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Old Dutch Church Goes Virtual

At the church's 325th anniversary kick-off event on Friday, the public saw the first glimpse of an exclusive iPad tour.

There is a bell in Sleepy Hollow's Old Dutch Church that is engraved with the date 1685.

"A little bit of math will tell you 325 years ago, and that is what we are here to celebrate tonight and for the remainder of this year," said Pastor Jeff Gargano.

The Reformed Church of the Tarrytowns welcomed the 325th anniversary of the region's most famous church and burial ground with an entertaining gathering that attracted over 300 residents on Friday. With food, wine and a 1922 silent film starring Will Rogers, The Headless Horseman, the church kicked off a year of festivities marking the milestone.

Also on display for the occasion was the church's 1715 registry, written in Dutch. The document is usually kept in a vault and is the oldest piece of recorded information for the church.

But even as Friday's event was largely a tribute to the history of the sacred stonework structure, the ODC is getting a kick into the modern age – unveiled to the public for the first time on Friday was a prototype of an exclusive iPad tour for the Old Dutch Church and its surrounding burial grounds.

According to those behind the project, the application will be the first of its kind to mix the interactive abilities of the Apple iPad with a tour of a historical landmark. 

"It's an interactive tour guide using the iPad," said Lyle Anderson, the developer of the application. "No on else has done it yet."

The tour features interactive maps, videos, photographs and well-researched written text. The application also provides audio commentary for those who want to listen to the tour as they peruse the historic grounds.

Robert Romagnoli worked on the map of the grounds for the project. He has previously done mapping for historical reference guides and has also worked on a map of the Croton Aqueduct Trail.

"I jumped at the chance to do this, it's a great project" he said. "And I love this area."

According to Anderson, Romagnoli and Chappaqua resident Elinor Griffith, the project began in earnest about two months ago, and was seen as a new way to present the history and legends of the site.

In the application's interactive map, you can tap on a grave stone and see the information about the famous residents of the burial ground and how they were connected to the local history and others buried nearby. The purpose, according to Griffith, was to create a community that people could explore.

"We thought it would be good to tell stories," she said. "It was a different way to unlock it, and make it more accessible."

Apple donated four iPads for the project. If all goes according to plan, the application will be completed and iPad tours of the burial ground will begin in July. Apple is said to be very interested in the project, and may promote it heavily in August. 

According to those who have worked on the application, the ability to digitalize the cemetery will make history come alive for a whole new generation of people, whether they are interested  in ghost stories or famous lords. 

"What makes it great is that you can do a hop around tour, or if you want to stay for awhile you can really drill down into some of the biggies like Frederick Philipse and Washington Irving," Griffith said.

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