by Win Perry, Historical Society of the Nyacks
The WRITTEN NYACK HISTORY begins in 1675-76 when a 20-year-old Dutchman named Herman Douwese (son of Douwe) came to camp on his father’s land after an Indian deed had been signed and a royal patent had been issued. He was the first known European settler in what is now Rockland County. The natives that Herman found here were the Nyacks, a band of Lenape who had moved here from Coney Island and who had some Taino words in their unique dialect, suggesting that some of their ancestors may have come from the Caribbean.
The Dutch Settlements
Herman’s camp became a permanent home and he was followed here by his parents and brother. Their family name was Talama and Herman anglicized his name to Harmanus Tallman. The Tallmans were joined by other Dutch families. They farmed the land in Nyack for 125 years with little change, except that farms were divided among each new generation and additional land was settled to the west. Dutch customs and the Dutch language persisted well into the 19th century. Many farmers owned sloops to transport their produce to markets in New York City.
Farming and Quarrying
Farmers along the shore found that the outcroppings of red sandstone provided them with an additional “cash crop” for which there was a ready demand in the city. The quarry business thrived and between 1810 and 1840 there were 31 quarries between Grand View and Upper Nyack, employing about 200 men. Hudson River sloops were improved and enlarged, similar to the modern replica “Clearwater,” and served as the main link to the outside world, carrying passengers, produce, freight, and stone.
The Historical Society of The Nyacks is Now “Legal”
The Historical Society of the Nyacks turns 21 this year. Come to the new Time Nyack Hotel on Sunday, September 18 to drink a toast to HSN and hear from some great speakers about the rich history of the Nyacks.
The evening will honor Architect and Historian Win Perry and Leontine Temsky, Educator and Architectural Historian.
The guest speaker for the event will be former Journal News editor Arthur H. Gunther III, author of the Column Rule blog. He will speak on “What Next the Nyacks?” a look at the old, the new and the possible future of iconic Hudson River Villages.
The evening will include a silent auction, a Signature Birthday Cocktail and a continuous “Nyack History Before Your Eyes,” illustrated slide show.
Seating is limited so please reserve your place now. For more information or to purchase tickets visit nyackhistory.org.
The Time: 5p
The Place: The TIME Nyack Hotel, 400 High Avenue, Nyack, NY
The Date: Sunday, September 18, 2016
Stimulated by the demand to carry stone and Haverstraw brick, Nyack developed many boatyards and became by far the largest producer of sloops along the Hudson. The quarrying and shipbuilding industries created a need for housing and a full range of goods and services, so farmland was subdivided and downtown Nyack grew exponentially, from seven houses in 1814 to more than 2,000 people in 1860. Smaller neighborhoods developed around boatyards in Upper Nyack and South Nyack.
John Green, Theunis Smith, and Peter Smith were successful businessmen with an eye to the future of Nyack. Each had a general store and John Green had a lumber yard next to his wharf at the foot of Main Street with two sloops from which he sold lumber and stone from Albany to New York City. Together they formed the Nyack Steamboat Association and built the steamboat Orange, which began running in 1829, providing faster and more reliable service than the traditional sloops. With Jeremiah Pierson of Ramapo, they spearheaded the long and ultimately successful campaign to build the Nyack Turnpike to bring the county’s produce and manufactured goods to Nyack’s docks. These two developments revolutionized Nyack and made it the business and retail center of Rockland County for a hundred years.
The Industrial Revolution in Nyack
From 1840 to 1890, shoe manufacturing blossomed in Nyack. About six different companies built large factories, mostly two- and three-story brick buildings, each producing 1,000 or even 2,000 pairs of shoes per week and employing hundreds of people. The railroad came to Nyack in 1870, providing greater speed and capacity for passengers and freight, taking some of the business away from the steamboats. Commuters and shoppers could get from Nyack to downtown Manhattan in a little over one hour by train and ferry. With improvements in both river and land transportation, Nyack developed a significant hotel business. Several hotels lined Main and Burd Streets, a large hotel was built in South Nyack, and Prospect House was a huge palatial structure on Highland Avenue overlooking the whole community until it burned in a spectacular fire.
Hard Times and Rejuvenation
Manufacturing in Nyack was hit hard by a series of depressions in the 1890s, and the retail business by the Great Depression beginning in 1929 and, after about 1960, by the construction of shopping malls. The business district has reinvented itself periodically to meet changing conditions: supermarkets have come and gone, antiques made Nyack a destination for a while and still maintain a steady presence, restaurants and bars with entertainment are currently popular. Nyack has always been a desirable place to live, driving a relatively prosperous real estate business.
NYACK’S UNIQUE CHARACTER is the result of many special parts of its history—contributions to our country’s war efforts, schools, Nyack Hospital, Nyack Library, Oak Hill Cemetery, Nyack College, churches and synagogues, NY Thruway/Tappan Zee Bridge/New NY Bridge, Dr. Bernard’s Clarkstown Country Club, Nyack Boat Club, Tarrytown ferry, Christian Herald Children’s Home, Camp Ramah, Marydell Faith and Life Center, volunteer fire companies, veterans’ organizations, Fellowship of Reconciliation, YMCA, Nyack Center, Elmwood Playhouse, the best pizza anywhere, and the greatest little independent book shop, to name a few—but, most of all, its people.
Win Perry is the president of the Historical Society of the Nyacks