by Mike Hays
There was a time when the Hudson River villages were choice destinations for New York City day-trippers. They arrived by steamer, ferry and automobile to swim, dance and stroll Rockland County’s four riverside parks.
Nyack Beach was the first park to open in 1915, followed by Hook Mountain Beach and Haverstraw Beach. Bear Mountain was opened in 1913, just around the time that a plan to move Sing Sing prison to Bear Mountain was canceled.
Nyack Beach State Park
Nyack Beach State Park looks very much as it did nearly one hundred years ago. The large stone bathhouse that was once the power station for the traprock quarries still dominates the small parking lot and picnic area. A long pier, appropriated from the mining operation, provided docking for small passenger boats. The pier was destroyed in a storm shortly after WW II. The shoreline has changed, too, altered by storm damage. WPA workers constructed the original sandstone walls abutting the driveway into the park during the early 1930s. These stone walls were restored in 2016.
Access was primarily by foot or car. When the park opened in 1915, a jitney bus made several trips a day from Nyack, once in the morning and three times in the afternoon. The parking lot in the mid 1920s was likely to be filled with Model T’s.
The popular Hudson River walking and biking trail was very rough and rocky path in the early days according to Nyack resident Gene Brown. He remembers walking the path as kid to get to the Hook Mountain carousel, a round trip of about five miles.
The Entrance to Nyack Beach from Nyack
Postcard showing the park entrance in 1949. Note the tiny tollbooth where the road heads down the hill to the park.
"Larchdale" on North Broadway in 1900 leading to where the park entrance is. Hook Mountain is in the background. The driveway on the right is probably to the Arthur Tucker House, the northernmost house in Upper Nyack in the early days.
The parking lot and pier in the 1920s. The bathhouse that still exists is on the left.
Bathers at Nyack Beach near parking lot and refreshment stand.
The park entrance on North Broadway was created in 1924 when the sisters at the Marydell Faith and Wellness Center gave part of their land for a small traffic circle to provide park access and ease traffic turnarounds at the end of the street. Previously, the Marydell property stretched from the Hudson River to Route 9W.
At one time, North Broadway was once lined with larch trees leading up to the park. That’s where Larchdale Ave, the street between Broadway and Midland, gets its name.
Michael Hays is a 30-year resident of the Nyacks. He grew up the son of a professor and nurse in Champaign, Illinois. He has recently retired from a long career in educational publishing with Prentice-Hall and McGraw-Hill. He is an avid cyclist, amateur historian and photographer, gardener, and dog walker. He has enjoyed more years than he cares to count with his beautiful companion, Bernie Richey. You can follow him on Instagram as UpperNyackMike.
Nyack People & Places features photos and profiles of citizens and scenes near Nyack, NY. Sponsored by Weld Realty.
Photo Credit: Mike Hays
Historical photos courtesy of the Nyack Library