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The Wonders of Widewater

Barons of Broadway #10

In this segment of the Barons of Broadway, we return to 539 North Broadway, the former residence of George Green, now immortalized as Widewater. Leroy Frost, an esteemed stockbroker, sportsman, and philanthropist, acquired the property in 1905 and dedicated two years to renovating both the house and its sprawling grounds. Passing through the hands of the Frost family to the McCartneys, Widewater evolved from a private estate to a residential apartment building before meeting its demise in 2019.

Photo of the south end of Widewater. Courtesy of Annie Lombardi.

Benaiah Young Frost

Leroy Frost’s story begins with his birth into a wealthy family in Norwood, NJ in 1872. His father Benaiah Young (or B.Y.) Frost was the cashier and manager at the W. S. Gurnee and Co. brokerage house located at 80 Broadway next to the New York Stock Exchange. The Frosts moved to Piermont from Norwood, and then in 1892, built a large house, called “BenMadge” (a combination of names of husband and wife, Benaiah and Margaret), on South Broadway in South Nyack.  Local architect Marshall Emery designed the house. During this time, B.Y. Frost served as a South Nyack Trustee for four years. In 1911, B.Y. built a summer estate on River Road in Grand View. He spent his summer months gardening, yachting, and golfing.

B. Y. Frost home on River Road in Grand View circa 1925.

Leroy Frost, Stockbroker Extraordinaire

Frost learned about the mechanics of Wall Street as a boy. He worked as a runner delivering trade orders from his father’s firm to their floor trader for execution. He continued following in his father’s footsteps and became a junior partner in the firm. In 1900 he earned a seat on the New York Stock Exchange and later served a term as the Governor of the Exchange. He took over control of the company at his father’s death.

1903 photo of Leroy Frost when he was chairman of the Nyack Commuter Association.

A Sporting Enthusiast

Frost’s interests extended far beyond the confines of Wall Street. He reveled in sporting pursuits. As a young man he participated in rowing competitions and bowling tournaments with the Nyack Rowing Association. He even bowled with Joseph Cornell, the father of the famous artist of the same name.  Frost raced horses on North Broadway with Arthur S. Tompkins,  later a neighbor and a New York Supreme Court Judge.

View of the Nyack Rowing Association building at the foot of Spear Street. The clubhouse is at the far right. The long building behind it was one of the first bowling alleys in Nyack. Courtesy of the Nyack Library.

Frost’s passion for hunting and marksmanship garnered acclaim. In 1911, while hunting with neighbor George Chapman in the mountains west of Haverstraw, he bagged a wildcat that measured over three feet long. As reported by the New York Times, Frost won an invitational trap shooting contest for members of the stock exchange in Westchester. He spent many summers at his 3,000-acre game preserve and hunting lodge in the Adirondacks.

Frost the Yachtsman

The waters of Widewater bore witness to Frost’s maritime adventures, as he owned several speed boats, including the Ojai built at Peterson’s boatyard. Built of double-planked mahogany, Ojai was capable of speeds up to 45 mph according to Captain G. A. White, who managed Frost’s boats. Frost commuted by boat to Tarrytown when the river was not frozen, He parked at the Tarrytown Boat Club, where he was a beloved member. He then took the train to and from the city. When he returned, his pilot would have the boat ready for him.

The Ojai built at Petersen’s Boatyard, then located at the foot of Burd Street was just one of Frost’s many speed boats. Courtesy of the Nyack Library.

The Frost Family

LeRoy married Marian Towt, daughter of a longtime Nyack family, on June 18, 1896. The first of their 8 children, Anna, was born the next year and died as an infant. Notably among their children:

LeRoy Frost, Jr. graduated from Harvard in 1923 and went on to work as a stockbroker in NYC following in his father’s footsteps. He married Elena Pavlova of Moscow.  

Floyd Frost married Henrietta Brockenbrough of South Nyack in 1932 at the height of the Depression. The bride wore a gown of chartreuse velvet trimmed with mink and a brown velvet hat. 

Nancy Frost married the son of Arthur Tompkins, a friend of LeRoy Jr., who lived in a large estate called Glen Iris near the Frosts at 401 N. Broadway.

A view of the landscaping of Widewater from the river side.

Frosts in WWI

Frost served in the US Navy in WWI. He was 47 at the time of his discharge. His oldest son, Leroy Frost Jr., served in the ambulance corps for 18 months, returning home in April 1919. Frost Jr. was in the thick of the fighting and was under fire several times. He received 3 decorations, including the Croix de Guerre.

Philanthropists and Socialites

The Frost family’s philanthropic endeavors left an indelible mark on the local landscape. They generously donated to the Nyack Hospital, the Nyack YMCA, the Nyack Library, and the Nyack Chapter of the Red Cross. After Leroy’s death, his neighbor and executor, J. DuPratt White, revealed that Frost anonymously donated the land for the new Nyack YMCA on South Broadway.

Laying of the new Nyack YMCA cornerstone at Remsen Street and South Broadway in 1927. Frost gave a gift of the land for the YMCA anonymously. Courtesy of the Nyack Library.

LeRoy and Marian attended the Grace Episcopal Church as members and donors. Marian remained active in the church after LeRoy’s death. She hosted church events, such as a spring music festival, on their back porch overlooking the steps and lawn. 

Postcard of the Nyack Library in 1900. Courtesy of the Nyack Library.

The Frosts entertained at home. On one occasion in 1920, they hosted a lawn party with musicians from New York City for about 100 friends with food catered by the St. George Hotel in Nyack. They joined the nearby Nyack Country Club that included all the elite of Upper Nyack. Active in the Nyack Garden Club, Marian frequently won prizes for her dahlias.

Many events took place at the Hotel St, George on Burd Street. Courtesy the Nyack Library.

Widewater

Photo of Widewater nestled among young trees and shrubs, circa 1925.

Frost acquired the southern river section of George Green’s farm east of Broadway in 1905. He set to work expanding, renovating, and modernizing the Green family home renaming it Widewater. Green’s barn at 545 N. Broadway served as Widewater’s carriage house.

Photo of the front entrance to Widewater. While Frost expanded George Green’s old homestead, elements of the old house can be seen here on the right side, including the tower and Italianate details. Courtesy of Annie Lombardi.

Frost hired Charles Leavitt, a famous landscape designer known for his naturalistic settings, to design the grounds of Widewater’s 3.5 acre-property. Among the many designs in his portfolio, Leavitt designed the approach roads for Kykuit, the Rockefeller estate in Westchester, and the fountains at the Untermeyer Gardens in Yonkers. Leavitt’s work with Frost must have been appealing. Wilson Foss, quarry owner and a Nyack multi-millionaire, later hired Leavitt to design his chateau-style home built next to Widewater. Leavitt added fountains, shrubbery, trees, but kept the sweeping lawns to the Hudson River open.

Leavitt designed the fountains for William Bosworth, the lead landscape architect for Untermeyer Gardens.

Death of Leroy & Marion Frost 

Leroy died suddenly in January 1931 following an operation in New York City. In his will, handled by neighbor and attorney J. DuPratt White, Leroy left his estate to his wife, Marian Towt Frost. Unfortunately, LeRoy lost much of his wealth just before he died in the great stock market crash. 

In 1932, Marian sold the hunting lodge and acreage in the Adirondacks. Dr. Pierre Bernard, the Great Om, creator of the Clarkstown Country Club, and founder of yoga in America purchased the land west of Broadway. Bernard already owned a number of estates in Upper Nyack. Frost had once sided with Mayor Frank Crumbie in opposing Bernard’s activities in Upper Nyack.

Marian Towt Frost died on February 8, 1944. She left the contents of the house, garage, and boat house to her 5 surviving children, her jewelry to her daughters, and a special bequest to her sister and neighbor, the wife of Frank Crumbie.

Original artwork by Liz Alcorn of the “MacCartney House”.

The “MacCartney House”

In 1944, Harold Y. MacCartney, Sr. an attorney living in Grand View, bought Widewater and its 3.5 acres. The MacCartneys also purchased the section west of Broadway owned by Pierre Bernard. MacCartney and his three sons, Harold Jr., John, and Barry owned the house through two generations. Harold Sr., Harold Jr., and John had a law practice on North Broadway for many years. Villagers began to refer to Widewater as the MacCartney house. By the 20th century, the family converted the house into a 6-room apartment building managed by Barry MacCartney, who occupied one of the apartments. Tragically, new owners made the decision in 2019 to demolish Widewater and build a new estate

Sign on the door of the MacCarney law firm on South Broadway.

Farewell to Widewater

Frost’s acquisition of George Green’s estate heralded the birth of Widewater, a testament to Charles Leavitt’s visionary landscape designs. Widewater’s evolution mirrored the changing fortunes of its occupants, from the Frost era to the MacCartney legacy. .

The new house that replaced Widewater is seen in the background. The gate post with name plate and the original stone wall remain.

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

#9 Greenland In Upper Nyack


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.

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


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