BY ROBERT KNIGHT
ROCKLAND COUNTY TIMES
Nyack’s historic Green house has been saved from destruction thanks to the diligent work of a group of local volunteer preservationists and the kind heart of a mortgage company and a bank, which jointly donated the two-century-old sandstone structure to the newly formed Green House Preservation Coalition.
News of the gift was announced at a specially called press conference last week at the site, on Lower Main Street near the Hudson River, attended by village, town, county and state officials along with dozens of local residents, historians and conservationists, many of whom had been quietly working to save the historic structure for nearly a decade.
According to local historian and president of the Historical Society of the Nyacks, Winn Perry, early settler John Green built the Green house about 1817. It is not only the oldest surviving Dutch sandstone house in Nyack, but is thought to be the second oldest house of any type within the village; a frame saltbox a half-block away reportedly still surviving from about a decade earlier.
The Green house is unusual for a Hudson Valley Dutch sandstone in being two stories in height with an attic, instead of the more typical story and a half. It was apparently converted into a multi-family home several decades ago, containing at least four apartments, and still later into a possible illegal SRO, or single residence occupancy boarding house.
“Historic Preservation is not for sissies,” Green House Preservation Coalition co-founder Tina Traster announced at the start of the roadside ceremony as traffic was briefly diverted for the 11 a.m.celebration. The John Green house has “languished in a story state for decades,” she explained.
Association President Rick Tannenbaum said he has fallen in love with a few houses over the past decades, including his own in Valley Cottage and with the Green House, when he first saw it last year. He has dedicated himself to its preservation ever since, he said, helping found the Association in May, incorporating it as a New York State Not-For-Profit Corporation in June and getting the bank and the mortgage company which owned it to donate it to the Association earlier this month.
State Senator David Carlucci was present at the ceremony, giving Tannenbaum and Traster the Senate’s Certificate of Appreciation for their efforts, and saying he will do all he can to find state grants to assist the Coalition in restoring the house, now that they own it.
Carlucci noted that Green came to Nyack shortly after the turn of the 19th century from New York City, where he was wiped out by a fire and was destitute. Starting as a laborer in Nyack, he built a successful commercial enterprise on the Hudson River shoreline, built and operated a boat shipping goods to and from Manhattan and Nyack. He also started a stage line between Nyack and Suffern, and was one of the founders of the old Nyack Turnpike Corporation, which paid for ad constructed what is now Route 59 between the two Rockland villages (then a private toll road).
He became so successful so quickly that he was able to construct his handsome new home on the Hudson shoreline in Nyack, two blocks below Broadway, probably using sandstone blocks he quarried himself from rock cliffs in Upper Nyack or Grand View.
Noting that Route 59 and the nearby New York State Thruway and Tappan Zee Bridge are all “still works in progress,” Carlucci said it was providential that the Green house has been saved just when the three projects can be melded, using the historic home as the connecting link.
Carlucci and Nyack Major Jen Laird White, who also attended the ceremony, said they would work together with the state and Tappan Zee Constructors to try and connect the new biking trail over the new bridge directly to the Green House, and make that the village’s visitor’s and information center, as well as a local history museum and welcoming center.
Also supporting the restoration of the Green House was Orangetown Supervisor Andy Stewart, who noted that the town’s motto is “Rich in History,” and that he and other town officials take that literally. “We suffered recently with the loss of the Lent House in Orangeburg,” Stewart noted of the demolition of a similar Dutch sandstone house near town hall this summer.
He vowed to use the town’s best efforts to work with Nyack and the Preservation Coalition to restore and preserve the Green House for future generations, and to help ensure that the Lent house’s fate doesn’t befall it too.
Equally as optimistic was Orangetown Historian Mary Cardenas, who noted that not only is the house the oldest Sandstone structure in Nyack, but that its owner-builder was the first successful businessman in Nyack as well, responsible not only for the village’s first commercial Hudson River dock but the construction of the old Nyack Turnpike.
Asking himself the question he knew was on everyone’s mind, Tannenbaum queried aloud “So what happens next?”
Answering his own question, he said the coalition would seek grants from various local, state, federal, private and foundation sources for studies of the existing house, and then a rehabilitation program to convert it into a usable structure. It would be ideal if it can be tied into the new Tappan Zee Bridge as a visitor’s welcome center to Nyack, he observed, and he will approach the bridge builders immediately with that objective.
He also lauded the donors of the house to the Preservation Coalition, the Ocwen Financial Corporation and its client, Ocwen Loan Servicing LLC, on behalf of Wells Fargo Bank, which held the mortgage on the dilapidated property.
Pleased at the outburst of activity at her family ancestral home was visitor Connie Green of Fort Lee, who is a fifth great granddaughter and direct descendant of John Green. She offered to contact members of her far flung family to gather Green family artifacts and documents which they will donate to the Coalition for permanent preservation in a museum that will hopefully be incorporated into the home restoration.
Cardenas, director of the Orangetown Museum, and Perry, President of the Nyack Historical Society, also pledged their groups’ support, and to actively work with the Coalition on the preservation of Nyack history.