by Bill Batson
For 62 of the last 64 years, the pub near the corner of Main Street and Broadway in Nyack has been owned by an O’Donoghue. There has been an O’Donoghue behind the bar since 1949, when Paul O’Donoghue Sr. started working as a night barman for what was then called Charlie’s Bar & Grill. After Charlie Lindell’s death in 1960, his wife, Hilda, sold the bar to Paul. This May, Paul O’Donoghue’s son, Kevin, returned to the helm of the bar after a two year hiatus.
O’Donoghue’s Tavern is where many had their first drink or first date. For generations, 66 Main Street has been the venue for formal and informal bachelor and bachelorette parties, high school reunions and anniversaries. For over a century there has been an adult community center on this site serving liquid recreation and comfort food. If you wanted to go where everybody knew your name in Nyack, you went to O’D’s.
“I’ve been going to O’D’s since I was in high school,” Pickwick Bookshop owner Jack Dunnigan reminisced. Dunnigan is well acquainted with the tavern business. His family operated the beloved Dunnigan’s Bar & Grill in West Haverstraw for decades.
“I wanted to branch out from Haverstraw, so I came to Nyack” Dunnigan said. “Mr. and Mrs. O’Donoghue would treat you like family. There was a certain degree of decorum that was expected and if you went beyond that point, they would let you know. They never had to remind me, of course. And when you left, Paul Sr. would always say ‘G’night, G’night’ or ‘next time bring money,’” Dunnigan fondly recalled.
Upon hearing Jack’s recollection, Kevin O’Donoghue said, “He’s lying,” as he lifted the corner of his mouth to form a playful smile. “Jack started coming here in grade school.”
A more solemn example of the family feeling that many associate with O’Donoghue’s is from the aftermath of the Brinks robbery in 1980 when Nyack Police Officers, Edward O’Grady and Waverly “Chip” Brown were shot down.
“Everything was closed in town the day after the shooting, but there were hundreds of firefighters and cops who came to Nyack and had no where to go, so my father opened the bar. He served them, but he wouldn’t take any money. When they left that first night, the bar was covered in cash, so he gathered it up, and brought it to the police station and told them to give it to the widows and orphans fund,” said O’Donoghue.
“A few weeks later, the Emerald Society Marching Band walked through our doors circling around my mother and father as they sat in the back. I remember my mother crying. Phil Caruso, the Police Benevolent Association President, gave my father an honorary shield,” O’Donoghue continued.
Times may change, but a neighbor and a number stay the same.
O’D’s neighbor, Mazeppa Engine Co., No.2, was established in 1852.
In the 19th century, alarms were raised by ringing a massive bell that once stood in front of the fire house. When the bell was finally retired, it was installed in the tower of the North campus of Nyack College.
The name of the fire house is taken from a poem by Lord Byron. The poem describes a young man who is exiled from Poland for an affair. Mazeppa is strapped naked to a wild horse that is let loose.
Mazeppa eventually returns and becomes King and eventually defeats the Russians in what is now the Ukraine.
Historical records verify that an Ivan Mazeppa served in the Polish Court of John II Casimir.
ELmwood 8 – 0180
In the early to mid-20th century, words were used as mnemonic devices to help telephone company customer remember phone numbers. The first two letters in the word corresponded to the first two digits in the number. Elmwood translated into 35. The phone number for OD’s, 358-0180 has endured.
Nyack’s community theater, Elmwood Playhouse, took their name from the prefix
Kevin’s plans for the future are expressed in simple terms, “I am very happy to be back with all my friends. My plan is to enjoy life.”
With the brevity that is the soul of wit, a sign on the door says it all: “O’D’s is under ‘new’ old management.”
O’D’s: A Timeline
As early as 1909, a tavern has stood at this spot. A post card created on a gravure cylinder and printed in Germany captured the proud proprietor whose name has been lost to history.
Returning from the Great War, John “Butch” Logue has his first drink 66 Main St, Nyack.
Hilda and Charles Lindell open Charlie’s Bar & Grill.
Paul O’Donoghue Sr. works nights behind the bar at Charlie’s. During the days, he is the station manager at the Erie Railroad’s terminal in South Nyack.
After Charlie’s passing, Hilda offered the business to Paul O’Donoghue, On August 26, 1960, the deed was transferred. After over a decade as the night barman, a tavern owner and an institution was born.
O’Donoghue Sr. is known for a no-nonsense manner. When asked to mix a cocktail that he thought “frilly,” he would slap a shot glass hard on the bar and ask “will it fit in there?” He was also known to summon a brogue and belt out his own rendition of “When Irish Eyes are Smiling.”
Paul Sr. retires and passes the reins to his eldest son, Kevin.
Butch passes away at 95. To give some perspective about the length of his tenure, when he first started frequenting the tavern, women did not have the right to vote. At that time, it was considered unladylike to be seen in a bar, so the servers would bring the drinks to the backyard, that is now the kitchen, for men and women who wanted to imbibe together.
Paul O’Donoghue Sr., passes away at the age of 84.
In November, Robert Lewis becomes the owner of O’D’s.
In May, Kevin O’Donoghue returns to the saloon’s saddle.
Much of the history on this timeline was drawn from a web page created by Barry Koch, Manager of Programs and Publicity at the Blauvelt Free Library.
O’Donoghue/Eastwick photo by Pete Cizweski.
An activist, artist and writer, Bill Batson lives in Nyack, NY. Nyack Sketch Log: O’Donoghue’s Tavern“ © 2014 Bill Batson. Visit billbatsonarts.com to see more.