Old Hook Farm Farmhouse Homestead at 650 Old Hook Road
One of the nice things about Bergen County, NJ is the small farms that remain in the area showcasing our Counties agricultural past. There are only about six left and located mostly up in the upper parts of Bergen County where the bulk of the farms were located up until the 1980’s. Land prices and development have made some disappear and with others a lack of an heir to continue the tradition on going forward.
The entrance to Old Hook Farm
The Old Hook Farm is a throwback to a combination of the old-fashioned General Store and Farm Stand that used to dot small towns in Bergen County. The outside of the store has a greenhouse full of decorative plants for both the house and for the gardens. In the Holiday months, the greenhouse is filled with hot house flowers for the holidays and outside there are Christmas trees, wreaths and other holiday decorations for sale. When it snows, it looks like a picture out of Currier & Ives.
The flowers and decorative products of the greenhouse
During the Fall months, the farm was ablaze with colors in the background while the front of the greenhouse was filled with gourds, pumpkins and corns of different colors. There were all sorts of Halloween related merchandise for decorating the inside and outside of the house.
Blogger Justin Watrel in front of the Fall display of products at Old Hook Farm
The inside of the Farmers Market has all sorts of fresh produce with seasonal fruits and vegetables, freshly baked pies, cakes and scones and loaves of bread from a local vendor.
The fresh produce is beautifully displayed in the inside of the market
The old fashioned feel of Old Hook Farm
There are candies from Conrad’s in Westwood, NJ (see blog on that store on this site), milk from a local dairy farm with no artificial ingredients, gluten free products and a lot of non-GMO grocery products and all natural snacks. There is an array of grocery items that are good for you.
The refrigerated cases are filled with all natural dairy products like ice cream, eggs and milk
There are natural cleaners for the home and cleaning supplies that are good for the environment. There is a small section of cosmetic and home products that are all natural.
The Old Hook Farm is a place of sights and smells and the beauty of the seasons in the trees and woods that surround the picturesque acreage. It is also a nice place to stock up on gifts and farm products for any social visit. It is special place especially during the holiday seasons.
History of the Old Hook Farm:
(From the Farm’s website)
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 fields behind the farm stand
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’).
As the leaves started to change colors and wanting to see the foliage around the state before all the leaves fall (they have since), I decided to revisit a place that I was exploring over the summer. In 2021, a series of storms have knocked the foliage off the trees earlier than before so I got to see what was left before everything falls off the trees this week.
As I have said in previous blogs, I have never really gotten to know my own state and I was born and raised in New Jersey. I have wanted to see some of the far corners of the state and explore the back highways and roads and see some of the parks, beaches and historical sites that I have only read about but never visited (this has been very helpful in my blog “VisitingaMuseum.com).
Along the way, I have visited many beautiful parts of the state and formed my own opinion of the ‘Garden State’. There is much more to see of the state than what is on the opening of ‘The Soprano’s” and the description of the state in most TV sitcoms.
I made the trip to Budd Lake and the surrounding areas are off Route 80 and in a section of the state near the Delaware Water Gap, a scenic section of the Delaware River surrounding a mountain pass. During the summer, it is lush with trees but in the fall is when it shows its true beauty. The leaves change colors at different times due to the species of tree. The effect is trees at various hues of green, yellow, gold and red at different points during the months of September, October and early November. By the second week of November, the show is over for New Jersey as the leaves have fallen.
In 2016, I had never explored Budd Lake before and took a sunny, warm November afternoon after I had finished everything I needed to do at the house and took a road trip to the area. This is a section off the highway that most people do not venture unless they really want to see this section of the state or live or work here. In 2021, the day was rather gloomy but still it was a nice day to get out of the house and explore the area in more detail. I missed not coming out here in all these years
The road that lines the lake, Sand Shore Road, only takes you to a portion of the lake front, which is lined with beautiful homes and spectacular views. A lot of the homes reminded me of former summer homes that had been winterized while others were new and much more elaborate reflected the money that is moving into the area. Since COVID, I can see that many of these homes had been through a renovation since the last time I travelled out here. Still when I drove down the road, I felt like I was taking a step back into the 1970’s. It was a just the feel of the homes that I passed.
It was a sunny day that reflected off the lake, which looks more like a catch bastion than a true lake. There were not the boat slips or yacht clubs that normally would line a lake but still there were some smaller boats lining the shoreline. There were small parks with views of the lake and as you entered the Budd Lake State Wildlife Management Area and Bog, the road moved away from the lake and it was mostly homes and woods and not much more to see unless you went into the park. Upon exiting, you are back on Route 46 West.
In 2021, I drove off Sand Shore Road and travelled down the back roads closer to the lake and drove past houses closer to the other shore line and even discovered an independent theater, the Pax Amicus Theater at 23 Lake Shore Road, that was performing that afternoon. You have to travel down Pine Grove Road and Manor House Road on the other side of the lake to see the beauty of the area and views of the lake.
Route 46 West (I live off Route 46 East) is the highway that time forgot. It goes through many small towns being the main artery of the state until Route 80 was built many years later. It takes you through quaint small towns that have seen better days or long stretches of woods.
The first time I visited Budd Lake in 2016, I ate at a terrific pizzeria named Enzo’s Ristorante & Pizza at 382 Route 46 West, which I highly recommend (see review on TripAdvisor). The pizza there amazing and the service is excellent. They are very friendly and the pizza is just wonderful. Their sauce is full of flavor and is cooked perfectly. They also have a nice lunch dinner menu. I passed it on this trip unfortunately wanting to try another place.
In 2021, I had spent my morning at the Knights of Columbus in Lodi, NJ monthly All you can Eat breakfast so I was hardly hungry. They had a buffet of pancakes, French Toast, Bacon, Sausage, Hash Brown Potatoes, Fresh rolls with butter and coffee, tea and juice that you could load up on. I personally love breakfast so I went back several times. Needless to say, I was not hungry for most of the road trip. So, by the time I got to Budd Lake that morning, food was the last thing on my mind. I had wanted to try the Budd Lake Diner 120 West Route 46 but that will be for another time.
After my tour up the lake, I doubled back to a small shore line on Budd Lake off Route 46 East and stopped and sat on a bench and just watched the day develop in the afternoon. It was something to just relax and look at the colors of the trees surrounding the lake. In the summer, this little park was filled with sun-bathers finishing their day but today I had it all to myself along with the birds who were looking for a handout. I could not believe that seagulls were in shore this far.
I continued down Route 46 West and made a stop in the historical town of Hackettstown, the home of M & M/Mars. You would never know this was a corporate town of anything as the downtown seemed somewhat depressed in 2016. A lot of the stores were empty or filled with some not great shops.
In 2021, Downtown Hackettstown had changed a lot. Most of the buildings in the downtown had been renovated and there were lots of new restaurants and shops. There were new design stores, consignment shops, innovative restaurants that were not the cheap and several new antique shops. I guess the New Yorkers in their quest to leave the City discovered Hackettstown as well and started to renovate the town. Many of the Victorian structures in the downtown area as well as the homes on the outskirts of the town have been fixed up and brought back to their glory.
There were two terrific places that I found walking around. One was Tracey’s Candy Shoppe at 210 Main Street (see TripAdvisor review), where the owner’s mother and talked when I walked in. They had set the shop up in one of the older buildings in town and the affect made it look like an old-fashioned shop from the turn of the last century. They had all sorts of candy from the 60’s and 70’s at not such 60’s and 70’s prices. They also had a selection of penny candies that were more than a penny. I found a Charleston Chew, that are still the most amazing candy. More of nougat than a bar.
I met the owner’s mother again on my visit this time and she let me sample some of the homemade chocolates that they made inhouse. At $6.00 a quarter pound I have to admit the cinnamon truffle she let me sample was delicious but hardly matched the price. I settled on a small bag of fruit slices ($1.99), which I like much more. I had not had them in years and loved biting into their sugary core.
The owner’s mother explained how they are trying to bring the downtown back with concerts and farmer’s markets. In its day, it must have been a nice downtown but some of these small towns off the beaten track have been affected by malls and the rerouting of the major highways. Still a classic little place like this, set up to look 1930’s has a place in the books. It had an interesting selection of candies and a very warm, welcoming feel to it and you should visit it when you are in the area.
Tracey’s Candy Shoppe selection is wonderful
Five years later in 2021, it looks like that strategy worked as the downtown is coming back to life. They will be having a traditional tree lighting ceremony and holiday fest the first weekend of December and all sorts of activities during the month of December. I will have to revisit again in the Spring to see how things are developing.
Down the block, I found a Colombian bakery, Pan Rico Bakery at 183 Main Street, for a quick snack. They have the best version of an empanada that they serve with a chili hot sauce and for a $1.30 each, they are a steal.
I ordered one of the beef ones which I ate going back to the car and it was well worth the trip inside as the sauce had some kick to it. It is a good place to stock up on a long road trip.
The bakery selection at Ran Rico Bakery
I continued my trip out of Hackettstown and passed the rest of the downtown and the surrounding neighborhood that had many beautiful Victorian homes that lined the streets as you exited town. It showed the money that once was in this town and the influence it once had in the area. Unfortunately, unless you work for one of the major firms out here it must be a hard place to live.
The Historical District of Hackettstown offers a treasure trove in Victorian architecture and you can see that new people are moving in and renovating this neighborhood surrounding downtown. The gingerbread architecture is being touched up and the colors of the homes reflect the care residents are putting into their property.
As I left Downtown Hackettstown to continue my trip to the Delaware Water Gap, I stopped in Independence, NJ to a new farm stand that had just reopened to new owners. The family that reopened the Vienna Hill Farm & Market at 3 Asbury Road did a beautiful job not just renovating the farm stand but renovating the Victorian home that was adjacent to it.
In front of the farm was a large garden where a lot of the fresh fruits and vegetables are being grown and the owner was telling me how they are working with local artists and bakers to bring in new product. The farm stand was gearing down for the closing on Thanksgiving weekend so there was not that much in ways of items left. There were still freshly baked pies, cider doughnuts, greeting cards made locally and fresh produce still available for sale in a cheerful barn-like building that greeted passersby.
The farm stand is very modern and attractive
I followed Route 46 West along the section that lined the Pequest River, a tributary of the Delaware River, to my true lunch destination, Hot Dog Johnny’s. Hot Dog Johnny’s, located at 333 Route 46 West (see TripAdvisor and DiningonaShoeStringinNYC@Wordpress.com reviews) is like Rutt’s Hutt in Clifton.
It is an old roadside stand that people used to stop at on the way to view the Delaware Water Gap or needed to get into Pennsylvania. It must have been there since the 30’s and I had not eaten there since I was about ten when my parents took us kids there when viewing the Gap in the 70’s. The food has not changed.
Everyone must have had the same idea that I had because there was a line 20 deep after I got my food and sat at the outdoor picnic bench. What a view! The restaurant sits on the bank above the Pequest River and has the most beautiful view of the surrounding mountains where the foliage was a golden hue. The hot dogs have not changed in years.
Hot Dog Johnny’s had not changed my last visit in 1974
They are still deep fried in peanut oil and are every bit the crunch they were when I was a kid. Still crisp and full of flavor and still delicious with lots of mustard and pickles on them. The fries are still crisp and well-cooked and the birch beer is still ice cold. On a beautiful fall day overlooking the river and mountains, there is no place better to be.
In 2016, It was one of those relaxing afternoons to watch the view and listen to the locals talk about the upcoming election (Yes, Trump did win). I still could not believe the number of Trump signs on the lawns in this area. Totally different from Bergen County.
The hot dogs and fries have not changed one bit
In 2021, some of the Trump signs are still up and it will be interesting to see what happens in 2024. Still the food has not changed a bit and I still ordered the same hot dog with mustard and pickle, French Fries and small birch beer ($5.72) and it still tasted the same as it had in 1975.
After a lunch down memory lane, I continued on my trip down Route 46 West and I made a few stops at some of the farm side stands. Talk about a step back in time when you could find fresh cider and doughnuts and freshly picked apples by the side of the road and not worry about germs. I stopped at Marshall’s Farm Stand at 114 Route 46 (see review on TripAdvisor) for fresh cider and cider doughnuts.
Talk about a step back in time. It reminded me of places I used to go to as a kid that have since disappeared with suburban sprawl. I toured around the stands with shelves of fresh jellies and honey, sauces and salsa and arts and crafts. I found a nearly empty shelf of pies and doughnuts and not a sweet roll in site. The girl working the register told me that everything sells out so quickly and they had baked a second batch of everything.
Marshall’s Farm Stand in the Fall
I did grab one of the last bags of cider doughnuts for the trip home and freshly made cider that you rarely see any more. Most of it is processed in big facilities now not at farms. Their doughnuts were outstanding ($4.75 for six). All but two got home with me as I munched on them on the trip through the Delaware Water Gap. In 2021, I bought the same items again but after a big breakfast and then lunch, I only ate two of the doughnuts this time.
I had a lively conversation about the upcoming election and trust me, this woman said a mouthful as most people were right before the election. In 2021, people were talking about the recent Governor’s election and Murphy seems in the doghouse with most of these residents. I said my good byes as quickly as possible. Politics is not something to talk about when buying food products.
My last part of the trip was Route 46 along the Delaware River which was still a blaze with color. The leaves were still in the process of changing and it was awash with yellows, oranges, reds and gold. It was quite the site. As much as I wanted to venture further into the Gap, there was really no time to walk around as you seriously need time to walk the trails. Still the afternoon of foliage was impressive.
The Delaware Water Gap at River Road off Route 209
I was able to stop at the U turn on Route 80 West and park in the beginning of the trails that go through the park. Since it was so gloomy out and it was getting late in the afternoon, I stuck by the Visitors Center, which was closed for the season and walked along the river. Most of the foliage had been knocked off the trees by the two recent storms but there were still hues of gold and yellow with the trees that were left. It is a breathtaking view of the mountain range.
The mountains at the Delaware Water Gap from the Visitors Center
After seeing the famous cemetery, I visited the stores in Hope. My first stop was the Hope Junction Antiques at 331 High Street. This unique little store was a combination of antiques, works from local artists and in the upstairs gallery was a display of art from a painter who lived in the area (this is where the famous diner scene from ‘Friday the 13th’ was shot).
The store already had their Christmas merchandise out and while I was admiring some handmade ornaments, the owner came out and we chatted for a while. Come to find out she was an expat from Bergen County and had lived in Ridgewood, NJ. Small world. What I did not know was that I later found out this store was used for the opening scene in the diner for the movie, “Friday the 13th”.
I ended up buying some of her handmade Christmas ornaments that she created when she was stuck at home during COVID. She created some interesting works. After my purchases, it was off to the toy store.
The merchandise at Hope Junction Antiques is one of a kind
On a recent trip back to Hope, NJ lead me back to Hope Junction Antiques and their beautiful Christmas windows and decorations. I went out for the ‘Hope Annual Moravian Christmas’ on December 11th, 2021, an event which included a Lantern tour of the Downtown buildings, a live Nativity and a Candlelight Service at the St. John’s Methodist Church at 7:30pm. The luminaries that had been planned had been canceled because of the upcoming rainstorm but they put some out for the tour on the edges of the streets.
My first stop when I went into town was to talk to the owner of the store, Lisa Iulo, to tell her that my mom loved here homemade Santa ornaments that I bought from her last month. She took pictures of the outside of her store for me before I started the tour. Talk about beautiful decorations!
Hope Junction Antiques at Christmas time is amazing!
These festive little sheep are available at Hope Junction Antiques
There are interesting items to peek in the window at Hope Junction Antiques
The Toy Chest was still open at 4:00pm and I had a lively conversation with the owner, Kirk Perez, who funny enough was another expat from Little Ferry and had moved down to this section of New Jersey to be closer to his wife’s family. It is a great little store loaded with all sorts of games, plastic toys and action figures.
The Toy Chest has an interesting selection
What he has added since my last visit since 2016 is all sorts of interesting high-end collectables dealing with horror and fantasy films, a complete line of Playmobile and Lego products and creating a showcase on the second floor for wooden toys and board games. The main floor also has an extensive collection of action figures and memorabilia from the film “Friday the 13th”.
There are a few more unique little stores along the strip but otherwise I just walked around a little and then got to Blairstown down the road for a quick drive through the downtown at twilight. It was a nice little tour.
In 2021, I was chatting so much with the merchants in Hope, NJ that I never got to Blairstown. It has gotten so dark so early (I hate it when it gets dark at 5:00pm) and had been so gloomy outside, I decided to head home early. It was pitch black outside when I got to Route 80 East.
The afternoon was a step back to a quieter time where people are not on top of each other and there is a slower pace. It really is another part of New Jersey not touched by time as the other parts of the state have become. It still is the New Jersey of my childhood.