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The History Behind Edward Hopper’s Upstairs Door

Art Gunther

by Art Gunther
Once there was a door at the top of the steep steps in the 1858 birthplace home of the foremost American realist painter, Edward Hopper. It was not there in his childhood. The door, rescued and then kept in the basement, was attached in the early 1970s. It was originally taken from the then-deteriorating, once handsome, modest home of a Baptist minister John Smith, Edward’s grandfather. Edward passed in 1967, his sister Marion in 1965, and Josephine Nivison, the painter’s wife, also an artist, in 1968, all before the door was added to Edward’s childhood home.
A door at the top of the stairs was needed in the house renovation so that income-producing space for studio renters and a handymen could be had, assuring that the almost total volunteer effort to save a historic home could continue.
In time, the Edward Hopper House was able to open up to the public the upstairs room where Marion, Edward, and their mother Elizabeth were born, and so the door was removed. Visitors to the bedroom are taken by the brilliant Hudson River light that shoots up Second Avenue straight onto the walls. Surely this painter of light was touched from infancy.
Doors give us privacy, guard the quiet. Sometimes—valuable times—they must be closed. In other moments, they should be wide open or exist not at all. 
At the Hopper House, now 82 North Broadway, the opened door at the top of the steep stairs gives visitors deeper insight into an artist who never tells the story in his paintings but who opens a door to our own tale(s).
Art Gunther is a retired newspaperman. You can reach him at This article was originally published on his blog,

Edward Hopper's bicycle, Illustrated by ©2018 Bill BatsonNyack’s Edward Hopper House Museum & Study Center is holding a public sculpture competition asking artists to submit proposals to design and build an Edward Hopper inspired bike rack. America’s preeminent realist painter rode a bicycle while growing up in Nyack during the late 19th century. His wooden wheeled 100+ year old bike is on display at his childhood home, which has become a museum and study center. Hopper was also a fan of all things cycling: images of bicyclists appear in his work.

Nyack People & Places, a weekly series that features photos and profiles of citizens and scenes near Nyack, NY, is sponsored by Sun River Health.

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