Until it broke away from Nyack in 1878, South Nyack was considered more a Nyack suburb than an entity of its own. Included in the incorporation in 1872, South Nyack later contended that its taxes were used more to Nyack’s benefit than theirs, and brought about disincorporation on February 7, 1878. Four months later the Village of South Nyack was officially incorporated.
The land here was part of the rich forest and shore deeded by Cornelius Clausen Cooper to his brother John; land that included present-day Grand View. Like the Lenape, a Native American tribe before them, settlers here took advantage of the plentiful fishing along the distinctive shoreline of The Bight. In 1770, Michael Cornelison, who owned farmland on this shore, built the main section of the Cornelison-Salisbury House, a landmark that stood here until it was demolished for apartment buildings in 1958. In the early 19th century, a nearby shipyard constructed river sloops and, as steam power took prominence in the 1820s, the steamship Orange was built there as well.
Orangetown Fire Company No. 1, Rockland’s first volunteer fire company, was established in 1834. As the Northern Railroad of New Jersey extended into South Nyack in 1870, the dominance of river shipping and shipbuilding diminished, and freight and passengers bound for New York switched to trains. Commuter train service continued until 1965. In the late 1800s and early 1900s, shoe, pipe organs, and ice businesses prospered. A tourist trade also developed, and hotels and resorts like the Tappan Zee Inn and The Avalon Hotel attracted the rich and prominent from New York City.
But of all the villages and hamlets that both absorbed and reflected the development of Orangetown in the 20th century, South Nyack sacrificed more in the name of progress than any other. In the building of the Tappan Zee Bridge and the New York Thruway in the 1950s, South Nyack lost over 100 homes, its commercial center, village hall, police and railroad station, and all or parts of several streets. Yet despite the wrenching change these projects created, South Nyack still retains its gracious, residential nature and historic Hudson riverfront allure.
The Female Institute, 1856 - Opened in 1856 on land that stretched from Piermont Avenue to a beach on the Hudson, the Rockland Female Institute was America’s first school of higher learning for women. The Institute flourished until finances forced it to close before 1899, and it became the Tappan Zee Inn resort. From 1899 to 1929, it was the Hudson River Military Academy, then the Nyack Club, and River Club. The building burned in 1932.(Courtesy Nyack Library)
The New York Thruway, 1950s - This photo starkly shows the impact of the Tappan Zee Bridge and New York Thruway interchange on South Nyack. During construction, some likened the removals, relocations and destruction of neighborhoods, businesses and streets to scenes they had witnessed in post-war Europe. But despite all of the jarring and changes, South Nyack survived, and adapted gradually and successfully to a different style of life along the Hudson’s scenic riverfront. (Courtesy Nyack Library)