by Bill Batson
Extreme weather and wrecking crews have reshaped the corner of Ackerman Place and Gedney Street since this sketch was published in June 2012. The Hook Mountain Yacht Club lost their clubhouse during Hurricane Sandy and this building that once belonged to the boat club’s founder, James Kizer, was demolished last month.
When a previous owner recently wrote to inquire about the sagging structure’s status, we had to inform her of its demise. Here is an update on the state of Kizer’s old boat club and an excerpt from Cheryl McDonald’s letter that now constitutes a eulogy for Kizer’s old barge and barn.
The property that would become the Hook Mountain Yacht Club was purchased in 1946 by Kizer and operated for several decades as a marina. Originally, Kizer provided slips for 10 small boats.
Kizer may have owned the marina, but as a full time employee of Lederle Labs, a spirit of cooperation was necessary to run the operation. His customers were able to keep slip fees low by pitching in with the heavy lifting that is required to run a marina. His low rates kept some of the last commercial fishermen on the Hudson around for a few more runs of shad before the pollution from factories and human waste destroyed their industry and our food supply.
Materials for the dock were often salvaged. An early club member, Morey Brush, the electrical foreman when the Tappan Zee Bridge was constructed, provided surplus switches and fixtures.
The biggest example of river re-cycling was the barge that housed the clubhouse. Built to ferry stone from Haverstraw to New York City in 1917, the flat-bottomed workboat was acquired by Kizer from the Trap Rock Company and floated into position in the 1950s.
According to Club Secretary and Vice Commodore Candi Dabi-Vene’, the barge did not survive super storm Sandy. Not only did the hurricane submerge the barge five years shy of her 100th birthday, a 65-foot yacht beached on their cove, damaging their walkway.
Despite the loss of the community center that the cub house represented, members cleared a bulkhead and set up tents to host holiday events and celebrations.
“While the village has been helpful with post-Sandy clean up, we are still waiting for Sound Marine to remove debris, “Dabi-Vene’ said.
A few days before a “small but happy group” watched fireworks on July Fourth from Kizer’s old battered boat club, Cheryl McDonald (formerly Goroshko) wrote a letter from Clearwater, Florida to NyackNewsAndViews about Kizer’s old Barn.
“My late husband and I owned 20 Ackerman Place between 1975 and 1989. Often it was referred to as a barn in the Nyack historical reviews, which it is not, but it actually did serve as one. As I became involved with the Palisades Spinners & Weavers Guild, I bought two lambs that were housed in the northern half of the garage. At that time there was only an ordinance prohibiting horses, cows, ducks and chickens and there was one grandfathered farm still in Nyack proper.”
Determined to secure her source for spinning and weaving material, McDonald had her attorney prepare a defense if the Health Department tried to bureaucratically sheer her sheep. “If Helen Hayes could keep a donkey and the Health Institute (Pierre Bernard’s Clarkstown Country Club) could keep elephants, then I could keep sheep,” she was prepared to argue.
“Our mortgage was through the owner Mr. Kizer, who bought 20 Ackerman Place 15 years earlier from two sisters and they had bought it from one of the Ackerman’s. The sisters, one of which was a nun, actually came back to look at the place while we owned it during the 1980’s. They made a comment about missing the old Ironwood tree that stood at the bank overlooking the River and that they had planted the Red Crimson King Maple as a sapling.”
Three of the buildings that I have drawn since I began recording Nyack’s landscape two years ago are no more: Hilltop Restaurant “Home of Lobster Della Fano”, Moger’s Autobody Works and now Kizer’s Barn. Compared to natural features like mountains, rivers and some trees, the life span of an American building is typically measured in decades not centuries. (We don’t seem to build pyramids, or coliseums that survive millenia). The sweeping tide of change that I perceive as I observe the life of our village reminds me of a poem by eighth century Chinese poet Li Bai:
The birds have vanished from the sky.
The last cloud drains away.
We sit together, the mountain and me, until only the mountain remains.
Photo credits: Ray Wright (ruins of 20 Ackerman Place) , Dave Zornow (Hook Mountain) and Candi Dabi-Vene’ (after the storm)
Bill Batson is an activist, artist and writer who lives and sketches in Nyack, NY. Nyack Sketch Log: “Farewell Barge and Barn“ © 2013 Bill Batson