I found my heart in Nyack; its homes and history, its houses of worship and businesses, its open spaces and crowded street fairs, and its people and pets. The second volume of Nyack Sketch Log is a tour of that organ that pumps life though this community, the place where we all live. Nyack Sketch Log, Volume 2 is a map of our heart.
On November 27, I’m having a book party and signing for Nyack Sketch Log, Volume 2 at the Hudson House at 134 Main Street. This new volume is a compilation of 55 more essays and illustrations from my weekly column. Pre-orders are discounted at $20 in advance. On November 27th, the price is $25. If you would like to reserve a copy at the advance sale rate, send me an email at email@example.com or you can catch me on Thursdays at the Nyack Farmer’s Market, which just happens to be where the journey of volume 2 begins.
James F. Hershberger, Jr.
My second volume is dedicated to the late James F. Hershberger, Jr. Without Jim, there would be no Nyack Sketch Log books. Jim mentored, cajoled, and when necessary field marshaled me through self-publishing my first book. He brought all the skills of his extensive career in business to bear on helping individuals and organizations preserve local history. The benefits of his efforts impacted many during his life and will be of value to countless others for many generations to come.
I also dedicate this book to his widow and my friend, Mary Hershberger. Blessings to her and the entire Hershberger family and thank you all for sharing Jim with us.
Special thanks to the Nyack Sketch Log book production team:
Loraine Machlin, Designer
Patricia Jarden, Copy Editor
Judy Martin, Proofreader, Content Consultant
Bonnie Timm, Production Assistant, Social Media Coordinator and Researcher
Nancy Sailor Philips, Troubleshooting, Marketing
Ray Wright, Photographer
For their kind words that appear on the back cover and pages of my second book, I am eternally grateful to: Ross Benjamin, Dr. Don Hammond, Dr. Lori Martin, Dr. Jennifer Patton, Dr. Frances Pratt, Dr. Craig Stutman, and Win Perry.
And for their support, I thank my sponsors Lisa Hayes of Creative Financial Planning and Sabrina Weld of Weld Realty.
When I selected the essays for my second book, my challenge to find the best 55 essays and sketches that I had not yet published. When I stepped back and looked at what I had assembled, I was startled. More than half of the essays are about small businesses. The biggest category of entries is about vendors (and a musician) at the Nyack Farmers’ Market.
It is true that for the last six years I have worked closely with the Nyack Chamber of Commerce, as a marketing manager and artist-in residence at the Nyack Farmers’ Market that the Chamber sponsors, but my personal concerns are usually governed more by social justice than commercial imperatives and concerns. What then am I to make of this mental map having so many merchants on it?
Maybe it’s not so odd. We spend most of our lives hunting or gathering the stuff of life; our food, clothing, furnishings and diversions. These businesses that we frequent, what they sell, why they sell it, who owns them, who works there, how long they endure, if they’re “local” or “corporate” have a powerful influence over the character and quality of a community’s life.
The first section of this book can almost serve as a self-guided walking tour of downtown Nyack. I am proud to know and introduce you to each person whom you will meet on these pages; the knife sharpener and the musician, the pastry chef and the antique dealer, the barber, the builder and the beeswax candle maker. These brick and mortar and farmers’ market merchants are defying the trend that has relocated shopping and office work inside the home. Their survival is a testament to their creativity and perseverance and a deep well of community support that keeps their doors and tent flaps open.
Some of the businesses that I chronicle are an expression of advocacy, like the natural burial boutique (Dying to Bloom). There’s a salon that heals, as well as dresses your hair by advocating the internal and external introduction of organic foods (Candice Robins). As anywhere, the landscape is completed by houses of worship and charities, clubs and a YMCA. But what I hope you find here is what Google can’t expose; the soul of the Nyackers that animates each enterprise.
The second section of the book consists of essays that map my heart. These are the concerns that reveal what matters most to me and keeps me moving forward. Foremost is the need to commemorate and build monuments for hard-won civil rights and public policy achievements, because these can be easily reversed if not consistently advanced (see Black Parents v. Hillburn). And there are essays that record my encounters with social service programs that feed the hungry and ease the anguish of those final moments of living (see Soup Angels and United Hospice.)
The last section includes essays that connect this local map to the globe. The essay on John Perry is the story of one of the special people, a dear friend, who was lost on 9/11 in New York City, but it resonates throughout Nyack, which lost so many family members and friends. And from one the last of these essays, The World Needs More Mandelas. Sam Harps, founder and director of the Shades Repertory Theater in Garnerville, discovered, that one of his heroes, Nelson Mandela, was a member of the fraternity of the stage. I am honored to be producing his play, Antigone on Robben Island, Mandela takes the stage inspired by my essay, will be staged at the Nyack Center in February of 2019.
From Bluefield Farm in Blauvelt to Robben Island in South Africa, these essays honor the efforts of individuals who work not only for themselves, but for the betterment of others. I hope that you will find them edifying. But perhaps more important would be for YOU to keep a diary and make mental maps of your community, because there are too many stories, and not enough storytellers!
Please join me on Tuesday, November 27, at 6:00p at the Hudson House at 134 Main Street. Get the discount the price of $2o by pre-ordering today. If you would like to reserve a copy at the advance sale rate email at firstname.lastname@example.org or you can catch me at the Nyack Farmers’ Market every Thursday.
by Bill Batson
When Keith Taylor leaves his office at Hannemann Funeral Home each night, he transfers the phone lines to his house. One recent morning at 1:30a, he got a call from a family from Nyack reporting their mother had passed. Ten minutes later he got a call from a hospice nurse in Congers. “We don’t rely on an answering service. When you call Hannemann’s at night you get me.” For the past 36 years, Keith has been a comforting familiar figure that many have needed to reach out to at that darkest hour when a life has come to an end.
There has been a funeral home at the corner of Broadway and Cedar Hill Avenue since 1933. Henry Hannemann bought the business from Robert McCloskey in 1957. One afternoon in the 70s, Hannemann let an eighth grader from around the corner mow his lawn. “I grew up on Depew Avenue. My six brothers and my sister and I were raised by a single mother. We couldn’t just go to mom and ask for money for snacks or the movies.”
Taylor parlayed that job into an internship, a partnership and then at age twenty-five, he purchased the funeral home from Hannemann. “Hannemann was like a father to me. When I got out of high school in 1976, he sent me to Mortuary School in Syracuse.” Keeping the name of the business as Hannemann’s is a tribute to the man who launched his career as a funeral director.
Taylor has also adopted Hannemann’s ideas about staff development. Taylor paid for the training of funeral directors Brian Knecht and Shaun Cassidy. Like Taylor, Knecht started at Hannemann’s as a landscaper, but instead of yard work, he helped Keith shovel five tons of gravel to create the addition in 1986.
Taylor’s approach to business that combines a professional guild and personal generosity might not be a product of Hannemann’s influence alone. A photo of Taylor’s maternal grandfather, Sam MacDonnell, hangs in a waiting area in the funeral home. In the image from 1917, MacDonnell’s foot rests on the running board of the first Telephone Company truck in the county. The prospect of employment is what brought MacDonnell to Nyack from Nova Scotia several years before the photo was taken. And it was the kindness of Taylor’s ancestors that provided him room and board, and eventually, a family.
When Sam MacDonnell disembarked from the ferry from Tarrytown, he walked to Gedney and Main and took his room at a boarding house that the McNulty family ran for phone company employees. MacDonnell must have impressed his landlords because he eventually married their daughter.
MacDonnell went on to become the Construction Supervisor for the phone company in Rockland County for 38 years. And his daughter and Taylor’s mother, Anna Mae MacDonnell, became an operator for the phone company, working from 99 Main Street, the old phone company building at the corner of Cedar Street.
Because of the size of his family and their length of time in Rockland, chances are that Keith knows a member of every family whose final arrangements he helps manage. But the daily communicant at St. Ann’s is proud that his funeral home attends to the needs of all faiths. “I was in Queens the other day for a Jewish service. We organize funerals for Catholics, Protestants, Muslims, Russian Orthodox, anyone.”
Taylor encourages people to make pre-arrangements for all matters pertaining to funerals. “It’s better to sit down with a funeral home before the time of a death.” He also wants people to realize that just because a funeral home is nearby, it does not mean that its interests are local.
According to Taylor, 75% of the funeral homes in Rockland County are controlled by Service Corporation International (SCI), a national conglomerate based in Houston, Texas. “Independent funeral homes are more reasonable and flexible to deal with on price and other issues,” Taylor said. There have been several highly critical media accounts about the corporatization of what is referred to as the “death care” industry, including a chilling Anderson Cooper expose on 6o Minutes.
The circumstances of walking into a funeral home are always solemn, but there is a reason to visit Hannemann that has nothing to do with final arrangements. The walls of this Victorian mansion are covered by the work of local artists and historical photos. Watercolors by Jerre Vanderhoef and Beverly Bozarth Colgan, woodcuts by Debbi Davis and historic documents that include the earliest map of Nyack made by Tunis Smith in 1825 are exhibited throughout the public rooms.
“I love my job. I am at work every morning at 5:30a,” describes Taylor of his daily ritual. “I was a kid raised as one of eight and here I am with my own business in Nyack.”
That pride is on display at Hannemann’s from the pristine lawn and manicured shrubs to the exquisite art and artifacts that adorn the interior. In the same way that cemeteries have the serene quality of a park, Hannemann has the soothing aspects of a small museum, where precious and poignant memories are honored and kept safe.
Originally published on October 1, 2013
by Bill Batson
“We try to connect the head, hand and heart of our students,” said Vicki Larson, the communications director at Green Meadow Waldorf School, as we walked through their campus on Hungry Hollow Road. This organizing principal was inspired by Rudolf Steiner, who created his first school in Stuttgart, Germany 100 years ago next year. His philosophy animates everything at Green Meadow, from the unspoiled setting, to the architecture of the buildings to the organization of both classrooms and lessons.
My conversation with Vicki explored outdoor classrooms, maker-space curriculums, and the universal inclusion of visual and performing arts. For those unfamiliar with Green Meadow, upcoming after-school programs open to the public and a fall crafts fair provide opportunities to visit this educational oasis in Chestnut Ridge.
When was Green Meadow founded?
In 1950, as a Kindergarten and a Lower School. We added a high school in 1972 and our first high-school class graduated in 1976.
What is the philosophy behind Waldorf Education?
Nearly 100 years ago, in 1919, Austrian philosopher Rudolf Steiner worked with factory owner Emil Molt at Molt’s request, to create the first Waldorf School in Stuttgart, Germany. The goal, on the heels of the Great War, was to educate children to be clear-thinking, compassionate, and conscientious adults that could look at the world in complex ways rather than descend into world war. Steiner achieved this through creating a pedagogy that centered around reverence for, and deep observation of, how we as human beings naturally develop.
The essence of Waldorf Education is founded on the understanding that every child goes through three distinct phases of development:
Infancy and Early Childhood (0-7)
Middle Childhood (7-14)
Each of these stages requires a different approach in order to meet and engage the intellectual, physical, emotional, and social needs of the growing child.
What is the significance of your location? I hear you have some very fascinating neighbors?
We are lucky to be located on Hungry Hollow Road, a beautiful, tree-lined stretch of road that still feels rural in this very suburban county. Our neighbors, all like-minded institutions working to transform the world, are the Pfeiffer Center, a biodynamic gardening institute; the Fellowship Community, an innovative intergenerational elder-care facility that also includes the historic Duryea Farm; the Fiber Craft Studio, where you can take a “Sheep to Shawl” workshop and learn traditional fiber arts; Sunbridge Institute, which trains Waldorf teachers and offers educational workshops and conferences that are open to the public; Eurythmy Spring Valley, a teacher-training program for those interested in the movement art of eurythmy (taught in most Waldorf schools); and Threefold Educational Center, which offers classes and conferences and includes the fabulous Threefold Café, also open to the public and offering fresh, delicious meals that often incorporate Pfeiffer Center produce.
Describe some curriculum content for your high-schoolers?
Waldorf Education is based on three pillars: goodness, beauty, and truth. In the High School, we help students discover truth, in the world and in themselves. Our academic curriculum in the High School is inspired by opportunities in the arts, music, drama, movement, and real-world experiences.
One of the most unique things about our High School is that each year is centered around a specific question:
The 9th grade question is “What?”
In 9th grade, students are questioning the world around them with an interest in the dynamics of change. With this in mind, the Waldorf curriculum introduces the study of historical revolutions, thermodynamics, and anatomy.
The 10th grade question is “How?”
By 10th grade, the students develop a more harmonious worldview, revealed in questions such as “How do the processes of the world bring contrasts into balance?” The 10th grade students study balance and harmony as they manifest in mechanics, poetry, and ancient cultures.
The 11th Grade Question is “Why?”
Between 10th and 11th grades, the student embarks on what will be a lifelong quest for knowledge of self and others. Students encounter the tales of Parzival and Hamlet. In the sciences, students learn about the physics of electromagnetic fields.
The 12th Grade Questions is “Who am I?”
As seniors, students explore the nature of existence through such sources as American transcendentalism, Russian literature, evolutionary theory, and modern history. Internships and independent senior projects reflect the students’ emerging individuality.
What are some practices that you would find only at Green Meadow?
Green Meadow Waldorf
For the first time in their nearly 70-year history, Green Meadow Waldorf School is offering after-school classes, open to the public. Through this after-school program, Green Meadow hopes to out farther into our local communities, and better serve public-school students, homeschoolers and un-schoolers, and children from other independent schools.
All classes take place on their 11-acre wooded campus in Chestnut Ridge. Courses are run by teachers, parents, and friends of our school and are designed to offer students opportunities to stretch their minds and bodies while they develop new skills and friendships. Fourteen classes this year include:
- Circus Arts
- Culinary Arts
- Fiber Craft
- KEVA Planks: The Making of an Architect!
- Making Herbal Remedies and Products
- Textile Design and Sewing
- Theater Arts
The deadline for Cycle 2 registration is October 24.
Saturday, October 13 from 10am-4pm.
The Fall Fair is more than 40 years old and draws about 3000 visitors to our campus every October. A beloved event, it features curated vendors of handmade toys, jewelry, clothing, maple syrup, honey, and much more; children’s activities like pumpkin carving, tree climbing, candle dipping, face painting, a hayride, and caramel apples; puppet shows and live music, and fresh, organic food on the grill.
Parking and admission are free and activity tickets are $1.
Main Lesson: Each day at Green Meadow begins with “main lesson,” a period of one hour and 40 minutes in which a given academic subject is studied intensively, in a block that last three to four weeks, allowing for an in-depth study and integration of the material.
Students are presented with concepts and skills in language arts, math, science, and social studies. The concepts introduced to the students reflect where they are in their development and grow increasingly more sophisticated and rigorous as they mature. Integrating art with all academic work develops new ways of thinking and working, as the students literally take the work into their own hands. Our students experience a deep investment in their learning as they create their main lesson books with compositions, observations, illustrations, and diagrams of their studies.
The Class Teacher often guides students through several years, potentially remaining a cohort’s class teacher for multiple grades. This long-term relationship benefits by seeing the children through a continuity of development, creating established routines, and providing stability for the students as they develop and transform. Class Teachers are supported by a constellation of expert subject teachers who share in shepherding the class through the years. Classes of students grow together from 1st through 12th Grades and form strong, familial bonds. These threads of relationship form a social and human foundation from which the education grows.
No standardized tests or Common Core: Green Meadow believes that time in school should be a process of discovery, not time spent learning to take a test. Since GMWS is an independent school, we do not administer standardized tests or adhere to the Common Core curriculum. High School students do, however, take the SAT and/or ACT as part of the college admissions process.
Freedom from digital classrooms: Green Meadow’s media policy asks students to be media-free through age 11, and the school gradually introduces electronic media in the middle school and high school. We believe that students need to understand and have a relationship to the physical world before they enter the digital world. Rather than being a hindrance, studies of Waldorf grads show that this is actually advantage later in life, with more Waldorf grads entering the sciences than their non-Waldorf peers.
Lastly there is Eurthmy. Eurthmy movement art is unique to Waldorf schools that builds spatial awareness, flexibility, strength, and grace.
The Waldorf curriculum, infused with the arts and interpreted by us: Class plays in every grade (1-8, plus 10th and 12th), two languages beginning in 1st grade, instrument lessons required from 3rd-12th grades.
Describe the philosophy of the architecture of the buildings and classrooms?
Beauty is everywhere in a Waldorf School. Rudolf Steiner had many ideas about architecture, including rounded corners in the Early Childhood classrooms and lazured walls (lazure is a form of painting) for a soft look, with depth of color. Our buildings were designed in alignment with Steiner’s principles, by architect Walter Leicht, and are unique and beautiful. They feature lots of windows to let in natural light, and are arranged on campus to create a village-like feel that stimulates community.
What’s an outdoor classroom?
Our outdoor classroom is a platform in a wooded area by a stream, built with students’ help, with a top for shelter on rainy or snowy days, allowing students the de-stressing experience of studying outdoors.
What is a day in the life of a forest preschooler?
As in all our Early Childhood programs, the Forest Preschool students follow a morning rhythm that includes creative play, circle time, chores, and snack. They may also play in the stream, make a fire in the fire pit they helped construct (and maybe roast their food over the fire), go for a hike, or work in the garden.
What are some practices that you would find only at Green Meadow?
Nyack Sketch Log Artist and Writer
Teaching Activism and Civics at Green meadow
On Wednesday, May 1, I will be joining the faculty of the after-school program at Green Meadow to share some of my experiences as a labor, community, political and cultural organizer with children interested in joining or already engaged in social justice.
I will use film, music, literature, art, documents and social media to explore how through history, young people continue to play a leadership role in the expansion of human liberty.
Content includes the exploits of a 27 year-old who led a boycott that changed the world (Martin Luther King), students in Soweto, South Africa that brought the Apartheid government to its knees and more recent example of student activism from Ferguson to Parkland.
Contact BillBason at email@example.com to enroll.
Digital addiction: Our media policy helps students enter the viral world when they are mature enough to handle it, and offers them a foundation in the real world that helps them balance the complexities of life in the digital age.
Abstraction, alienation, and fear of failure: Green Meadow’s experiential, hands-on, “makerspace” curriculum helps students stay grounded, confident, curious, and joyful. By allowing them to do many things—some of which they master and some which they do not, they learn that they can “fail” and survive, they learn where their gifts are and where their challenges lie, and they learn to support and be supported by others.
Stress, anxiety, and competition: The daily and yearly rhythm of life at Green Meadow allows students to breathe, literally and metaphorically. Our outdoor classroom, wilderness trips, and campus setting on 11 wooded acres help students spend time in nature (which is a proven antidote to stress and anxiety). Our curriculum and pedagogy (way of teaching) highlight collaboration, enabling students to feel connected rather than competitive.
What are some of the challenges facing independent schools?
Independent school admissions are declining nationally, as lower birth rates in some regions and economic and political uncertainty make a commitment to tuition a difficult proposition for many families.
We also have a long way to go toward equity and inclusion in most independent schools. Even in schools where there are reasonably high percentages of underserved kids or kids whose families have not traditionally been in independent schools, research shows that inclusion is a goal that is still unmet.
What is the forrest school?
Our children benefit from a rich variety of outdoor spaces. Rain or shine, our students in the new Forest Preschool spend most or all of their day outdoors, developing strong, healthy bodies and expanding their sensory experiences. Depending on the time of year, children sled down snowy hills, climb rocks, follow the stream, and balance on fallen trees. Munching on autumn apples in the orchard or tasting a maple tree’s sweet water in late winter foster a lifelong respect for the earth and a deep appreciation for nature’s bounty, and build the foundation for future academic learning.
Where do your graduates go?
Our graduates are prepared to go wherever they like. They tend to seek out schools where they can continue to pursue a well-rounded education, where a balanced life will be respected and encouraged. Our Class of 2018 went to the following schools: Bard College, Bennington College, Berklee College of Music, Bucknell University, Fashion Institute of Technology, Hampshire College, , Lafayette College, Stony Brook
Green Meadow Waldorf School
307 Hungry Hollow Rd.
Chestnut Ridge, NY 10977
by Bill Batson
Meals on Wheels delivers. For people who can not shop or cook because of illness, physical disability or advanced age, their service fleet is a lifeline. For those who can travel, but need a destination for social and recreational activity, MOW operates five senior center in Rockland County. Granting independence for individuals and support for fragile families, MOW provides more than just the safety net, but the tent and a team of acrobats who bend over backwards to care for seniors. I should know. My mother attends their daily program at 90 Depew Avenue in Nyack.
On July 23, 2014 Meals on Wheels Programs & Services of Rockland delivered their 9 millionth meal. The milestone was accomplished during their 40th anniversary, commemorates not only millions of meals served, but millions of human connections and a safety checks.
When that momentous meal was served, Jo Lore, the current director of the MOW Nyack was winding down her 48 year career in the banking industry. Many people in Nyack know Jo from her work with non-profits including the YMCA, Rotary, American Cancer Society, and United Way.
Meals on Wheels Director and Village of Nyack Mayor Dr. Don Hammond asked Jo to a “part-time” manager after her retirement. “Initially, I was meant to work part-time ” Jo said. “Meals on Wheels is, in my opinion, one of those organizations that best addresses the needs of our elderly population in our County.” Apparently, there is no such thing as a part-time job for a person passionate about helping others. Jo is now the full-time manager, arriving early and staying late. “Having the opportunity for me to give back every day for our seniors in Nyack is a privilege and an honor.”
“Many of our members live alone and do not have family members always available to provide them with assistance and companionship….that is what our five centers provide. “We are a place they can come to for a friendly smile, a hug, a hot meal, the company of other seniors, games, field trips, exercise, and to learn about health, nutrition, and safety at home. When you see our vehicles on the road, it may be dropping off a meal, or it could be picking up a senior to come here!”
At 90, my mother needs the structure of a place to go to on a regular basis and the stimulation that social interaction provides. During the last year she has sharpened her watercolor and dancing skills, made legions of friends and gone for day trips. Her health and well-being is buoyed by the program that asks for a modest donation of a few dollars for daily meals and snacks. Food is also available for those who can’t afford to pay.
“The toughest part of my job is living in a community like Rockland County and not having the resources available to support ALL the needs of our seniors to live independently. Although, Rockland County residents are very supportive of our non-for-profit organizations, we always have room to do more. We all need to continue and expand our programs for senior. And we hope the public will continue supporting organizations like Meals on Wheels, through donations and volunteering.
According to Lore, the senior population of Rockland County to face a litany of challenges that dull the luster of what should be their “Golden Years”.
- Limited access to inexpensive dental and vision care
- Seniors who did not grow up in a digital age need access to computers
- Addressing the loneness of Seniors without family members
- Access to social programs without payment
- Homeless issue in our Community
- Easier, more frequent and inexpensive transportation throughout the County.
“Joining our senior centers is easy as 1.2.3,” said Lore. “All you need to be is over 60 years old, able to function independently, and a resident of Rockland County.”
Day care is no longer just for children. Our aging population needs more programs like Meals on Wheels and champions like Hammond and Lore. To paraphrase Flannery O’Connor, the senior programs you save may some day be your own.
The Meals of Wheels Nyack Senior Activity Center as well as their other four Centers in Rockland County with other various programs are funded in part by the Administration on Aging , New York State Office for the Aging, Rockland County Office for the Aging, donations, grants and fees.
To volunteer click here.
Join me on Oct. 6 for the first Nyack Sketch Log Walking Tour. The 2-hour trek through the village includes 2 museum visits (Edward Hopper and Historical Society) and a $5 donation to the Historical Society of the Nyacks. You can buy tickets at nyacksketchlogtour.brownpapertickets.com, my Nyack Farmer’s Market booth or meet me at 11a and 2p at 23 Main St. on Oct. 6.
by Bill Batson
The Nyack Sketch Log is now a walking tour. What started as a digital diary of village life is now an ambulatory adventure through the streets that inspired over 300 short essays and sketches. Meet visitors and neighbors who share your fascination with the racial, cultural, and socio economic history of Nyack. Learn more about local people and places of interest, viewed through the prism of my family’s 130 years of village residency. Twenty five percent of the proceeds from the inaugural tours on October 6, 2018 will go to the Historical Society of the Nyacks.
Here are some highlights of the first ever sketch log tour. I hope my mixture of personal history and facts unearthed during 8 years of researching, writing and illustrating a local history column will be edifying. You will encounter compelling narratives, hiding in plain sight.
The tours starts at the John Green house, the oldest standing structure in Nyack and ends at the Historical Society Museum, where you can purchase books by local authors and historic maps of the village, and listen to oral histories from the current exhibit, the Nyack Record Shop Project.
The premise behind the Nyack Sketch Log has always been that the unexamined place is not worth inhabiting. As we learn from each other’s lived experiences and avail ourselves to the local historic record, we become more aware of the needs of our communities.
This knowledge, collectively gathered, maintained and shared, will make us better and more zealous defenders of our democratic institutions and our built and natural environment.
Nyack Sketch Log Tour: A few Selected Stops
Since his death in 1842, John Green’s house has lived on, standing at the foot of Main Street, occupied by a litany of various owners and tenants. Neglect from an absentee landlord almost caused her collapse. But the John Green Preservation Coalition came to her rescue. Marshaling legal resources and skilled labor, they saved Nyack’s oldest building for future generations to contemplate and enjoy.
This house was saved from destruction in the early 1970s by an ad-hoc coalition that included neighbors, Rotarians, labor unions, students and artists. Not many causes can assemble such a vast cross section of humanity, fewer can inspire the kind of contributions that were necessary to restore a structure that was literally a few signatures away from condemnation. The family that once lived in this home at the intersection of North Broadway and Second Avenue provided the motivation. This is the childhood home of one of America’s greatest visual artists, Edward Hopper.
Couch Court originally published January 24, 2012
Corner of South Broadway and Depew
Not every beautiful old house in Nyack merits its own historic marker. For other properties, the traditional historic marker is not a loud enough shout out. Clearly, there are many addresses that could compete for the title of most interesting building in the village. In lieu of the debate over criteria, and before a jury can be impaneled, I suggest the former offices of feminist pioneer Natalie Couch for future consideration.
Bench by the Road originally published November 18, 2014
On May 18, 2015 several hundred citizens, students, historians and fans of Beloved author Toni Morrison came to Memorial Park to dedicate a Bench By The Road monument to the 19th century entrepreneur and Underground Railroad conductor Cynthia Hesdra.
Enjoy the beauty and history of Nyack in my first ever Nyack Sketch Log walking tour. This tour will take place on October 6th from 11am-1pm & 2pm-4pm. All tours start at the John Green House and end at the Historical Society of the Nyacks Museum. Tour price includes admission to the Edward Hopper House Museum & Study Center and the Historical Society of the Nyacks Museum (a suggested donation is encouraged at both venues). Cost is $20 per person. Visit https://nyacksketchlogtour.brownpapertickets.com/ or stop by the my booth at the Nyack Farmer’s Market to purchase tickets.
Special thanks to Bonnie Timm for her skill and artistry and to Dave Zornow, who urged me to turn my text into a tour.
by Bill Batson
Once upon a time, a couple who wrote and illustrated children’s books built this fairy tale house. Berta and Elmer Hader used the materials they had in abundant supply: imagination, stone from the quarry on the property, marital bliss and a love for the environment.
For over 50 years, the Haders held creative court on Willow Hill. The couple met at an artists’ colony in San Francisco in 1912. When Elmer went to Europe to fight in World War I, Berta came to New York to work at McCalls and Good Housekeeping magazines.
A lifetime of Art
The art and literature of Berta and Elmer Hader
Berta and Elmer Hader illustrated over 100 books, including the Caldecott winning “The Big Snow.” John Steinbeck asked Elmer to illustrate the jacket covers for “The Grapes of Wrath”, East of Eden,” The Winter of our Discontent” and “The Long Valley.”
The couple married in 1919 upon Elmer’s return from the war. Berta wore a wedding gown embroidered by the daughter of writer Laura Ingalls Wilder. The Haders helped Wilder publish the first volume of her seminal series, “Little House on the Prairie.”
In a column for a local charity journal in 1962, the Haders described their love- at-first-sight reaction to Grand View-on-Hudson. “Every bend of the road disclosed green lawns, flower gardens and clapboard houses – Many of them like pictures in Godey’s Lady’s Book (the most widely circulated magazine in the period before the Civil War)…We sat down to rest on a low stone wall, where we could see the river. A few young people in canoes paddled along close to the shore..we decided this was just the place.”
The land was purchased for a pittance because it was believed that the grade of the hill was too steep for construction. According to Grand View historian Terry Talley, “part of the down payment was paid by Elmer by doing a portrait of the lady who owned the property.”
Between 1921 and 1925, the Haders welcomed a steady stream of friends to help build their story book home. When completed, the dining room/studio was, according to various estimates, 60’ by 40′ feet with a 25’ ceiling. A stage was installed at one end of the grand room for skits, readings and musical performances. Apparently, Elmer did not require much convincing to produce and pick his banjo, that like his bohemian bungalow, was built with his own hands.
During the week, the stage served the Haders as their illustration studio. The light from floor to ceiling windows illuminated their work space. Even though the dwelling was designed for the artist owners, the accommodations were also ideal for their myriad friends, of both the human and woodland variety.
Interior features included seven working fire places and a table that could seat 25, where Berta would ladle out her famous soup. Nineteen bird houses were built into the exterior walls of the house, encouraging their avian acquaintances to linger and perhaps pose. A hand-fed baby bird became the muse for “The Friendly Phoebe.” Field mice, squirrels and chipmunks also got their own titles.
The vistas, neighbors, flora and fauna that the Haders encountered each day became the motif for over 100 books. Nyack is the template for a generic village depicted in their book, “Little Town.” In “The Big Snow,” two pheasants, who may have walked through Willow Hill are in the foreground of one panel, with geese in flight above the iconic silhouette of Hook Mountain in the distance.
For the Haders, the house was like a painting that never left the easel. It was a work in progress that was always being revised and refined. In a 1950s letter the Haders wrote, “Life moves along in the same groove in Hader’s Hovel. A nicely balanced diet of work and play and work keeps us a step ahead of the sheriff and not too busy on book work to prevent patching and repairing the little cottage we started to build a quarter of a century ago. Just a little progress since you last saw the place..we now have door knobs and locks on most all of the doors. Our friends have to be taught how to use them.”
In the fantasy world that the Haders created and occupied, you can just imagine a possum reaching into its pouch to pull out a key that the couple provided their marsupial friend.
For fifty years, the Haders held their ground in their forested fortress of creativity. For forty years they produced a book a year for MacMillan Publishing. In 1948, they won the Caldecott award for “The Big Snow.”
Elmer applied the same zeal into the protection of the environment that he put into its depiction. Hader became a vocal environmentalist, serving as the Vice President of the Hudson River Conservation Society and Zoning Administrator for Grand View for over 40 years. On September 7, 1973 Elmer Hader passed away at the age of 85. His wife, Berta, died three years later at the same age.
Sitting above a well traveled road, the home that Berta and Elmer built tells a story to all who pass. Anyone who catches a glimpse of the little stone house is entranced and transported. The stones that form steps, wells, walls and the dwelling seem assembled by playful hands. In a seasonal game of hide and seek, the main structure is camouflaged by a forest of maples, ash, oaks, aspens, pines and tall sycamores. The ground concealed by a carpet of honeysuckle, elderberries and vines. For people who slow down and look closely, the fairy tale house reveals itself, affirming the virtues of a life dedicated to fable-making.
Bill Batson is an activist, artist and writer who lives and sketches in Nyack, NY. Nyack Sketch Log: ” Authors of Children’s Books Built Fairy Tale Home” © 2018 Bill Batson. To see more, visit billbatsonarts.com
by Bill Batson
Over two dozen local African American oral histories collected by Nyack Record Shop Project volunteers in January 2018 form the basis of two upcoming events. On Saturday, September 8 at 1pm, an exhibit of images and audio will open at the museum of the Historical Society of the Nyacks. On Tuesday, September 11 at 7p, I am moderating a panel of Nyack Record Shop Project storytellers at the Nyack Library. Invest sometime at either Record Shop Project event and sample a collection of local history that represents 1,540 years of “living while black” in Nyack.
The Nyack Record Shop Project collected oral histories from the African American community for a week at Grace Episcopal Church, Main Street Beat and Meals on Wheels Nyack. The effort was launched on Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King’s Birthday – January 15, 2018 at the interfaith service commemorating Dr. King and his life’s work hosted by Dr. Frances E. Pratt, President of the Nyack branch of the NAACP.
The collaboration was inspired by the Beacon Project an exhibit of photographs by Carrie May Weems taken in a Hudson Valley village similar to Nyack. Oral histories that she collected in a record shop informed the series.
The project was the result of a collaboration of arts, civic, religious and local history organizations led by the Edward Hopper House Museum and Study Center and the Historical Society of the Nyack. I was invited to serve as Director.
The positive impact of the Nyack Record Shop project is underscored by the numbers: before this initiative, the Nyack Library had approximately 65 oral histories on file, and of those, only eight were of African Americans. Now there are 92 oral histories in total with 36 from the African American community. According to the 2010 census, Nyack is 23% African American. Thus, as a result of the Nyack Record Shop Project, 30% of the archived oral histories on record are from the African American community, a rare example of social equity skewing in favor of a marginalized group.
When Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was killed 50 years ago in April of 2018, the assassin was not just trying to silence a man, but a people. A people who believe in freedom, and who will not rest until it’s achieved. A people who are proud of their ancestry, despite being called inferior and indolent by the dominant culture in America and Europe. A community that in Nyack has not allowed the infamous act of a murderer with a fire arm to silence the voice of the generation who endured and overthrew the tradition of Jim Crow racial discrimination in America. We will not be the complicit in our one eradication– if we fail to record the life story of our elders before they depart, we are finishing the job King’s assassins started.
Would you ever throw out your cell phone without downloading all the memory: phone numbers and photos, password and personal information? That’s what we do when we let our elders go to sleep without down loading their memories. Come plug into this stream of first-hand lived experience and learn about the value and vitality of local oral history.
The oral histories collected by the Nyack Record Shop Project can also be heard at the soundcloud.
Nyack Record Shop Project Exhibit
This exhibit will share images of the 28 men and women who gave interviews in January, 2018 excerpts from the transcripts, and other documents and artifacts during the Nyack Record Shop Project. There will be a listen station where visitors can enjoy the interviews.
There will be an opening reception on Saturday, September 8 at 1p at the Historical Society Museum located in the bottom of the Depew House at 50 Piermont Avenue, directly behind the Nyack Library. The museum is open from 1p – 4p on Saturdays. The Nyack Record Shop Project exhibit is on display until October 6.
Three New John Scott Armchair Tours Illustrated Slide Presentations
The first John Scott Armchair Tours Illustrated Slide Presentations on Sept. 11 & 14 will feature the Nyack Record Shop Project. Participants Jamal Bey, Eunice Turnbull and John P. Vasser, Sr. will join me for a panel discussion to answer questions about their oral histories and to discuss their experience with the process.
The Tuesday, September 11 program will be at 7:00 p.m. at Nyack Library, 59 S. Broadway, Nyack. Registration is required, call 358-3370 x 214 All Friday programs: 2:00 p.m. at Valley Cottage Library, 110 Route 303
All programs are free. Contributions to defray costs are requested. For more information and for weather-related updates, please visit: www.nyackhistory.org or call 845. 418.4430
Upcoming John Arms programs
Thursday, October 25 and Friday 26: Andrew Goodwlie, presents History Trail rough South Nyack
Thursday Dec. 6 and Friday, December 7 Win Perry presents: What’s Happening at the John Green House?
Special thanks to Kris Burns for taking the stills that animate this exhibit and that form an important part of the digital files of the Nyack Record Shop Project and Ray Wright for printing her photos. The Nyack Record Shop was also supported by the Village of Nyack, the Historical Society of Rockland County, the Nyack Center, Kiam Records, Rand Realty, Alex Cabraie of Planet Wings, Clare and Bill Sheridan and South Mountain Studio. The collection of oral histories was made possible by the generous contribution of the time and talent of dozens of individuals. This took a village