There are times that I just stumble upon a really good restaurant by accident. I found Big Bowls/Little Plates on my Dining program with Mileage Plus and once I tried it I have been coming back ever since. The food and service are just excellent and the atmosphere is downtown ‘hip’.
For a small restaurant in downtown Rutherford, NJ it is so interesting in it’s decor. The use of the exposed brick walls, the Christmas lights on the ceiling and the wooden tables gives it a ‘City Vibe’ with a contemporary twist. The tables are larger made to share the space but in the era of COVID we are kept apart. While most of the orders when I was there both times were take out, it is more fun to…
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.
I put “MywalkinManhattan” on hold for a few days as the local activities in New Jersey started to take up my time. There is so much to see and do as the weather is getting warmer.
The Northwest Bergen History Coalition every year gives people the opportunity to visit almost a dozen different historical sites in the upper part of Bergen County, NJ and take the time to tour and explore all the sites with the help of trained docents and volunteers who take immense pride in showing off their site all for the low price of $10.00 ($15.00 the day of the event). Be prepared to drive though because all the sites can be a distance from one another. Also, have a a game plan because there is no way you can see everything in one day. You will only have from 10:00am-4:00pm so plan to visit the remaining sites at another time.
This year’s theme was “How Immigration & the Railroad Shaped our Towns”, so all the exhibits were on the immigration of the area and how it shaped the individual town’s population.
“The towns in Northwest Bergen County were settled in the 18th Century by immigrants from countries in Europe and Africa. Through the centuries the number of countries grew. Today, we have been enriched by immigrants from all over the world. The railroad came to Northwest Bergen in the mid-19th century, bringing with it jobs, prosperity and immigrants. Come see how immigrants and the railroad helped to define what would become our modern towns of today.” was the prospective of the days event.
Since I had toured most of the historic homes and museums to the south of the region, I planned my day to the northern part of the county. I bought my ticket way in advance at the Ridgewood Schoolhouse Museum (featured on my blog, “VisitingaMuseum@Wordpress.com and reviewed on TripAdvisor) when I was viewing the “Thread of Life” exhibition, which you should not miss that is showing through December of 2018. It explores life of the era’s family life through clothing.
I planned an early morning and started my Saturday at the Majestic Diner at 1045 Route 17 South in Ramsey, NJ. This way I would be close to my first site, The Old Stone House in Ramsey, NJ. The food at the Majestic Diner I would highly recommend because I really enjoyed my breakfast there.
The Majestic Diner at 1045 Route 17 South
The diner does all their baking on premise and I had one of their homemade ‘Pop-Tarts’ ($3.75) to start the meal. These freshly baked pastries resemble their commercial counterparts. The outside was a flaky pastry crust with a thick white icing and a powdering of cinnamon and the inside was loaded with a thick layer of a cinnamon mixture. Decadent yes but well worth it. You have to try this version of the sweet treat.
Don’t miss their freshly baked ‘Pop-Tarts”
Breakfast itself match in creativity and quality. I ordered the Brioche French Toast with a side of homemade sausage. The one thing I liked about the Majestic Diner is that the portion sizes are not huge and over-whelming. It was just the right amount for breakfast. The French Toast was made out of brioche and it was perfect (See review on TripAdvisor).
Their Brioche French Toast is excellent
They cooked it with a crisp outside and soft inside. As I was eating, I saw the omelettes going by and that was for another time. What was nice about breakfast was that it kept me content for the rest of the afternoon. There would be a lot of running around.
The Majestic Diner is a nice place to start your day of touring Bergen County
My first stop was at The Old Stone House at 538 Island Road in Ramsey, NJ (See review on VisitingaMuseum@Wordpress.com). This obscure little Dutch home sits on a bend on a hill hidden by trees off a very busy section of Route 17 South and by looking at it, you never would have guessed that it was once home to a 300 acre farm. This is the oldest building in Ramsey and was built from a combination of rubble stone, clay mortar, chopped straw and hog’s hair. The home dates back to 1740 and is run by the Ramsey Historical Society (RHS).
The Old Stone House
The house is credited to being built by members of the Westervelt family for brothers Uriah and Ruloff Westervelt, who leased the land in 1744. There is a feeling that there had been a house on the property at the time they leased the land. The land had been part of the Ramapough Tract for Proprietors. Other members of the Westervelt family are though to have had influence in the building of the house as well maybe back earlier (RHS).
The Ramapough tract situated between the Ramapo Mountains and Saddle River was purchased from the Indians on November 18,1709 and acknowledged by the Indians at Tappan before Cornelius Harring, the Justice of the Peace (RHS).
The Ramapough Tract
The house had been through many owners since and the land around it diminished over time with each owner. In 1950, the building of Route 17 South, made the lot even smaller and destroyed the spring and stream that were once part of the land around the house. Both the Schweizer family and the Labosky families, who were the last two owners of the house, which the Labosky family sold to the state in 1955, operated an antique shop that is now part of the house that faces Route 17 (RHS).
The house is furnished in period furniture and the barn outside is stocked with all sorts of equipment for early Dutch farming from the era. When you tour the house with the historians, they will point out where the fireplaces once were and the original wooden floors that line the house. Upstairs where the bedrooms once were are both Children’s displays of an old schoolhouse and a toy exhibition. In the downstairs area, there are two displays to the War Years and the old antique shop is set up like a general store. The sites next big fundraiser will be the Sinterklaas event in December for a Dutch Christmas.
Old Stone House Barn
My second stop of the historical tour was the Hopper-Goetschius House and Museum at 363 East Saddle River Road in Upper Saddle River, NJ, run by the Upper Saddle River Historical Society (USRHS). This historic home dates back to 1739 for the original part of the house, which has since been added onto three more times and still kept its historic look even into the 1980’s when the last resident moved out.
Hopper-Goetschius House & Garden
The property houses several buildings that were part of the original house like the outhouse, out kitchen and beehive oven. Other historic buildings that were threatened with being knocked down by developers have since been resembled and brought the property that include a woodshed, a tenant house, the Ramsey Sayer House, a Dutch barn, the Van Riper-Tice Barn and a working blacksmith shop. That part of the property toward the back part of the farmhouse looks like a mini-village and volunteers were working each of the buildings when I was there.
One of the buildings on the ground of the Upper Saddle River Historical Society
The Hopper-Goetschius House on the corner of Lake Street and East Saddle River Road dates back to 1739. Built by the Hopper family, it is the oldest remaining house in Upper Saddle River, NJ. The Saddle River Historical Society knew it existed in 1739 because it was recorded in surveyor Charles Clinton’s journal and possibly it is older. It was also marked as the home of Gerrit Hoppa on a rough sheepskin map made about 1713. The Hoppers farmed the land and had a lot of it. The property extended from the Saddle River up the hill almost to Montvale, NJ and up to the East Road in Upper Saddle River (USRHS).
The house underwent several changes in the mid-1800’s. The large central chimney with back to back fireplaces was removed. Probably with more modern forms of heating available, such as wooden stoves, the fireplace seemed a bit old-fashioned and the owners took it out. They wanted to use the entrance hall as a room, so the stairway along the east wall was removed and a central stairway added where the fireplaces had once been. The dormers were added in the Victorian era (USRHS). Don’t miss the secret stairs in the kitchen that lead to the old second floor which houses a few bedrooms. It is one of the unique features of the house.
In 1814, the house became the home of the Reverend Stephen Goetschius of the Old Stone Church. It remained in the Goetschius family for a century and a half, always a place of central importance in town as Stephen Goetschius, the great-great grandson of the Reverend Stephen, served as the borough clerk for over 40 years and conducted his town business from the east room of the house (USRHS).
The house was without running water until Stephen’s death in 1962. Until improvements were made at that time, Stephen’s wife, Lizzie, carried water from the well for washing, cooking and shoveled coal for heat (USRHS).
In 1985, the Hopper-Goetschius House was presented to the Borough of Upper Saddle River by Clinton and Gracie Carlough. Lizzie Goetschius, the last resident of the house was Clint Carlough’s aunt. The house today serves as a museum, run by the Upper Saddle River Historical Society (USRHS) and offers the public historically related events through out the year (USRHS). Check out their website, http://www.usrhistoricalsociety.org for special events and check out their Annual Harvest Festival in October for a day of fun.
I double backed around the county to the Mahwah Museum at 201 Franklin Turnpike in Mahwah, NJ and the the sister museum, The Old Station Museum at 171 Old Station Lane just south of the main museum. What I like about these museums is that it does not take long to tour them and they sponsor interesting exhibitions that feature local history that do not tax you with lengthy displays and loads of reading. They keep everything interesting, factual and get to the point.
Having been to the Mahwah Museum earlier that month, I wanted to concentrate on the The Old Station Museum. This historic train station was built in 1871 and was used for years until the modern station was built. Behind the building, there is a 1929 Erie Line Caboose that you can walk through that shows the life on the railroad and the use of the caboose on a railroad.
The Old Station Museum in Mahwah, NJ
The museum has a interesting collection of items from the Pullman era that includes china and menus. There is a collection of trains and interesting items including maps from the era when Mahwah was major point of the railroad in the area.
The next stop on my journey as I drove south through Bergen County was the Waldwick Signal Tower at 1 Bohnert Place in Waldwick, NJ and the sister museum of the Waldwick Museum of Local History at 4 Hewson Avenue in Waldwick, NJ right by the current train station. These are part of the Waldwick Historical Society (WHS).
The Waldwick Signal Tower at 1 Bohnert Place
The Erie Railroad Interlocking Tower “WC” was built in 1890 by the New York Lake Erie and Western Railroad the tower in on the National Register of Historic Places. It is a symbol of the overall impact of the railroad industry on the Waldwick area. The tower is constructed in a Queen Anne style and other than a few minor maintenance shortcuts, the tower looks as it did when constructed nearly 130 years ago (WHS).
The tower still controlled traffic but as the railroads modernized with radio communications, automatic block control and other labor saving ideas the need for the number of towers on the line was reduced until 1986, when most of the towers outside major hub such as Jersey City were closed. During the last few decades, the tower was only manned during the day (WHS).
It is believed that this is the last standing tower of six built to this design. The two closest known examples in the area were in Ramsey, NJ and Suffern, NY, both having been torn down. The tower is named in honor of Harvey Springstead, one of the most famous engineers on the New York Division of the Erie from 1910 until 1929 and a key citizen of Waldwick (WHS).
The downstairs houses a small display of railroad deeds from the various railroads that used to operate in this part of Bergen County and the upstairs has a collection of railroad artifacts as well as pictures of the renovation of the tower.
I did a circle around the tracks and stopped at the Waldwick Museum of Local History at 4 Hewson Avenue which is located in the restored 1887 Waldwick Railroad and opened in 2016. It is part of the Waldwick Community Alliance.
The Waldwick Museum 4 Hewson Street
The Society was started by member Doug Cowie in 1977 with the purpose to lobby for the placement of the train station on the National Register of Historic Places in order to save it. With the formation of the Society, the station was placed on the registry.
It is noted that these railroad lines are what brought the new population of immigrants to upper Bergen County at the turn of the last century and why these towns had a building boom before and after World War II.
The museum has an interesting exhibition on the immigration to the area due to railroad transportation. There are historical items as furniture and clothing and train memorabilia. The history of the rails is well represented at the museum. Members of the museum were on hand to give a personal tour.
My last historical place I visited was The Museum at the Station at 176 Rock Road in Glen Rock. The museum is manged by the Glen Rock Historical Society and is housed inside the original 1905 Erie Main Line Train Station on Rock Road.
Museum at the Station at Glen Rock, NJ
The Museum showcases items from Glen Rock’s past with displays that change periodically as well as permanent exhibits on the Erie Railroad and artifacts from Glen Rock’s farming history (BCHS).
When I visited it was at the end of the day so I was the ladies last guest. The members of the Society took me around the museum which has a interesting exhibition on immigration and how it affected Glen Rock and how it grew as a town. Many of the items are historic family items donated member of the Glen Rock community including clothing and furniture. They had the most interesting Victrola with the original records and period clothing. One resident donated an interesting collection of antique toys including many trains.
While in Glen Rock, I visited the famous Glen ‘Rock’, located right off the downtown at the intersection of Rock Road and Doremus Avenue, which the town is named. The Rock was pulled to the town by the last Ice Age and was a meeting place and marker for the Lenape Indians when they lived in the area. In the Colonial era, it was a meeting place for residents. There have been many legends about the power of the Rock.
Glen Rock ‘Rock’
Dinner that night was a revisit to Mahwah to have pizza at Kinchley’s Tavern at 586 North Franklin Turnpike in Ramsey, NJ, for one of their thin crusted pizzas (See review on TripAdvisor). This is one of the oldest restaurants in this part of upper Bergen County and has been on my must try list for about two years.
Kinchley’s Tavern at 586 Northern Franklin Turnpike
First off, the place is mobbed all the time. I have heard that people swear by their pizza. It is different from the usual Neapolitan pies that I try all over Bergen County. Kinchley’s specializes in thin-crusted pizzas, more of what people would call a ‘bar pizza’. The 12 inch pizza can be easily eaten by one person if they are hungry and the sausage pizza I ordered was loaded with sweet Italian sausage. One thing Kinchley’s doesn’t do is skimp on the ingredients.
The inside of Kinchley’s is very homey
The pizza was cooked to a crisp consistency and was devoured quickly after a long day of touring. The restaurant is a great family restaurant with a good vibe. It was like going back in time to the 70’s when going out to dinner with your family was a treat and a rite of the summer. I highly recommend a visit there at least once when visiting Bergen County.
Kinchley’s Pizza is very good!
Until next year! Don’t miss this event every year in May!