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Nyack People & Places: Last Tappan Zee Bridge Birthday

by Dave Zornow
This Friday marks the 62nd anniversary of the day New York State Governor Averell Harriman and Actress Helen Hayes joined the mayors of Nyack, South Nyack, Suffern and Tarrytown and a motorcade of 400 cars to dedicate the Tappan Zee Bridge. “Nyack and the surrounding area assumes its position on the ‘Main Street of the Empire State’ today and the new Thruway bridge brings it within easy commuting range of metropolitan New York,” said NYS Thruway Chairman Bertam D. Tallamy.
He was evasive about the name — because it wasn’t officially named the Tappan Zee Bridge until two months after the dedication.

Thruway Opening Ceremony on Dec 12, 1955. Source: Nyack Library via

“Just in case you hadn’t noticed, [this event] was probably one of the most important days in the history of Rockland County,” wrote Don Klein, a columnist for the Rockland Journal News on Dec 13, 1955. “No longer will Rockland be that practically isolated county on the other side of the Hudson River from Westchester, only accessible by archaic ferry lines. Now one can ride to and from Rockland County on the newest and possibly most modern highway in the world,” he said.
G. Winthrop Welles, the Executive Secretary of the the Chamber of Commerce of the Nyacks, made a presentation to the governor. The Nyack High School Band provided the music marking the momentous occasion. Click to see the official program from the dedication ceremony.

November 7, 2017 – The I Lift NY super crane is used to remove a large section of the Tappan Zee Bridge near the Westchester shoreline. Photo credit: New NY Bridge

Not everyone was so enthusiastic. A photo from the day captured a protest by more than a dozen women carrying signs that said, “SAVE OUR VILLAGES! The NY Times gave the protesters equal time in its lead sentence in the article covering the dedication: “16 friendly pickets joined Governor Harriman yesterday in dedicating the $60 million Thruway bridge linking Rockland and Westchester Counties.” A related effort by a group called the “Committee to Save the Villages” was successful in helping to defeat an initiative to connect the NJ Turnpike with the NY Thruway cutting through Palisades, Piermont and Grand View, NY. Although the NJ Turnpike extension was never built, it’s legacy is still with us: it’s why NYS Thruway Interchange 10 takes West bound vehicles in a complete circle past the South Nyack exit before leaving the Thruway.
It only cost 50 cents to drive across the Hudson between Nyack and Tarrytown in 1955. It’s ten times that today, but still a bargain compared to the George Washington Bridge. At least for the time being.
There won’t be a 63rd birthday because the 1955 cantilever bridge is being demolished to make way for the new south span of the 2017 Mario M. Cuomo Bridge TZB.
The Tappan Zee Bridge, winter, 2014. Photo Credit: Alison Perry

The Tappan Zee Bridge, winter, 2014. Photo Credit: Alison Perry

The Tappan Zee Bridge…Then

Newsreel footage from the New York State Archives:
“The NYS Thruway, the superhighway of the great Empire State, is extended another 28 miles from Suffern and Yonkers. The most spectaular project of the thruway is the three mile bridge spanning the historic Tappan Zee section of the Hudson River between Tarrytown and Nyack.
“This is the largest bridge of its type in the world. It has over two acres of pavement spread over six wide lanes — three in each direction.”
Video: NY State Archives via

…And Now

Watch four years of bridge construction in two minutes culminating in the opening of the north span of the new Mario M. Cuomo Tappan Zee Bridge in August, 2017.

See also:

Nyack People & Places features photos and profiles of citizens and scenes near Nyack, NY.
Sponsored by Weld Realty.

Official Program celebrating the New York State Thruway Opening

TZB Dedication Program 12/15/1955

The official program for the opening day dedication ceremony for the Tappan Zee Bridge in South Nyack, NY on Dec 15, 1955.

Nyack Farmer's Market

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