by Bill Batson
After the Lent House in Orangeburg was unceremoniously demolished two months ago, efforts to save the John Green House in Nyack have been renewed. The John Green Preservation Coalition will be holding a meeting at the Nyack Library on Tuesday, June 2nd at 7p. Anyone interested in local history and preservation is urged to attend.
John Edward Green was born in 1772. He moved to Nyack after a fire consumed his lumber business in Coeymans, NY, where was a laborer for the Cornelison family. Soon, Green returned to the timber trade, opening his second lumberyard around 1810.
In 1819, Green built the house that now slumps behind chain-linked fencing and barbedwire at the bottom of Main Street. It still exhibits the distinct traditional Dutch Colonial design with roughly coursed stone walls (now covered in stucco) and a high gambrel roof. The sandstone used for the walls was quarried a few miles north. Some of the original stones are visible through a gaping hole on the northwest corner of the house.
The Nyack of 1820 was an isolated outpost only accessible by dirt roads or the Hudson. Working with Tunis Smith, a member of the family that purchased the Tappan patent in 1687, Green championed two major transportation and infrastructure projects that literally put Nyack on the map.
Certainly, self-interest figured in Green’s construction of Nyack’s first dock, where Hudson River sloops could deliver lumber for his yard. However, guided by a depth map of the shoreline drafted by Smith, Green inspired a transportation revolution when he helped form the Nyack Steam Boat Association. (A photographic copy Tunis’ 1825 drawing, possibly the earliest map of Nyack, can be seen at Hannemann’s Funeral Home.) Steamboats eventually replaced the sloop as the primary mode for passenger and freight transportation until the railroad came to Nyack in 1873.
Nyack was connected to the world through nature’s mighty highway, the Hudson. But once goods got to our shore, overland transportation was unreliable and arduous. The West Nyack Swamp, which still stymies the efforts of modern engineers, stopped any Western progress. Inland travelers in the early 19th century could only turn North or South on Greenbush Road, which was then known as King’s Highway. There was no way to connect the iron foundry and machine shops of Ramapo to the Hudson River.
Once again, the tag team of Smith and Green was called upon to apply their talents. Smith surveyed the route and in 1830, Green joined a state commission to oversee construction of the Nyack Turnpike, a road that roughly followed the course of what is now Route 59.
In addition to these important public works, Green was an early trustee of the Nyack Library and a founding member of the Methodist Church, helping erect the Old Stone Meeting House on North Broadway. Green died on April 10, 1842 and is buried in Oak Hill Cemetery.
In 2010, Nyack resident John Gromada organized a group of concerned citizens to save the Green House. They successfully convinced the Village of Nyack not to demolition the property. “Saving the building is not an exercise in celebrating the life of one man, but knowing where we came from,” said Gromada.
After a recent meeting held before the monthly gathering of the Historical Society of the Nyacks, the John Green Preservation Coalition was established. The group is urging the public to attend their next meeting at the Nyack Library at 7p on June 2nd in the local history room.
This stone house holds together the many complex historical threads that make Nyack unique. These stones, quarried from our soil, fueled an economy that was made possible by the bounty of our river, transforming a bunch of homesteads into a community that has survived centuries. As the oldest building in Nyack, it is a vessel for our collective memory.
Special Thanks to Win Perry and John Gromada for their help researching the portions of this story that originally appeared on January 1, 2012.
Bill Batson is an activist, artist and writer who lives in Nyack, NY. “Nyack Sketch Log: The John Green Preservation Coalition” © 2015 Bill Batson. In Dec. 2014, Batson published “Nyack Sketch Log, An Artist and Writer Explores The History of A Hudson River Village.” Copies of the book can be purchased at billbatsonarts.com.