Centuries before a Dutchman from New Jersey first settled here, the shoreline along today’s Village of Nyack was already well known to the Lenape for its limitless bounty of oysters and fish. By one definition, Nyack derives its name from the native word “nay-ack” — “the fishing place.”
Nyack was part of the van Purmerant Patents of the late 1600s. Van Purmerant, who lived in what is now Jersey City, sold some of his land to a neighbor, Herman Douwsen Tallman, who left to settle in Nyack in 1675, making it the oldest community in Orangetown, and Rockland County. Tallman farmed and built a mill and, in 1686, became the first appointed sheriff of Orange County.
Before the Revolution, Nyack was a small farming settlement. In 1813 Tunis and Peter Smith bought a large tract of land. Together they engineered Nyack’s rise as an important deep-water river port and a leader in shipbuilding, transportation, manufacturing, and business. The Smiths helped bring about the Nyack–Suffern Turnpike (today’s Route 59) and in 1826, helped form the Nyack Steamboat Association, which built the first engine-driven boat constructed here. Steam-powered passenger and freight transport to New York flourished until 1870 when the Northern Railroad of New Jersey soon replaced it.
Nyack, together with South Nyack, were incorporated as the Village of Nyack in September, 1872. In February of 1878, however, it was disincorporated after South Nyack voted to secede. Nyack didn’t reincorporate until 1883.
Railroads established Nyack as a commuter suburb, and vacation destination. For most of the 1800s Nyack was also a manufacturing town, producing shoes, pianos, sleighs, carriages and wagons. In the early 1900s Nyack became a center for business, and the shopping mecca of Rockland.
On the first day of the 20th century, Nyack Hospital opened, and as the 1900s progressed, theatre and the arts also became part of the villagescape. Today, despite the nearby presence of the Tappan Zee Bridge and the New York Thruway, Nyack remains a peaceful place of tree-lined streets, a vibrant business district, and a historic riverfront that still inspires all who see it.