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Greenland in Upper Nyack

Barons of Broadway #9

Welcome back to Barons of Broadway, where we delve into the rich history of Upper Nyack estates. In this installment, we uncover the fascinating story of Greenland, the home and farm of George Green who witnessed the evolution of Nyack from a humble hamlet to a prosperous town. Greenland, his home at 539 North Broadway built in 1852, evoked an Italian villa surrounded by vineyards and pear orchards. Over time, Greenland transitioned into a sought-after destination for summer retreats, with prominent estates like Water Crest and Belle Crest occupying its riverside parcels.

John Green, Nyack Pioneer and Businessman 

To understand the emergence of Greenland, we must first look to the family patriarch, John Edward Green. Born in 1772, John arrived in Nyack seeking opportunity after a fire devastated his family’s lumber yard upstate. He swiftly established himself as a key player in Nyack’s burgeoning economy, founding a lumberyard on Main Street in 1806. During those early years, Green found time to captain, and then to own sloops that carried lumber from Albany, and stone from Nyack to New York City where he established another lumber yard. He built a sandstone house now being restored near the docks in 1819. However, it’s important to note that, like many of his contemporaries, John Green’s ownership of enslaved individuals complicates his legacy.


Green was one of the first to recognize that Nyack could become an important port if a road could be built west from the Nyack docks to factories in Suffern. Along with others, he became a prime mover in establishing the Nyack Turnpike (now Route 59) and later the Nyack Steamboat Association. His investment in Nyack’s first steamboat, the Orange, is notable as well in establishing Nyack as an important transportation center.

An announcement about Nyack’s first steamboat. Called the Nyack at first, it quickly became known as the Orange.

John Green’s Civic Contributions 

Beyond his commercial pursuits, John Green left a lasting impact on Nyack’s civic and cultural landscape. Married to Sarah Myer in 1798, they created a family of six boys and three girls. John, along with his father Nicholas then living in Nyack, became founders and trustees of Nyack’s first library. A devout Methodist, he helped found the local chapter in Nyack and became a founder and donor of the Old Stone Meeting House, the oldest surviving church in Rockland County.

George Green: Steward of Greenland

George Green, son of John, emerged as a key figure in Upper Nyack’s development. Born in 1806, George followed in his father’s footsteps, entering the family lumber business, and eventually acquiring a large property where he established a thriving farmstead. Despite leading a relatively private life, George’s contributions to Nyack’s infrastructure and community were significant, reflecting his commitment to his hometown.

Postcard image of what is now known as the Old Stone Meeting House. Courtesy of the Nyack Library.

George carried on his father’s work at the Old Stone Meeting House. He supported a Sunday school and a much-needed renovation of the Old Stone Meeting House in 1879. He helped found the first Upper Nyack school in 1845 on Old Mountain Road east of Midland Avenue. During the Civil War, Green assisted the war effort in Nyack by working on a committee to help the families of Civil War volunteers. In 1872, he participated in the incorporation of the Village of Upper Nyack and became its largest taxpayer. 

Detail from an 1876 map of Upper Nyack showing the location of the first Upper Nyack school on Old Mountain Road.

In 1871, he went to Albany with neighbors Isaac Hart and Garrett Sarvent to argue against the passage of a bill sponsored by members of Boss Tweed’s group to build a boulevard from New Jersey through Nyack to Hook Mountain and Rockland Lake. The road was to be funded by property abutters, hence, the local objection to its size and scale. The bill did pass. Workers completed a few stretches notably 9W from Nyack to Rockland Lake, although in a scaled down version.

George became known as a once-a-week train passenger after the railroad extended to Nyack, so it is possible he remained in control of the old family lumber business in New York City.

Abolitionist

Frank, his son (more about him later), recorded one illustrious episode about his father’s view of slavery. He recounts that a lost fugitive who inadvertently bypassed the Hesdra’s stop on the Underground Railroad was discovered by George Green hiding in his vineyard. Green brought him to a safe refuge. Green along with John W. Towt, one of Nyack’s better-known abolitionists, provided a house for the A.M.E. Zion Church on Burd Street and helped aid it financially. 

Image of St. Phillips A.M.E. church at its current location by Bill Batson

Family Life

In 1835, George married Maria Lydecker from a prominent local family. They had seven children, five girls and two boys who reached maturity. George was known to everyone. He died in 1890 and interred in the Green family plot at Oak Hill Cemetery. 

Frank Green

It is worth taking a moment to explore the short life of Green’s youngest and most successful child, Frank Bertangue Green, who died at the young age of 35. Frank earned a degree in medicine but chose a career as a writer, first by publishing the History of Rockland County, in 1876 and purchasing the Rockland County Journal. Tragically, he died of consumption in 1877.

Greenland

A map of the six Upper Nyack farms in 1776. George Green purchased the old Aury Smith farm. Map by Win Perry Jr.

In 1842, Green purchased a 160+-acre property once owned by a Revolutionary War veteran, Captain Aury Smith.  Curiously, the Catholic Church acquired the property in 1832 to build a large seminary.. The nearly complete three-story, stone building burned to the ground, but the Church decided not to rebuild. Green financed the purchase of the land by selling portions to others including the Lexow family. Although the Lexows never built their intended home, they left behind the name Lexow Avenue.

Detail from an 1876 map of Upper Nyack showing the river side part of Greenland. the house is shown on North Broadway just south of Lexow Avenue. Green sold the north part of his property to the Brush family, and also the south part, owned by the Smith family is this map.

Green built a new house on the river side of his property in 1852.  When digging the foundation, workers found a fireplace used by indigenous people surrounded with oyster shells. The large house was of an Italianate architectural style. The house featured picturesque views of vineyards, orchards, and the Hudson River. A small glassed-in conservatory housed Mrs. Green’s flowering plants. Green built a flagstone walk along North Broadway in 1883, probably Upper Nyack’s first sidewalk north of Van Houten’s Landing. 

The Farm

Green constructed one of the largest barns in the area in 1867. He raised chickens and farmed acres of grapes and award-winning pears. Green became the largest purveyor of grapes in the Nyacks, grapes being the principal cash crop at the time. 

This photo showing farmland in Upper Nyack is from a stereoscope made by Isaac Van Wagner circa 1880 atop Hook Mountain. North Broadway is a dirt lane is the only road at the time. Midland Avenue is not visible on the right. The house in the foreground is likely Colonel Pollock’s house. The house visible to the right of Broadway is the Brush house built on land sold by Green. Greenland is barely visible in the background to the left of Broadway. Its white third floor tower is just visible. Courtesy of the Nyack Library.

Vineyards surrounded the house on three sides. Green planted his first vineyard in 1851 north of the house, and future vineyards graced the eastern slopes below the house and west of Broadway. In all, Green tended 2,200 vines producing 8 tons of grapes. 

George Green’s Legacy

After his wife’s death, Greenland was broken up into separate tracts of land. The riverside portions became the site of Water Crest, Belle Crest, and Widewater. Join us in our next installment as we explore the tales of Widewater.


Barons of Broadway Series

#1 The Magnificent Saga Of Larchdell

#2 Revisiting Underclyffe–A Lost, Gilded Age Mansion

#3 The Adriance Era At Underclyffe Manor

#4 The Flying Dutchman Lands at Underclyffe Manor

#5 The Saga of Rivercliff”s Storied Resdents

#6 The Winding Saga of River Hook

#7 Unveiling Water Crest

#8 The Legacy of Belle Crest: From Clockmakers to Tennis Champions


Mike Hays is a 38-year resident of the Nyacks. He worked for McGraw-Hill Education in New York City for many years. Hays serves as President of the Historical Society of the Nyacks, and Vice-President of the Edward Hopper House Museum & Study Center. Married to Bernie Richey, he enjoys cycling and winters in Florida. You can follow him on Instagram as UpperNyackMike.




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