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Nyack People & Places: A Festival For Nyack Beach Bathhouse

by Mike Hays
Art, history, and the environment come together at the Nyack Beach Bathhouse for the Inner Landing Festival Oct. 31 – Nov. 4. The festival starts with a Venetian Dance Party on Halloween and continues with jazz and harvest brunch on Sunday. Why the festival? The bathhouse has been little used since it was once a community center for swimmers, walkers, and nature lovers some 50 years ago. A small group of local artists and food purveyors came up with the idea of creating a community to bring new life to the bathhouse.
“We want to wake the building up, bring it out of its slumber,” states Dianne Walsh-Fuhrman, one of the festival’s organizers. The bathhouse is spectacular enough when viewed from the outside, but the inside –the gigantic fireplace, balcony, and open space — begs for more human interaction. The Inner Landing Festival celebrates the unique history of the bathhouse along with art, dance, music, food, sunsets, and the ever-present flowing of the Hudson River.

The Bathhouse was once a Powerhouse

Quarrymen at work on the plateau. Dynamited rock has been loaded onto tram cars and is being taken to the crusher. Note the powerhouse chimney in the background.

In the early 20th century, dynamite blasts were heard daily at Hook Mountain near the end of N. Broadway in Upper Nyack. The sloping mountain sides were being reduced to bare rock in the production of trap rock used in road and building construction in New York City. The quarry was the brainchild of William P. Foss, a former dynamite salesman and amateur national billiard champion.
Quarrymen dynamited stone from the cliff, loaded it onto carts on a track, and took it to a steam-powered crusher. This part of the operation was located on what is now the plateau at Nyack Beach State Park. Crushed rock was then conveyed through two tunnels along a trestle to waiting barges at a lengthy dock built by the company. The two tunnels are still visible from Nyack Beach parking lot. The engine behind the operation, aside from dynamite, was the powerhouse, a large, concrete building with a massive fireplace and tall chimney.

The Powerhouse becomes a bathhouse

The Upper Nyack trap-rock quarry, along with other quarries operating along the Palisades, alarmed a growing population of preservationists. Soon, backed by the Harrimans, Rockefellers, and politicians like Clarence Lexow, trap-rock mining operations were banned along the Hudson River. Out of these efforts the Palisades Park system was formed.  The Upper Nyack quarry became a part the park system in 1910. Foss sold his operation for $6 million (approximately $160 million in today’s dollars).

Photo of the old quarry around 1926 before the powerhouse was remodeled into the bathhouse, which is visible at the lower left. To the right of the bathhouse is a building with two tunnels that are still visible today. Trap rock from the crusher located above it funneled through these tunnels to a trestle moving rock to waiting barges. Park visitors rest on the lengthy dock. Also note how much of the mountain was removed by mining.

The new park was instantly popular. A parking lot was built between the powerhouse and docks. Nyack jitneys brought people from town. At some point, a flat stone-lined trail was built north along the Hudson River for walking. The trail was a little over a mile to another, slightly larger park, Hook Mountain Beach.
However, it wasn’t until the depression that the WPA put men to work at the park creating new locally quarried sandstone buildings and ballparks. Best of all was the conversion of the powerhouse to a bathhouse with a sandstone exterior, fireplace, and balcony surrounding a large internal space. Bath and shower rooms were created in the north end. Fronting it all was a small, covered porch. Concessions were available inside. Swimming was a summertime activity.  Boats could  tie up at the dock.

View of the interior of the bathhouse from the balcony showing the large fireplace at the south end. It has a hearthstone showing the date 1936.

Everything changed during the Thanksgiving Nor’easter of 1950. The docks were destroyed, along with wooden structures on the front of the bathhouse. The docks, dancehall, and carousel at  Hook Mountain Beach were totally destroyed. It was the end of an era. Yet, the bathhouse lives on, no longer for bathing but a silent reminder of what once was.

The core group behind the festival

The core group of area residents that birthed the Inner Landing Festival represent Nyack’s diverse community of artists, healers, and business people:

  • Kellie Walsh, founder of The Divine Hive, a platform for the healing arts, and co-founder of 4 Eyes Photography,
  • Damien Apostol, freestyle and ecstatic dancer focused on the transformation of consciousness through movement and flow.
  • Dianne Walsh-Fuhrman, co-owner of historic O’Donoghues Tavern in Nyack; has long been focused on preservation efforts in the community.
  • Geoff Torrens, co-owner of O’Donoghues Tavern, former carpenter at the National Theatre of Great Britain and tour manager in the music business.
  • Leah Buchanan, a human design specialist living in Nyack, helping individuals adapt to a more sustainable life.
  • Marley Skroce, Master’s Degree in Creative Arts Therapy and a Rockland County multimedia artist.

The Inner Landing Festival Day-by-Day

  • Venetian Dance Party, October 31 starting at 5:00p. A labyrinth walking experience, and guided meditation with sound bath will be capped by an ecstatic dance performance. Food by Rockland Roots Food Truck.
  • Vegan Nite, November 1 with guided meditation walk, Vegan dinner and musical performance by Lee Farber, Nyack singer, songwriter and drummer
  • A Local Music Fest, November 2. A classic beer garden with food by Rockland Roots and a local music festival include The Foxfires, Glenn Schloss and Frankie D & the Boys
  • The New Deal- a Travel Through Time, November 3 with a cocktail hour, buffet dinner and music by The Ahlfabet Swing Band
  • Harvest Fest Brunch, November 4 with buffet brunch from Rockland Roots and musical performance by the Erik Lawrence Jazz Quartet

See also:

Photo credits: Mike Hays. Historical photos courtesy of the Nyack Libray
Michael Hays is a 30-year resident of the Nyacks. He grew up the son of a professor and nurse in Champaign, Illinois. He has recently retired from a long career in educational publishing with Prentice-Hall and McGraw-Hill. Hays is an avid cyclist, amateur historian and photographer, gardener, and dog walker. He has enjoyed more years than he cares to count with his beautiful companion, Bernie Richey. You can follow him on Instagram as UpperNyackMike.

HRHCare Community Health logoNyack People & Places, a weekly series that features photos and profiles of citizens and scenes near Nyack, NY, is brought to you by HRHCare and Weld Realty.

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