Nyack People & Places: Broadway Stone Wall Walk

With a smile and a wave of the hand, the villagers who stroll in the great outdoors on N. Broadway in Upper Nyack during our on-site refuge keep their social distance by stepping aside into an alley or the street. It is almost impossible to stray to one side due to the frequency of the stone walls. Most of the time, we don’t think about those lichen covered walls that we may have passed hundreds, if not thousands, of times. Defensive and decorative, these walls protect from the view of the early 20th century waterfront estates built on former farms in Upper Nyack.

Better defined in the words of Frost’s disarmingly complex poem of 1914, Repair wall, contemporary with the construction of several of these walls,

Before I build a wall I would ask to know
What I walled up or walled up,
And who I like to offend.
There is something that does not like a wall,
This wants it down.

For a few moments of centered meditation during our current horrific pandemic, a walk on a stone wall is a pleasant diversion from the anxieties of Covid-19. With the exception of the first and longest stone wall, there is almost an unbroken line of brick and stone walls from 511 to 627 N. Broadway. Below is a brief atlas of the stone walls, estates, and the people who built them.

Miramare built by J. DuPratt White circa 1927, 339 N. Broadway

Long wall in front of the Summit school

White was a successful New York lawyer who grew up in Piermont. He was a champion of land preservation and served on the first board of directors of the Palisades Interstate Park Commission, later becoming its chairman. White began acquiring a riverside property in 1900 and built his Tudor-style mansion in 1927. Upper Nyack’s longest stone wall has a smooth face and a flat stone cap extends from Castle Heights at Old Stone Meeting House. The initial section is a little higher than the section in front of the house. Until recently, the entire facade of the wall was lined with lime trees. Since 1974, Summit School has occupied the house and its surrounding buildings.

Brick walkway to The Moorings

The Moorings built by the Williamson family in stages, 511 N. Broadway

Six generations of Williamsons lived at the eastern end of their farm, starting in 1751. The present house was built in stages, the stone part being built around 1810, and a federal part built later. In 1925, The Moorings and its cottages were bought by Pierre Bernard who ran the Clarkstown Country Club. The brick wall, topped with a pointed cap and a rounded main entrance with pillars topped with metal urns, now has more than one entrance. The wall was probably built in the 1920s.

Wyndsong, renovated by Viola Bernard, 515 N. Broadway

Once the driver’s quarters of the Moorings, Wyndsong was named by Viola Bernard who made it her home after selling the rest of the estate. A light blue portal adorns the entrance.

Shadowcliff with its brick wall

Shadowcliff, built by Eleanor Manville Ford, 1921, 525 N. Broadway

Led by a high brick wall with a flat stone top reminiscent of the nearby Moorings Estate, this 16,000 square foot three story neoclassical brick building was built by an oil tycoon. It was the home of the Fellowship of Reconciliation from 1957 to 2019.

Under Elms built by Richard Voss in 1921, 531 N. Broadway

The stone and brick walls of Broadway are interrupted in one place by a high metal fence topped with spikes in front of the residence of millionaire quarryman Richard Voss who built the limestone castle in 1921. Known as the River House today , the building contains cooperatives.

Widewater, built by Leroy Frost in 1908, 539 N. Broadway

The stone wall at Widewater with a newly built house

Frost was a self-made Wall Street millionaire who bought the southern part of a large farm called Greenland, owned for many years by George Green (son of John Green of Nyack). Frost enlarged the old green house and added a tower. Frost owned the first car in Nyack and was known for his racing boats on the Hudson River. Widewater was purchased in the late 1940s by the MacCartney family. The house was demolished in 2018 and has been replaced by a large French Baroque style chateau. The sandstone wall topped with chunks of pyramidal granite stretches from the Voss property to the foot of Lexow Ave.

Belle Crest built by Walter Davies, 1906, 609 N. Broadway

Davies, a clock maker, built a large stone and timber mansion at the north end of the George Green property, topped with a trapezoidal stone wall topped with filed stones. In 1926, George and Augusta Chapman lived there. Augusta was a champion lawn tennis player at Nyack Country Club. Augusta donated land in front of the house which is still the site of the Upper Nyack Tennis Club. Their daughter, Marion, also a famous tennis player, married next door neighbor RWD Jewett Jr.

Watercrest built R. Dickinson Jewett, circa 1896, 615-619 N. Broadway

Lichen covered field stone wall at Jewett Estate

The Jewett House and Cottage enclave was the summer home of the Jewett family, whose primary residence was in Washington DC. Jewett, a New York lawyer, was active in local affairs and owned a lot of property in the Nyaks. Jewett died in 1917, and his eldest daughter died of the 1918 Spanish flu pandemic shortly after becoming engaged. The large 22-room main house burned down in 1957. The Jewett Stone Wall, probably constructed from rocks on the estate, does not have a smooth face, but is otherwise similar to the Widewater Wall.

Farm built by Aury Smith, early 1800s, 627 N. Broadway

Fittingly, the last house topped with a stone wall (with the exception of the modern wall at 655 N. Broadway) is the oldest. A small gate at the north end of Jewett’s stone wall faces a post and beam house that may date to the early 1800s and believed to have been the home of Aury Smith, a militia captain during the independance War.

Photos of Mike Hays

See also

Michael Hays has been a resident of the Nyaks for 30 years. Hays grew up the son of a teacher and a nurse in Champaign, Illinois. He recently retired after a long career in educational publishing with Prentice-Hall and McGraw-Hill. Hays is an avid cyclist, historian and amateur photographer, gardener and dog walker. He has enjoyed more years than he wants to count with his beautiful companion, Bernie Richey. You can follow him on Instagram as UpperNyackMike.

HRHCare community health logoNyack People & Places, a weekly series featuring photos and profiles of citizens and scenes near Nyack, NY, is brought to you by HRHCare and Weld Realty.

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