April 17, 2016

Andrea Caccuro, bed and breakfast owner in Haverstraw explains his vision for restoring downtown Haverstraw.

Video by John Meore - The Journal News

Article written by Akiko Matsuda - The Journal News -


October 5, 2012


Nelson Diaz rehabs vintage Haverstraw Brick House

Written by Bill Cary - The Journal News -


For a change of pace from its usual house tours in and around Nyack, Piermont and Grand View, this year the Historical Society of Rockland hosted its annual tour in Haverstraw.

The village is right on the Hudson, with spectacular views, and many people in Rockland don’t know much about its rich history. It was established by the Dutch in 1666 and in the 1800s was nicknamed the “Brickmaking Capital of the World.”

One of the most interesting stops on the tour showed an in-progress gut renovation of an Italianate-style house owned by Nelson Diaz. It was built in the 1840s by S.C. Blauvelt, a pharmacist on nearby New Main Street, Diaz says. “We found opium bottles out back when we dug out the outhouse.”

Before he took title in 2009, the house had been used, since 1974, as a preschool. All of the exterior bricks had been painted blue and white. This summer, Diaz, an artist, and his team of helpers have been painstakingly removing all of the layers of paint by hand. “I’m against sand blasting,” he says. “I didn’t want to harm the integrity of the bricks.” Instead, he’s using pigments and high-speed metal brushes to bring a distressed but finished look to the exterior bricks.

The brick walls extend into the interior, too. Luckily, these were never painted. There are no finished walls at all on the second floor, but it’s easy to imagine a master bedroom here or a bathroom over there. Eventually, the house will have three bedrooms and three baths.

“I’m now here full time — restoring and renovating,” Diaz says. “I’m working around the clock getting the facade ready for the tour.” Already, he has removed 10 layers of lead paint from the columns on the front porch, taking them back to raw wood and then staining them with oil-based pastels to bring them back to life. It took a full year for him to restore the massive front door. In coming days, he plans to add three coats of varnish to make the wood really shine. “This door is going to roar!” he promises tour-goers. Diaz, who also owns an apartment in Chelsea, says he first found the 5,500-square-foot house while bicycling up from the city. He’s well into his five-year restoration plan, but judging from the lack of interior walls and finishes, he’s got a ways to go before it’s move-in ready. During the restoration, he has been living in the basement.

Parts of the house were boarded up and hidden from view when he bought it. Already he’s filled three giant dumpsters with junk and debris. And he’s uncovered quite a few hidden gems: fireplaces, 14-foot ceilings in the first floor, an original staircase, andherringbone-patterned wood floors with some gorgeous inlay details — and oh, those Hudson River views that fill the horizon from all of the river-facing rooms. “It’s all about the view — bringing it inside,” Diaz says. Eventually he wants to replace many of the front windows with floor to ceiling ones.

Yes, of course, he’ll be glad when it’s finally all done, but Diaz says he loves the process, too. “I love the transformation,” he says. “Since I was a kid, for me it’s always been about seeing things transform. That’s what rocks my boat — seeing things go from nothing to something, from something to nothing.” And the artist in him enjoys seeing the careful work of the workers who built and renovated the house over the years. “When you excavate, you get to see the essence of the craft,” he says.

He’s crazy about the funky and friendly neighborhood, too. “It’s reflective of Avenue A, Avenue B in the East Village when I first came to the city,” he says. “My feeling is that it’s going to shift. It has a Brooklyn feel now — I love it.”