A Look Back: South Nyack Before The Tappan Zee Bridge

Historical Society to host exhibit on span's past effects; display kicks off in August.

When Tom Hackett was 21-years-old in 1953, he and his parents lost their home.

It wasn't to a natural disaster or overwhelming bills. Their house on Willow Avenue in South Nyack was swept up by something far more specific: .

Next month, Hackett is teaming up with the Historical Society of the Nyacks to paint a picture of what South Nyack was like before the Hudson span was built—and what was wiped off the map as a result.

, titled "Looking Back at Tappan Zee Bridge I, and Its Effect on the Nyacks," is slated to run from August 1 thru October 31 in 's Carnegie Room during regular hours. The event will be curated by Nyackers Karen Kennell and Patricia Condello, and feature old photographs and memorabilia.

Hackett—who now lives in Harrington Park, NJ, but remains the historical society's treasurer—recalls a South Nyack commercial district that many never experienced.

"There were two restaurants, two grocery stores, and an auto-repair shop," he said. Hackett and his family lived just next door to the now non-existent downtown before the span went up, connecting Rockland and Westchester.

"All of these were taken in '53," Hackett added. "It ruined South Nyack, it cut it right in half."

While some homes were moved, hundreds—too old to be picked up and placed elsewhere—were demolished. A church, Bell Chapel, was also torn down, village hall was switched to a new location and 9W was moved west, to its current location.

In helping piece together the upcoming exhibit, Hackett dug an old relic out of his garage: the street sign for Willow Avenue and Franklin Avenue.

"I'll probably put that in the exhibit," he said.

Chase Avenue, a nearby roadway, was another that was swept off the map.

Hackett was well-informed during the 1953 construction—his father was head of the DPW—but said it happened much quicker than the current bridge replacement project.

"I've been following news of the new bridge to a certain extent," Hackett added. "But they're going to end up doing what they want anyway."

While the original plan was to , the New York Thruway Authority recently announced it will not be taking any residents' houses—an turn of events that .


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