I have been to Lucky Larry’s Luncheonette, which is one town over from me, for both breakfast and lunch and I have to say that the food, service and atmosphere are very homey and down to earth. It is a real neighborhood spot, one of those places that the locals hang out to meet one another and catch up on town gossip.
The Lucky Larry’s logo
Blog under the old Lucky Larry’s:
It is more of a deli than a restaurant so there is limited seating but that does not stop the crowd of diners from eating and relaxing there. They will even bring your order to the…
I still can’t believe that Christmas came so quickly this year. It was almost like the blink of an eye. With the start of the Christmas holidays, there are many cherished Christmas events in Hasbrouck Heights that have become tradition.
Downtown Hasbrouck Heights, NJ is always so beautifully decorated for the holidays (Heights Flower Shoppe)
Starting with the Christmas Parade the day after Thanksgiving, this annual event showcases our wonderful downtown in Hasbrouck Heights, NJ and dazzles us at the end of the parade with the Annual Christmas Tree Lighting and Caroling. It had been so cold that night that the crowds were more subdued than usual (remember COVID is still going on) but no less spirited.
The Neil Parrot Playhouse decorated for Christmas at the Hasbrouck Heights Circle
The Fire Department escorted Santa down the parade route to the Christmas tree and was greeted by the Hasbrouck Heights Community , who were ready for some Christmas cheer. When the switch turned on, we were dazzled by the lights of the trees and decorations that grace the Circle in Hasbrouck Heights.
The Christmas Tree at the Hasbrouck Heights Circle always dazzles at night
After the parade and carolling were over, it was back to the firehouse but not before the fire fighters got their own group shot at the Christmas tree.
The Hasbrouck Heights Fire Department at the Christmas Tree in 2021
By the end of the month, we were ready for our big community event, “Santa Around Town” where the fire department escorted Santa around the Hasbrouck Heights community to wish everyone Christmas cheer in a very difficult year.
We lucked out and the weather cooperated and it ended up being a sunny but cool day. Because of the COVID pandemic, we cut the number of stops and the crowds were a bit smaller but no less enthusiastic about seeing and talking to Santa.
Being socially distanced and wearing masks in some locations, residents of Hasbrouck Heights got to talk to Santa and give him their Christmas wishes. I have never seen so many families and especially children need a lot of Christmas cheer in these tough times and Santa really came through for families and even their pets, as many Christmas dogs greeted and licked Santa.
We toured all over town, greeting residents and every keeping as socially distanced and safe as we could as Santa greeted everyone who came and cheered up a community that really needed it.
Merry Christmas from the Hasbrouck Heights Fire Department!
The Hasbrouck Heights Fire Department’s Annual “Santa Around Town” 2021
It has been one busy year for me at work with online classes and live work and very little time for volunteer work. I was lucky that we sold out of Christmas trees for the Hasbrouck Heights Men’s Association Christmas Tree sale in a record 11 days! My last shift we sold the final tree and I was able to attend the fire department’s room cleaning that night. Needless to say, I have not been that active as a fire fighter this year due to work.
Still, I managed to finish everything and was able to assist the Rescue Truck as we set up the sound system and lights for the Annual Hasbrouck Heights Holiday Parade and Tree Lighting on November 26th, 2021. The parade takes place on the Boulevard in Hasbrouck Heights, NJ the day after Thanksgiving and we draw a nice crowd for the Parade and then the Tree Lighting. It was really cold that evening and we had about 150 residents for the tree lighting.
The Christmas Tree at the Circle is always a welcome site at the holidays
We participated in the parade with all the equipment following Santa down the Boulevard, handled the sound system and the lights for the ceremony and kept the town safe that evening. It was a wonderful to usher in the holiday season.
The Brothers of the Hasbrouck Heights Fire Department at the 2021 Christmas Tree Lighting
I have been to Miss T’s Two several times when I needed a quick snack and was in the area. The deli is tucked in a residential neighborhood right near Hackensack High School so I know who their customer is when the school year is in session.
Miss T’s Two is primarily a deli/bodega selling some household items and snack foods to the locals who live in the area but they also have a small hot food area in the back of the store and this is where this unassuming place shines. Their hot food selection may be limited but everything I have tried is delicious and extremely reasonable and is always fresh.
The first two trips I made to the deli was by accident. I had passed the place…
Since my thirty-two mile walk around the Island of Manhattan, I have stayed clear of New York City for the time being while things calm down a bit. Since my walk and even on Father’s Day weekend there have been a rash of shootings and thirteen people murdered in various neighborhoods. The papers said they have not seen anything like this since the late 90’s before Rudy Giuliani became Mayor and started to clean things up in New York City. What really spooked me is that I walked through parts of Harlem that were affected the day of the shootings especially between East 145th to East 118th Streets before I got on the riverfront walkway. I still can’t believe that people would act this way at a time like this.
Still between work and the fire department keeping me busy, it has been hard to get back into the City. Phase Three is slowly being introduced in but indoor seating has been put on hold. Outdoor dining has been cautious and the museum and parks have been slow to open. I just got a email from the Metropolitan Museum of Art that they will be opening on August 25th and 26th for a ‘Members Private Night’. It will be interesting to see if that happens.
Upstate New York in Duchess County is slowly opening up with precautions and we are now entering the ‘new normal’ that I would not have even thought about when I was running around the City and Upstate during the holiday season. I glad I made the visits I made when I did. You can’t do that now.
Since the COVID-19 pandemic started, we have been pretty much limited on what we can do and needing exercise and to get out of the house, I have been walking to our downtown and around the blocks exploring my own town. The Hasbrouck Height Chamber of Commerce recently sponsored “A Stroll Downtown” for our residents for people to explore their downtown and visit the restaurants and stores that are open for limited business and outdoor dining. With the weather getting warmer, people are tired of getting cooped up in their homes and want to get outside and enjoy the weather (yes, we are all wearing masks when necessary).
So every evening, I walk the Boulevard, our business district in Hasbrouck Heights and over time I have really noticed a lot more of our downtown. There is an array of architecture that dates back to the late 1800’s and historical markers that I had never really noticed before.
I start my walk every evening with a turn around the corner from my home and I walk down Williams Avenue to the Boulevard which starts our small part of downtown on our side of town. What is interesting about Williams Avenue is that is was used as an escape route for George Washington’s troops during the Revolutionary War from the Battles in Hackensack and Paramus with the British.
The Battles in Hackensack and Paramus during the Revolutionary War
Our area of New Jersey has a very prominent place in Revolutionary War history with local battles with the British.
Washington’s forces retreated down Williams Avenue in Hasbrouck Heights after the Battle in Hackensack NJ
Before rounding Williams Avenue onto the busy Boulevard, which is a County of Bergen Road, you will pass Corleone’s Pizza at 205 Williams Avenue, one of the newest pizzeria/restaurants in Hasbrouck Heights. Their pizza and sandwiches are really good anchored by their rich Marinara Sauce and well-priced lunch specials. Outdoor dining here is rather unusual on such a busy road but makes it almost seem like you are in the City. Don’t miss their lunch specials and interesting sandwich combinations.
Walking to the downtown area is only a few blocks away passing many homes that have stood in town since the late 1800’s to the 1930’s. Hasbrouck Heights has a diversity of types of homes, so it makes walking around interesting especially if you are into historic homes and architecture.
Back in the early 2000’s, our former Mayor Rose Heck, started a beautification of the downtown area by cutting down the old trees and opening the buildings to more sun and creating a whole new landscape by bricking the new sidewalks and adding flowering cherry trees that bloom an abundance of colors in the Spring.
On the new wrought iron lampposts, we have pictures of the graduates of Hasbrouck Heights High School, who missed the last four months of school (but recently had their graduation socially distanced on the football field) and American flags that are placed for Memorial Day, Flag Day and the Fourth of July. During Christmas time, wreaths and white lights adorn them.
I always start on the right side of the Boulevard as you approach downtown. The downtown starts with the historic Corpus Christi Church at 215 Kipp Avenue. The complex with the historic parish house, which had once been a well-known doctor’s home in the late 1890’s sits between Washington Place, home to many historic Victorian homes and Kipp Avenue, the start of the business district.
The original part of the Church that was built in 1896 was moved from across the street to its current location when the parish bought the Dunstan estate in 1914. The church has been added onto twice in 1934 and 1957.
The parish house is the historic Dunstan mansion on the original estate grounds.
The business district runs from Kipp Avenue in town to the circle at Passaic Avenue. Since there are numerous businesses, I wanted to point out the ones that I have enjoyed and been a patron of for years.
Our newest Chinese restaurant, China House at 250 Boulevard, opened (ironically on March 13th when everything was shutting down) just off Kipp Avenue. This small take-out restaurant has a few small tables to dine in, which I did the first week it was open (now due to COVID-19 it is just take out). Their General Tso’s and Orange Chicken are really good. The family that runs the restaurant is really nice and has been offering opening discounts.
The nice thing about our downtown is the diversity of stores and restaurants. One of the most unique shops is the Religious Shoppe at 220 Boulevard. One of the few stores in the State of New Jersey that specializes in Catholic gifts, it has an array of merchandise from crosses to crucifixes and at the holidays there is a selection of jewelry, books, figurines, statuary and selected gifts both religious and secular.
Next to the Religious Shoppe at 220 Boulevard (the other side of the building) is Sophia’s Kitchen, a very popular Greek restaurant that opened several years ago and continues to grow in popularity. Their food and service are excellent and after many great reviews in both the local papers and on the internet has been a destination restaurant ever since. You need to wait for tables between Thursday and Saturday nights.
The Religious Shoppe and Sofia’s Mediterranean Grill during the Summer months
Their gyro sandwiches are delicious with a side of their garlic fries and they have this shrimp appetizer, the Shrimp Sanganaki, that is cooked in a tomato sauce and topped with cheese that is out of this world. Their Baklava is sweet and buttery and soaked in honey in all layers. They also have a dessert called Galactoboureko, a sweet custard wrapped in phyllo dough, that is amazing.
Crossing over Franklin Avenue to the next block, you will find a series of interesting shops with Young Fashions at 208 Boulevard, for beautiful children’s wear and Not Too Shabby at 206 Boulevard (both closed for business in June 2021) for custom made and vintage painted furniture.
Young Fashions at 206 Boulevard (Closed June 2021)
My review on LittleShoponMainStreet@Wordpress.com:
Owner Addie Carrino greets all her customers personally (now retired)
Young Fashions (now closed June 2021) is a Lilliputian dream for the well-dressed child and a favorite for grandparents and aunts and uncles all over Bergen County. This delightful store still carries quality clothing for children from infant to age 12. Owner Addie Carrino still believes that there are children that still dress nicely and provides clothing from head to toe for them. She offers complimentary pressing of items when bought and free gift wrapping.
Not Too Shabby (now closed May 2020-online business orders) is run by Addie’s daughter, Liz Carrino, who brings to life her custom painted furniture and one-of-a-kind pieces. She loves vintage furniture from the Depression era and all sorts of decorative pieces for the home and office. Take time to walk around the aisles of furniture and Knick knacks.
Not Too Shabby at 206 Boulevard (now closed 2020-Online Business)
Next to Not Too Shabby at 202 Boulevard, the new and much enlarged Dumpling Chinese Restaurant moved to from their old location at 220 Boulevard (now the home to China House). The restaurant is much bigger and brighter than their old restaurant and has lots of places to sit down. They made a wonderful Lemon Chicken and Moo Shu Pork and their dumplings are not bad too. Their Hot & Sour Soup is the best in town.
Walking further down the Boulevard I always pass the Masonic Temple at 200 Boulevard, one of the oldest buildings in Hasbrouck Heights. The Euclid Masonic Lodge has been in existence for 145 years and its stately building has been part of the downtown since anyone can remember.
As you walk to the next two blocks you will reach the Circle which is the home to many a Christmas Celebration with the annual Tree Lighting after Thanksgiving. One little unique local landmark we have is the old ‘Neil Parrot Playhouse’ that sits on the Circle and is decorated for the holidays. In 2016 a group of concerned citizens got together to have the little dollhouse, which matched the home of the old Neil Parrot business office and home of Neil Parrot, a local realtor. He used the little house to amuse children while their parents did business with him.
The Neil Parrot Playhouse on the Hasbrouck Heights Circle
The Circle at the corner of Boulevard and Passaic Avenue is the official end of the Business District and is where all holiday events take place with the Tree Lighting at the end of November and the Holiday Choir performing.
The pine trees at the Circle in Hasbrouck Heights add to a festive mood at the holidays
On the other side of the Circle from the old Neil Parrot Dollhouse is the Firemen’s Memorial where every Memorial Day and 9/11 Day, we on the fire department have our special ceremonies and events. It really is a place of reflection and a nice place to sit and think. I like to take time and look at the names of fire fighters from the past.
I like to take a break here but move on I do very quickly and I start the walk on the other side of the Boulevard.
Another nice restaurant that I enjoy going to is Heights Bar & Grill at 163 Boulevard. The restaurant is now serving outdoor diners and has delivery and take out. Still the outdoor dining is really popular. When it is open, it is the local watering hole for customers all over Bergen County who enjoy a good mixed drink, their wonderful pub food and watching the games. Their pizza and burgers are really good and cooked and seasoned perfectly. They have a nice assortment of appetizers to order when having a drink.
Walking past the Heights Bar & Grill there is a bevy of small businesses and commercial banks housed in older and modern buildings. The architecture in our downtown is a combination of old and new and old becoming new again.
A new addition to our restaurant scene and adding a little ‘hipster’ to Hasbrouck Heights is the new KTB Coffee Shop & Lounge at 183 Boulevard that just opened last year. It had been an old convenience store for years and the new owners stripped it down to the bearings where is looks like a combination of Williamsburg meets Beacon, NY. The food is reasonable and they have nice sandwiches and wraps. The nice part is when the place was open pre-COVID-19, they had entertainment on Friday and Saturday nights. It was nice to hear saxophonists and guitar players rather than the usual garage bands. It gives the downtown a little diversity from all the pizzerias and Chinese take-out places.
KTB Coffee Shop & Lounge at 183 Boulevard now has outdoor dining
The next few blocks is studded with service businesses, hair salons and banks and then you have a series of restaurants some opening in recent years. On the corner of Hamilton Avenue and the Boulevard replacing the long service Carroll’s Fashion which had been that location for about thirty years. Bella Pizza opened at 193 Boulevard. The pizzeria has quickly established itself in town among the other six pizzerias we have and makes the most amazing calzones and Sicilian pies.
The Risotto House of Hasbrouck Heights, a branch of the popular Rutherford, NJ restaurant is at 203 Boulevard is one of the growing fine dining restaurants added to our downtown. It has always been busy at the holidays and in the COVID-19 era has a small outdoor dining area to sit and relax while you enjoy dishes like Shrimp Risotto and Veal Milanese.
The Risotto House of Hasbrouck Heights at 203 Boulevard
One of the nicest stores in Hasbrouck Heights especially at each of the holidays is Heights Flower Shoppe at 209 Boulevard. Their window displays are some of the best in the downtown area and are especially nice at Christmas and Easter. I love their selection of gifts at the holidays and their owner always makes special arrangements for me when visiting the cemetery. The business is housed in an old home that has been in the downtown since the 1880’s and was renovated to its beauty by the owner.
Heights Flower Shoppe is always special at the Christmas holidays
The historic Lovey’s Pizzeria at 211 Boulevard and has been in town since the early 1960’s. There is a small dining room in the restaurant and I have been partial over the years to their fried calzones and their ravioli with red sauce. The current owner bought the pizzeria from her parents who had owned it all those years.
Lovey’s Pizzeria & Ristorante at 211 Boulevard with Summer dining
One of my favorite Chinese take-out places in Hasbrouck Heights is Ho Mei Kitchen at 227 Boulevard. I enjoy many of the dishes here especially their Lemon Chicken, their House Fried Rice and their Lo Mein is the best is the best in town. Their lunch specials are really reasonable and you can order them until 4:00pm. They are like a dinner. The family who owns the place are really nice and have set up an interesting system of ordering in the COVID-19 era.
Crossing the street at Jefferson Avenue are three of the oldest businesses in town along with Lovey’s Pizzeria, Height Floral Shoppe and Young Fashions is Bill O’Shea’s Florist & Gifts at the corner of Jefferson Avenue and the Boulevard at 231 Boulevard has been opened since the 1960’s as well.
Like Heights Flower Shoppe, Bill O’Shea’s Florist & Gifts is always so nicely merchandised with the wonderful flower arrangements for a quick pickup, nice assortments of candy and stuffed animals and creative gift items for the home at the holidays. Their owners are really nice and accommodating. They also have a nice Open House at the opening of the holiday season.
The owners of Bill O’Shea’s Florist & Gifts, John and Linda Kosakowski, at their Food Drive.
Bill O’Shea’s Easter Open House 2021
The newest addition to Downtown Hasbrouck Heights is Ralph’s Ice Cream & Ices at 239 Boulevard that opened in the height of the COVID pandemic just in time to cheer a town up that really needed it. The store opened in the summer of 2020 to long lines and gave everyone an excuse to done a mask and meet their neighbors for a sweet treat. Check out their weekly posted specials.
Fisher’s Café at 245 Boulevard is another restaurant that has been in town since the 1960’s and is a popular place for breakfast and lunch with a lot of the locals who make this their place to eat. Fisher’s is very popular for their breakfast dishes and platters and is a hang out after school for the junior high and high students for their burgers and grilled cheese.
Another long-time merchant in Hasbrouck Heights is Spindler’s Bake Shop at 247 Boulevard, which had reopened after a few years of being closed by the family. The bakery has been a Hasbrouck Heights institution since the 1950’s by the current owner’s grandparents.
Ginny & Bob Spindler at their store as the next generation of bakers.
They are well-known for their butter cookies arrangements; their fresh rolls and their apple and lemon turnovers are melted in your mouth good! Don’t miss their delicious Black & White cookies and their stuffed Chocolate Chip sandwiches. The staff is always friendly and the smells of the baked goods as you enter the store are sensational.
The baked goods are so good! Don’t miss their Lemon Turnovers!
Their Lemon Turnovers are excellent!
As you pass by Spindler’s Bake Shop, you will walk the next block over and pass Kipp Avenue again to the end of the official part of the Business District and start walking back to Williams Avenue past residential and commercial properties and Corpus Christi Church again until you reach our Municipal Building.
In a small strip of stores across from our new Town Hall that was built in 2004 are two very popular restaurants, Tom Young Koong, at 305 Boulevard and Heights Pizzeria at 313 Boulevard which have both adapted to the COVID-19 era of outdoor dining and take-out/delivery.
Tom Young Koong is a very well-known destination Thai restaurant that is very busy between Thursday and Saturday nights. Their assortment of appetizers that include Chicken Satay, Curry Puffs, Fried Dumplings and Shrimp Fried Noodle are excellent and they have the most delicious Pad Thai which is wonderful with Chicken and Shrimp. The food is cooked by the owner with recipes that came from his mother. The service is always friendly and the owners are really nice.
Hasbrouck Heights Pizza (Heights Pizza to locals) at 313 Boulevard has been popular since it opened its doors almost a decade ago. Their pizza is so popular that people order it from several towns away and even during the worst storms even Hurricane Sandy, it never closed and was as busy as ever. Everything here is delicious and it is known not just for its regular Cheese Pizza but their Grandma Pizza, their Pepperoni Calzones, Specialty pies and their entrees are excellent and restaurant quality. The place is always busy, so the staff and drivers run in and out of the place. The outdoor dining is even popular from early Spring until it gets cold in October.
When arriving back at Williams Avenue, I cross the Boulevard again with Corleone’s Pizzeria in the distance and their well-lit tables. Two other businesses have been in town a long time in this series of stores.
Danson Jewelers at 201 Williams Avenue has been in Hasbrouck Heights since the 1980’s and does a nice job on repairs of watches and jewelry and has a nice selection of watches. The service is very friendly and the family that owns it gets to know their regulars.
Further down the street a new bakery opened. Two Ladies Bakery at 446 Boulevard. They specialize in Lebanese, Russian and French pastries. The bakery just opened two weeks ago so it is nice to go in and support a new business in town.
The Cream Puff I had was a little pricey for our town at $5.00. It was well baked and had a rich creamy vanilla filling. It was good but average.
The cream puffs are good but expensive
Another long service merchant who has been assisting residents for years is Heights Specialty Pharmacy (the former BeJay Drug Store) at 450 Boulevard. The staff has been here for years and is helpful to many of our senior residents. The owner’s wife runs a small gift shop both in the store and a few doors down has a separate shop.
The last merchant I pass on my way home is Jerry’s Barber Shop at 406 Boulevard, which has been here since the 1920’s when Jerry’s father ran the business. Jerry has been cutting my hair since 1988 and is one of the only people I trust to do it correctly. I even waited for trips home from Hawaii, Guam and California when I lived in those places to get my hair cut. A haircut here is still $14.00 and he does an excellent job. I highly recommend him.
Then I round the corner and am on my way home again. For such a small town, Hasbrouck Heights has the most interesting and historic downtown that few residents appreciate when you look at the history and longevity of our merchants. A few long-time merchants have closed their doors as they have either retired or COVID-19 has affected the business.
During the holiday season, the town really rolls out the welcome mat. People in town love to decorate and entertain. In this COVID era, some things have been toned down such as large parties and parades. All the Christmas concerts have been cancelled as school has been put into both virtual and life classes.
Still the spirit of the town can be felt from Halloween to the New Years as people decorate their homes and businesses welcome people to open houses and will cater to small parties of people.
Halloween in Hasbrouck Heights, NJ in 2019
In 2021, the Hasbrouck Heights Men’s Association started the first Annual “Halloween House Decorating Contest” to promote all the residents who decorate their homes for the Halloween holidays. We presented the award on Halloween morning to the winners at 257 Henry Street.
The first Annual “HHMA Halloween House Decorating Contest” winners with Chairman Justin Watrel
My blog on Halloween at the Parade and running the Halloween House Decorating Contest in 2021:
Every year I look forward to the Downtown Merchants Open Houses with their bright creative display windows and small indoor entertainments as people come to shop and converse with their neighbors.
Heights Flower Shop at Halloween
Hasbrouck Heights merchants know how to decorate for Halloween-Heights Flower Shop
Right before the Thanksgiving holiday weekend, Bill O’Shea Flowers had their annual Open House with Christmas music and lots of pre-wrapped goodies to enjoy and take home. The store was beautifully decorated with all sorts of treasures that customers could buy, I love just walking around and grabbing a snack while shopping every year.
Bill O’Shea’s Florist & Gifts is a delight at the Christmas holidays
Bill O’Shea’s Florist & Gifts welcomes you at Christmas
The weekend after Thanksgiving, Heights Flower Shoppe had their Annual Open House and it was just as spectacular. One tries to outdo the other in a friendly rivalry.
Heights Flower Shoppe has the most interesting merchandise
Heights Flower Shoppe pulls out all stops to welcome you at the holidays
My twenty-one years on the Hasbrouck Heights Men’s Association has done a lot to my back after years at Macy’s selling rugs as well. The Annual Christmas Tree Sale was a HUGE success this year. We sold out in less than two weeks, ending the sale on Friday night, December 11th selling a record 375 trees. We want to thank the residents of Hasbrouck Heights and the surrounding towns for their support on our Scholarship Fund event.
The Hasbrouck Heights Men’s Association at the set-up being COVID safe in 2020
Things calmed down a bit in 2021. We sold out 390 trees in 11 days!
As we ready for Christmas 2020 next week and the coming of a new and hopefully better New Year, the town has done its job to cheer us up. The Annual Christmas Tree lighting was not advertised but happened anyway and welcomes people at our western border of town.
Our town Christmas tree at the Circle
The Neil Parrot playhouse is even decorated at the Circle
Downtown Hasbrouck Heights welcomes you at Christmas
Heights Flower Shop in Hasbrouck Heights at Christmas in 2021
Bill O’Shea’s in Hasbrouck Heights at Christmas time
Even though the Annual Holiday Parade was cancelled, we will still be welcoming Santa at Santa Around Town the last Sunday of December before Christmas. This Annual tradition on the Hasbrouck Heights Fire Department has the whole town in the Christmas spirit as Santa visits them in their own neighborhoods.
The Hasbrouck Heights Fire Department at “Santa Around Town” 2019
As the State of the New Jersey slowly opens again, I can still walk my entire downtown in the evenings and appreciate the fact that sometimes small-town living is not so bad and it is still only twenty minutes and twelve miles to Midtown Manhattan.
This is what walking is all about. Discovering things close to home.
Watch this video on our town and try to locate some of the older homes still standing.
The Northwest Bergen History Coalition
6th Annual History Day
Theme: ‘Spreading the News: Rail, Mail & the Press in Days Gone By’
Special Exhibitions at each Museum
Come discover how we communicated when letter were left at the local inn, when postcards were our ‘twitter feed’ and the operator listened to all our calls on the party line. See how mail was delivered by train and what our local newspapers were like in 1900.
I took a day out of touring in the city to tour my own county, Bergen County, New Jersey is rich in Revolutionary, Civil and WWI &II history yet we still have a big link to our Colonial past in each town in Bergen County.
The unfortunate part of this tour is that it only covers a small portion of the county and it was hard to get to all of the sites in one day and really see them once a docent took over. I just didn’t want to leave the sites quickly because each tour was special in its own way.
I got off to a late start and got lost in Ridgewood because the Map Quest was not very good in describing the location of the first site on the west side of Route 17 South on the Ridgewood side of the highway. From there it just got easier.
My first stop was at the Schoolhouse Museum at 650 East Glen Avenue in Ridgewood, NJ (see my reviews on TripAdvisor and VisitingaMuseum.com). This quirky little school house sits at the edge of a vast cemetery next to Route 17 South in Ridgewood.
The School House Museum, built in 1872, is maintained by the Ridgewood Historical Society. This year’s exhibit is ‘Farm to Home: Exploring Our Agrarian Roots with Artifacts from the 18th and 19th Centuries’. Objects on display include early Dutch artifacts, farm tools, home furnishings, quilts, coverlets, pottery and tin ware. During the Spring, there will also be a special small exhibit featuring letters and writing tools as well as newspapers communicating important events. For History Day only, a letter from George Washington will be on display. The current exhibition is called ‘Farm & Home: Exploring our Agrarian Roots with Artifacts from the 18th & 19th centuries’. The museum is open from 1:00pm-3:00pm on Thursdays and Saturdays and 2:00pm-4:00pm on Sundays.
Schoolhouse Museum at 650 East Glen Avenue in Ridgewood, NJ
I bought my pass here to start the tour and a nice donation of $10.00 let me into all the sites on the tour. Since I was the first one to the museum, I got a personal tour by Dot, a retired teacher from Ridgewood who taught in Hasbrouck Heights. It’s a small world.
The Schoolhouse Museum is a step back into Bergen County’s rural past with many interesting displays from the Lenape Indians who first lived in the area and taught the Dutch how to farm and fish to early Colonial clothing and its purpose when working. The displays were beautifully presented and well noted by their cards. The section on cooking utensils and their changes over time with modernization was interesting. How to bake on an open hearth versus a modern cast iron grill is the difference from a rotary phone to a smartphone.
The fact that many of these items came from people’s basements and private dwellings was the most interesting part. That people kept these heirlooms for so long and then gave them up when they moved and donated them to the museum really tells the story of Ridgewood’s farming past.
We had good conversation for over an hour and the ladies volunteering that day invited me back in the future and then provided me with chocolate bites and bottled water, which I thought was a nice touch.
My next stop on the tour was The Hermitage located at 335 North Franklin Turnpike in Ho Ho Kus, New Jersey (see my review on TripAdvisor and VisitingaMuseum.com). The old homestead sits on a rather large parcel in the middle of a residential and commercial area that shows how time has progressed on in this town.
The Hermitage at 335 North Franklin Turnpike in Ho Ho Kus, NJ at Halloween
The Hermitage, a National Historic Landmark and house museum, incorporates an 18th century stone house that was visited during the Revolutionary War by General George Washington. It was also the site of the marriage of Aaron Burr and Theodosia Prevost. Its picturesque Gothic Design dates to the 1847-48 Gothic Revival renovation by architect William Ranlett for Elijah Rosencrantz. The house was willed to the State of New Jersey by his granddaughter Mary Elizabeth in 1970 and is furnished as it appeared in the 1890’s. A special exhibition in the 1888 summer kitchen honors the legacy of Bergen County historian, Claire K. Tholl. Her maps, books and drawings are on display.
The Hermitage in the Summer months
Bumping your head on some of these tours is easy as parts of the homes visited were built when people must have been smaller. When you start the tour of the Hermitage, you enter through the kitchen which was built in the late 1700’s and it is small. The rest of the house was built before the Civil War with high ceilings and a more Victorian flair. The rest of the house had been modernized in the 1920’s.
The later history was hardly the glory days of when Aaron Burr married there. The last of the Rosencrantz descendants had gone broke after the Crash and their source of income which was a tearoom to traveling tourists from New York City when the Franklin Turnpike was a major thoroughfare, had dried up as fewer cars were traveling through the area. It had gotten to the point where the family was living in the back room of the house and the rest of the house was shut down. The house is still in need of a lot of repairs so donations are accepted by the foundation. It is an unique house with an interesting history so take the time and tour the house in detail.
The next home on the tour was The John Fell House at 475 Franklin Turnpike in Allendale, New Jersey (see my review on TripAdvisor and VisitingaMuseum.com). The house was vacated by the former owner and was scheduled to be knocked down for townhouses. The community rallied together and saved the house from the wrecking ball. Now the house is being renovated room by room to its former glory.
The John Fell House at 475 Franklin Turnpike in Allendale, NJ
The historic John Fell House is named in recognition of Founding Father, John Fell, a revolutionary war patriot, who purchased the property circa 1766. The house was also home to Colonel Joseph Warner Allen, a Civil War hero for whom Allendale is named.
This 22 room Colonial Revival mansion was home to a Founding Father, a Civil War Colonel and a Sunday School that led to the first church in Allendale. The stately house is set on a hill on 2.8 acres near the center of town. The property also includes a late 19th Century Barn, exceptional wetlands and a stand of old-growth.
The history is very unique. John Fell led the local resistance movement against the British. He was arrested at the house by 25 armed Loyalist and imprisoned in New York City, where he kept a secret diary documenting the British Army’s horrific treatment of American prisoners of war. Located across the street from the house is the Celery Farm Natural Area, 107 acres of wetlands and woods originally known as “Wolf Swamp” and later “Fell’s Meadows”, which was originally part of the Fell estate.
The home, which was built circa 1760 and originally called Peterfield, has had several subsequent owners, including John H. Thompson, John G. Ackerman, the Stephen Cable family and the Joseph B. Taylor family, who enlarged it in the Colonial Revival style in the early 1900’s. Colonel Joseph Warner Allen for whom Allendale is named, stayed at the house while he surveyed the route for the Paterson-Ramapo Railroad. He was a key New Jersey figure at the beginning of the Civil War. The house is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Exhibits will include recreations of early 18th and 19th century broadsides, early local 20th century newspapers featuring historic military news, copies of historic letters, photos and railroad news. Jim Wright gave a brief talk and a slide show on “Revolutionary Communications: Getting the Word Out in John Fell’s Day.”
The Fell House is owned and operated by the Concerned Citizens of Allendale, a 501(c) 3 nonprofit group, which saved the house looked mostly modern to me as it had just been lived in by a family before the sale. The exterior of the house needs lots of work saved the property from being bulldozed to make way for a controversial townhouse development. The house is home to a tearoom, community events, school events, nature programs and an annual holiday open house.
The organization has also developed several history programs that inform the public and students about the history of the John Fell House, including reenactments of his arrest at the house. During every open house, docents inform visitors of the timeline of the house and its important role in American history. Historic preservationists have studied the house and produced a Preservation Plan that document the history of the home, barn and landscape while suggesting how to best restore, preserve and maintain the house and property. As a member of the Northwest Bergen History Coalition, the organization works with eight other historical sites to encourage both children and adults to learn about the region’s amazing history. (The Historic John Fell House Pamphlet)
The house tour was very interesting and the docents lead some of us to the outside grounds to show some of us some new discoveries such as an old well that was discovered. The only problem with the tour was that house was modernized for current times as it was a private home until just recently and needs more period furniture and decorations to it. While the outside looks historical on the outside, the interior is quite modern. The Fell House has a rich history but is a work in progress. It is still worth the trip just to see the grounds and hear about its rich history.
The next site on the tour was The Waldwick Signal Tower at 1 Bohnert Place, which had just finished a renovation (see my review on TripAdvisor and VisitingaMuseum.com). The tower sits in a rather obscure place by the railroad tracks up the tracks from the station. You have to make several twists and turns to get to the tower.
Waldwick Signal Tower at 1 Bohnert Place in Waldwick, NJ
Built in 1890 by the New York Lake Erie and Western Railroad, the Waldwick Signal Tower was the key to the movement of railroad traffic within the newly created yard facility. Eventually it also handled 4 tracks of heavy m service on the Erie’s route between New York and Chicago. Manned 24 hours a day, seven days a week for over 50 years, it was also the hub for maintenance of the signal systems between Ridgewood, NJ and Suffern, NY. The tower museum is dedicated to the railroad workers of the area and educates visitors about the variety of jobs and operations of the Waldwick Facility. Check http://www.allaboardwaldwick.org for a schedule of events. (Historical pamphlet)
Waldwick’s Train Signal tower is both historically and architecturally significant. It is a rare historical treasure for its residents and railroad enthusiasts from far and wide. Before the turn of 20th Century, the Waldwick rail yard was an active repair depot and turn station for the Erie Main Line from Jersey City, NJ to Port Jervis, NY and was a major employer in Waldwick thus contributing to the bough’s residential and commercial growth.
The ornate Queen Anne style building was built in 1890 and housed the mechanism connecting switches and signals allowing trains to safely move from one track to another. The tower men who operated the switches by hand had a great power indeed in their time. By the mid 1980’s upgrades in computerized signal equipment warranted the elimination of the tower.
The tower was slated for demolition in June 1987. The Waldwick Historical Society members led by Kay Williams campaigned to place the tower on The National Registry of Historical Places. This accomplishment allowed the tower to at least stay dormant till the next wave of enthusiasts came along in 1999. Michael Brunkhorst and Glen Corbett banded together a group of citizens to form the All Aboard committee of Waldwick’s Historical Society. Curtis Springstead of Wanaque who is the great-great grandson of the renowned locomotive engineer Harvey Springstead, got wind of the tower’s trials. He stepped up to the plate and purchased the tower for $6,000 then gave the Tower to the Borough of Waldwick as a gift to preserve for future generations in honor of the trainman’s family name. The small All Aboard group set out to create awareness of the tower’s existence and it’s plight.
Before long, fund drives were organized and grant applications were filed. The response of the number of supporters including Mr. Robert Keeble have given this project a solid start. Meticulous measures are currently being made can now be witnessed at the track end of Bohnert Place, to maintain the tower’s historic authenticity. Attention is being given to the placement of exact shaped decorative shingles and the repair and replacement of the original slate roof are among the initial stage of it’s restoration.
Mission Statement: The All Aboard continues seeking membership and financial support to complete the tower with the vision of becoming “The Harvey Springstead Memorial Tower at Waldwick” for generations of Waldwick citizens and for rail enthusiasts everywhere. If funding continues the tower is sure to be the pride of Waldwick with time and care. (All Aboard Pamphlet of the Waldwick Historical Society).
I was the only one at the tower that part of the afternoon. It was a colorfully decorated tower full of pictures and timelines. The docent who was there that afternoon could not believe the number of visitors that the tower was getting that afternoon. I told him if it were not for the tour, I would have never known the tower even existed. The history of the tower and how it played a role in the town of Waldwick. It was considered very innovative at that time. The fact that it was still being used into the 80’s was pretty amazing. Now they want to bring back some of the equipment that was being used at the time that is just sitting in warehouses. It will be an interesting place to revisit once those items are put into place.
I double backed on the tour with only an hour left and I went to the Zabriskie House at 421 Franklin Avenue in Wyckoff, New Jersey (See my review on TripAdvisor and VisitingaMuseum.com). This old home is a combination of historic home and modern day living as it was in the family’s hands until 1973.
Zabriskie House 421 Franklin Turnpike in Wyckoff, NJ
The original stone structure of the house was built by William Van Voor Haze in 1730 on a 550 acre of tract of land and is believed to be the oldest house in Wyckoff. Prior to 1806, a small parcel of land was purchased from William’s son and heir, Albert, to build the Wyckoff Reformed Church. In 1824, Albert completed a major addition to the house in the classically Dutch Colonial style and the original section of the home became the dining room.
The house was purchased by Uriah Quackenbush in 1867 and was willed to his granddaughter, Grace Quackenbush Zabriskie, the wife of the late County Judge John B. Zabriskie. In 1964, Mrs. Zabriskie, the last resident owner, donated the pond and the surrounding acreage to the township of Wyckoff. Upon her death in 1973, she bequeathed the house and the antique furnishings to the town. Throughout its history, the Zabriskie House has been used, at different times, as a village store, a candy store, a tavern, a hotel and a ballroom.
Under the guidance of the house’s Trustees, the Zabriskie House is continuing restoration for future generations to enjoy. The Trustees have recently overseen extensive work on the porch and stairs, re-oiling of the roof, stone step repairs and limited gutter installation. Children can try colonial toys and all can guess the at the ‘What It’ table.
This was one of the quickest tours I went on as the house was closing down for the day and I was in the kitchen looking at one of the docent’s daughter’s wedding pictures. I excused myself and walked through out the house. It had been left the way it had when Mrs. Zabriskie was still living there. There were many antiques mixed in with the modern furniture. Nothing remains of the original owners but the docents told me that a clock was still in the house from the Quackenbush family. Most everything left in the house was owned by Mrs. Zabriskie.
The docents described all the rooms to me and how the house was added on through the years. Watch your head as some of the places have low ceilings. The kitchen really gives you an idea of how old the home really is in comparison to the rest of the house. It was a nice mix of the old and the new. At the end of the tour, the members of their Friends group had the nicest selection of homemade treats and lemonade. It was nice to talk to members and what goals they have for the house. It looks over the pond in the park next door and is a picturesque view.
I had just enough time to visit my last house, the Van Allen House at 3 Franklin Avenue (corner of Route 202 & Franklin Avenue) in Oakland, New Jersey. Most of the volunteers were leaving for the day but let me still walk around as many of them were talking around a table. The house is falling apart and the grounds are over-grown.
Van Allen House at 3 Franklin Avenue in Oakland, NJ
The Van Allen House was host to George Washington and troops on July 14, 1777 and helped get word to his field officers by allowing him to compose documents there which were dispatched by carriers along the Ramapo Valley trail, now Route 202. In 1915-1919 owners of the Van Allen House and builders of the Stream House adjacent were the publishers and editors of the Sussex Register of Newton, NJ. Edward Page often published trade and economic articles in the NY Times, inspiring his son Allen to take over the Sussex Register until Allen’s death in 1917, passing on ownership to the father Edward until he died 12/26/1918. The Sussex Register joined the NJ Herald in 1928. (Tour Pamphlet)
I was able to tour the Van Allen House and grounds on my own. Most of the docents were relaxing after a long day. I walked up and around the house and there was not much to see as the house needed a serious renovation. The new roof had just been put on the house but there still were leeks in it. The grounds were loaded with weeds and was in need of a good landscaper. The one thing the house had going for it was their gift shop. They had the most interesting sewn dolls that one of the members makes and they had a beautiful selection of Christmas ornaments.
One the Van Allen house goes through some form of restoration, it will really be a jewel on the tour as it sits on a nice piece of land that was part of the original estate.
Overall it was a nice tour of the historical sites and gave me a real insight to old Bergen County when it was still called Franklin Township that was formed in 1771. The population was small. The families who lived here all knew one another , worshipped together and intermarried. It showed the important role that Bergen County played in the American Revolution. If you are able to take time out to visit these sites, you will be pleasantly surprised on what you will learn. I did not realize how much history was right in the neighborhood. (Tour Pamphlet)
Don’t miss this amazing tour of Historical sites in Northern Bergen Country each May.
Places to Visit:
The Schoolhouse Museum-Ridgewood Historical Society
I took time out from my walk in Manhattan to run a second special event for the Friends of the Lodi Memorial Library. We celebrated this Friday the 13th with a special retrospect of showing the original uncut version of the 1980 classic film, “Friday the 13th” starring Betsy Palmer and Adrienne King. This was the second special event I ran since joining the Friends in September.
We opened the retrospect with a talk on the film, followed by the uncut original film. In today’s terms, this film is rather tame in comparison to some PG-13 films and video games which I think are much more graphic. In its day though, this was a real eye-opener in film making and introduced the 80’s to the genre along with the movie ‘Halloween’ to the slasher film.
The Friends of the Lodi Memorial Library at the “Friday the 13th” retrospect
We set up a complete concession stand with movie candy, various snacks and chips and beverages to the audience. It was a special treat to many who had never seen the film and managed to jump at the right times.
We ended the retrospect with an interview with Don Stein, a local Lodi resident who was a Scout Master at Camp No Be Bo Ca (North Bergen Boy Scout Camp) thirty five years ago. He told our YouTube audience about his time with helping prepare the camp for the filming and assisting the producers with the sets. What was interesting about the interview is how he described how the storm scenes were done with the Blairstown Fire Department shooting water all over the set and rocking the vehicles to make them look like they were going through the storm. You can see the whole interview on YouTube.
The movie “Friday the 13th”
We had tried to get an actor who was in the film to come out and talk to the crowd about their time on the film but Melissa Merindino (Betsy Palmer’s daughter), Marc Nelson and Peter Brouwer all turned us down. It seemed to be the consensus of the actors that they did not want to have an association to the film anymore. Some like Adrienne King embrace the film and promote it. I respected their thoughts and feelings toward the film even though we would have loved to host any or all of them.
Justin Watrel giving the introduction to the film
We were able to interview that evening local Lodi residents, Donald and Marie Stein after the filming. Don Stein, the President of the Lodi Senior group, was a Boy Scout Master the summer of the filming of the movie and talked with us about his time helping the film crew on the set. He and others Scout leaders helped the Boonton Fire Department with some of the scenes. Although he did not meet any of the actors personally, he talked about how the film was made and his time on the set. Please see the the YouTube video ‘An interview with Don Stein at the 35th Anniversary of the film “Friday the 13th” at the Lodi Memorial Library’ on the Lodi Memorial Library Video Library.
Overall it was a big success to those who attended and I hope you access the video on YouTube “Friday the 13th” at the Lodi Memorial Library and my interview with Lodi resident Donald Stein, who worked on the film helping the Blairstown Fire Department when he was a scout master at Camp NoBeBoCo (North Bergen Boy Scout Camp) in 1979.
Justin Watrel’s introduction to the ‘Friday the 13th” 30 Anniversary Retrospect:
After the movie was over, we had the discussion with Donald Stein but the movie is what people came for. This is the introduction to the film. It is still scary after all these years.
Part One of the Movie “Friday the 13th”
The Making of “Friday the 13th”
I hope you enjoy our retrospect. It was a lot of fun.
Articles on the Friends of the Lodi Memorial Library: