Enjoy this self-guided walking tour of Nyack’s historical buildings at your own pace, beginning at any point and stopping for refreshments and shopping as the mood strikes.
Before you arrive:
- Book a room at one of our local hotels.
- Experience Nyack’s guided “Main Street America” tour is an excellent introduction to downtown Nyack. Book here.
- Additionally, the Historical Society of the Nyacks offers guided tours on select Sundays during the summer and fall.Click here for the current schedule.
Historical Nyack Itinerary
Beginning as a sparsely populated agrarian village, Nyack rose to prominence in Rockland County during the Industrial Revolution and developed into the commercial center of the County until the mid 20th Century. Today, although many of the businesses have changed according to the times, the personal service they provide recalls a time before strip malls and large chain stores. As a cultural center, Nyack has both nurtured young artists in their youth and drawn in countless others who have been pulled into its natural beauty and vibrant arts scene. Just the right distance from New York, it has been a suburban haven for commuters and weekenders alike for decades.
We invite you to experience some of Nyack’s historic landmarks on this tour, but remember these are just the tip of the iceberg — even more historic points of interest, shops, and restaurants await the more you explore!
John Green House – at the foot of Main Street
The John Green House is Nyack’s only remaining sandstone structure, built ca. 1819. John Green was an entrepreneur who owned a lumber business, and, together with other leading businessmen in Orangetown, developed Nyack’s dock and ferry for bringing his goods to New York City. He was also instrumental in developing the Nyack Turnpike, the main east-west route in Rockland County. The house had been neglected for many years, but today the John Green Preservation Coalition is rehabilitating the house. http://www.johngreencoalition.org/
The “Vanilla Factory” – 1 Piermont Avenue
The Vanilla Factory is one of the earliest brick structures in Nyack, built in 1839, and an early example of industry in town. It has been used as a general store, a warehouse, a shoe factory (shoe manufacturing was one of Nyack’s most notable industries in the 19th century) and a flavoring extract processing plant in the 1920s – how it got it’s nickname. Note the large barn style doors on the second and third floors and the overhang that housed the pulley system for loading and unloading large bundles of goods.
The St. George Hotel – 48 Burd Street
Following a cholera epidemic in New York in the 1830s, Nyack became an escape from the crowded streets for fresh country air, and the hotel business boomed throughout the 1800s, even when Nyack became less of a destination and more of an overnight stop over for wealthy New Yorkers on their way to Tuxedo or the Catskills. The St. George, along with Nyack’s other grand hotels, such as the Ivanhoe, the Prospect House, and the Tappan Zee Inn, housed and fed these visitors. The St. George was noted for its lounge, which was kept comfortable by wound-up weight-driven fans, and its kitchen’s specialty — a flaming rum omelet. It hosted Governor Nelson and First Lady Happy Rockefeller in 1963 for a political meeting with other state politicians. After closing in the 1970s, it has since been divided up into office space. Nyack’s hotel business is making a comeback with the recent opening of the Time Hotel.
Couch Court – 46 South Broadway
Couch Court was originally built in 1854. The original owners were Abram and Sarah Storms, who owned a wooden pail and tub factory. In 1885 the Couch family bought the house. Dr. Couch was a homeopathic doctor. Natalie Couch, his daughter, studied stenography and dress making, and was secretary to New York State Supreme Court Judge Arthur Tompkins. She later went to Fordham Law School, graduated Cum Laude, and became Rockland County’s first female lawyer. Natalie Couch ran for Congress in 1934, but lost to Caroline O’Day in the first all-female congressional race. O’Day’s victory is often credited to heavy campaigning by Eleanor Roosevelt. Today it is a real estate office.
The Brickhouse Restaurant (formerly the Tappan Zee Playhouse) – 20 South Broadway
In the mid 1800s the building at 20 South Broadway was called “The Wigwam,” a long, low building that hosted Community events, including a speech by Horace Greely speaking in 1868. It later became the site of an early vaudeville theater, then a movie theater. In 1929, the village held a referendum on whether or not to allow Sunday movies, during the the advent of “talkies.” The measure passed, and saw one of the biggest turnouts in Nyack’s voting history. From the 1950s to 1970s a series of summer stock plays ran here featuring Beatrice Lillie, Helen Hayes, Jack Benny, Elliot Gould, and Liza Minelli. The program began to falter in the 1970s. Attempts to revive it failed, and the building was taken down. Recently rebuilt in the style of the original structure, the new building has a restaurant below, with apartments above.
Main Street and Broadway intersection, southeastern corner
The development of this section of town corresponds with the arrival of the railroad — it brought both more residents and businesses into Nyack. In 1870, Abraham Merrit built a store on the corner of Main Street and Broadway. He had a successful dry goods store that evolved into a department store. Merrit attracted customers with a free scale to weigh themselves. This block is a real “time machine” – the street level stores have changed, but if you look up, they look almost the same as they did a century ago.
Edward Hopper House Art Center – 82 North Broadway
The house at 82 N. Broadway is the birthplace and boyhood home of American artist Edward Hopper, best known for his paintings Nighthawks and House by the Railroad. As an adult, Hopper returned to Nyack to paint Pretty Penny, the house on North Broadway belonging to actress Helen Hayes and her husband, Charles MacArthur. For an admission fee, visitors can see early works from Hopper, artifacts from his life in Nyack, as well as changing contemporary artworks from both local and international artists. http://www.edwardhopperhouse.org/
Main Street heading west
This section of town was developed later, mostly from the 1890s onwards, with many family run businesses and family owned buildings. These were typically built independently, and often to the family’s liking. Look for the family names on the buildings. A typical family run business: the basement had the production area, be it small factory or kitchen. At the street level was the family shop, and the family typically lived on the floors above. In times before supermarkets and shopping malls, Nyack often sported several bakeries, butcher shops, drug stores simultaneously. Main Street now boasts a mix of eclectic retail stores, varied dining options, and the best nightlife in Rockland County.
Performing Arts Center & Urban Renewal – 125 Main Street
This large concrete building was part of Nyack’s urban renewal in the late 1960s and 1970s. You’ll notice it doesn’t really fit with the rest of the block. Nyack was looking to revitalize many sections of town as it was gradually losing importance as a commercial center of Rockland County upon the advent of malls and other shopping centers. Yes, urban renewal removed some buildings that were eyesores in town, but, many people felt the African-American community was unfairly targeted for eviction in the process. Now in retrospect, the community is much more careful in implementing drastic changes, and more likely to save or re-purpose older buildings. Today the Nyack Farmer’s market gathers here on Thursdays and Saturdays, April to November.
Elmwood Playhouse – 10 Park Street
This building was originally the St. Paul’s Lutheran Church from 1898 to 1957 when the congregation moved to another location. The Elmwood Community Players, who had gone by several other names and performed and various venues in the past, put on “Bus Stop” as their first work in the new building on December 5, 1958. Today, Elmwood typically puts on six productions a year, as well as running theater workshops and children’s programs. http://elmwoodplayhouse.com/