by Bill Batson
Since his death in 1842, John Green’s house has lived on, standing at the foot of Main Street, occupied by a litany of various owners and tenants. Neglect from an absentee landlord almost caused her collapse. But the John Green Preservation Coalition came to her rescue. Marshaling legal resources and skilled labor, they saved Nyack’s oldest building for future generations to contemplate and enjoy.
John Edward Green was born in 1772. After a fire consumed his lumber business in Coeymans, NY, he arrived in Nyack to start from scratch. His first job was as a laborer for the Cornelison family. Soon, he returned to the timber trade, opening his second lumberyard around 1810.
Green built the house that now slumps behind chain-linked fencing and barbwire at the bottom of Main Street in 1819. 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 a member of the family that purchased the Tappan patent in 1687, Tunis Smith, 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.
Benefit to Support the John Green Preservation Coalition
On Sunday, October 9 from 2 – 5p, The Bluefield Artists presents the RESTORATION Project, an exhibit to benefit the John Green Preservation Coalition at the VOLITION Gallery & Studio at 103. S. Greenbush Rd, Orangeburg.
Part of the proceeds from each artwork sold will benefit its restoration:
The Bluefield Artists Featured:
Carlos ‘Beto’ Sierra
Nyack was now 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 were 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.
As long as this house stands, we can touch this sandstone and have contact with materials that may have been handled by our anonymous slave ancestors. 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.
This stone house holds together the many complex threads of a history that makes Nyack unique. As the oldest building in Nyack, it is a vessel for our collective memory. Sandstone may be obsolete as a building material, but for the role it has played in the development of our village, it is a precious stone. If the story of how our village came to be truly matters to us, we will find a way to save our Green House.
John Green Preservation Coalition member Tina Traster has produced This House Matters, a film that chronicles the efforts to save our region’s historic buildings. Click here to see the trailer.