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Nyack Sketch Log: Houses With A Secret

Houses With A Secret Featured Imageby Bill Batson

Before the construction of a second Tappan Zee Bridge reshapes the historic character of our river villages, enjoy the upcoming house tour sponsored by the Historical Society of the Nyacks on May 3.  The tour, called “Houses with a Secret,” invites you into homes that have mysteries hiding behind their doors.  In case your speculation does not unlock the secrets in each venue, a volunteer docent will be on hand to demystify the local history surrounding each property.

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A visual hint: recognize this roof line, window and fish scale shingles?

The identity of eight of the ten homes on this year’s tour is a tightly held secret. This sketch log gives some hints about one home and details about the building that houses the Historical Society’s museum.

The 10a- 4p tour stops at 10 locations in Nyack and South Nyack. This year’s event includes  large houses and cottages built in the Queen Anne Victorian, Carpenter Gothic and Dutch Colonial Revival architectural styles, as well as a community building that has an interesting past.

For the intrepid fan of architecture with a keen eye, this week’s featured sketch might lead you to one of the featured homes. This structure, with its distinctive shutters and intricate wooden features on the porch, was built by Cornelius DeBaun circa 1860. It has a exquisite sunroom, a mature garden,  and a commanding view of the downtown Nyack skyline and the Hudson River.

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Carson McCuller’s house was build by a DeBaun

Cornelius DeBaun and his nephews Matthew Watson and Henry DeBaun were leading Nyack builders in the last third of the 19th century and the early 20th century. The DeBauns built some of the more recognizable structures in the village, including; the carpenter gothic style former Unitarian Church on South Broadway, the Carson McCullers house further down the road and the commercial “Philip Moeller Block,” between 5 – 13 South Broadway.  These additional examples of DeBaun’s projects are not in this year’s tour, but were featured in a recent Historical Society exhibit, “Built by DeBaun.”

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Watercolor of Bernard’s North Cottage by Beverley Bozarth Colgan

In previous years, the house tours have featured dozens of the finest and most intriguing residential structures in the river villages. The 2010 tour offered a collection of homes that were associated with Pierre Bernard, the founder of the American yoga movement, known by the tabloids of his time as  Oom the Omnipotent.


Watercolor of Depew House by Beverley Bozarth Colgan

The home, represented by one of the vivid watercolors of Beverley Bozarth, is a cottage built in the early 1900s by James Hilton for his daughters, on the north side of the Moorings Estate. In 1925, the entire estate, which included four houses, was sold to Pierre Bernard for his Clarkstown Country Club, an ashram that eventually occupied the area that is now Nyack College. The upper floor of the main house was used for tantric dances, chanting, and theatrical exhibits.

The Depew House  serves as headquarters of the Historical Society of the Nyacks. The house was built in 1854 as the home for the era’s most prominent Nyack family, the DePews, who lived here until 1916. The  Italianate mansion has a generous wraparound veranda, a bracketed cornice and a picturesque belvedere. The DePew House is currently owned by the Nyack Public Library. The lower level houses the headquarters of the Historical Society of the Nyacks.

Beverley Bozarth Colgan

Beverley Bozarth Colgan is an accomplished artist and art teacher, who specializes in watercolor paintings. Colgan produces a painting of each home featured on tour.  The souvenir guide book contains reproductions of each watercolor.  Owners who permit the public to tour their properties receive an original painting as a thank you from Colgan and the Historical Society.

To see more of Colgan’s work visit

The well preserved historic character of the Nyacks is no secret. Each house tour demonstrates how our cultural assets enhance the quality of our lives, our home values and the local economy. Our beautiful homes and compelling stories attract countless visitors to our region.

As custodians of these architectural treasures, the residents of the Nyacks can not take this historic housing stock for granted. Even if you’ve enjoyed a past  biennial house tour, you don’t want to miss this one. By examining  the many homes and histories of the Nyacks, we might become more zealous defenders of our community.  If we do not, we might find ourselves reciting the lyrics from that famous Joni Mitchell song, “Don’t it always seem to go, you don’t know what you’ve got till its gone...”

Proceeds from House Tour ticket sales support the work of the Historical Society of the Nyacks. Tickets may be purchased in advance at the Nyack Public Library and online via credit card at There is an “early bird” price of $40 until April 28, after that date, the price is $50. Souvenir tour booklets (which serve as your ticket) can be picked up on the day of the tour at the Living Christ Church, 151 South Broadway,  South Nyack, from 9:30a to 1:30p.

The Historical Society of the Nyacks’ museum currently features an exhibition entitled “African American Entrepreneurs in the Nyacks 1800-present.” The exhibit will be on display Saturdays from 1-4p through July 5.  The Society’s museum is located on the lower level of the Depew House, 50 Piermont Ave. at the corner of Piermont and Hudson Avenues across from Memorial Park  (east of the Nyack Library parking lot).

See also:

An activist, artist and writer, Bill Batson lives in Nyack, NY. Nyack Sketch Log: “Nyack Sketch Log: Houses with a Secret” © 2014 Bill Batson. Visit to see more.


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