I love coming to Demarest Farms and visiting the farm store and the grounds. It is like a step back into time. When I was a young child, I used to come down to the old farm stand that was across the street and pick up corn and tomatoes with my aunt who lived around the corner from the stand. In the 1990’s, the family opened the farm store across the street which used to be the old cornfields right next to the Garden State Parkway and a new tradition was born.
In 1991, they build the big store across the street.
Well, Christmas is finally officially over for me. It was one for the books. The holiday season just came and went without much fanfare or activities. Nothing like last year which was a lot of running around visiting decorated homes or running to the next cocktail party or dinner. Those things just did not exist this year. This season was all about the outside walking tours and small get togethers.
The whole holiday season became a blur and I started to attend a lot of outdoor activities that became available. Anything to get out of the house and see people or go do something out of the ordinary. I really had to search things out.
They started closest to home. I was trying to split my time between places that were just a drive away, going back and forth to the Hudson River Valley, which gave me a change of scenery and walking the neighborhoods of Manhattan, which gave me a sense of purpose as I felt I was supporting the City by being a cheerleader for all it had to offer even in the era of COVID.
My holiday journey started with the delivery of 375 Christmas trees for the Hasbrouck Heights Men’s Association. It was a big undertaking for a major charity that supports graduating high school seniors with scholarship money for college. I sometimes wonder if these students know what we go through to get the funds.
The trees were really nice this year
I have never seen so many Christmas Trees fly off a lot so fast. The membership of the Men’s Association got there at 9:00am and the truck arrived at 10:15am. We sold our first tree at 11:30am as we were tagging them. I stayed the entire day from 9:00am to 10:00pm when we closed the lot down for the evening. In the three shifts that I was there with the other guys, we sold 45 trees which we have never done our first day of sales.
The Hasbrouck Heights Men’s Association at set-up 2020
We were completely sold out by December 11th which I have never seen before. It seemed in the era of COVID everyone reverted back to the 1970’s and wanted a fresh Christmas tree for their home. I thought this was wonderful and people could not have been more supportive to our organization.
Please read my blog on “Christmas tree sales in Hasbrouck Heights, NJ”:
Please watch the commercial I did in 2015 to sell our trees
The first week of December means “Open Houses” at some of our merchants in Downtown Hasbrouck Heights. I look forward to seeing all the Christmas merchandise being offered, all the bouquets created for the event and the beautiful Christmas windows that our florists in town have done.
Bill O’Shea’s Florist at 231 Boulevard in Hasbrouck Heights, NJ always has a nice gathering the weekend before Thanksgiving. This year was like no other but it did not keep a nice crowd of residents from coming out and looking over ideas for floral displays, house decorating ideas and listening to festive holiday music all while nibbling on prepackaged treats and bottled drinks.
Bill O’Shea’s has some of the nicest displays at the holidays
In a normal year, it would be hot chocolate and coffee with freshly baked goods but COVID has changed the way these businesses are run. Everything had to be prepackaged and most people at it outside as juggling and shopping with a mask on was tough.
The weekend after Thanksgiving, the same weekend we set up the Christmas Tree lot for the Men’s Association, Heights Flower Shoppe at 209 Boulevard in Hasbrouck Heights, NJ had their Open House and that was equally as nice.
Heights Flower Shoppe is housed in a turn of the last century home that dates back to the original founding of our downtown and has a very classic boutique look to it. The store was stocked with all sorts of Christmas decorations, homemade candies, decorative household gifts and beautiful floral displays as well as outside had decorated wreathes and grave blankets.
The homemade candies and Christmas decorations adorn the store
Like Bill O’Shea’s, there was all sorts of packaged holiday treats to enjoy including Italian sodas, small bags of homemade Christmas cookies and candies. Last year they had a nice assortment of cookies and small sandwiches with coffee, tea and punch so there are always holiday treats to nibble on too here as well.
All of Downtown Hasbrouck Heights was beautifully decorated for the holidays with wreaths on all our lamp posts, Christmas lights on the trees, merchants display windows decorated to the hilt and Christmas music playing.
Downtown Hasbrouck Heights, NJ is always so nicely decorated for the holidays
This year because of COVID, the Annual Holiday Parade and Christmas Tree Lighting were cancelled in town but they did have a small get together at the Circle in Hasbrouck Heights to light the town Christmas tree. It was lit from Thanksgiving until the Epiphany on January 6th. It is always a beautiful site when entering town from the west side of town.
The Christmas Tree on the Circle in Hasbrouck Heights, NJ
Even the little Neil Parrot playhouse, a local landmark in Hasbrouck Heights, was decorated for the holidays and was lite up at night as well.
The Neil Parrot Playhouse on the Circle in Hasbrouck Heights awaiting Santa
There were several nights of my aunt and I exploring the town and driving block by block to see all the decorated homes. Hasbrouck Heights and the surrounding towns of Lodi and Wood Ridge always do a wonderful job decorating for the holidays but with everyone being home and COVID hitting the area hard, people wanted to really decorate and make this year even more festive. Between the merchants and home owners, they made this time of year in Hasbrouck Heights very festive.
Please read my blog on Visiting Downtown Hasbrouck Heights, NJ:
I did not just celebrate Christmas in Hasbrouck Heights. I ventured into other parts of New Jersey, to New York City and my usual haunts in the Hudson River Valley but like New Jersey, New York State was on a lock down as well and all the decorated mansions and holiday gatherings were all cancelled as well. So everyone did their best to celebrate outdoors and have all sorts of tours and small get togethers. You had to move fast when reserving these events as they did fill up because everyone wanted to get out of the house and see things.
The Sinterklaas Parade that I have participated and volunteered at for so many years was cancelled because of COVID but like the Halloween Parade, the committee put together a video of the parade to share with the world. Still it did not compare to the excitement of walking down the hill with stars and music lighting up Downtown Rhinebeck, NY.
The noble Frog was to be our mascot for this year’s Sinterklaas Parade
It was not the same as the year before where the crowds kept getting larger and larger every year. The whole town came to life with activities, songs, lights and laughter but was silent that weekend except for people having dinner in town. I was able to sneak up during the week. The entire town was decorated with white lights and beautifully decorated store windows. Rhinebeck is one of those towns in the Hudson River Valley that looks straight out of a Currier & Ives woodcut.
Downtown Rhinebeck, NY at Christmas
Since all the Christmas parties and get togethers were cancelled, it gave me more time to look into other outdoor events. I went to a special “Historical walking tour at the Holidays” at the Bergen County Historical Society in River Edge, NJ. The tour was lead by Historical singer and lecturer, Linda Russell, who explained the traditions of the Dutch Christmas all while singing Colonial Christmas songs in between the talks at each historical house on the property.
The Steuben House at Christmas
Actors dressed in costumes (and masks of course-COVID is still going on) danced in the Steuben House ballroom as colonialists celebrating the holiday, Dutch housewives putting their children to bed while awaiting Sinterklaas. There was a Dutch wooden shoe with carrots for his horse outside the door and mistletoe on the ceiling.
Linda Russell performing and lecturing at the Bergen County Historical Society
There was a discussion on the Pagan traditions of bringing ‘greens’ from outside inside to have a bit of ‘live nature’ into the home. So mistletoe, pine and holly adorned homes during the winter months as these things were green and brought a bit of life into the dead of winter.
The last part of the lecture was done in front of the Campbell-Christie House with a visit from Sinterklaas himself. We had a short talk about who Sinterklaas was and his part in the holiday season. Then all the members of the tour enjoyed refreshments and got a goody bag when we left with holiday sweets. The lecture and songs were a nice way to enjoy the beginning of the holiday season.
My favorite song by Linda Russell “I saw Three Ships”
As I was finishing up the semester at the College, I was getting holiday preparations done at the house, having small gatherings of family and friends and trying to be COVID safe. I was also running in and out of the City finishing my blog on Kips Bay before the holidays started getting busier. I learned a lot of New York’s Colonial past from walking around this area of the City.
My blogs on the Walking the neighborhood of Kips Bay:
The next weekend I made my last trip of the season to Long Beach Island to visit Beach Haven and the tour the rest of the island one last time before winter set in. It had really closed down since Halloween. I expected it to be much busier with more people moving down there on a permanent basis. Driving up to the lighthouse, I saw more dark homes then lite ones.
I wanted to take one more tour of Long Beach Island to see how they celebrate Christmas at the shore. They do things very quietly in Beach Haven. I went to the Surflight Theater to see the only play I had seen since I attended Carnegie Hall last Christmas to see the play “We need a little Christmas” which I had seen advertised at the theater over the summer.
“We need a Little Christmas” at the Surflight Theater in Beach Haven, NJ
After the theater, it was surprisingly warm that afternoon hovering around 58 degrees so I walked to the beach one block away and walked on the Jersey shore for my only time that year and for the first time on Beach Haven beach since 1975. It has been a long journey since that time.
The Beach Haven beach was beautiful that afternoon
The town’s Christmas trees were across the street from the theater on the square just off the downtown. Even they had a subdued Christmas at the shore and the whole event welcoming in the season was done virtually.
Christmas in Beach Haven, NJ adapted like the rest of the world
My holiday dinner was spent at the Chicken or the Egg that evening and it was really good. The menu is so extensive and innovative. It was hard to make choices.
Cinnamon Bun Ice Cream sandwich at Chicken or the Egg
Their fried chicken sandwiches are really good and their Cinnamon Roll Ice Cream sandwich should not be missed.
The Chicken or the Egg at 207 North Bay Avenue in Beach Haven
I was able to tour the whole island that afternoon before it got dark and even at twilight here and there were signs of Christmas in small trees lit in the shopping areas and decorated homes. It is an interesting place at the holidays with the waves crashing in the background.
My blog on “Exploring Downtown Beach Haven and Long Beach Island, NJ”:
The next week was finals week at the College and I had to give my final exam. The students also finished work on their case study, “Bud N’ Mud”, a simulated flower/coffee shop I had the students develop. It was interesting to see how a group of student entrepreneurs would create a store with their own ideas on how to grow the business. This project ended the Fall semester.
One of my favorite logo’s from the “Bud N’ Mud” project
With the Christmas trees selling out by December 11th, we held our annual Christmas party at the Christmas tree stand site for the Men’s Association. It was a cool not cold night and we all huddled around the fire taking alternate turns hitting the makeshift buffet table and enjoying good conversation. It was a great way to end the year successfully and there will lots of scholarships being given out at the end of the school year.
The last big event before Christmas came was the Sunday before Christmas with the Hasbrouck Heights Fire Department holding our Annual “Santa Around Town”. Because COVID was growing, the event was revamped from previous years and instead of stopping at sites all over town, we drove down each street in town slowly, having Santa wave and greet people who were on their lawns, driveways and porches. The residents of Hasbrouck Heights seemed touched by it and I could tell from the safety of the fire truck that the kids got a kick out of seeing Santa. People really needed the pick me up in holiday spirit at the time.
The Hasbrouck Heights Fire Department at “Santa Around Town” 2020
On the Tuesday before Christmas after I finished work with my other job I needed a break and wanted to go on a road trip to the Hudson River Valley again. I was nostalgic for Christmas’s past and decided to visit some of the towns Upstate.
I explored Downtown Woodstock first seeing their very unusual Christmas tree in the square. I have to say one thing about Woodstock, they do pick out the most interesting tree to sit in the square. It always looks more surreal than traditional. Their annual “Santa Parade” was cancelled this year as well and they did a drive by with Santa at the Woodstock Fire Department who runs the parade.
Downtown Kingston, NY was next on the list. Talk about a town in transition. In the almost three years since I have been visiting Kingston, I have never seen a downtown change so rapidly. The businesses there have gone from all this ‘hippie granola’ businesses to all these antique furniture stores and art galleries and some really expensive restaurants. One of the locals told me the new residents are “Brooklynizing” Kingston.
Still the downtown was nicely lit for the holidays and their Christmas Tree while small is nicely lit for the holidays on the edge of the downtown “Stockade” district. The Dutch Reformed Church on the other end of downtown was nicely lit with wreaths on the doors.
I crossed the river and drove to Red Hook, NY which I love. Their downtown looks like an old fashioned shopping district straight out of another Currier & Ives print. All the little stores were decorated with garland and white lights and the merchants decorated their windows to the hilt.
My last stop on my search for the perfect picturesque Hudson Valley River town was returning to Rhinebeck, NY for the day. Rhinebeck was quiet on this Tuesday evening as most of the restaurants were closed and the shops had closed for the evening. Still it was nice to walk around and admire the while lights on the trees and admire the display windows.
The Christmas lights and windows of Downtown Rhinebeck, NY
Even the way I celebrate Christmas changed this year. Instead of spending time with my family, I spent three days in Manhattan with my best friend, Maricel, at a hotel in Times Square. Neither of us had the time to travel and we both had to work in the City, her at her hotel and me working on my blogs so both of us needed the rest.
AC Hotel New York Times Square at 260 West 40th Street
We stayed at the AC Hotel New York Times Square at 260 West 40th Street. What the room lacked in size, it made up in the view and in the location. We were one block from Port Authority, two blocks from Times Square and within walking distance from all the Christmas attractions from Saks Fifth Avenue’s Christmas windows and the Rockefeller Center Christmas tree.
While Maricel worked on Christmas Eve, I walked around the City. I saw the tree at Rockefeller Center which was loaded with people not keeping socially distanced. I admired the windows at Saks Fifth Avenue which had a New York City theme with Christmas scenes from around the City “This is how we Celebrate”.
Saks Fifth Avenue’s Christmas Themed window “Over the East River and Through the Neighborhoods to Grandfather’s House We Go”
Rockefeller Center’s Christmas Tree was even more special this year
I thought the windows at Bloomingdale’s and Bergdorf-Goodman really lacked in creativity. Bloomingdale’s was having a bad year and Bergdorf’s had just gotten sold again (forth time since I worked there in 2004) so I did not expect much. With Lord & Taylor declaring bankruptcy earlier in the year and closing the main store on Fifth Avenue and B. Altman’s long gone and Macy’s going mechanical for the last few years, the excitement of seeing the windows has been less than enthusiastic.
Still it was nice to walk around Midtown after leaving the Rockefeller Center area and just walking around Third, Park and Madison Avenues. By 7:00pm, everything had shut down for the night and the streets were really quiet. What was eerie was when walking down Park Avenue and looking up and seeing so many dark buildings. The area looked abandoned with so many apartment lights out. I wondered where everyone went?
When Maricel got off work, I brought in dinner 9th Avenue Deli at 769 Ninth Avenue. I brought in a juicy cheeseburger and chicken fingers which we shared and then dug into. The perfect comfort food on a cool night. Christmas Eve was a mild 59 degrees and it was nice to walk around.
9th Avenue Deli at 769 9th Avenue
We just hung out the whole night and watched movies in the hotel room. I went to bed early and sunk into the wonderful Marriott hotel bed. Marriott had the best hotel beds and every time I stay at one of their hotels, I slept like a log.
Christmas Day we just relaxed in the room and I called many members of my family to wish them a Merry Christmas. While Maricel went to work, I decided to start touring neighborhoods like Kips Bay, Rose Hill and NoMAD in preparation in my walks there. It started out being a cold, cloudy day and there was barely anyone on the street. I saw a few people walking their dogs and that was about it until about 3:00pm. It them cleared up and was a mild 55 degrees until it got dark and then cooled down.
What really shocked me about Times Square was how dirty it was on the streets. They had not picked up the garbage on Christmas Eve day and did not pick it up until after Christmas Day so between the theaters being boarded up and the ply boards filled with graffiti, hotels closed and restaurants shut, the whole Theater district looked like NYC circa 1975. It was creepy how the pandemic was affecting the business of this neighborhood.
Neighborhoods like Kips Bay, Murray Hill, Rose Hill, NoMAD and the Flatiron District were really quiet that morning and early afternoon. All the restaurants and stores were dark, three hotels had closed in the district and I saw just a few people milling around. Things changed as I got closer to Macy’s Herald Square.
When walking around Koreatown, which runs between Sixth and Fifth Avenues between 35th to 32nd Streets, the side streets were teeming with Korean couples and groups of family members dining in the outdoor restaurants and cafes. This neighborhood was really jumping and full of life.
As the day wore on by 5:00pm, the rest of the City came back to life and more restaurants and stores opened up. Christmas morning and afternoon were now over and I could tell that people wanted to get out of the house (probably to get away from the family celebrations). When Maricel returned, I ordered in dinner from Golden City Chinese Restaurant at 423 Ninth Avenue, one of the few neighborhood restaurants open and we our dinner in the room. The food was okay. It was nice to just eat in the room and relax.
Christmas dinner was Lemon Chicken and Fried Rice from Golden City Chinese Restaurant
We checked out at noon on the 26th and she left for work that afternoon, I headed into Brooklyn to visit the Brooklyn Botanical Garden and the Brooklyn Museum. Both were really quiet that day. The Brooklyn Botanical Garden was mostly dormant for the winter and most of the garden was closed off because of COVID. The “Studio 54” exhibition had long closed at the Brooklyn Museum so I just wondered the halls and looked at some of the changes in the permanent exhibitions that they had. I left the City for home early that evening.
The last week of the holiday, I entertained family at a Lasagna and Champagne dinner I had a the house. Since I was not able to spend time at home during the holidays, my aunts came over to my house and we had a three course meal with champagne and wine. We spent the whole night laughing and enjoying the evening.
New Year’s Eve was a quiet evening at home alone talking with other friends who were staying home alone as well. Times Square was empty that evening with the exception of the 350 first responders who were invited to the ball drop. When I watched it on TV it was eerie to see it so quiet. There was no one for blocks except police guarding Times Square.
I headed back up to the Hudson River Valley again on New Year’s Day to go on two walking tours in Staatsburgh, NY at the Mills Mansion. It was the Annual “First of the Year” walking tours and it was a cool, crisp morning for a walking tour of the property. There were two tours that morning, one was on “Winter Activities in Victorian Times” with us learning about all the winter activities that the residents here enjoyed like skating , sledding, ice boating and horse drawn sleigh rides.
Staatsburgh, the Mills Mansion in the winter
The other tour later that afternoon was on “Ice Harvesting in the Hudson River Valley” , where we learned about how the ice harvesting of the Hudson River was a big business before the advent of refrigeration. Large slabs of ice were cut from the river, floated down stream and then packed in straw awaiting sale over the metropolitan area for peoples ice boxes throughout the year. It just gave me anther excuse to visit the region I love so much.
My blog on the Mills Mansion on VisitingaMuseum.com:
Another local event that was COVID safe was a driving tour through the “Holiday Lightshow” at Demarest Farms in Hillsdale, NJ. This was the first time that the farm opened the apple and peach orchard across the street from the farm stand. I saw this display the last week it was open and even after the holidays, it was a special treat as we awaited the Epiphany.
Driving through the display only took about forty minutes but was a delight in the senses and sounds. I played the classical music station as I drove through and admired all the colorful lights on the now dormant trees while Santa’s and Snowmen winked and waved and toy soldiers lit the way through the dark field. Even the Demarest homestead was ablaze with lights.
Demarest Farms at 244 Werimus Drive in Hillsdale, NJ
My blog on “Visiting the Farms of Bergen County, NJ at Christmas”:
Don’t miss this holiday lights ride through the orchard in 2021
The holiday event I visited was the Bronx Zoo for their “Holiday Lights” event at the zoo. It was the last night of the event and I arranged for the tickets that afternoon. The zoo gave me a 30% discount to go that evening and I was on the subway ride up to the Bronx.
The Bronx Zoo Light Show
I was really impressed by the display. The entire park was decorated with white lights, with different sections of the park decorated with different themes such as jungle animals, aquatic mammals and all sorts of assorted elephants, seals, penguins, lions, tigers and bears (oh my haha). There were costumed characters to take pictures with and they even had the Bug Carousel open that evening. I got a kick out of riding this since I had not done this since I was a little kid.
The Bronx Zoo musical Christmas Tree in the old part of the zoo
In the older section of the park, they had zebras on stilts and a musical Christmas trees that had an interesting soundtrack of contemporary Christmas songs. Even though Christmas had been over now for almost two weeks, it me back into the Christmas spirit.
So there was the Christmas holidays in the era of COVID. Lots of outdoor activities in hot and cold weather. Many walking tours and more subdued events. Gone were the cocktail parties and big formal dinners and in their place were many more smaller outdoor events and communicating with nature.
Maybe we all needed to take a break from the more formal traditions and go back to the basics of family and friends. I think this was a reflective year and realizing what is important. It had not changed that much for me. I just adjusted to the times, wore a mask and got going. Staying safe and keeping others safe is what is all about.
Hours: Open Thursday-Sunday: 11:00am-5:00pm (the last tour is at 4:00pm)/Open Monday Holidays from April 19th to October 28th. The mansion then closes to prepare for the holiday season. Closed on Thanksgiving and Easter. There are special programs from January to April so please see the website.
Admission: $8.00 for adults/$6.00 for groups and Seniors/Children under 12 are free. Special events have separate fees and can run from $8.00 to $10.00 and above.
When you think of the words ‘rural’ and ‘farmland’ these are not terms you hear a lot in Bergen County, NJ, one of the heaviest populated counties to surround New York City. Yet the county has a rich history in farming and agriculture from the late 1600’s up into the 1970’s when development pressures got too strong and most of what was left of the farms of the area got plowed over for development.
Early in our county’s history, the Dutch and then the English supplied much of the fruits and vegetables for the New York City markets. Much did not change until the suburban expansion after WWII and many strawberry, celery and potato farms were plowed under for shopping malls and housing developments. Since that time and with the help of the Right to Farm Act, The Open Space Act and Farmland Preservation of the State of New Jersey, it is helping many small farmers in the state preserve their land for agriculture.
“From Revolution to Renewal” our Historical Bergen County project
This is why in Bergen County we revere our farms and our agricultural past. Last semester when I taught Marketing at Bergen Community College, I had my students create an extensive project describing and promoting our Colonial Heritage and our agricultural past. This included promoting many of our remaining farms.
Our small farms in Bergen County do more than just provide fruits and vegetables for our tables. They are open air classrooms to our agricultural past, places to buy fresh produce and baked goods to support local family farm stores and for interesting special events and outings for families. During the holiday season, some of these farms have haunted hayrides, turkey pardons and visits from Santa all while selling Christmas trees and wreaths.
This lead me to explore many of the small farms that make up the fabric of Bergen County all while seeing how the owners are reinventing the way they do business with today’s consumer. How do we react with nature and the great outdoors? So I walked through farm stands and fields and across parking lots looking for our rural past in the year 2020.
I drove to Closter, NJ on my first stop to Old Schraalenburgh Farm and Farm Stand at 40 Old Hook Road and the Abram Demaree Homestead at 110 Schraalenburgh Road on the corner of Schraalenburgh Road. For years I had passed this farm and never gave it much thought until two summers ago I noticed the sign for the ‘farm burger’ and had to stop to see what it was all about. What a burger! (see my review on TripAdvisor).
Old Schraalenburgh Farm in the warmer months of Spring
I have since have had lunch here many times mostly when the weather is warmer. What I love about the Old Schraalenburgh Farm is that it is under the radar from most of the commercial farms in the county like Abma and Demarest farms which have all the family activities like hayrides and pumpkin and apple picking events. Old Schraalenburgh has a smaller restaurant and bakery and in the summer months tables outside to eat breakfast and lunch while admiring the fields of flowers and the barns and chicken coops.
What I love about their restaurant is the quality of the food here. The ‘Farm Burger’ which they tout so much is much worth the ride here. This juicy burger loaded with cheese and fresh vegetables and a mayo type sauce and is a mouthful in each bite. Bring your appetite because this burger is large! (see review on TripAdvisor).
The “Farm Burger” at the Old Schraalenburgh Farm Stand restaurant
Their chicken pot pie is another lunch item I would recommend. They make them fresh here and bake them with a golden crust and when you let it cool is a mouthful of creamy sauce, hunks of chicken and fresh vegetables. You won’t need dinner after this entree.
I recently stopped at the Farm Cafe for breakfast after an appointment and their well known Bacon, Egg and Cheese sandwich ($5.95). It was amazing. The eggs used on the sandwich were fresh from their chicken coops and picked up daily. Topped with crisp bacon and American cheese on a toasted brioche bun it was heaven.
It was nice to just take my sandwich and eat it on one of the picnic tables overlooking the fields that were in the process of beginning to grow this seasons crops. On a sunny morning, there is nothing like this.
The Bacon, Egg and Cheese here is excellent
For dessert though, even with the options of their fresh brownies and homemade ice cream, you have to try their freshly baked fruit pies and pie cookies. The chocolate and fruit filled pie cookies resemble small fruit filled deep dish pies and are a delight in every bite.
The blueberry pie cookies
The bakery also has something called “Burnt Cookies” (.50 cents) that are in jars near the register. I thought someone made a mistake and overcooked them. The woman at the counter said “Oh no. People like a crisper cookie.” I still say they were selling a mistake but they were really good! I had the sugar, chocolate chip and an oatmeal cookies and they were really crisp. To tell you how popular they are I dropped a piece at the chicken pen and the chickens and roosters got all excited and ran out of their pen to eat the piece that had fallen on the ground. That’s an endorsement.
During the summer months, it is fun to walk through the fields and admire all the beautiful rows of flowers growing and visiting the barn and chicken coops. During the holiday months, the store and restaurant were decorated for Christmas and were stocked with handmade gifts and artwork. The bakery section had a selection of meat and fruit pies for the holidays.
The bakery case at the farm
Walking across the street to the Abram Demaree Homestead and Farm across the street from the farm stand, the main house and barn were also decorated for the holidays. All the tables, counters and shelves were stock with all sorts of decorative objects, antiques, furniture and artwork. These treasures can decorate any home contemporary or historical.
The antiques and holiday decorations at the Abram Demaree Homestead
Off to the side of the main building, they were selling Christmas trees and holiday decorations for the home. The buildings with Christmas retro items and tree ornaments really put me into the holiday spirit. The homestead is fun to walk around in to see how our Colonial past played a part in the growth of Bergen County.
History of the Old Schraalenburgh Farm and the Abram Demaree Homestead:
In 1677, David Des Marest, a French Huguenot, purchased a large tract of land from the Tappan Native American tribe. This land passed from Dutch control to British rule and through the American Revolution, which produced an uncertain concept that became the United States.
In 1769, Abram Demaree, David Des Marest’s grandson, bought the house and ran it as a General Store and Tavern at the crossroads of one of the busiest intersections of colonial roads in Bergen County. His son, David, added to the house in 1809. The conjoined Demaree house along with a colonial Dutch-style barn, servants house and blacksmith shop form the original Abram Demaree Homestead (Farm History website).
The Abram Demaree Homestead in the Summer months
In the 1970’s, the house and property was falling apart and a group of citizens fought to get the homestead on the National Register of Historic Places. Since then, the home and farm have been part of a non-profit, The Demaree Homestead & Farm, with all the proceeds going to restoring and maintaining the home and farm. The farm and farm stand cafe are open to the public and the profits go to maintenance of the property. The Farm Stand Cafe features in season items grown right on the farm (Farm History website).
Across Old Hook Road from the Demaree Homestead is their working farm, The Old Schraalenburg Farm, which has been continuously farmed since the 18th Century. Every Spring, the farm plants corn, tomatoes, lettuce, peppers, apples, blueberries and pumpkins, among other fruits, vegetables and flowers (Farm History website).
Leaving the Old Schraalenburgh Farm, I headed down Old Hook Road on my way back to Westwood and stopped at the Old Hook Farm Stand for a look at their Christmas trees. The Old Hook Farm Stand is at 650 Old Hook Road in Emerson.
The Old Hook Farm at 650 Old Hook Road in the summer months
What I like about the Old Hook Farm is the selection of grocery products in their General store. They have an assortment of organic meats, dairy products, vegetables and baked goods that include delicious looking freshly baked pies, breads and cider doughnuts.
Their shelves are stocked with all sorts of jellies, jams and condiments along with dry and snack goods that are accented by antiques and farm paraphernalia. This gives the store a feel of a turn of the last century General store that used to dot the towns of rural Bergen County.
The Old Hook Farm grocery section of the General store
In the Spring and Summer, the greenhouse stocks all sorts of decorative plants, flowers and garden supplies and I am sure is better stocked in the summer months for lawn care and landscaping. In the Spring, the tables are stocked with all sorts of seedlings for gardens, decorative plants for the home and gardening supplies and landscaping decorations including stones and layerings.
During the holiday season, there were all sorts of wreaths, cemetery blankets and Christmas trees to choose from. The perfect assortment to ‘deck the halls’ for the holidays.
Like everyone else in the County, when I got there, there was only a few trees to choose from. They had sold out early in a year when everyone wanted a fresh tree. Still the atmosphere with the atmosphere of fresh pine and snow gave the farm that old fashioned ‘1970’s feel’ when I used to visit the farms in Bridgewater, NJ growing up. Things seemed a lot slower then and you could just relax and enjoy the sites and smells of a farm.
The Christmas trees were pretty much sold out when I visited
From a distance behind the greenhouse, you could see under the snow that had just fallen, the fields where the crops are grown in the warmer months. The old farmhouse on the property was decorated for Christmas as well and looked like a home out of a Currier & Ives print.
History of the Old Hook Farm:
The town of Emerson did not exist during the Native American origin. The name ‘Old Hook’ on the east side of the town came from the Dutch word ‘Hoek’ meaning ‘angle’ or ‘corner’. The angle of the land was created by the three connecting water ways, the Hackensack River, the Pascack Brook and the Musquapsink Brook. The first person to make their home here was William Rutan, who settled on a parcel of land just west of today’s ‘Old Hook Farm’ sometime around 1748 (Emerson Town History).
The current ‘Old Hook Farm’ was bought by current owner, Bruce Marek’s grandfather in 1925 as a weekend getaway. He rented the farm and the farm house to a local resident for 35 years and the family had a large garden on the property until about 1948. Then his father took over the land and cleared the fields and had Soil Conservation come in and do contours and started to grow in the greenhouse. When his father died in 1973, he took over the farm and within eight years, reopened the garden store and started to experiment and grow organic crops (Bruce Marek’s interview with ‘Bergen Save the Watershed Action Network’).
I next ventured to Hillsdale, NJ, two towns away to visit one of the most beloved farms in Bergen County, Demarest Farms at 244 Werimus Road, right off the Garden State Parkway. I have been visiting the farm since the early 1970’s when I used to visit my family who lived just two blocks away. Back then it was just a small farm stand just outside the family homestead. In 1991, they build the big store across the street.
The Demarest Farm Store at 244 Werimus Road
The farm stand building is always a buzz with people coming and going. People buying sandwiches, soups, hot entree items and baked goods for lunch and dinner. There is a large selection of in season produce (which is a little pricer than most supermarkets) as well as jams and jellies. Where the market really shines is their bakery filled with cookies, brownies, freshly baked pies and their well-known cider doughnuts. They also have great potato pancakes that taste good hot or cold (in the era of COVID the food has been toned back a little from the past).
Demarest Farm store carries an array of fruits and vegetables at all times of the year
The stand also has a nice garden section during the Spring and Summer seasons with everything you need for lawn care and for landscaping your home or decorating inside. During the Fall, there is all sorts of decorative items for the Thanksgiving and Christmas holiday season.
During every season, Demarest Farms is always full of activities. During the Summer months (Pre-COVID), there was the big barbecues that the farm sponsored that got so popular that they had to have the police direct traffic into the complex. These ‘All You Can Eat” affairs were so much fun. It was like a throw back to the 1970’s when families used to dine out together in the Summer months. You could listen to a local band play while chomping on endless hot dogs, barbecue chicken, fresh corn on the cob, baked beans, salad and watermelon for dessert. There were also be chests of ice full of Coke, Sprite and Bottled waters (see reviews on TripAdvisor).
During the Fall months, there would be Hayrides through the orchards, Pumpkin and Apple Picking that are so popular you need a reservation and Haunted Halloween events that have people driving from all over Northern New Jersey to attend.
This Christmas, in the era of COVID, the farm really outdid itself ringing in the holiday season. The farm stand sold an array of Christmas trees, wreaths and cemetery blankets, all sorts of holiday treats in the store including cookies, pies and jams and jellies. There was also a nice selection of holiday decorations. By the last week before Christmas, most everything was sold out.
What I thought was fun and it was the first time the farm had done this was the “Holiday Light Show” through the Demarest Farm orchard which is across the street from the farm stand. This show was sold out every night for almost three weeks ending on January 3rd.
Demarest Farm Store decorated for Christmas
The tour started at the farm stand where you could buy S’ mores to roast at the fire pit next to the nursery ($6.50). I thought it was a little expensive for two graham crackers, two marshmellows and a small bar of chocolate but people scooped them up and were roasting away. There were also cut outs from the holidays to take pictures and there was a small light show of singing reindeer performing all the classic Christmas songs.
Then it was time to take the drive through the orchard. We started the tour at farm stand and then drove across the street to the family homestead which was ablaze with colorful lights on the house and the surrounding trees. I took a slow drive through the orchard carefully following the cars in front of me to keep pace.
The apple and pear trees were decorated with multi color lights, Santa’s and Snowmen winked and greeted you at every turn. The barns were decorated with white lights and there was a tunnel of flashing lights to greet you and exit from. All along the way I listened to the Classical music channel to enhance the mood of the trip. It may have only been a half an hour but it was mesmerizing trip through a fantasy land of lights that put me back into the Christmas spirit. Demarest farms seems to have that effect at the holidays.
The History of Demarest Farms:
The Demarest family has been present in the New York area since David DeMarest arrived to New Amsterdam in 1663. The current farm has been in the Demarest family from Bergen County since 1886. In the 1970’s, Peter Demarest and his wife, Marsha introduced the pick your own apples and pumpkin business and eventually added peaches to the mix.
In 1991, the family opened the current farm store on what had once been corn fields. The store today has evolved into a selection of fresh produce, prepared foods, baked goods, apple cider, jams and jellies and homemade crafts (Demarest Farm website).
In 2014, Peter Demarest decided to retire and the sold the farm stand and farm to longtime employees Jason DeGise and Jim Spollen. The farmland had been preserved under the Farmland Preservation Fund and by the Open Space Trust Fund. The 27 acres are to be preserved as farmland and can only be used for agriculture (NJ.com).
Demarest Farms put out this wonderful promotional video on the event
Leaving Demarest Farms, I headed north taking the turns on Route 17 and Route 208 and headed up to Wyckoff. My first stop was the Goffle Road Poultry Farm at 549 Goffle Road. The farm which once must have taken up much more area has been reduced down to a few acres with chicken coops and hatcheries and the farm store.
The parking lot was a mob scene of people trying to get in and out of the driveway and being directed by one man in a mask. When I finally was able to get out of my car and park, I asked him if they were giving money away. He just laughed and said, “I wish”. He quickly said to me it was busier at Thanksgiving and they had lines going down Goffle Road.
Goffle Road Poultry Farm at 549 Goffle Road
I just walked in the store to look around passing all the people in line who were waiting to pick up their pre-orders. The store is stocked with all things poultry with fresh eggs. whole roasters and butchered chicken parts. In the freezer there were crab cakes, chicken nuggets and chicken and turkey pot pies, all of which they are known for and sought out.
Here there are no hayrides or special events although they told me Santa had already visited the farm. Just high quality food and excellent service done by a staff that looked very over-whelmed at the holidays.
History of Goffle Road Poultry Farm:
The Goffle Road Poultry Farm has been a family owned and operated business for four generations. Joseph and Rose Silvestri came over from Italy in 1920 and started Belmont Poultry in Paterson, NJ in the 1930’s. In 1948, Joseph and Rose’s son, Dominic, started Goffle Road Poultry Farm of Wyckoff, NJ. To this day, the Goffle Road Poultry Farm is operated as a family owned business by the current owner and grandson, Joseph Silvestri and great grandson, Brian Silvestri. The family has found it hard to keep up with demand on such a small plot and is now partnering with Amish farmers in Pennsylvania who share the same standards of raising animals (Goffle Road Poultry Farm website).
My last stop on this journey was the largest farm of them all, Abma’s Farm at 700 Lawlins Road in Wyckoff, NJ. Abma’s is an impressive working farm with many greenhouses, large fields, a gift shop, nursery, and a farm store. They also have a large petting zoo to amuse children and adults alike.
The Abma Farm at 700 Lawlins Road in Wyckoff
I have to admit that I have only visited the farm in the cooler months and with COVID going on, the petting zoo was closed the day I was there and it looked like you needed a reservation to get in. The price is $3.00 unless you join their Barnyard Loyalty Program by accumulating 30 points from their farm store and nursery.
The greenhouses were pretty empty the afternoon I visited. What was left of wreaths and Christmas trees dotted the the nursery area. I am sure it was totally stocked with all sorts of items to decorate the house. There was still a nice assortment of wreaths to choose from and garland to decorate the banisters and hallways with for Christmas. The Christmas tree selection was down to about ten trees and they were very sad looking. Being right before Christmas, the selection was limited.
In the Summer months, the greenhouses were full of flowers and decorative plants and the fields are ablaze with colors. It will be about four months before we see that again but Spring is not that far away.
The farm store was buzzing with people and it was hard to find a parking spot after the snow storm we had just had. Some of the drifts made parking tough but there was someone in the lot who made it easy to park.
The farm store at Abma Farm is full of fresh vegetables and fruits, a whole selection of bakery products including cookies, brownies, freshly baked pies and cider doughnuts. The prepared food section has all sorts of salads and sandwiches available and there is a selection of soups. There are also crafts available for sale.
The Abma Farm Store stocked with delicious foods
Though some of the special events on the farm have been cancelled because of COVID, they did have a socially distanced “Story with Santa” program and “You Pick” events for strawberries, potatoes, pumpkins and tomatoes during the different seasons. Events like pony rides and Easter themed events have been put on hold for the time.
What I really enjoy about visiting Abma Farm is just walking around the farm itself. I was able to walk through some of the greenhouses and see the trees and decorative items, look at the vast field and can’t wait to return in the Spring when we can see the fields of growing produce and greenhouses full of flowers and plants.
The History of Abma Farm:
First generation of the family, Barney Abma, was born on April 25th, 1901. He came to America for the first time in 1917 when he was 17 years old searching for a new beginning. After spending a few years out west, then a short stay in Pennsylvania, he went back to Holland to marry. Barney and his new wife, Anna, settled in Wyckoff at the present location of Abma’s Farm in the late 1920’s (Abma Farm History website).
The couple began working for the ‘Yeoman Farm’ and rented out part of the original farmhouse from owner, Daniel Yeoman. The farm was next passed on to Mr. and Mrs. George Fox (nee Yeoman). Barney Abma bought the farm from the couple in 1932 for $6,000. Part of the 50 acre farm was sold off and it is now the current 32 acre farm that it is today (Abma Farm History website).
The farm is now under the ownership of the forth and fifth generations of the Abma family under Barney and Anna’s son, James and his family.
I love this video on the family and about the farm.
There are also a few smaller farms in the County I was not able to visit before they closed for the season. Also most farm stands have closed for the Winter so there will be a lot to visit in the warmer months.
Still the holidays at the farms in Bergen County, NJ have a special place in our lives and have become part of the traditions of many families.
Have a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year and look forward to updates in the Spring!
Spring and Summer of 2021:
As the weather has gotten warmer, I have been revisiting the farms that were closed right after the holidays . As the warmer months have come upon us, April has ushered in warmer weather and the bounty of Spring has arrived. The greenhouses are starting to fill with plants and shrubs and the farm stands.
I made my first trip to Stokes Farm at 23 DeWolf Road in Old Tappan, NJ. The farm stand has just opened since it has closed up shop right after Christmas. The shelves of the farm were starting to fill with fresh produce from the warmer states and there were all sorts of colorful fruits and vegetables.
The farm stand also has a bakery that has pies, cookies and cider doughnuts. The problem is that because of COVID all the items were prepackaged in large packages and you could not buy individual pieces. The woman at the counter said things will go back to normal business once all of this passes.
The Stokes Farm Stand in Old Tappan, NJ
Still the refrigerator cases are lined with fresh eggs, Amish butter, honey and cheese from the Amish Country in Pennsylvania and the shelves are full of jellies, jams, salsas and pickles that are made for the farm. The farmstand is just opening and there will be more to come as we move into the warmer months.
I made my way out to the greenhouse in the back where plants are being grown for planting and for decorating the house. Most of the plants are still so small but as May and June arrive, these greenhouses will burst of all sorts of plants.
Though the part of the farm that you can visit is small, you can see that the farm is lined with greenhouses going back many acres and next to the stand is a farmhouse that was built in 1890. It is nice to just walk around and enjoy the fresh air at the farm.
The History of Stokes Farm:
In 1873, Isaiah Stokes headed out on a ship to America from his home in England. When he arrived, he purchased 40 acres of land in Old Tappan, NJ where he started a farm. He thought this would be a good location for selling produce, as Old Tappan is very close to New York City, as well as many established towns along the Hudson River.
His products included chickens, eggs, milk, hay, asparagus, beets and other assorted vegetables. As time went on, his son, Joseph Stokes took over the farming. The Stokes family continued sowing and growing into the early 1900’s. Joseph Stokes and his wife, Anna, worked very hard and soon developed a produce route through Piermont, Nyack and points further north along the river. They were one of the first farms to have a truck in the area when farms were still powered by men and horses.
Joseph Stokes had one child, Madeline, who married Ernie Binaghi in 1927. Madeline ran the farm and Ernie was a carpenter. The farm carried on through WWII. Madeline and Ernie had one child, Ronald, who after dropping out of NYU Music School in the early 1950’s , came home to help out with the chores. Ron married Jean and she moved into the farmhouse to become a farmer too.
In 1955, they opened a roadside farm stand, which was a four post open air shed. The stand did well, selling from the five acres of strawberries, five acres of tomatoes, in addition to peppers, eggplant and asparagus. As the years went on, Ron and Jean started selling produce at the Paterson Farmers Market. It was here that a farmer could sell his produce directly to the consumer or to wholesalers. The farm stand was rebuilt in 1966.
In the early 1970’s, the energy crunch started and the farm stand began to flounder. It was then that Bob Lewis came to visit Ron and Jean with a proposal. He asked them to participate in the first NYC Greenmarket at 59th and Second Avenue. So in 1976, Ron and his sixteen year old son, Ron Jr. ventured into the big city. Their lives changed that day. After the people bought everything on the truck, Ron Sr. was heard to say, “Is there a famine in this City?” Ron Jr., then sixteen started selling produce at the now famous Union Square market on 17th Street and it seemed that this type of market suited the farm quite well. Greenhouses were built in the 1980’s and the bedding plant business started to thrive.
High tech growing coupled with practical family values, helped the farm to grow steadily into the 1990’s. Ron Jr. and his wife, Jeanine, took over the day to day operations of the farm and the Greenmarket stands, while Ron Sr. and Jean continued to run the farm stand.
In 2000, Ron Jr. was named “Outstanding Young Farmer of the Year” for the State of New Jersey. This award is given to a farmer who has made his farm better over the years and also is active in his community. Ron went to Indiana to the national competition, where he placed fifth in the nation.
Ron Binaghi Jr. at Stokes Farm in Old Tappan, NJ
Today the farm is seventeen acres with 40,000 square feet of greenhouses. It is the goal of the farm to grow the best possible product to keep the customers healthy and happy and to keep the land as a farm for future generations.
(Stokes Farm website)
Another farm that I missed during the holiday season was Depiero’s Farm at 156 Summit Avenue in Montvale, NJ. I have been coming to Depiero’s Farm for years at the old farmstand where the current Wegmans Supermarket and mall now stands. Here used to be the large farm stand building that had everything from produce and baked goods to arts and crafts items and gardening equipment. That was torn down in the early 2000’s. I thought that they had closed for business until I rediscovered it again.
Depiero’s Farm Stand at 156 Summit Avenue
When I visited recently, I asked the woman who was working the counter about the history of the farm. She said that she had worked for the Depiero family for years and told me that this was the original farm stand until the family built the larger one down the road. When that was torn down to make way for the market strip mall, they moved the operations back to the original stand on the original farmland. I thought that was interesting.
The original farmstand building is currently being renovated and expanded. The tables around the store are ladened currently with fresh produce from the Hunts Market (until the summer when local produce will be offered), there is a small bakery area with fresh pies ($18.00-$20.00), fresh pickles and peanut butter from the Amish Country. The shelves are lined with honey and fresh jellies that are made for the farm.
Outside the farmstand, there is a large greenhouse with rows of tables lined with all sorts of flowering plants and small vegetable plants growing. The larger greenhouse is surrounded by smaller greenhouses growing more plants. It is a large operation.
What amazes me is how the farm has survived with all the suburban sprawl surrounding it. On land that was once the farm, all sorts of new condos are going up, the second farmstand is now a mall and office buildings surround the whole small patch of farm.
The History of DePiero’s Farm:
The DePiero Farm has been an owned and operated farm since 1924. The original farm was about 250 acres that stretched from Montvale, NY to New Paltz, NY. In 1987, the opened the original farm store that was popular for years. That facility closed in 2015 and has since been replaced with a new shopping complex anchored by a Wegmans.
The family has since reopened the original farmstand which is farmed on limited basis where they sell farm products, baked goods and Christmas items like wreaths and Christmas trees.
(NJ.com-Myles Mia 2015-“Longtime Montvale Farm closes its doors”)
My last farm that I did not have a chance to visit during the Christmas holidays but had opened on April 1st was Secor Farms at 85 Airmont Avenue in Mahwah, NJ. I would consider Secor Farms more like a giant nursery. Both on the outside and inside the greenhouses, you can walk around rows of flowers, decorative plants and seedlings for the vegetable gardens. The greenhouses are fun to walk in as you can see plantings at different stages of growth. It will be interesting to come back towards the summer to see how many of these plants progress to full form.
Secor Farms greenhouse is laden with flowers and plants
There is also a small shop to make your purchases. Here they sell gardening supplies, decorative objects for the home, hand creams and soaps, honey and candies and their homemade cider doughnuts that are unfortunately only packaged in bags of six ($5.95). Still they smell so good and the girl working the counter said that they are made fresh daily. I could see by the signs when the fresh produce starts to come in during the summer and fall that they sell this in the gift shop as well.
Outside the gift shop, the parking lot is laden with bags of mulch and soil for garden beds awaiting their Spring cleaning. The lot is well stocked as we are just starting the gardening season.
Secor Farms in Mahwah, NJ
All of these farms in Bergen County, NJ have their own attributes so try to visit them all when you are visiting the area.
The History of Secor Farms:
Begun by Darryl Secor’s great grandfather when he moved to the area from Paterson nearly 80 years ago, the farm originally consisted of 50 acres in Upper Saddle River. In 1973, the family expanded into Mahwah.
Secor Farms not only has been a famous landmark passed down through three generations: The Secors themselves have been extremely active in supporting the town (Mahwah-Ramsey Daily Voice 2017).
Fall at Secor Farms in Mahwah, NJ
Farms to Visit:
Old Schraalenburgh Farm Stand and Abram Demaree Homestead
177 Schraalenburgh Road
Closter, NJ 07624
Open: Farm Stand Cafe: Wednesday-Friday 11:00am-5:00pm/Saturday and Sunday 11:00am-7:00pm
Every October my neighbors decorate their home to the hilt on Halloween and every year they drag out this strange scarecrow out among their other decorations. I tease my neighbor that it looks like it wants to “rape and pillage the neighborhood”. I just think the thing looks mischiefest. She just laughs at me.
So over the years I have named this decoration “Giggles the Scarecrow” and created a story line for him:
“The Legend of Giggles the Scarecrow”:
“When bad boys and girls come to our neighborhood on Halloween Night ready to perform more tricks then treats, Giggles will come to life and grab’em. He will then take’em away to his haunted home in the woods. Hee, Hee, Hee.”
Okay, I had a lot of time on my hands to think on Halloween Night. It is the era of COVID.
What do you think? Do you want to test the “Legend of Giggles the Scarecrow”?
“Giggles the Scarecrow” on Halloween day in Hasbrouck Heights, NJ.
I have put “MywalkinManhattan” project on hold to get ready for the holidays again! Here comes Christmas!
The holidays are always zipping by and Christmas is no different. We went right from Halloween night and the Halloween Parade to Christmas. The moment it was over, all the Christmas decorations went up. It seems that we no longer bother with worrying about Thanksgiving. I swear that Christmas starts with the July Christmas sale at all Hallmark stores and does not stop until Three Kings Day in January.
Myself and John at the old Christmas tree lot in 2002 when I returned home
The Saturday before Thanksgiving is when we set the lot up for business. We rake the entire property, put together our Christmas shed and then the stands to hold the trees. We have had a lot more help with new members over the past three years.
It is funny to go back to a place that you have not visited since 1975 and realize that time does pass by. I had not been to Beach Haven, NJ since the summer of 1975 when I was just a little kid. We used to visit friends of the family who had a house there and we would visit for about three days. It was interesting to visit a beach community as we never went farther than Sandy Hook, NJ. Going to the Jersey shore was a hike from our home in Bridgewater, NJ and since we belonged to a swim club, my parents saw no reason to run “down the shore” as we say in New Jersey. Why deal with the crowds and lousy parking?
Still I remember visiting there in 1974 and 1975 before these friends no longer belonged to our pool. All I can remember of those visits was swimming in the ocean and diving in the waves wanting to impress these two twin sisters and all I did was tumble in the waves. They and my older bother dove into the waves with no problems. The other thing I remember is the planes going by and saying to eat at “Tilly’s Pizza”. So we begged for it one night for dinner. It was terrible pizza and we ordered this cheese pizza that was just dried out and no flavor. It is funny the things you remember as a kid.
Touring The Barnegat Lighthouse Park is a nice way to spend the morning
I returned to Long Beach Island last summer on my way to the Firemen’s Convention in Wildwood, NJ to visit the Long Beach Island Historical Society, which I had read about in a beach magazine for my blog, VisitingaMuseum.com. I had a long visit at the museum and it was nice afternoon. I had not realized that the NJ Maritime Museum was a couple of blocks away but I did not have time that afternoon to visit. I said that I would go back later. Later was September 2020 over a year later. Hey better late than never. In the age of COVID, it has been a pleasure and escapism.
The Long Beach Island Historical Society
After visiting the museum for my blog and then visiting the Barnegat Lighthouse, I gained a new found respect for Long Beach Island and all it has to offer. I also realized how much it had changed in 45 years. It went from a sleepy somewhat ‘honey tonk’ working class resort to an upscale community with the growth of Wall Street in the late 90’s and the rebuilding after Hurricane Sandy in 2012.
Many of those small little cottages that once lined the streets were long gone and they have been replaced by stilted ‘McMansions’ by the sea. The whole town has been practically knocked down and completely rebuilt. Even the stores were more upscale in their wares and the restaurants were expensive. I did not see too many tee shirt stores or beachy knick -knacks being sold. These are not Boardwalk businesses.
The NJ Maritime Museum
Still there are some great stores and restaurants to visit, cultural and natural sites to see and of course the beautiful beach with its calming sounds and gorgeous sunsets. You never know the complexity of a place until you visit a few times and find the true beauty of the surroundings and people. The downtown of Beach Haven has a lot to see and do as does the surrounding areas of Long Beach Island.
I started my last two visits to Long Beach Island exploring Beach Haven, a small beach hamlet towards the southern part of the island and where I had spent a few summers when I was a child. I do not remember much of the trips except visiting the beach and how rough the waves were to swim. I don’t remember venturing out that much.
When I returned 45 year later, the town changed so much especially in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy flooding the island as well as the rest of the Jersey Shore. It leveled homes and tore though businesses with a vengeance. What it left was a chance to build the island again from the ground up. Everything is so new all over the island. Still there are a lot of older homes and businesses that did survive. Some adapted and some just changed.
I walked the whole town and it was a interesting visit over the past two summers especially on two recent tours of the town in the late summer and early fall. My first stop on my recent trip is where I started touring last year at the Long Beach Island Historical Society at 125 Engleside Avenue in Beach Haven for their Ghost Fest, a family event that the Historical Society was running that afternoon for local families.
The ‘Ghost Fest’ at the Long Beach Island Historical Society
The Historical Society had not opened yet when I got to Long Beach Island so I started my tour of the island at the Barnegat Lighthouse State Park on the northern part of the island. Even on a gloomy morning in October, the park was very busy.
The cloudy weather did not deter the fisherman from casting and boats were dotting the bay. It was still a warm day and people were out and about. I joined other visitors to the park on the breakers watching the fisherman discuss the days catch and politics about the upcoming election. Some people were admiring the boats or just relaxing to the sounds of the waves. I just enjoyed the salt air and the sound of the waves crashing.
After I left the walkway, I took a tour through the woods in the sand dunes. It was what is left of some virgin woods at the shore. The woods are very interesting because of all the native plants that can live in a sandy shore and survive the winds are harsh winters. Plants such as Jersey Pines, Beach Plum and American holly are native to the area and played an important role in Colonial New Jersey especially during the holidays.
The lighthouse itself was built in 1859 replacing another lighthouse that fell into the sea with the changing tides (see my review on TripAdvisor). The lighthouse has been closed since March with the onset of COVID but the grounds around it were still open and people, masks and all, were walking along the trails and conversing at the picnic tables. Families were walking the trails and paths along the bay. For an early morning in October the park was busy.
The lighthouse and surrounding park is a nice to tour in the early morning
My next stop was the Barnegat Light Museum but it had been closed all season due to the COVID pandemic. I was able to call one of the Board Members of the museum and I would have to tour it later that afternoon. So took another tour of the park and drove back down the island.
Maybe it was the salt air or maybe it was the two hour drive down the shore but I was getting hungry again. Not wanting to eat another breakfast, I stopped at an old time restaurant, Surf City Pizza for a slice. They had just opened for lunch and I could not believe I was eating pizza this early in the morning but it was good.
Surf City Pizza at 1017 Long Beach Boulevard in Surf City, NJ
The pizza here is really good
I got to the Long Beach Island Historical Society as they were in full swing of their Ghost Fest and what a nice event it was that afternoon.
The Museum was decorated for Halloween
They had a pony ride, marshmallow roasting and smores by the fire pit, corn hole games, a maze, games of chance, a small gift shop, tours of the museum and even a costume parade with the Jersey Devil. The museum had a nice turnout on a somewhat gloomy afternoon but by the end of the event the sun started to shine.
The ‘Jersey Devil’ lead the Costume Parade that afternoon
I had a while before I had to meet the President of the Barnegat Light Museum so I decided to explore the downtown strip of Beach Haven. What an interesting downtown for a shore community. The days of tee shirt shops and beach gift stores has given way to a collection of interesting restaurants, upscale boutiques and gift stores, small specialty shops and art galleries. When you are selling million dollar homes in the area, you need places for those residents to shop and Long Beach Boulevard has an eclectic group of stores to choose from.
When I first visited Beach Haven after my 45 year absence, I discovered The Woo-Hoo around the corner from the museum. On my first trip to Beach Haven last summer, I came across this impressive little ice cream and lunch stand around the corner from the Historical Society and on a recommendation from the staff had lunch that afternoon. It was excellent!
The Woo Hoo at 211 South Bay Avenue in Beach Haven, NJ
I had one of their Classic Burgers with hand cut French Fries which was just excellent. The burgers have a rich juicy flavor and the mix of ingredients was delightful to eat. The fries were perfectly cooked and salted. I was so impressed by the lunch I went back later for their homemade ice cream that is just excellent.
I had the most amazing Strawberry Cheesecake which was rich and creamy and a Cinnamon Toast Crunch, which was loaded with the cereal. On a recent trip, the hot food had closed for the season but the ice cream was still going. I have this amazing holiday special called ‘Cookies & Scream” for Halloween. It was made with holiday M & M’s and Halloween oreos. It was worth the trip to Beach Haven just for that.
The burgers at the Woo Hoo are delicious
What I love about walking around downtown Beach Haven is the interesting array of stores and food establishments they have on the strip. They are fun to explore on a nice sunny afternoon. I lucked out on my two most recent trips here. The weather broke both days and it ended up a sunny warm afternoon. So I set out to explore the town and I discovered a small community that was much than the beach.
My first stop when I exited Engelside Avenue onto South Bay Avenue is the unique little gift store, “How to Live” at 7 South Bay Avenue, which has a great selection of local artisan gifts, artwork, children’s clothes and books, women’s clothes and art and book items created by the owner, Sandy Gingras. Her whimsical books and art work dot the store.
‘How to Live’s’ owner, Sandy Gingras
Walking into the store is an experience with the smell of fragrant smells of body products and the musical sounds of the 1980’s. It is a step back in time to when people took time to decorate their homes and give small host gifts. I really loved the homemade Christmas ornaments by a local artist.
How I Live at 7 South Bay Avenue
Further up North Bay Boulevard, the main artery of the town is Chicken or the Egg at 207 North Bay Boulevard with its constant crowds, popular outdoor dining and creative menu. The menu is stocked with interesting sandwiches, burgers and sides. The outdoor seating on a nice day is the way to dine. I have not had a chance to try the restaurant but it is on my bucket list on my next trip to town.
The Chicken or the Egg is at 207 North Bay Boulevard
North Bay Boulevard has a long stretch of eating establishments that are opened at various times of the week.
I stopped at Fourchette at LBI at 511 North Bay Avenue to enjoy the smells of the array of cheeses and look at their assortment of host gifts. They have a lot of interesting cheeses in the case line and the woman behind the counter was eager to explain them all to me.
Fourchette at LBI at 511 North Bay Avenue
The Cheese case at Fourchette
Another interesting store was Sandy Banks Art Store at 515 North Bay Avenue in which the first afternoon I visited a local artist was having an art show in the small courtyard adjoining the store. The art was vibrant and the artist was proud of the paintings she was showing off.
Sandy Banks at 515 North Bay Boulevard
Anchoring the main part of the downtown is the local shore department store, B &B Stores, which has been a Jersey Shore staple since 1932. Located in many well known beach communities, B &B stocks not just bathing suits and swim gear but an array of clothing, gifts and accessories for the local community. I have been in the store during the summer months and it is wall to wall swim suits, tee shirts and shorts but as the cooler months approach and the rushing of the holidays, I saw my first Christmas tree down the shore.
B & B Department Store at 835 North Bay Avenue
That afternoon there was a nice rush of locals and tourist grasping the last days of warm weather down the shore and even though we were all in masks (COVID is big down the shore too), people were going about their shopping with a vengeance. It was nice to see a crowd of people enjoying a shopping trip and conversing with one another talking over their masks.
The selection of merchandise at B & B Department Stores give me faith in the department store industry.
Crossing the street , there is a tiered mall, The Seaman’s Village, stocked with small stores and restaurants that is big with the beach going community on a rainy afternoon. During the two trips to Beach Haven that I made most of the stores were closed or has partial hours during the week and weekends. It seems though with the warmer weather extending into November and the exodus of people out of the cities, the stores are staying open much longer than usual.
Another homegrown store that I have enjoyed visiting on my last few trips to town is the Crust & Crumb Bakery at 9 North Bay Boulevard. This old fashioned bakery has the usual assortments of cookies, cakes, pastries and doughnuts and an array of Italian pastries as well. I have enjoyed their jelly and custard filled doughnuts and their seasonal pumpkin glazed doughnuts are delicious.
Crust & Crumb Bakery at 9 North Bay Boulevard
Trust me, after a day at the shore or just walking around enjoying the beautiful weather, a trip here can satisfy any sweet tooth. The selection is extensive and don’t miss the giant cinnamon elephant ears.
There are a lot of delicious items to choose from at Crust & Crumb
Walking back down North Bay Boulevard, passing Fantasy Island Amusement Park reminds you that this is still a shore town. On my first trip to Beach Haven in September the park was still open just very quiet. On a warm sunny Friday afternoon, there were not too many people walking around and the staff spent most of their time on their cellphones or chatting amongst themselves.
Fantasy Island Amusement Park at 750 North Bay Avenue
On my second trip in late October, the park was closed but the arcade was open. Talk about bells and whistles with lots of music, lights and excitement. There were only about a dozen of us in the arcade but it was a lot of fun taking a step back into time when I used to visit the pinball and skeetball machines when I was in high school. There were a lot of the old machines that I remember including a version of PacMan and Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory.
The arcade at Fantasy Island Amusement Park brings back memories of a simpler time.
Walking around the arcade before dinner was an experience. The few people who were playing games were laughing and having a good time. The adults were having just a good time as their kids and I saw that it brought the kid back in them.
I stopped for a snack before venturing further at Slice of Heaven Pizza at 610 North Bay Avenue. The restaurant was closed for indoor dining so I ate outside with the pizza chef who was taking a break. The pizza was pretty good and when I was talking to the pizza cook he said how sporadic the business had been all summer. It was just starting to get busy by the end of the summer.
Slice of Heaven Pizzeria at 610 North Bay Avenue
Another wonderful gift, design and furniture store is The Spotted Whale at 500 North Bay Avenue. The store has a light and breezy beach feel to it with light colors and a lot of nautical looks. This store is more geared to the shore customer.
The Spotted Whale at 500 North Bay Avenue has some interesting looks about it
Walking further south, I took detour into the Coffee Nest at 106 North Bay Avenue to see what their baked good were like. The store is a combination gift store, coffee shop and bakery with some floral arrangements up front. There was not much left in the bakery area when I got there but they have a nice assortment and the prices are a bit high. I liked the music playing though. A step in here and your would think you are in Williamsburg or Bushwick and not Beach Haven.
The Coffee Nest at 106 North Bay Street
The interior at the Coffee Nest is very Bohemian
When I visited the first time, I came to see the NJ Maritime Museum that is located around the corner from the Coffee Nest on Dock Road towards the bay. The NJ Maritime Museum is located across the street from two very popular restaurants facing the bay at 528 Dock Road.
The NJ Maritime Museum is located at 528 Dock Road by the bay
This small but interesting museum contains not just the history of the towns of Long Beach Island but also has the history of the hotels that once dotted the shore, shipwrecks, the Coast Guard and the 1916 Shark Attack that inspired the movie “Jaws”. Several cruise disasters have interesting displays with documented accounts and all sorts of memorabilia. The museum was founded in 2007 by collector Deb Whitcraft.
The museum’s nautical displays are very detailed
Take time to explore each room and read the details of the displays. You will delve deeper into the history of Long Beach Island and its rich history as a fishing and hunting area for the Lennape Indians, then the Dutch and English traders to its time as a resort community to the new morphing during COVID as a full time community catering to the residents on their exodus out of New York City and Philly. The museum is rewriting history again in the era of COVID.
For lunch on my recent trip I had to find a place to watch the Michigan State versus Rutgers game. It was depressing watching us get tapped danced on by Rutgers during the third quarter. What made it less depressing was the food at Tuckers Tavern, a restaurant facing the bay at 101 South Bay Avenue( see review on TripAdvisor).
Tuckers Tavern at 101 South Bay Avenue
The bar area was socially distanced and they had plenty of TV’s to watch the game. We ended up losing 38-27 but I knew the game was over pretty much by the end of third quarter and I did not travel two hours to sit at the bar and get depressed.
Michigan State lost to Rutgers that afternoon
What perked me up though was the food. It it was excellent. I had a crab cake sandwich that was out of this world. It was loaded with crab and was so sweet. The fries were freshly cut and deep fried to perfection. The whole meal was delicious and picked me right up to keep going for the rest of the afternoon.
Do not miss the Tuckers Tavern’s Crab cake sandwich
It was nice after lunch to just walk around the bay area and admire the sunshine. The views from the restaurant that lined the bay was just amazing. It was so nice to just walk off lunch and admire the views. I watched the boats coming in and out of the docks.
The bay side restaurant row is breathtaking
After visiting both museums on the lower part of the island, I headed back to the northern part of the island for an appointment that I had to see the Barnegat Light Museum at 501 Central Avenue in Barnegat Light, a tiny museum that housed the original Barnegat Lighthouse light.
The original Barnegat light from the lighthouse
It was an old schoolhouse built in 1903 that had been converted into museum. The museum housed interesting artifacts like dinosaur bones found on the island, housewares from local residents, notes from the students who went to school at the schoolhouse and nautical items.
The Barnegat Light Museum at 501 Central Avenue
The President of the museum took me on a private tour of the museum and she told me about all the pieces in the space. I also got to tour the gardens that surrounded the museum that were tended by the Long Beach Island Garden Club who did a wonderful job.
The gardens at the Barnegat Light Museum
As the day wore on, I walked the Barnegat Lighthouse State park one more time and admired the inlet and enjoyed the breezes. People were walking along the pathways before the park closed at 4:00pm.
As I walked the around the area, exploring Andy’s at the Lighthouse at 202 Broadway, an old general store that had a lot of handmade wood works by a local artist and has a nice selection of tee shirts and gifts.
Wildflowers by the Lighthouse at 410 Broadway
Another store that stood out was Wildflowers by the Lighthouse by owner and artist, Cricket Luker and the store really stands for it innovative clothing and accessories. The owner is a local artist who took her art studio and turned it to a clothing store over time. She also opened Wildflowers Too! an art gallery at 506 Broadway that shows local and metropolitan artists with a collection of paints, sculpture and gifts.
Wildflowers Two! at 506 Broadway
It was later in the afternoon when I headed back down to the southern part of the island to Beach Haven and I had some dinner. When I was walking past the NJ Maritime Museum, I came across Polly’s Dockside and Clamhouse at 112 Northwest Avenue. The restaurant is a small establishment right on the dock facing the bay and has the most amazing fried clams and clam chowder.
Polly’s Dockside & Clamhouse at 112 Northwest Avenue
I sat at the bar facing the water and watching the sun set. I ate the richest clam chowder while watching boats come in and out of the dock. The sun set right in front of all of us as we ate and it was like watching a movie. Mother Nature can really treat you to the most beautiful things in life. I swear I snacked so much during the day that I could barely finish my fried clam appetizer which was much larger than I expected so it came home with me.
The food is just as good as the sunset at Polly’s Dockside & Clamhouse
I left when it got dark much later than I thought I would leave and I had a two hour drive home. I stopped at the Custard House at 6403 Long Beach Boulevard for some vanilla custard that settled my stomach. It was the right pick me up after all the food, touring and walking. This popular little stand has plenty of outside seating on a warm evening.
Custard Hut at 6403 Long Beach Boulevard
I was able to visit the island once more before the dark days of winter came upon us. Surprisingly enough when I visited in December, it was warm. The whole weekend was going to be in the high 50’s. It did not disappoint me as the sun came out.
I started this journey by visiting Barnegat, a small town just north of the cross-way from Long Beach Island. I was exploring the downtown and visiting a store named the ‘Unshredded Nostalgia’, a antique store that carried everything from old movie posters to local history books, 70’s posters and records to house hold decorations. It was one of those stores that a movie scout might look for props.
Unshredded Nostalgia at 232 South Main Street
The town of Barnegat is a small hamlet just north of Long Beach Island on the mainland a few miles from the cross-way. The Victorian architecture is a little shabby and the downtown has a lot of potential if it was renovated a bit more. It does have a unique look to it. It was a stop over for me on my back to Long Beach Island for a pre-Christmas visit.
Downtown Barnegat, NJ
During the late summer I had came across a flyer from the Surflight Theater for a Christmas production entitled “We need a little Christmas”, a COVID related play about Christmas in Maine. I had thought about it and at the last minute decided to visit Long Beach Island to see what the Jersey shore is like at the holidays. This was pretty shocking how quiet it had gotten.
The Surflight Theater at 201 Engleside Avenue
The play was cute and not too serious with a happy ending and a lot of Christmas songs that trust me everyone in the audience needed to hear. It really cheered me up and put me into the holiday spirit.
“We need a Little Christmas” at the Surflight Theater
The irony of the show was that when it was over and we walked outside the theater, the clouds gave way and it was sunny and 56 degrees out. It was so nice outside and no wind that I walked down the block and walked on the beach which surprisingly I had not done in all my trips to Beach Haven. This was the first time I had touched the Jersey Shore all year and since 1975 here.
This is when I believe in God when we can enjoy the Christmas holidays with late summer weather. This is what I liked about visiting Hawaii during the holidays. I could walk on the beach and dig into the sand and smell the salt air without freezing. It was nice to just walk on the beach and hear the waves crash.
Beach Haven beach, what a day!
After the walk on the beach, I decided to walk around the downtown. I was amazed on how much was now closed. “How to Live” was closing for the season and everything was 50% off, the Crust & Crumb and a whole list of other restaurants has closed for the season. The arcade closed for the season as well. B & B Department Store was still open and decorated for the holidays but pretty much everything surrounding it was closed for the season.
The museums, art galleries and some of the bay side restaurants and attractions were shut down for the winter months as well. I thought with so many people staying on the island as residents more would be open. I had lunch at The Shack at 302 North Bay Boulevard, which was one of the few places that was still open. I had noticed it when I was visiting in October and they had a nice selection of lunch specials for $8.00.
The Shack at 302 North Bay Boulevard
Just wanting a snack, I had their $5.00 pizza combination, which was two slices of their fresh pizza and a Coke. I highly recommend their pizza. It must have been cooked in a hot coal oven because the crust and bottom were really crisp and pillowy. The sauce was well spiced and had a nice flavor and the slices were very generous (see review on TripAdvisor).
The Shack Pizza is delicious
After lunch, I decided to head up the coast and explore how the island was decorated for Christmas. In the downtown areas of Ships Bottom there were some nice decorations of lighted trees but outside that with a few store fronts with lights, the area was dark. Everything had closed for the season. With each town I passed, it was really quiet.
When I got to Barnegat Light, the lighthouse was dark and the park was closed as was all the stores surrounding it including Wildflowers at the Lighthouse, which I enjoyed visiting on my last two trips. The stores either were closed for the season or closed at 4:00pm when the park closed.
On my trip back down the island, it was eerie how quiet the neighborhoods had gotten since Halloween. I thought more people were staying down here full time and I did not see that many homes lite up let alone decorated.
The one thing I did see was the most amazing sunset over the island and especially the bay area. The whole sky was reflecting off the clouds and had the most beautiful array of colors in reds, oranges and whites bouncing off the sky. The sun really gives a performance on Long Beach Island.
Beach Haven sunset
Before I left the island for home that evening and for the rest of the season, I stopped at the Chicken or The Egg for dinner which had been on my bucket list to try since the end of the summer. The food and the service were excellent and everyone was so laid back.
The dinner was excellent (see review on TripAdvisor). I had a sandwich named the Chicken Slammer, which was a fried chicken breast topped with Bacon, Jack Cheddar, Lettuce and Tomato and capped off with tangy barbecue sauce with a side of fries and pickles. it had such nice flavor in each bite.
The Chicken Slammer sandwich at The Chicken or The Egg
The restaurant has the most amazing desserts. I had their Cinnamon Roll Ice Cream Sandwich, which I highly recommend. They bake their own cinnamon buns and then cut it in half, load it with vanilla ice cream and top it with caramel syrup and then top it with cinnamon sugar. I swear that their is nothing like each bite of that dessert! No wonder it is so popular.
Cinnamon Bun Ice Cream sandwich is heavenly
I was so stuffed from dinner, I needed to take one last look around and I went back to the square and walked around all the lit Christmas trees , all twenty five of them surround the gazebo, and then the main one inside. On a warm night, with the waves crashing in the background, I thought this was an amazing place to admire a Christmas tree.
It was treat to come to Beach Haven and Long Beach Island again after a forty year absence. Who knew that the island in its transformation from working class resort to high class residential community offered so much in the way of shopping, restaurants and cultural sites packed onto one island. There is something for everyone here including the beach.
I thought it was a nice group of visits to get my mind off what is going on in the world. What’s better than the Jersey Shore in warm weather? Visiting at all times of the year in warm weather.
Christmas at the Shore!
The Beach Haven Christmas Tree Lighting 2020 (virtually of course):
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 Dutchess 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/restaurant’s 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.
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 Forth 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 for custom made and vintage painted furniture.
Young Fashions at 206 Boulevard (Going through a Management Change)
My review on LittleShoponMainStreet@Wordpress.com:
Owner Addie Carrino greets all her customers personally (now retired)
Young Fashions 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 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)
Please watch the video on the creativity of the business (now closed but online):
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 (during the COVID-19 pandemic it is strictly pick-up and delivery). They made a wonderful Lemon Chicken and Moo Shu Pork and their dumplings are not bad too.
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 they have a nice assortment of appetizers.
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 is 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 they have the best egg rolls 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.
Fisher’s Cafe 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 owners 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 melt in your mouth good! 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 owners 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
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.
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
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
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
The Brothers of the Hasbrouck Heights Fire Department at “Santa Around Town” 2020!
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.
I had the most interesting semester for Spring Term at the college where I work. Everything started off fine. We had classes in the the afternoon, good discussions on Marketing and had a very successful Team Project marketing the Lyndhurst Snack Shop, the new Bulldog Cafe, for business (See Day One Hundred and Fifty-Nine in MywalkinManhattan.com):
I had just handed out the next Team Project, “From Revolution to Renewal: Exploring the Historic Bergen County”, a major tourism project I wanted to the students to work on for the remainder of the semester the week before the break. I had the students to break up into groups and get to know one another and get their game plans in order before the Midterm. We had only one class to introduce the project and they set their group chats up and introduced themselves. The next week I gave the Midterm and then left for the Spring Break.
This project had been inspired by a couple of things. One was the fact that many of these students did not know their own County. They knew nothing of its history let alone had ever really explored it. It amazed me how many of them did not know the history of the towns they lived in and if there was a well-known cultural site in the town they lived in they never visited it. A few students said to me when I asked had they visited this or that in their town the answer always seemed to be “well I passed it but never really noticed it.”
Another thing that inspired the project was the Northwest Bergen Historical Coalition. Every year this historical group runs a “History Day” for the historical sites of northwest Bergen County. When I asked a friend who worked for the County why they did not have a weekend with all the sights in Bergen County, she said that it would be too difficult to put together. That was what I needed to hear to put this project together. To prove that it could be done.
It wasn’t just that. Many of the these sites were never visited and some were only open once or twice a year to visitors because their volunteers were getting too old. Many people were not taking these sites seriously in the role they played in not just the formation of the County but the United States. When you really read the history of the people who lived there or what the site meant, it was interesting to see what role it played in the history of Bergen County.
As I said in my previous blog on my Introduction to Business class creating the Ambassador Program, it was a harder go with my Essentials in Marketing class. They were a younger group who did not know much about the history of Bergen County let alone their own towns. I had poised the question many times in class about where they had visited in the County and mentioned many historical sites in towns which they lived in. Only a few had ever visited them or if they had had been way back in elementary school when it was considered part of a school field trip.
This is when I created “From Revolution to Renewal: A Historical Weekend in Bergen County, NJ”. This would be a two day weekend with an opening private cocktail party of the Arts Community and VIP’s followed by a two day tour of all of Bergen County’s historical sites with side trips to our wonderful historical restaurants and a scavenger hunt to wrap it all up.
I had started to arrange a series of field trips that we were going to take over the last week of school and the first week of Spring Break. I had planned a trip to Downtown Hackensack, NJ to see the Courthouse, visit two Dutch Reformed Churches and the cemeteries and then visit White Mana, a very well-known hamburger place that has been around since the 1940’s.
The Bergen County Courthouse, The Green and the Dutch Reformed Church in Downtown Hackensack, NJ
Another field trip that I started to look into was the Aviation Hall of Fame in Teterboro, NJ and then a tasting at Spindler’s Bakery and Lovey’s Pizzeria in Hasbrouck Heights, NJ and then on to Mills Bakery in Wood Ridge, NJ.
I was doing this while running in and out of New York City for the Restaurant Show and a Michigan State University Alumni Night for the Big Ten Championship game against Ohio State University. I was just getting everything organized and then planning a quick trip to visit my mother when all hell broke loose and the government started to shut everything down. From a Wednesday Membership Night at the Met Breuer to a Thursday morning shut down of New York City and all air travel to Europe, the world changed.
Our Spring Break was extended a week to see what the State of New Jersey was going to do with the educational system and with that at the end of the week we were informed that we would not be returning to school. Not only did that mean no field trips it meant no more live class and I would not be seeing my students again. I was not sure how like my other class we were going to pull this project off.
None of my students had visited practically any of these sites or been to any of the restaurants on the project. Almost everything was closed. You could see some of the sites like the churches and memorials from the street but everything inside was closed. Everything would have to be done online.
The one thing I did have was belief in the class that they could do the work. I had been so impressed by their work on the Snack Shop project that I knew they could do the work. It was the intense research that would have to be done online. A crisis is when you see the best in people. I did.
While my other class had a better head start of the Student Ambassador Project, my Historic Bergen County Team had a lot of ingenuity. The one thing they didn’t know was the history of Bergen County, NJ. I could have asked them to visit some of the sites around the County which would not have been hard as the Reformed Dutch churches could be seen from the sidewalks as well as the cemeteries that surrounded them.
Places like the Camp Merrill Memorial and the Baylor Massacre site were open to the public in obscure areas and not in big parks that would have been closed during the pandemic so it would have been no problem visiting them. I did not want to put anyone at risk of anything at this time so I nixed them leaving their homes. I just did not want to be responsible for anyone getting sick.
Once we realized that we were not returning, I started to contact the President and Senior Vice-President of Operations who I chose for the project and started to get underway. Just like my other class, the students all had their own situations. Some students got sick, some just did not communicate with me, some had changes in their family situations and some had communications problems with me. On top of all of this, the Teams of Student Consultants regrouped and really worked their butts off to make it work.
The Talent Team who was responsible for for setting up the salaries and benefits for the three month Division formation had already started doing their work. They had found the location for the office before the break and had a lot of ideas they were contemplating during the break. Since the two Teams of students from Paramus and Lyndhurst would not be meeting up as I had originally planned, I had the Lyndhurst Team develop their own unique plan for their Division of the company.
The Talent Division set up their office design, created a Wrap Up party for the Division, created a set of ‘perks’ for the Division staff and developed a very fair package of benefits for the staff (see their website below).
The Marketing Division I created for the Team Project had the bulk of the work. I broke the Division down into three sections:
The Historical Museums/Parks/Homes & Zoo Division was responsible doing the research on every historic tourist site in the County. This included the historical homes, churches, parks, cemeteries, monuments and the zoo. They had to do the research on each and then for the website put together a small bio on them so that tourists could find them when using the website on their smartphones. This also included a Scavenger Hunt in the buildings that they had never been inside of before.
They also had to set up a cocktail party opening event at The Gallery Bergen, our on campus art gallery at Bergen Community College. The cocktail party was being created for Museum Curators, Historians, members of the Arts Community, Artists and VIP’s from the County.
The second Division was the Historical Restaurant Division whose job it was to find restaurants all over the County that predated 1980. We were looking showcase well-known restaurants with years of longevity in the County that were well-known not just in the community but around the country with foodies. Places like White Mana in Hackensack, NJ and Hirim’s Hot Dogs in Fort Lee, NJ.
The Third Division of the Marketing Team was the History Division whose job it was to research Bergen County’s History from the Lennape Settlements with the Dutch to the Revolutionary War to World War II. Bergen County played such a huge role in all the wars from setting up and training troops to munitions being developed here to battle grounds between the wars.
They were also responsible for researching a list of the ‘first family’s’ of Bergen County. People like the Zabriskie’s, the Demerest’s, the Terhune’s and the Haring’s played a big part not just in the development of Bergen County but in the formation of the United States especially during the Revolutionary War.
The Marketing Division itself was responsible for for creating the Bergecco-Parc Consulting Inc. websites for the client that were eventually merged into one. The Marketing Team would be gathering information from the three Teams that made up the Division and create the site for tourists and residents who were going to attend the three day History Event.
They were also responsible for filming two commercials. One commercial would be on the role of Bergen County in the United States foundation from the Revolutionary War to World War II.
The Team’s commercial on the ‘History of Bergen County’ for “From Revolution to Renewal-A Historical Weekend in Bergen County, NJ”
The second would be inviting people to come to visit Bergen County and all it has to offer:
The Team’s commercial on “Welcoming people to Bergen County, NJ” in many languages for “From Revolution to Renewal-A Historical Weekend in Bergen County, NJ”
This was a very extensive project and I could not wait to come back to school after the break and start the project. When I took my students ‘out into the field’ (ie field trips) to the location, these projects made more sense to the class. The field trips to Paterson, NJ and to the Snack Shop on the Bergen Community College Lyndhurst, NJ campus resulted in extremely creative work and the students being able to see first hand what it was they were marketing. This would be put to the test when we did not return to the college.
I have to say of all my classes, I have never seen a collective of students regroup and get the job done. The Talent Team was very diligent and got their work done on a timely basis. My senior executives for that division lead their Team and created a game plan to get their job accomplished.
It was much harder in our Historical Division in that there was a lot of research to do with each site, restaurant and family that had to be carefully explored and researched in detail. It was not so easy with no access to certain books as all libraries were shut down and not everything was on an Ebook.
Almost all the restaurants on the list were not open at the time of the project (a lot of them have since opened for take out only) and since this was a younger group of students, they did not know a lot of the restaurants that had been opened for years. Here I was able to assist as a CEO and be able to add to the project. With the help of my aunt, who had lived in Bergen County since the 1950’s, we were able to create a list of about thirty five restaurants, candy and ice cream stores and bakeries all over Bergen County that tourists and residents alike would enjoy when they were touring on the Historical Weekend.
Since all the cemeteries and churches were off limits for the duration of the project (they have now started to open), everything had to be done online by the help of Google. All the wonderful historic cemeteries that we were going to tour in Ridgewood, Hackensack, Dumont and Bergenfield were closed to us and I would not be able to show the significance of the families and how they intertwined with marriage.
The Dutch Reformed Church and cemetery on the Green in Hackensack, NJ
It was a rough first two weeks as communication was limited to just campus email but as things like Zoom and WebEx video conferencing started to be introduced then we were raring to go. My students were already group chatting and video conferencing with each other before my training was over and then it was ‘Zooming’ in meetings for the rest of the semester.
Some of my students needed to learn how to time prioritize and some of them needed to take their work much more seriously but when I read their final papers on the project, I realized that was not always so easy.
Some students were taking care of loved ones who were sick or had been sick themselves, some had multiple classes and not much access to computers and had professor’s like myself emailing them all the time so they got over-whelmed. It was a real challenge but I knew this Team of Student Consultants was up for the sense of self-accomplishment.
For the next three weeks before the Monday, April 27th presentation, I have never emailed so many people so many times answering questions, trying to find information and trying to guide people to doing their best work.
One of the attributes I let the students use was my blog site, VisitingaMuseum.com:
This way it would save them time in their research. I had found when I was putting the site together that many of these smaller historical sites in Bergen County did not even have their own websites. We also discovered as a Team that there was no site in the County or in the State that showed off all of Bergen County attributes.
To add to the historical sites and the historical restaurants, I had all the students in both classes do research on every town in Bergen County to add to the website. This way it would tie everything you needed to know about the County with the families, where they lived, who they were, how they played a role in the development of the County, the towns that they lived in and by the way when you are visiting all the great long service restaurants to dine at for the weekend.
All of this was a major challenge as the Team had never put a website together and the one that the mythical client, the New Jersey Historical Guild of Bergen County, had wanted had an interactive map. This all had to be created from scratch.
I am not sure what went on behind the scenes as I was not privy to the Group Chat but I could tell there was a lot of conversation back and forth on everything. I was lucky that I created an Executive Team who saw this as a challenge themselves. Nothing like this had ever been attempted by the County or the State of New Jersey Tourism that I knew of in past history.
On Monday, April 27th at 11:00am, the students presented me their Power Point Presentation and their commercials. If ever there was a Professor that was prouder of his students, it was me. The Team took all the proposed ideas that I came up with plus adding the history of every town in Bergen County (all 70 of them) and came up with a very creative website not just for the Historical Sites, History of the Country and Historic Restaurants but the Talent Division created their own website as well.
The Power Point presentation was attended not just by myself but with other members of the Historical Community of Bergen County and that made the presentation really special that the students would get that feedback.
I have to say that I was totally blown away by not just the Power Point Presentation but by the commercials and the websites that they created. The one thing I knew is that the global pandemic did not stop this Team of students from accomplishing the task.
Both of my classes exceeded and impressed me with all of their ideas. Hats off to all the students involved in both projects. You should be proud of yourselves!
Here is the Bergecco-Parc Consulting Inc. Historical Website of Bergen County, NJ:
After such a wonderful Christmas holiday in Cape May, I decided to change my plans around and stay in Cape May this time for the Annual Firemen’s Convention which is in mid-September. This is the best time to visit the beach as most of the tourists are away, the kids are back in school and the water is still warm. Hurricane Florence was coming up the coast so it was not the greatest weather but I always find things to do.
While attending the convention, I was booked at the Chalfonte Hotel in Cape May, which is considering the Southern Grande Dame of hotels. I had stayed at the hotel’s Southern Quarters, the smaller B & B setting next door during Christmas and it had been a nice stay. The room had been decorated with holiday ornaments and decorations. I had a slept like ‘a log’ during the holidays. It had been so quiet at that time of the year.
When I had originally booked the reservation for the weekend, I was told that the restaurant, The Magnolia Room, would be open. Later I found out it would be closing for the end of the season on September 7th and I would not be able to try it for dinner when I was visiting Cape May. This meant a special trip ahead of time. So after work on September 6th on a whim I made a special trip to Cape May to check out the culinary delights of the Chalfonte Hotel.
I called the hotel at the last minute, booked a room with a shared bathroom ($100.00) and off I went down the Garden State Parkway from Bergen County to Cape May which is one side of the state to another. With one break stop, I was there in two hours and forty five minutes.
I got to the hotel by 4:30pm and it was still nice out. Hurricane Florence was just starting to make landfall in Florida and it was supposed to be gloomy all day long but we lucked out the tentacles of the storm had not hit New Jersey (that would come later the next day when I left) and it was still sunny, clear, warm and still a little humid.
I was happy because I got my room immediately and was able to get to the beach for a swim before dinner. One thing about the Chalfonte Hotel (see review on TripAdvisor) is that it is old and I mean old. The rooms themselves have been updated and painted and the beds and furnishings are new and comfortable but the room I got with the shared bath could have used a scraping and repainting of the whole room.
The Chalfonte Hotel in Cape May at 301 Howard Street
The window sill was beginning to rot and I could see in the gingerbread decoration on the roof was rotting as well. The hallway carpets were clean but could have used a good shampooing to bring out the color. Even though the hotel is clean and maintained, it still needs a good gut renovation to bring it up to current standards. It is nice it could be a showplace.
The beach is only three blocks away and since it was off season already and later in the afternoon, the beach was quiet. The water was perfectly warm and the waves were low and no current from the storm (we really lucked out with that) so swimming was nice. I could ride the waves with not much worries. Still I kept close to shore and did not venture out too far.
It was nice to just lie on the beach and just relax. I had not been to the beach all summer and it was nice to just put my feet in the ocean, hear the sound of the waves and just relax on a towel and get some sun. I had not done this in over a year. The salt air is so soothing. The nice part was the beach at this point was practically empty and was filled with mostly locals.
After the beach, I went back to take a shower and relax. I took a quick nap on the bed which I have to say are soft and firm at the same time and I completely relaxed. I didn’t even want to go down for dinner but there was a fried chicken dinner with my name on it downstairs.
The Magnolia Room (see review on TripAdvisor), the hotel’s main dining room, is off the main lobby and located towards the back of the hotel. You really do feel like you are in a Southern hotel in Charleston or Savannah with the long narrow dining room, the pink tablecloths and the over-head chandeliers. It is like stepping into a Southern Plantation. It is elegant and homey at the same time.
The Magnolia Room at the Chalfonte Hotel
Cape May like most shore towns in the Northeast have to depend on foreign help as the college students have to go back to school and there are only so many people living in town to fill the jobs. My server, Michaela, told me she was from Albania and could not have been friendlier. She was the one that told me that the Fried Chicken Dinner was the most popular. The nice part is that the three course meal is $39.00 which includes an appetizer or soup, the main entrée and a dish from the set menu. Another nice aspect of the dining room is that they give hotel guests a 15% discount for eating there and I thought that was very nice.
I traveled three hours to try the Fried Chicken so off the order went to the kitchen. I started with the Chicken Soup with Garden vegetables. Hunks of chicken in a fresh broth with a rough cut of fresh vegetables made the soup almost a complete meal. A good appetizer to offset the Fried Chicken. The nice part was the vegetables were really fresh and it had a well rounded flavor to it.
The Magnolia Room’s Southern Fried Chicken
The Fried Chicken was a bit of a disappointment. Even though it was a nice sized piece of chicken (almost half the bird) and the meat was juicy and moist and perfectly cooked, the coating had no flavor to it. It really needed some spices and I had to end up loading it with salt and pepper. Every bite was crispy and crunchy but not much flavor to it. The fresh Parker House rolls the same thing. They tasted good but were not moist (I found out later that they had been made in advance and had been defrosted).
For dessert, I had the Chocolate pie that was created by one of the owners of the hotel. It was pretty incredible with its dense filling and fresh whipped cream topping. I devoured that in a couple of bites.
The specialty cocktail was strong and on top of all the driving I did in the afternoon, it made me even more tired. Still I had enough energy to go to the Kings Bar, which is a small bar off the main lobby for an after dinner drink and listen to one of the local groups that play there.
The King Edward Bar is a small room that is off the wrap around porch and next to the history room that is part of the main lobby. There are about a half dozen tables around the small room which were always full and a small bar in the back. The service there is extremely friendly and the bartenders can mix a drink. Be prepared!
King Edward Bar in the Chalfonte Hotel
It was nice to just sit back and drink a Cosmo and listen to the Jazz band. Every night during the season that have a different group there perform every night. It is nice because you don’t have to just sit in the bar. You can sit on the wrap around porch in one of the many rocking chairs, feel the breeze and listen to the music. I sat in one of the chairs and just relaxed. I started to fall asleep.
I went back to the room in the main building just for a quick rest and then I would go back to hear the music group. I fell asleep the second I hit the comfortable bed and did not wake up until much later that evening and then went to bed. I had one of the best night’s sleep I had in a long time.
I woke up completely refreshed and ready to start the day. Since the hotel was not full, I had the shared bathroom all to myself with no one banging on the door. I took a quick shower, dressed and went downstairs to try the second part of the culinary trip, the Magnolia Room Breakfast Buffet.
Magnolia Room at the Chalfonte Hotel
Now I am big breakfast fan (as many of you must know from my dining blog, “DiningonaShoeStringinNYC@Wordpress.com) and when there is a buffet I am in high heaven. The food at breakfast just had more zing to it then at dinner. I just could not put my finger on why. I found out when I met Tina Bowser, one of the Magnolia Room’s two well know cooks. Her mother was Dot (Dorothy) Burton, one of the two main cooks at the hotel and as we talked we discovered that we lost our parents at the same time.
Dorothy and Lucille in the kitchen making the famous fried chicken a few years ago
I never had such a heart to heart with a complete stranger and we both talked about our losses and how much we both missed our parents. Funny how you can bond with a complete stranger who was going through exactly what I was going through. It was interesting when Tina said that she still felt like her mother looked over her shoulder when she cooked and could still feel the nudge when she did something wrong.
After our long conversation, she mentioned that she now worked side by side with her Aunt Lucille Thompson, her mother’s sister who was just as well known. Now I had heard so much about her mother and aunt that I asked for a favor, I wanted to meet her Aunt Lucille. She said no problem and I was able to go back in the kitchen to introduce myself.
Lucille Thompson at the Chalfonte Hotel
It is amazing to meet an 87 year old woman who still gets up every morning to cook for the hotel guests, make all the biscuits and rolls from scratch and prepare all the crab cakes, chicken coatings and then prepare breakfast. She was sitting down making her homemade rolls when I met here. It is always such a thrill when you meet a famous cook and Lucille and her family are so well known in the industry.
Lucille seemed thrilled when I made such a fuss. She told me of all her time at the hotel and the countless hours in the kitchen. I could tell there was pride in her voice on her cooking like it was her baby. She put a lot of effort into the food to make it special.
It was then she told me she had not been in the kitchen the night before and the she had made the dinner rolls in advance. That was the reason why there had been such a difference in flavor of the food. It’s not that it was not good it was but it just didn’t have that touch that was missing. There was such that sense that the person who gave it that extra care was not there to oversee it.
I complimented her on the soup and on the chocolate pie I had for dessert but she gave the credit to that to the owners wife, who made the delicious chocolate pie and the chicken vegetable soup. It was she though who made the Southern Breakfast I enjoyed so much. She seemed thrilled that I was so thrilled to finally meet her. I then left her alone to do her magic in the kitchen while I got back to the buffet.
Now this buffet is really nice. On the buffet we had fresh scrambled eggs, thick bacon, Amish sausage, fried hash brown potatoes, fried red tomatoes, spoon bread, fresh rolls and Danishes that were made by the kitchen as well as fresh fruits, juices and a complete waffle bar. This was all you could eat and they have never seen me at a breakfast buffet. Unlike other people who just fill up their plates and then to waste food, I circle the buffet, try a small portion of things and then go back for more so that I don’t waste.
My advice is that you have to go to the Chalfonte Hotel just for the breakfast buffet if not for anything else. Those fried red tomatoes are so sweet and crisp and I thoroughly enjoyed them. I had never eaten anything like this before. The home made rolls when they are still hot are addictive and the Danishes are delicious and burst with fruits and cinnamon. The sausage are those fat Amish sausage that crack when you bite into them and you can taste the freshly ground pork and sage. It was wonderful breakfast full of good food, great service and a beautiful room to eat in on a sunny morning.
By the time I finished it gave me a chance to get a quick walk into downtown Cape May, the Washington Mall, to look at the shops before I left. I needed to work off the breakfast. It was a bright sunny day and I could not believe what the weatherman had said. I walked around the beach and the other half empty hotels that proved that the season was over. After a quick rest in the room, I checked out of the Grande Dame of Cape May for a trip to the zoo. It had been a great stay, truly relaxing and just what the doctor ordered. I had needed this rest.
By the time I left the hotel for the Cape May Zoo (see review on TripAdvisor and VisitingaMuseum.com) up on Route 9, it started to get cloudy and by the time I was walking into the zoo, it poured! Going to a zoo in the rain is not much fun as the animals took shelter too and I didn’t get to see many of them unless they were in a protected environment. As there was a break in the weather, some of the peeked out and greeted the visitors. I enjoyed visiting the zoo but have to say it is another Eighties type of zoo that is need of an update. I think there must be more interesting ways to have animals live then in some of the smaller exhibitions.
The Cape May County Zoo in Cape May, NJ
I decided I wanted to explore the state and drove up Route 9 which would take me directly to Newark. Big Mistake! It took five hours to get home going through all those smalls towns. I really did see the middle of the State of New Jersey but it took over five hours to get home with traffic instead of the two and half by the Garden State Parkway. I am glad I did it once.
The next week I returned to Cape May for the annual NJ Firemen’s Convention when about 8,000 fire fighters from all over the State of New Jersey convene for the Annual Convention. I can’t take the crowds of Wildwood and I stayed at the Chalfonte Hotel for a second time.
This time when I checked into the hotel, I was ‘upgraded’ which I find a dirty word in the hotel industry. It means that you are not getting the room that you were promised. In my case, I was moved out of the main hotel to the ‘Southern Quarters’ annex next door. It was no problem for me. I figured the wedding party that checked in that day all wanted to be together and it meant that I got a better room with my own bathroom (no more sharing). The weird part was that I got the same exact room that I had at Christmas when I spent one night here on December 26th, 2017 (See Day One Hundred December 2017). Still I enjoyed the piece and quiet of the annex and it was nicer then the main hotel.
The only part about the room at the annex was that it was a top floor room of an old Victorian house and at one time must have been the attic. I am so tall that I had to lean down to brush my teeth and take a shower. Still it offered a lot of privacy when I finished my meetings.
The first day of the convention was really gloomy. The storm had finally hit land down South and it was misty and cloudy our first day of the convention. Since we did not have to be at the meeting until 1:00pm, I got up early and went to Uncle Bill’s Restaurant at 261 Beach Avenue in Cape May (see review on TripAdvisor and DiningonaShoeStringinNYC@Wordpress.com) for breakfast since the Magnolia Room was closed. Uncle Bill’s is a institution in the South Jersey Shore area. It was founding in 1962 in Stone Harbor and has expanded to five other locations on the Southern New Jersey shore. I could tell by the food and service it is the typical Jersey Shore restaurant which caters to family who like nice size portions at a good price.
I love the breakfasts here. They cook the eggs in clarified butter so they have that creamy taste to them and the pancakes I ordered in the platter were as light as air. When the Pancake and Egg Platter was served ($12.95), it could have fed two people. It was a great shore breakfast.
Uncle Bill’s is wonderful for breakfast. A real beach breakfast.
After breakfast I had some time on my hands before the meeting and had planned to visit the Wildwood Historical Society at 3907 Pacific Avenue in Wildwood, NJ (See my reviews on TripAdvisor and VisitingaMuseum.com). The Society is only open from 9:00am-2:00pm so the only time I could have gone was that morning due to all the meetings.
The Wildwood Historical Society is an interesting little museum filled with photos and memorabilia from all eras of Wildwood’s history. Rooms were dedicated to the fire department, police department, the military, the schools, the amusement areas and the government. Each room had all sorts of artifacts and loaded with pictures in albums and on the wall.
Wildwood Historical Society at 3907 Pacific Avenue
In the hallways was old artifacts from the amusement areas that had been part of the fun of the parks over the many seasons. Many were pieces of the old parts or old rides and signs. Towards the back of the amusement area display were old restaurant menus and hotel displays.
The museum can be a little overwhelming because there is so much crammed into the rooms that there is a lot to see at one time and the only problem with the museum is its limited hours. Surprisingly when I was there, the morning was so gloomy that there were many people from the convention there as well. A group of us were watching a video of the history of Wildwood, NJ before I left for the convention.
The Annual NJ Firemen’s Convention is interesting. There were about 8,000 fire fighters from all over the State of New Jersey in the convention hall all ready to vote on issues. We had the usual welcome speeches, flag salute and color guard and then it was business as usual. We wrapped by 2:30pm so we had time to walk around and see the fire equipment displays.
Since it was so cloudy most people packed up and went back to their hotels. I walked the Boardwalk to my favorite pizzeria, Joe’s Italian Pizzeria at 2812 Boardwalk between Magnolia & Poplar Streets (see reviews on TripAdvisor and DiningonaShoeStringinNYC@Wordpress.com) for one of their giant slices of pizza.
Joe’s Pizza 2812 Broadway in Wildwood, NJ
The slices at Joe’s are double the size of a normal slice of pizza and they even put a little swirl of sauce on top to finish it off. Their pizza is consistent and delicious and it is fun trying to eat that giant 28 inch slice. There are two problems with the place though. One is that it is cash only in the 21st Century and second is that try to load their glasses up with ice and give you very little soda so you have to ask for just a little ice. Otherwise it is a nice place for a slice.
As I left the Boardwalk it got darker outside and there were very few people walking around the Boardwalk. I left to visit the Hereford Lighthouse at 111 North Central Avenue in North Wildwood, NJ (see reviews on TripAdvisor and VisitingaMuseum.com). The Hereford Lighthouse is a Victorian Lighthouse that was built in 1874 and was operational until no longer deemed functional after the early 1960’s and a more modern structure was built leaving this building to rot away. Preservationists saved the building and restored it in 1983.
The Hereford Lighthouse at 111 North Central Avenue
I was surprised on how busy the museum was that afternoon. I guess people just did not want to walk on the beach on such a gloomy day. Each floor of the lighthouse shows it use and progress over almost one hundred years, with period furniture, family heirlooms and pictures, sea-going maps and nautical items. Floor by floor you see family living arrangements and the life the families had when they lived here.
The most beautiful view is from the top of the lighthouse on the third floor which had a spectacular view on the ocean and the surrounding area. What fascinated me the most was the history of the families who lived here and how they adapted to life here. The pictures of the holidays in the lighthouse were interesting. They even had a family reunion of the children who lived here a few years ago and to see these kids as children then as senior citizens was pretty remarkable.
What I liked about the museum was the gardens that surrounded the property. Even though it was not a nice afternoon out it was nice to walk through the flowered paths and shrubs and then take the back path to the bay area behind the property and see the bay and ocean. On a nice day in the middle of the summer it must be something.
After my trip to the Hereford Lighthouse at 111 North Central Avenue, I drove through the neighborhood to see the changes in the town. Even though Hurricane Sandy did not affect the Wildwood’s the way it did other shore towns there has been a lot of building in both North Wildwood and Wildwood Crest with the edges of Wildwood proper going through the change.
All these towns are being knocked down and rebuilt with newer homes and businesses. Here and there are traces of the old Wildwood but slowly the towns are coming into the modern age with new condos and homes being built replacing the small shore houses of the 50’s and 60’s. Even the old motels that catered to the tourists are slowly disappearing which is going to affect all of us at the convention as these places vanish. I could see that the towns are becoming year round communities.
For dinner I went to my favorite restaurant in Wildwood, The Ravioli House and Bakery at 102 Bennett Avenue in Wildwood, NJ (see reviews on TripAdvisor and LittleShoponMainStreet@Wordpress.com). I love their bakery which is located in the back of the restaurant which has a separate entrance.
The bakery has cases of Italian pastries that are all beautifully displayed and you just want to try one after another. I settled on a chocolate eclair ($3.00) just in time to spoil my dinner but what is wrong with eating dessert first? This delicious pastry was loaded with vanilla custard and topped with a thick layer of chocolate icing. There is nothing better but making a choice was hard. The custard doughnut that looked like a peach would have to be tried as well.
The Ravioli House at 102 Bennett Avenue in Wildwood, NJ
I managed to walk around a little before dinner and then went in for dinner at The Ravioli House for the second year in a row. It was loaded with fire fighting families and groups of people from the convention. The restaurant was busy that whole evening and I could tell that they were short on help.
It some time for dinner but I was in no rush. Dinner here is well worth the wait. I started with one of their garden salads ($3.95) which was loaded with fresh greens, cucumbers and tomatoes. No hot house vegetables here. The salad was crisp and nicely accented by the oil and vinegar dressing. For dinner, I had the Trio of Ravioli ($19.95) which ended up being a duo since they ran out of spinach ravioli. So I just had the meat and cheese ravioli which are freshly made in the restaurant and were as light as air. The meat ravioli were some of the best I have eaten.
For dessert, I had the Peach Custard Doughnut ($3.95), which was a doughnut, split in half, filled with cream rolled in sugar and liqueur to give it that peach color exterior. It was well worth the second dessert but was a little sweet to end the meal. I ended up talking to the owners daughter again who works the register. I swear it was like ‘Some Time Next Year’ visiting places I had last year.
The Bakery at the Ravioli House is amazing!
I got to bed early that night when I started to get tired after listening to the band at the King Edward Bar for a bit. I said ‘I’ll just lie down for a second’. I woke up at Midnight and then went back to bed.
My last morning in Wildwood was nice. I woke up early, checked out of the hotel and headed to the boardwalk for breakfast. I had walked around the Boardwalk the day before and passed Franconi’s Pizza at 3318 Boardwalk in Wildwood, NJ (See review on TripAdvisor). The owners were outside shoving menus into everyone’s hands and one of the items on the menu was a breakfast special for firefighters for $5.99. I thought I have to try this.
Franconi’s Pizza at 3318 Boardwalk in Wildwood, NJ
I have never had breakfast at a pizzeria on a boardwalk before but this is the standard that all should be set. The food was delicious! For $5.99, I got two pancakes, two eggs, two slices of bacon, a mound of potatoes and two slices of toast. The juice was separate. It was meal that could have fed two people and everything was delicious. All the food was cooked in clarified butter and you could taste it in the scrambled eggs which were fluffy and in the pancakes which you could taste in the caramelization of the outside of the pancakes. I was so stuffed that I rolled out of the restaurant. It was one of the best breakfast’s I ever had out and I highly recommend it when walking the Boardwalk in Wildwood in the morning.
Don’t miss the breakfasts at Franconi’s; they are excellent!
It had cleared and was sunny and blue outside. It was a spectacular day to walk around the Boardwalk. The morning meeting went by quickly as I could see that everyone wanted to get out of there and go outside to enjoy the sunny morning. We started our meeting at 9:00am, voted for our new officers for the Association and were out by 10:30am.
Most people were outside walking around the fire equipment or walking with their families on the Boardwalk by the time I got outside. I took one last walk on the Boardwalk to stretch my legs before I left for Newark, DE for the Cornell versus University of Delaware football game (we lost 27-10 but not the blood bath of last year). So there was a distance to drive.
Cornell versus University of Delaware (We can’t seem to beat them!) Watch the game below.
I left Wildwood until ‘Same Time Next Year’ for the next convention. There are a lot more places to explore and restaurants to try. You never know what you will come across in a shore town.
Places to Eat:
Magnolia Room/King Edward Bar@ The Chalfonte Hotel
301 Howard Street
Cape May, New Jersey 08204
Open : Sunday-Saturday 8:30am-10:00pm/6:00pm-9:00pm
Built in the nineteenth century, the Chalfonte offers ‘the view from yesterday, genteel Southern-style hospitality, ornate gingerbread verandas line with comfortable rocking chairs and a constant sea breeze to rejuvenate and refresh. The Chalfonte’s distinctive ship-like profile, crowned by her Italianate cupola, now occupies nearly an entire city block. The hotel was built in 1876 by Civil War Colonel Henry Sawyer and was originally planned as a boarding house. Sawyer’s Chalfonte underwent most of its expansion between 1876 and 1909 and the present footprint is much as it was in 1909. This venerable grande dame by the sea still retains its Victorian Charm-louvered door to let the breeze through, Southern cuisine in The Magnolia Room and original antiques and fixtures throughout.
President Lincoln and the Chalfonte:
The history of the Chalfonte Hotel begins with a story that rivals “Gone with the Wind”. Sawyer arrived in Cape May in 1848 at the age of eighteen, a supporter of the Union side in the Civil War. He enlisted in a Pennsylvania regiment since a New Jersey one had not been formed. After three months service and rising to the rank of Captain, he returned home only to re-enlist in a New Jersey regiment. In June 1863, after being captured during a bloody exchange at the Battle of Brandy in Virginia, Sawyer was incarcerated at Libby Prison in Richmond.
In retaliation for shooting two Confederate Cavalry prisoners of war, the Confederacy proposed to execute two Union prisoners, drawn by lottery. Sawyer was on of the two selected in the lottery of death. When Sawyer’s wife heard new of her husband’s execution, she did not go into a state of morning, instead rushing cross country to Washington to meet with President Lincoln and beg for his intervention. As a result, Secretary of War Stanton warned the South they would execute two Confederates if they executed the two Union prisoners. Upping the stakes, one of the Confederate prisoners selected was the son of General Robert E. Lee. The situation ended with Sawyer being released in a swap with Robert E. Lee’s son. He resumed active duty and returned to Cape May in 1875 as a recognized war hero.
Having bought a parcel of land in 1872 at the corner of Howard Street and Sewell Avenue in 1875, Sawyer began construction of “Sawyer’s Chalfonte” (Chalfonte means ‘cool fountain’ in French; Sawyer’s reason for using the name is unknown). In 1876, Colonel Sawyer bought all the rest of the square bounded by Columbia, Franklin, Sewell and Howard except for the lot at the corner of Columbia and Howard except for the lot at the corner of Columbia and Howard.
Cape May’s inclination away from resort hotels in favor of the intimacy of cottages had already begun. This trend was sealed in the fall of 1878 when the city suffered yet another disastrous fire. Previous fires had seen the total destruction of the Mt. Vernon Hotel in 1858 and of more properties in 1869. While the fire of 1878 reduced Cape May’s count of hotel rooms from 2200 to 200 in a single night and marked the demise of large hotel construction in the rest of Cape May, the Chalfonte, standing unscathed beyond the fire’s reach was about to experience an unprecedented expansion.
The same year Henry Sawyer extended his then two year old boarding house down Sewell Avenue, adding nineteen rooms to his existing eighteen. The original residence and addition were significant improvement in architectural refinement over the pre-Civil War hotels. While in no way extravagant, the building had a simple dignified Italian form (some times known as ‘Cube Italian’ in Cape May) with a balanced plan and facade.
In spite of suffering the ravages of time and storm, with minimal foundations, the first three phases of the building are soundly built with an eye to graceful resolution of any geometrical anomalies. Sawyer owned the hotel for another ten years, selling it in 1888 after just thirteen years of ownership. He died in 1893.
Between 1888 and 1911 the Chalfonte was extended to its current size, adding another twenty three rooms along Sewell Avenue, enlarging the dining room and providing delightful architectural riddles for future preservationist to solve.
The University of Delaware versus Cornell Football game in 2018
It is never easy when there is a death in the family and is harder when it happens during the Christmas holiday season. This blog is dedicated to my uncle, Donald Snyder (1929-2017), who passed away December 4th, 2017. I had just come back from my Sinterklaas weekend in Upstate New York when we got the news as I was getting out of class on Monday night. So the next week after Sinterklaas weekend was spent preparing for the funeral.
My brother had flown in for the service so it was nice to have some support and I could see that my aunt and cousins appreciated it. At least we could be there to support our family in their time of need.
My aunt had planned a small and tasteful service for my uncle and it was the first time I had met many of my cousins cousins from my uncle’s side of the family. They pretty much talked amongst themselves and were not at the funeral services the next morning. It was going to be a snowy day the next morning and the commutes would have been tough for everyone.
My aunt kept everything simple and tasteful and it was a short service with a smaller internment service at the mausoleum. It was only the immediate family and friends of my cousins who came to the service and by the repast dinner, everyone was exhausted and it was a small crowd of close family (our side) and friends of my cousins. We had a toast to my uncle and then talked amongst ourselves.
After that weekend, the holidays started to speed up again. It is always tough after a big loss to a family but I found ways to support my aunt and my cousins during the holidays as we planned a Christmas dinner right before Christmas Day.
I took my younger brother to the fire department Christmas Party and that was a cultural awaking for him. He had never been in a firehouse before and really did not understand the culture. He was a little shocked to see adults fighting in front of small children and some of the horse play that the guys do on one another. Even though he had a good time and enjoyed the food, it was a different experience for him.
The holiday month continued on with Christmas tree sales every weekend (we sold out by December 18th this year with a record of 315 trees). We had the Christmas Party for the Men’s Association at the Christmas tree site, which is always interesting. We spend most of the time huddling around a barrel fire to keep warm.
This is when the guys culinary skills kick in and we see some interesting dishes. I always leave it easy. I made chicken cutlets, baked ziti and double fudge brownies ( I am not going to say how many baked zitis, lasagnas and batches of stuffed shells on top of gallons of marinara sauce and pounds of cookies and brownies that I made this holiday season but it was a lot). This party was the first in five meals that I cooked at the holidays trying to keep with the same theme so I did not have to do double time in the kitchen. Plus everyone seems to like Italian cooking so it makes it easy.
Hasbrouck Heights Men’s Association Christmas Tree Set Up
The party was a great success with about thirty members coming and going all night while we caught up with what each other were doing at the holidays and the parties that they were planning and cooking for their families. December is always a tough month to get anything done as everyone is running around. Leaving at 11:00pm as I usually do because of work, I had heard they were still going strong into the morning hours.
I took an about face and at the last minute decided to go to Carnegie Hall for a Christmas Concert starring Megan Hilty, a Disney star, who was terrific. I got last minute tickets in the nose-bleed section of the theater but still could see and hear everything. I was really surprised being on the top tear and to hear it all so perfectly.
Megan Hilty with the New York Pops
It was an excellent concert with many popular songs of the holidays being performed so well. She did a great job with the more contemporary classics such as “Sleigh Ride” and “Santa Claus is coming to town”. Everyone in the audience got so into the show and the last few songs became a sing along and the whole auditorium became alive with song. People really enjoyed themselves and were still laughing and singing as they were leaving the theater.
Megan Hilty’s Christmas Album
The last full week before Christmas weekend was non-stop cooking, cleaning and running around. We started the week with the Annual ‘Santa Around Town’ that the Hasbrouck Heights Fire Department sponsors every year for the residents of Hasbrouck Heights. We take all the fire trucks and equipment to twelve locations around the town and have Santa meet with all the families. Every year this is a very big deal to a lot of residents and some plan their holiday parties around this event.
Santa Around Town with the Hasbrouck Heights Fire Department
Our day started early in the morning when myself, my captain and lieutenant and a junior member met for breakfast and then washed and decorated the truck. This is where a lot of my cooking came into play. I made a sausage, egg and cheese souffle, homemade waffles and fresh cinnamon butter muffins. I had cooked enough for the company and it ended up only four of us showed up. So we had a great breakfast and then we scrubbed down the truck inside and out and put all the Christmas lights on it. The truck always looks festive in the dark.
For the trip around Hasbrouck Heights, I made homemade French Bread pizza with homemade marinara sauce and double fudge brownies, two items that are very popular with hungry firemen. Along the way, residents make all sorts of Christmas cookies and other holiday treats for us along the route so we don’t ‘starve’.
The tough part for us was that the generator blew before the last three stops and we had to bring it back up to the house and extinguish it. That was tough as the engine then had to go out of service for the holidays for repair. At least we got it back up to the firehouse in one piece.
The next night I gave my final exam in class and finished the semester on a high note. All of my students got “A”‘s and I could not have been happier with their final project , the tech start up “Buscomonzefi.com” (see ‘Day Ninety-Eight’) and was impressed with them as a class. It was fun going into work every week and I will miss this class.
What was nice was I took some of my team to Biagio’s Restaurant in Paramus, NJ (see review on TripAdvisor) near the college for a wrap up party. I was surprised when only four of my sixteen students showed up. One of my students mentioned that no one would show because of exams and I was almost tempted not to show up but I figured I was starved so at least I could get something to eat. It ended up that all of my Sales & Marketing team showed up and we had a really nice time.
I could not believe how this group of students bonded so much together. I really did see a lot of new friendships being formed that night and for that I was really proud of the project. Plus the food and conversation were excellent that evening. If ever a Professor could be more proud of their students.
I did not have much time to dwell on class as I had to cook a Holiday luncheon for my Stroke & Disabled Support Group that meets every Tuesday in Ridgewood, NJ (See my BergenCountyCaregiver.com site on WordPress.com). I don’t know I got suckered into this but it was a lot of work.
In years past, our group normally ordered in for the party and all I would do is dessert. For years, we ordered in Chinese food but last year most people got sick of it so we ordered in pizza. This year one of the women in the group asked about maybe getting a tray of stuffed shells and of salad. When I mentioned how much that might cost and how I could make it for so much less that’s when I was asked to cook.
Thank God I had made a double batch of marinara sauce because it came in handy. I made the most amazing lunch for everyone and used every skill from catering that I learned from Hyatt.
I got up early that morning and started to cook. I did all the last minute touches and fried out the cutlets and cut up the salad. The last thing I did was prepare the garlic bread before I packed the car up. I never had so much food all over the car as I had to bring it from home to City Hall in Ridgewood.
The party was a huge success! I made Chicken Cutlet Parmesan with a side of plain cutlets for those who didn’t want all the cheese, a lasagna, two small trays of stuffed shells, a arugula salad, garlic bread, assorted cookies, brownies and cupcakes. Some of the members brought fruit and other desserts so we had a lot of food left.
The whole building came up to the conference room to the party so it was very festive. People from different departments who help us during the year joined us so there were people in and out the whole afternoon. I really think that’s what the holidays are about. Everyone had great time and there was not much left over. All I know is that I was exhausted on the drive home. I had to take a nap when I got home.
There was not much time to rest as I drove out to visit Lillian again on Long Island at her Assisted Living Facility for her annual resident concert (see various blogs on my visits). I had gone last year and had a nice time. I swear even at 99, she has the same spirit that she always has had.
Lillian and I at Christmas 2018
She sang and played the triangle as she did last year and all the residents performed a list of Christmas songs to the other residents and their families who attended. It was a nice concert but it seemed have more guests last year. Everyone who attended really enjoyed it.
After the concert was over, I went off and got Chinese food for our Christmas lunch, which I know that Lillian always appreciates. I go to Dragon House (See review on TripAdvisor) for our meals and this one did not disappoint. I ordered Lo Mein and Chicken and String beans with some eggrolls. I swear that Lillian has a good appetite. She can eat. For dessert, I brought some cookies from Park Bakery (See review on TripAdvisor) right next store to the restaurant. To have two such good places to eat right next to one another is great.
Dragon House in Kings Park, NY for excellent Chinese food
After our dinner, we talked for the rest of the evening. Since the weather was going to be nice the next day, I got a hotel room and was able to stay late to talk to Lillian for a few more hours. We just caught up and as we talked more, I noticed how much more came back to her. It was the ‘old’ Lillian who I remember. I think she needed it as well. We laughed so much it was like old times. When I had to leave a little after seven, she had a huge smile on her face. It was a very special Christmas for the two us.
I stayed at a very Hampton Inn on the South Shore in Commack, NY (See review on TripAdvisor) that evening and just collapsed in the room. It had been a long week already and I was tired from all the cooking and cleaning. I just relaxed that evening and read and wrote out Christmas cards.
The next morning I got up and traveled out to Montauk on the very edge of the island. I wanted to see their famous lighthouse and museum (which was closed at the time). It was a beautiful sunny and warm day for this time of the year.
The South Shore of Long Island is so beautiful and I highly recommend it in the off season. It is just so nice to visit these small towns when they are not overrun with people from the city. The locals are so nice and you really do remember that it is a farming community out there. Outside of the core of East Hampton and the overbuilt areas of South Hampton, the other towns were like visiting a farming community. All the locals were out in their pick up trucks carrying local products. It is so different in the off season but so much nicer. Everyone is so laid back.
I wanted to visit the ‘Big Duck’ (see Review on TripAdvisor & my blog “VisitingaMuseum.wordpress.com), a building in the shape of a duck on Route 24 Flanders Road in Flanders, NY. It is very interesting to see a building in the shape of a duck, very similar to ‘Lucy’ the Elephant in Margate, NJ (see review on TripAdvisor & my blog “VisitingaMuseum.wordpress.com). It is a small building in the shape of a duck that was created by the owners back in the 30’s to promote their duck farm. Its cute but the guy that volunteers there must not get too many visitors because he NEVER SHUTS UP! God, I to fray going to the bathroom to getaway from him and got out of there.
The Big Duck Visitors Center and Gift Shop
I continued my way through the back-roads to the Hampton’s. I now know why it takes so long to get to the Hampton’s. All the roads once you get off the main highway are all local two lane roads. Most of the towns were quiet before the holidays so it was nice just to drive through.
I got out to Montauk to Lighthouse Park (See review on TripAdvisor) by 2:00pm. I took far longer than I thought but it was well worth the trip. It was a bright sunny afternoon and the view on the point was just breathtaking! The way the sun shone over the beach area and the point was spectacular. The only bad part was the lighthouse was closed that afternoon and would not open until the weekend. The giant wreath on the front of the lighthouse made it very festive.
Christmas at the Montauk Lighthouse
I had lunch in downtown Montauk and most of the places were closed for the afternoon. The town was really quiet. I ended up eating at Pizza Village at 700 Montauk Highway in (See review on TripAdvisor) in the downtown area. The pizza is amazingly good and their sauce is excellent. I highly recommend it when visiting Montauk. It really warmed me up.
Then I headed back to New Jersey. Is that a long trip. Going over the George Washington Bridge at rush hour right before the holidays is a nightmare. It took over two hours to go from the Throgs Neck Bridge to Route 46 in New Jersey. The irony was that as soon as I got closer to home, we had a dumpster fire at the local Walmart. Never a dull moment.
As things revved up for the holidays, I had my family over to the house for an early Christmas dinner. Since I was going to be away and my aunt and cousin had just suffered a very hard loss right before the holidays, I had a holiday meal at the house.
Even at a time of loss, we had such a nice time. I went all out for the meal. I cleaned the whole house again, did more shopping and prep work and decorated the house. We had such a nice time. I had my two aunts and my cousin over for a three course meal. As usual, I started the meal with appetizers followed by a full meal and dessert.
I made sauted shrimp on toasts, pigs in a blanket and assorted gourmet cheeses to start with two bottles of Asti to enjoy with it. For the main meal, I made pork cutlets, a potato puff with lots of cheese and eggs, string beans and my aunt brought some of her homemade apple sauce (I hate to brag but she makes it terrific). For dessert, I brought a seven layer cake from Mills Bakery (See review on TripAdvisor) and my aunt brought a strawberry cheesecake. We ate a lot.
It was a nice night of good food and great conversation. It was nice to have the house so full of life during the holidays again. It had been so long since everyone had something to laugh about. I have to admit we did have a nice Easter and celebration of our birthdays at the house, so it felt that my uncle was there with us in spirit. Dinner went into the late evening, so I had to clean up the house and run the dishwasher that night so it was a long night for me.
The next day I was off to spend my Christmas in Cape May, NJ. Most of family had their own plans and I like to spend the holidays by myself to relax and write. It was a gloomy day when I started out that afternoon. I had so much to do before I left like the laundry and the vacuuming, so that the house looked good when I got home. I just didn’t want to have to do much before I got home.
It takes about three hours to Cape May from my house. You are literally are going from one end of the state to another. When I finally reached Cape May I made a big mistake and took a turn over the bridge into the Wildwoods. When I tell you that is a dead community at this time of the year, it is DEAD. There were no lights on in any of the homes or in the hotels and there were very few businesses open as well. It is so weird to see a place that you were just in two and half months ago that was so much alive. Since I could find my way out, I had to take the route I knew off the island and drive back down south to Cape May.
When I arrived at the Congress Hall Hotel (See review on TripAdvisor), it was ablaze with Christmas lights. I have to say that the two days that I stayed at the Congress Hall put me in the Christmas mood. Since my father passed, the holidays have been tough on me and the atmosphere of the hotel was just what I needed. The whole place was decorated for the holidays with garland, trees, bright lights and Christmas cheer. It just made me festive for the holidays.
Congress Hall Hotel at Christmas
I got to the hotel late and wanted to celebrate Midnight Mass and unfortunately no church in town did the Midnight Mass. So I went to the Our Lady of the Sea Church for the 9:00pm Christmas Eve mass. It was a beautiful mass.
Not quite the elaborate mass I was used to at the Dutch Reformed Church up in Woodstock, NY for the past three years but still inspirational and enjoyable. Even though it is church, I still believe mass should not be stuffy or boring. I think it should be inspirational, engaging and make you reflect on the past year.
The church was beautifully decorated for the holidays with secular decorations of holy, trees, garland and poinsettias. I have noticed over the past decade that more churches have done this. The poor priest was suffering through a leg injury but still gave a nice sermon. I think he was surprised by so many out of towner’s at the mass.
Our Lady of the Sea at Christmas
After the service, I walked around the Washington Street Mall, which is Cape May’s downtown. It looked like every business was trying to outdo one another for the best decorations. All were so elegantly decorated for the holidays with detailed displays, lights and in some cases bows and garland. Inside there were all sorts of Christmas scenes with Santa’s, reindeer and Currier & Ives type displays. Everyone did a nice job and the downtown was very picturesque with the hotel in the backdrop being so nicely decorated on the outside as well.
Washington Street Mall at Christmas
I had Christmas Eve dinner in the hotel’s pizzeria, the Boiler Room, for pizza (See review on TripAdvisor). The service was excellent and the food was wonderful. I had an prosciutto and arugula pizza and it was perfectly cooked and just what I needed after a long drive. They even had music that night. It was a far cry from the two restaurants that I ate at in Woodstock over the past three Christmas Eve’s, where the food was hit or miss.
I just relaxed on Christmas Eve and walked back outside to look at the downtown and the hotel from a distance. I could not believe how packed the hotel was on a holiday. The place was completely sold out.
Christmas was very mellow this year. With my uncle passing two weeks earlier and everything going on in my life and family, I needed a break from everyone and everything in my life.
I slept in and relaxed Christmas morning, had a nice long breakfast in the very busy Blue Pig restaurant, the hotel’s casual family restaurant (see review on TripAdvisor) and just enjoyed the quiet morning. The restaurant itself was going full force when I got there. Families were all eating together and it looked like a lot of family reunions were going on in the hotel for the holidays.
The food there is excellent and I highly recommend eating there when in Cape May. I had this dish, the Eggs Blackstone, that was a unique combination of poached eggs on two cheese biscuits with wilted greens and hollandaise sauce, which I normally do not like that just worked. The combination of flavors mixed so well and with the service of Laura, my waiter that morning, who I could tell has been in the business for years, just made the Christmas morning meal perfect.
I sat for most of the morning on a window bench on the second floor of the hotel, over-looking the courtyard of the hotel and the small holiday marketplace the hotel had in the courtyard for the guests. It was nicely set up around the heated pool.
They had a fire-pit for warm up around, small tents with quirky shops to buy local products (although I thought most everything was WAY over-priced) and a small Christmas cafe with traditional winter treats like hot chocolate and Christmas cookies. Even those were pretty but over-priced ($6.00 for four cookies?). It was nice to walk around and Christmas ended up being a bright and sunny day. We had missed the snow storm that hit Northern New Jersey and I later found out really hit Woodstock, NY.
I spent most of my morning doing my writing, call friends and family wishing them a Merry Christmas and talking to other guests who just happened to see me writing and wanted to know what I was up to. I swear that I am never alone when I travel, people just seem to find me.
The rest of the afternoon I walked around Cape May, looking at the store windows downtown, walking along the shore and looking at the birds on the beach and the waves and looking at all the Victorian homes that were decorated for the holidays. Even though all the hotels surrounding ours including ours were fully booked, the town was quiet. It looked like a lot of people were away.
I had my Christmas dinner at the Ugly Mug (See review on TripAdvisor), a bar/pub that I had eaten at over twenty years ago. The food is still excellent. I had a bacon bbq cheeseburger with fries, not your traditional Christmas dinner but still was wonderful. The place was really busy with other people who looked like they were done with Christmas as well. Even the manager told me that they are always busy at the holidays.
That night I just walked around town and looked at the Christmas tree in the square, which was so elegantly decorated for the holidays. Cape May knows how to decorate for the holidays. I walked around the hotel and looked at the decorations. The hotel was mobbed with people just looking for something to do and a place to sit and chat. People were jockeying for a place near the fireplace and I could see there were some struggles for that.
Christmas in the town square at Cape May, NJ
On the 26th, things got back to normal in town. Most of the stores opened and there were sales on everything. I went to the Mad Batter Restaurant (See review on TripAdvisor) for breakfast, wanting some elbow room from the hotel. The food there is excellent. I had this Croustade with scrambled eggs, sausage, peppers and cheese served on a brioche bun. Again a somewhat overdone combination but it worked and was delicious .This institution has been around for years and I wanted to try it for a long time.
I explored the town for the afternoon. I went on the decorated house tour at the Emlen Physick Estate (see review on TripAdvisor & VisitingaMuseum.wordpress.com), who was a prominent doctor in the town and his house showed it. His grandfather has invented a famous medical device and upon getting his medical degree, he inherited his fortune and never practiced medicine again. What he did leave was a beautiful home for touring and every room was decorated for the holidays. The woman who gave the tour was an actor playing his mother and it was the week before Christmas. She did a nice job.
Physick Estate at Christmas
After that, I visited the Cape May Lighthouse (see review on TripAdvisor & VisitingaMuseum.Wordpress.com) and climbed the whole thing in about twenty minutes, shocking the guy at the admission office who said that I only had a half hour to spend before they closed. I even surprised myself with how fast I climbed it. I swear, this walking project is keeping me in good health. What a view! You could see all over West Cape May and the whole tip of the peninsula. The beach was so quiet yet majestic with all the waves crashing and the birds and dogs running around. They also have a small museum next to the building on Jersey flora and fauna that you should check out as well.
The last part of the evening was when I visited Sunset Beach in West Cape May (See review on TripAdvisor and VisitingaMuseum.com). What a magnificent beach this is, located on the very western tip of New Jersey. Sunset Beach has the most breathtaking sunset of any beach I have ever seen and I have been all over the world. The way the sun sets on the beach and the location of where it falls creates a rainbow of colors anytime of the year. Although it was cool on the beach as it fell, the beach was full of people watching the same natural phenomenon. It was just amazing to see all the colors change as the sun changed positions and more fun to watch the Lewis/Cape May shuttle drive past every half hour. If there is ever a beach that you need to visit, it is Sunset Beach.
That evening was my last night in Cape May and I had to change hotels because the Congress was booked solid for a wedding. I switched to The Chalfonte, one of the oldest hotels and most ‘Southern’ in Cape May. You have to remember that Cape May is below the Mason-Dixon Line and Southern New Jersey is technically the South.
The Chalfonte at 301 Howard Street (see review on TripAdvisor) is located in an older section of Cape May surrounded by Victorian homes. The main hotel was closed for the season (it closes in October) but they keep the ‘Southern Quarters’, a small house next to the hotel, open for the season as it is insulated.
The Chalfonte Hotel during the summer months
As I wrote in my review on TripAdvisor, it was like staying at your Grandmother’s or Great Aunt’s beach home for the night. A little rough around the edges but comfortable, warm and homey. I find places like this charming but they are not for everyone.
I stopped by the Beach Plum Farm at 140 Stevens Street (see review on TripAdvisor) for breakfast and to tour the farm. Although the breakfast sandwich I ate was good as well as the home fries, everything was cold or lukewarm. They need to warm their plates. The property is so nicely laid out and it was fun to feed the chickens who were excited about the feed. I did one last walk around the downtown to see the tree on the square and had a slice of pizza at JoJo’s Pizza on the Washington Mall (see review on TripAdvisor).
My last dinner in Cape May was at the Washington Inn Restaurant (see review on TripAdvisor), considered one of the best in Cape May. The food and the service were all top notch. I had the crab cakes for my entree and the Bananas Foster for dessert both I recommend very much. The service was excellent but for some reason I expected older waiters to be working in a place like this. The rooms are elegant and romantic for couples. For me, it was just the thrill of eating in such a well-known restaurant with excellent food and service. At its price tag though, it is a special occasion treat.
I slept like a log that night, being able to faintly hear the crashing of the waves in the distance. They decorated the room with just enough plants and Christmas items to make it look festive.
The next morning as I was dropping off my keys, the owners son, Dillon, took me on a tour inside the family hotel. It was elegant as it was gloomy. I had read that the hotel was haunted but as he said to me he had never seen anything. It is weird to see a hotel closed down for the season. All I could think of was the Overlook Hotel in ‘The Shining’. It just had that eerie, someone had just been there look to it. After I said my goodbyes, I was off to Rehoboth Beach to visit my mother.
On the trip to Rehoboth, I made several stops to towns I had passed through the previous year. I stopped in Millville, NJ first. The downtown has been creating a buzz for itself as an art center especially with the opening of the Cumberland College Arts Annex and the studio area. Artists from Southern New Jersey seem to be pouring into the town as all the buildings are getting renovated and new restaurants are opening. I stopped in a few galleries and looked at menus of what is going to be an ‘arts hub’ of Southern New Jersey.
The next town I stopped in was Bridgeton, whose downtown had seen better days. Most of the stores were either empty or catered to the Hispanic population who worked in the area. Not exactly the arts district they claim to be. There is not much to see here except a lot of Victorian homes in bad shape.
Salem was my last stop before crossing the Delaware Memorial Bridge. This is a town that has not been discovered yet. The homes are really gorgeous in the downtown area, all built in the 1700 and 1800’s. Beautiful old Federal and Empire style homes are spread throughout the downtown and the sad part is that they are mostly in bad shape.
I stopped in the Salem Historical Society at 83 Market Street (see review on TripAdvisor & VisitingaMuseum.com) . This place is not the usual Historical Society with the musty displays and the dusty artifacts with some woman older than God looking you over. It was an interesting, insightful and beautifully decorated for the holidays building with displays of local interest.
Salem Historical Society
The building is made up of three homes, one of which had a hearth fireplace in the kitchen. That part of the building was decorated for a Colonial Christmas. I loved the spinning wheel with the lights and the tree in the older section of the house. It only takes about an hour to see the whole building but take the time to really look at the displays as they are so well mounted.
I ate at Bravo Pizza and Pasta at 179 West Broadway (see review on TripAdvisor) in the downtown area and highly recommend their pizza. The sauce was excellent and the flavor was delicious. What was best was that the owner asked me to wait as he had a new pizza coming out, so It gave me time to walk around the downtown area and look at the old buildings. It was so sad to see many of these old homes in such bad shape. This is a place I am surprised that the artists have not discovered yet. Check out the local cemetery with the large historical Oak Tree that covers the graveyard. It is right around the corner from the restaurant and Historical Society.
I finally got out of Salem, it was the long drive down to mom’s from Salem to Rehoboth Beach. When I called my mother, she was wondering what was taking me so long. When I finally arrived around six, she was asking me what I was doing all this time. I told her discovering my State. I never realized how interesting the State of New Jersey is (no jokes everyone).
My mom and I talked about the trip, the holidays and what we had planned for the next two days. My younger brother was coming up with my nieces to celebrate the post holidays. We really had a nice time. My mom cooked ‘the Dinner’ again and we just sat around and I told her about my Christmas. I now know where I get my love for travel details from as she sees how excited I get when I talk about visiting places.
My brother arrived the next morning and we planned everything. We went took the girls to the boardwalk for the afternoon to walk around and ended up going to Thrasher’s (see review on TripAdvisor) for French Fries. I have never seen four people devour a medium bucket of fries so fast. They were just fried and were oh so good. Even in the winter, I never tire of seeing the shore.
Our first night at my mom’s she cooked so we had a mellow roast pork dinner and just sat around and talked. It was nice for my nieces who never get to see my mom much and for me who see them about the same about of time. They talked about their trip up from Florida and how school is going.
Christmas in Rehoboth Beach, DE
The next day we took the girls on a tour of Rehoboth Beach and the surrounding areas, we went at twilight to Henlopen Park (see review on TripAdvisor) to see the Christmas lights, which was very similar in feel to the JackleLantern display in Croton-on-the- Hudson. It was a huge display of figures, such as Santa’s, elf’s, reindeer and decorated trees lit up by lights all over the park and we were able to drive and see all the displays one at a time.
Even tough we were going out to dinner that night, my mother insisted we stop at the Big Oyster Brewery at 1007 Kings Highway (see review on TripAdvisor) for lunch when no one was hungry. I had some pulled pork sliders that were very good but like everyone else did not have much of an appetite. We had had a big breakfast earlier in the day.
For dinner my last night in Rehoboth, we went to my mother’s favorite restaurant, Confucius Chinese Restaurant at 57 Wilmington Street (See review on TripAdvisor) by the beach. We must have had eight different dishes on the table but you know what, the food here is just excellent and the service matches the food. My mother has been coming here since they opened and know the owners well so they are always coming over to say high or sometimes they give us a free appetizer, which I think is good business.
I had to head home the next day but we had a nice time even though it was so short with my nieces. I wish my brother had planned more time. We didn’t get to do too much on this trip since it was so quick. I headed back to New Jersey the next morning, probably seeing my mom again when the weather gets warmer.
My last day before the New Year began, I joined my other brother in the New York City for Dim Sum at the Golden Unicorn Restaurant at 18 East Broadway (see review on TripAdvisor), one of the mainstays for going for Dim Sum in the city. I swear we must have gone through half the menu. The food is really good and I love when the carts go around with all the dishes. I love to try many dishes when I am at the restaurant.
The only problem with New Year’s Eve is that the city shuts down all their roads by 3:00pm and it was also 20F outside that day. Trust me, it is not a day you want to be in New York City unless you want to sit in Times Square for hours on end to watch the ball drop. It was 9F degrees that evening.
The New Year brought in my Swearing In with the fire department. I am the Department Secretary (now on my fifth year) and Engine One Secretary (now on my eleventh year) and just keep rolling along. Our Installation Dinner was the second week of January and that pretty much ends my holiday season.
Swearing in as Secretary of the Hasbrouck Heights Fire Department
It was a lot of running around this holiday season but I also was able to raise a lot of money for charity in between working three jobs, editing my book and all my volunteer work. I never seem to just stop and relax.
Now you all know why I had to put the MywalkinManhattan.com on hold.
Merry Christmas & Happy New Year Everyone!!
Getting to Cape May, NJ:
Just follow the Garden State Parkway to the very end and there you are in the middle of town.
*Blogger wants to note that the hours change for many of these historical sites and for the restaurants so please check their websites for the most current hours during the off-season and when in season.
Hasbrouck Heights Men’s Association Christmas Tree Sale