The historic Westerfeldt House, listed on the National Register of Historic Places, is for sale. Visit 39 Smith Street at NancyBWeber.com for more info.
by June Robbins
In 1888, an elderly man named Westerfeldt came to Nyack from Litchfield, Connecticut. He was a 72, newly widowed and lonely. He was also rich. Over his married children’s protests, he courted and won the hand of one the maiden Salisburys, the family that owned the property from the south side of Smith Avenue to the land where the Salisbury co-op apartments are now located.
Miss Salisbury was a despairing 43 and apparently felt her prospects were too dim to be choosey about the age of her groom. She was also strongly attached to mother and consented to marry Westerfeldt under the condition that he build her a house nearby. Westerfeldt already had a brownstone in New York City and a family house in Litchfield but he set about building “a country cottage filled with light” that is now the home at 39 Smith Avenue.
Westerfeldt ran into difficulties when he tried to find property near the Salisburys on which to build a house. The Salisburys refused to break up their land any further. Then one day he made a personal title search and discovered a discrepancy. The corner lot (northeast corner of Smith & Piermont) was owned by the estate of a recently deceased parties whose heirs were trying to settle the estate. There was an oral understanding that if this owner ever decided to sell, they would give a first option to Judge Leo C. Dessar of the NYS Supreme Court. However, the estate lawyers found that Judge Dessar was near death from pneumonia and in no condition to meet the delegation. The lot was sold to Westerfeldt.
The handsome house at 39 Smith Street was built full of windows and light, tall enough to be seen by all in the neighborhood.
The exterior lines of the house were specified by Mrs. Westerfeldt who had traveled abroad and wanted her Victorian home to have elements of a Norman chateau. There were no formal guest rooms in the house but the Westerfeldts each had a master bedroom with an attached dressing room as their household help slept upstairs. For entertainment they built a stage in the living room that could be entered via a breezeway off of the kitchen and a piano would sit on the stage as guests and family members sang songs and conducted readings or plays. The stage has been preserved as well as a horse stepping stone which is near the shed on the side driveway.
Westerfeldt was fond of the wrought iron works from the Litchefield mansion and grafted several pieces from it for his new Smith Avenue home. His family had been in the wrought iron business and had owned one of the earliest colonial forges. The iron hood in the living room fireplace, both mantles and the iron surrounding the front door all came from the Westerfeldt’s Litchfield house and are believed to be from the 1700s or earlier.
The house, built in 1889 as the wrought-iron numbers on its chimney proudly proclaims, firmly stands at 39 Smith Avenue in South Nyack.
June Robbins lived at 39 Smith Avenue until 1954. This story was re-told to her by “…old Mike, the neighborhood gardener” who died in the winter of 1953 at the age of 93. Old Mike came to South Nyack at the age of 18 from County Cork Ireland and when he was 21 he found himself working on the estate of Judge Dessar. He stayed in South Nyack for the next 72 years.
For more information on this National Register of Historic Places home, visit 39 Smith Street at NancyBWeber.com for sales information.