1880s, the building served as the headquarters for the New York, Ontario and Western Railway. In the 20th Century, the building has housed an art gallery, an antiques gallery, a sculpture garden, a scientific research center, a medical center, a dental practice, a real estate office, a jewelry and gift boutique, and the offices of an architectural firm.
Once known locally as “The Federal House” for its architectural style, it was built at the same time as the Tappan Reformed Church across the street and with the very same Haverstraw bricks laid in “Flemish bond.” The Federal style is often described as a refinement of Georgian style, drawing on contemporary European trends, in particular the work of Robert Adam (1728-1792), who traveled to the Mediterranean to study classical Roman and Greek monuments. Indeed, The Cunningham House has many Greek Revival features, such as the denticulated frieze, rectangular lintels of sandstone, and a fine side hall and transom-lit front doorway. The lunar windows in the north gable have fan muntins. The overhanging roof and dormers are Victorian. The foundation is well-dressed sandstone and the interior has a graceful staircase, marble mantels, and handsome trim work throughout. The property itself is enclosed across the front by a black wrought iron fence dating to the mid-19th century.
The Cunningham House was constructed on the approximate site of Yoast (Joost) Mabie’s house where the Orangetown Resolutions were signed on July 4, 1774, and it probably still retains the original foundation fieldstones from that building. It remained in the Bartow family until the 1880s, when it served as a headquarters for the New York, Ontario and Western Railroad. Around 1910-1915 the wood-frame kitchen wing was added on the south, and an enclosed porch was built across the west-facing side of the house. The Cunningham House is listed as the “Mason-Samett Townhouse” in some historic preservation records, in recognition of its owners at the time of its official listings in 1989 (NY) and 1991 (USA).
Currently The Cunningham House is home to Janson Media, an international media and publishing company founded in 1989. There is a front and rear entrance to the main level of The Cunningham House which includes a center hallway, a conference room, a screening room, a library, and a westward-facing sun porch with access to the garden and parking lot. The second level features a center hall, full bath and two large rooms currently serving as stylish, well-lit office spaces. The two rooms are separated by historic pocket doors dating to 1835, and feature the building’s original “sugar pine” wide-plank flooring. The top level features a garret apartment with four smaller rooms, as well as a kitchenette and full bath and laundry room. The ground floor level, known in the late-1800s as the “Historic Kitchen,” has a separate entrance and features a large beamed room with antique glass windows, wide plank pine flooring, a half-bathroom, a changing room, and a small atelier in the rear with two-foot thick fieldstone walls. Approximately 900 square feet, this floor currently houses a private club.
All utility systems have been recently upgraded. There are smoke and heat detectors on all four levels of the building, two separate central air conditioning units servicing the third and fourth floors, a ductless air conditioning unit in the Library, and a window unit in the ground floor boutique. There are two separate heating zones in the building, which is serviced by natural-gas fired radiators and baseboard heating, and municipal water and sewers. The entire building is connected to the internet by state-of-the-art, high-speed fiber-optic cable.