Nyack's Pretty Penny takes a page out of history

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The 19th century Italianate Victorian mansion on North Broadway in Nyack that Helen Hayes and Rosie O'Donnell have called home will soon be in the history books.

NYACK The estate on North Broadway that cost Helen Hayes and Charles MacArthur a “pretty penny” when they purchased it in 1932 and has since become perhaps the village’s most storied address will soon have yet another claim to fame.

The Italianate Victorian mansion where the “First Lady of the American Theatre” and the acclaimed playwright hosted celebrities including F. Scott Fitzgerald and Marilyn Monroe will be designated as Rockland County’s first Literary Landmark.

The designation, a program of United for Libraries, a division of the American Library Association, will be celebrated in early October with a trio of events highlighting Hayes’ and MacArthur’s theatrical legacies.

After MacArthur’s death in 1956, Hayes continued living in the stately home overlooking the Hudson River at 235 N. Broadway until she died in 1993.

The home has since had a handful of owners, most notably Rosie O’Donnell from 1996 to 2000. Its current owners, art dealer Walter Arader and his wife, fashion editor Tatiana Hambro, are supportive of the home’s new designation, according to organizers. A plaque marking the honor will be affixed to the brick wall that hides the property from the street.

Hayes was the first woman to be honored with an Emmy, Grammy, Oscar, and Tony Award (a rare achievement known as the EGOT). Two Broadway theaters have been named in her honor. The New York State Rehabilitation and Research Hospital in Haverstraw was renamed for her in 1974. Hayes was appointed to the hospital's Board of Visitors in 1944 by Gov. Thomas E. Dewey and served for 49 years until her death.

MacArthur was a journalist, Broadway playwright, Hollywood screenwriter and World War I veteran whose observations about the war were captured in his book, A Bug’s Eye View of the War. MacArthur’s most notable plays include Ladies and Gentlemen, Jumbo, and The Front Page, all co-written with Ben Hecht.

With more than 20 produced screenplays, MacArthur was nominated three times for the Academy Award and won in 1936 for The Scoundrel. MacArthur’s 1931 screenplay, The Sin of Madelon Claudet, starred Helen Hayes in the title role for which she won her first of two Academy Awards.

Celebrating Pretty Penny, on film and in song

The Literary Landmarks Register, The Empire State Center for the Book, and the Pretty Penny Literary Landmark Committee will celebrate the new designation with three events. It is the first such landmark recognizing two honorees at one location.

  • The Rivertown Film Society will present Helen Hayes on Film: When the First Lady of Broadway Conquered Hollywood at 8 p.m. Friday, Oct. 7, at the Nyack Center. Film historian John DiLeo charts Hayes' progression from young leading lady to senior character actress, using film clips spanning more than four decades. The program also includes clips from film versions of two stage classics —The Front Page and Twentieth Century— co-written by MacArthur and the couple's friend and neighbor Ben Hecht. Tickets will be available at www.RivertownFilm.org.
  • At 3 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 8 at Pretty Penny, Joyce Bulifant, actress and former daughter-in-law of Hayes and MacArthur, and the couple’s families will host Memories of Pretty Penny, followed by the dedication of the Literary Landmark plaque. A champagne reception will follow. Space is limited at this outdoor event. Pre-paid reservations can be made at www.RocklandHistory.org.
  • ArtsRock will present Remembering Helen Hayes with Love! a live and in-person show by Bulifant, with Bryon Sommers on piano, at 8 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 8, at the First Reformed Church, Nyack. Bulifant’s one-person show includes music, images, and stories about Hayes. The show will be followed by a Q&A with Bulifant, hosted by Richard Skipper. Tickets are available at www.ArtsRock.org.

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