Tag Archives: Historic Homes of New Jersey

Day One Hundred and Nine: Touring the historic homes and museums for the Eighth Annual History Day of the Northwest Bergen History Coalition

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 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.

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). 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.

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).

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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 Westerfelt 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 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.

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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 Museum

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.

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 surveryor 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.

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Mahwah Museum

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.

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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).

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The Waldwick Signal Tower

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.

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The Waldwick Museum

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.

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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.

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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.

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 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.

Until next year! Don’t miss this event every year in May!

 

Places to Visit:

The Old Stone House Museum

The Ramsey Historical Society

538 Island Road

Ramsey, NJ  07446

(201) 327-2655

http://www.RamseyHistorical.org

My review on TripAdvisor:

 

My review on VisitingaMuseum.com:

https://wordpress.com/post/visitingamuseum.com/2026

 

Hopper-Goetschius House Museum

Upper Saddle River Historical Society

245 Lake Street

Upper Saddle River, NJ  07458

(201) 327-8644

http://www.usrhistoricalsociety.org

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Attraction_Review-g46882-d14048029-Reviews-Hopper_Goetschius_Museum-Upper_Saddle_River_New_Jersey.html?m=19905

My review on VistingaMuseum.com:

https://wordpress.com/post/visitingamuseum.com/2030

 

The Old Station  Museum

The Mahwah Museum

171 Old Station Lane

Mahwah, NJ 07430

http://www.mahwahmuseum.org

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Attraction_Review-g46590-d9819566-Reviews-Mahwah_Museum-Mahwah_New_Jersey.html?m=19905

My review on VisitingaMuseeum.com:

https://wordpress.com/post/visitingamuseum.com/437

 

Waldwick Signal Tower

1 Bohnert Place

Waldwick, NJ  07463

wctower@optimum.net

http://allaboardwaldwick.org

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Attraction_Review-g46892-d10366154-Reviews-Erie_Railroad_Signal_Tower-Waldwick_New_Jersey.html?m=19905

My review on VisitingaMuseum.com:

https://wordpress.com/post/visitingamuseum.com/2019

 

Waldwick Museum of Local History

4 Hewson Avenue

Waldwick, NJ 07463

(201) 873-8919

http://www.WaldwickMuseum.org

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Attraction_Review-g46892-d14049026-Reviews-Waldwick_Museum_of_Local_History-Waldwick_New_Jersey.html?m=19905

My review on VisitingaMuseum.com:

https://wordpress.com/post/visitingamuseum.com/2015

 

The Museum at the Station

176 Rock Road

Glen Rock, NJ  07452

(201) 342-3268

http://www.GlenRockHistory.org

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Attraction_Review-g46466-d14048001-Reviews-The_Museum_at_the_Station-Glen_Rock_New_Jersey.html?m=19905

My review on VisitingaMuseum.com:

https://wordpress.com/post/visitingamuseum.com/2022

 

Places to Eat:

Majestic Diner

1045 State Route 17

Ramsey, NJ  07446

(201) 962-8750

Eatmajestic@gmail.com

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g46762-d7283920-Reviews-Majestic_Diner-Ramsey_New_Jersey.html?m=19905

 

Kinchley’s Tavern

586 North Franklin Turnpike

Ramsey, NJ  07446

(201) 934-7777

https://www.kinchleyspizza.com/

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g46762-d540429-Reviews-Kinchley_s_Tavern-Ramsey_New_Jersey.html?m=19905

 

 

 

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Day Forty-Three: The Northwest Bergen History Coalition 6th Annual History Day Saturday, May 14, 2016

The Northwest Bergen History Coalition
6th Annual History Day
Theme: Spreading the News: Rail, Mail & the Press in Days Gone By

Special Exhibitions at each Museum

Come discover how we communicated when letter were left at the local inn, when postcards were our ‘twitter feed’ and the operator listened to all our calls on the party line. See how mail was delivered by train and what our local newspapers were like in 1900.

I took a day out of touring in the city to tour my own county, Bergen County, New Jersey is rich in Revolutionary, Civil and WWI &II history yet we still have a big link to our Colonial past in each town in Bergen County.

The unfortunate part of this tour is that it only covers a small portion of the county and it was hard to get to all of the sites in one day and really see them once a docent took over. I just didn’t want to leave the sites quickly because each tour was special in its own way.

I got off to a late start and got lost in Ridgewood because the Map Quest was not very good in describing the location of the first site on the west side of Route 17 South on the Ridgewood side of the highway. From there it just got easier.

My first stop was at the Schoolhouse Museum at 650 East Glen Avenue in Ridgewood, NJ (see my reviews on TripAdvisor and VisitingaMuseum.com). This quirky little school house sits at the edge of a vast cemetery next to Route 17 South in Ridgewood.

The School House Museum, built in 1872, is maintained by the Ridgewood Historical Society. This year’s exhibit is ‘Farm to Home: Exploring Our Agrarian Roots with Artifacts from the 18th and 19th Centuries’. Objects on display include early Dutch artifacts, farm tools, home furnishings, quilts, coverlets, pottery and tin ware. During the Spring, there will also be a special small exhibit featuring letters and writing tools as well as newspapers communicating important events. For History Day only, a letter from George Washington will be on display. The current exhibition is called ‘Farm & Home: Exploring our Agrarian Roots with Artifacts from the 18th & 19th centuries’. The museum is open from 1:00pm-3:00pm on Thursdays and Saturdays and 2:00pm-4:00pm on Sundays.

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Schoolhouse Museum in Ridgewood

I bought my pass here to start the tour and a nice donation of $10.00 let me into all the sites on the tour. Since I was the first one to the museum, I got a personal tour by Dot, a retired teacher from Ridgewood who taught in Hasbrouck Heights. It’s a small world.

The Schoolhouse Museum is a step back into Bergen County’s rural past with many interesting displays from the Lenape Indians who first lived in the area and taught the Dutch how to farm and fish to early Colonial clothing and its purpose when working. The displays were beautifully presented and well noted by their cards. The section on cooking utensils and their changes over time with modernization was interesting. How to bake on an open hearth versus a modern cast iron grill is the difference from a rotary phone to a smartphone.

The fact that many of these items came from people’s basements and private dwellings was the most interesting part. That people kept these heirlooms for so long and then gave them up when they moved and donated them to the museum really tells the story of Ridgewood’s farming past.

We had good conversation for over an hour and the ladies volunteering that day invited me back in the future and then provided me with chocolate bites and bottled water, which I thought was a nice touch.

My next stop on the tour was The Hermitage located at 335 North Franklin Turnpike in Ho Ho Kus, New Jersey (see my review on TripAdvisor and VisitingaMuseum.com). The old homestead sits on a rather large parcel in the middle of a residential and commercial area that shows how time has progressed on in this town.

Hermitage at Halloween

The Hermitage in Ho Ho Kus, NJ

The Hermitage, a National Historic Landmark and house museum, incorporates an 18th century stone house that was visited during the Revolutionary War by General George Washington. It was also the site of the marriage of Aaron Burr and Theodosia Prevost. Its picturesque Gothic Design dates to the 1847-48 Gothic Revival renovation by architect William Ranlett for Elijah Rosencrantz. The house was willed to the State of New Jersey by his granddaughter Mary Elizabeth in 1970 and is furnished as it appeared in the 1890’s. A special exhibition in the 1888 summer kitchen honors the legacy of Bergen County historian, Claire K. Tholl. Her maps, books and drawings are on display.

Bumping your head on some of these tours is easy as parts of the homes visited were built when people must have been smaller. When you start the tour of the Hermitage, you enter through the kitchen which was built in the late 1700’s and it is small. The rest of the house was built before the Civil War with high ceilings and a more Victorian flair. The rest of the house had been modernized in the 1920’s.

The later history was hardly the glory days of when Aaron Burr married there. The last of the Rosencrantz descendants had gone broke after the Crash and their source of income which was a tearoom to traveling tourists from New York City when the Franklin Turnpike was a major thoroughfare, had dried up as fewer cars were traveling through the area. It had gotten to the point where the family was living in the back room of the house and the rest of the house was shut down. The house is still in need of a lot of repairs so donations are accepted by the foundation. It is an unique house with an interesting history so take the time and tour the house in detail.

The next home on the tour was The John Fell House at 475 Franklin Turnpike in Allendale, New Jersey (see my review on TripAdvisor and VisitingaMuseum.com). The house was vacated by the former owner and was scheduled to be knocked down for townhouses. The community rallied together and saved the house from the wrecking ball. Now the house is being renovated room by room to its former glory.

John Fell House

The John Fell House in Allendale, NJ

The historic John Fell House is named in recognition of Founding Father, John Fell, a revolutionary war patriot, who purchased the property circa 1766. The house was also home to Colonel Joseph Warner Allen, a Civil War hero for whom Allendale is named.

This 22 room Colonial Revival mansion was home to a Founding Father, a Civil War Colonel and a Sunday School that led to the first church in Allendale. The stately house is set on a hill on 2.8 acres near the center of town. The property also includes a late 19th Century Barn, exceptional wetlands and a stand of old-growth.

The history is very unique. John Fell led the local resistance movement against the British. He was arrested at the house by 25 armed Loyalist and imprisoned in New York City, where he kept a secret diary documenting the British Army’s horrific treatment of American prisoners of war. Located across the street from the house is the Celery Farm Natural Area, 107 acres of wetlands and woods originally known as “Wolf Swamp” and later “Fell’s Meadows”, which was originally part of the Fell estate.

The home, which was built circa 1760 and originally called Peterfield, has had several subsequent owners, including John H. Thompson, John G. Ackerman, the Stephen Cable family and the Joseph B. Taylor family, who enlarged it in the Colonial Revival style in the early 1900’s. Colonel Joseph Warner Allen for whom Allendale is named, stayed at the house while he surveyed the route for the Paterson-Ramapo Railroad. He was a key New Jersey figure at the beginning of the Civil War. The house is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Exhibits will include recreations of early 18th and 19th century broadsides, early local 20th century newspapers featuring historic military news, copies of historic letters, photos and railroad news. Jim Wright gave a brief talk and a slide show on “Revolutionary Communications: Getting the Word Out in John Fell’s Day.”

The Fell House is owned and operated by the Concerned Citizens of Allendale, a 501(c) 3 nonprofit group, which saved the house looked mostly modern to me as it had just been lived in by a family before the sale. The exterior of the house needs lots of work saved the property from being bulldozed to make way for a controversial townhouse development. The house is home to a tearoom, community events, school events, nature programs and an annual holiday open house.

The organization has also developed several history programs that inform the public and students about the history of the John Fell House, including reenactments of his arrest at the house. During every open house, docents inform visitors of the timeline of the house and its important role in American history. Historic preservationists have studied the house and produced a Preservation Plan that document the history of the home, barn and landscape while suggesting how to best restore, preserve and maintain the house and property. As a member of the Northwest Bergen History Coalition, the organization works with eight other historical sites to encourage both children and adults to learn about the region’s amazing history. (The Historic John Fell House Pamphlet)

The house tour was very interesting and the docents lead some of us to the outside grounds to show some of us some new discoveries such as an old well that was discovered. The only problem with the tour was that house was modernized for current times as it was a private home until just recently and needs more period furniture and decorations to it. While the outside looks historical on the outside, the interior is quite modern. The Fell House has a rich history but is a work in progress. It is still worth the trip just to see the grounds and hear about its rich history.

The next site on the tour was The Waldwick Signal Tower, which had just finished a renovation (see my review on TripAdvisor and VisitingaMuseum.com). The tower sits in a rather obscure place by the railroad tracks up the tracks from the station. You have to make several twists and turns to get to the tower.

Waldwick Signal Tower

Waldwick Signal Tower in Waldwick, NJ

Built in 1890 by the New York Lake Erie and Western Railroad, the Waldwick Signal Tower was the key to the movement of railroad traffic within the newly created yard facility. Eventually it also handled 4 tracks of heavy m service on the Erie’s route between New York and Chicago. Manned 24 hours a day, seven days a week for over 50 years, it was also the hub for maintenance of the signal systems between Ridgewood, NJ and Suffern, NY. The tower museum is dedicated to the railroad workers of the area and educates visitors about the variety of jobs and operations of the Waldwick Facility. Check http://www.allaboardwaldwick.org for a schedule of events. (Historical pamphlet)

Waldwick’s Train Signal tower is both historically and architecturally significant. It is a rare historical treasure for its residents and railroad enthusiasts from far and wide. Before the turn of 20th Century, the Waldwick rail yard was an active repair depot and turn station for the Erie Main Line from Jersey City, NJ to Port Jervis, NY and was a major employer in Waldwick thus contributing to the bough’s residential and commercial growth.

The ornate Queen Anne style building was built in 1890 and housed the mechanism connecting switches and signals allowing trains to safely move from one track to another. The tower men who operated the switches by hand had a great power indeed in their time. By the mid 1980’s upgrades in computerized signal equipment warranted the elimination of the tower.

The tower was slated for demolition in June 1987. The Waldwick Historical Society members led by Kay Williams campaigned to place the tower on The National Registry of Historical Places. This accomplishment allowed the tower to at least stay dormant till the next wave of enthusiasts came along in 1999. Michael Brunkhorst and Glen Corbett banded together a group of citizens to form the All Aboard committee of Waldwick’s Historical Society. Curtis Springstead of Wanaque who is the great-great grandson of the reknowned locomotive engineer Harvey Springstead, got wind of the tower’s trials. He stepped up to the plate and purchased the tower for $6,000 then gave the Tower to the Borough of Waldwick as a gift to preserve for future generations in honor of the trainman’s family name. The small All Aboard group set out to create awareness of the tower’s existence and it’s plight.

Before long, fund drives were organized and grant applications were filed. The response of the number of supporters including Mr. Robert Keeble have given this project a solid start. Meticulous measures are currently being made can now be witnessed at the track end of Bohnert Place, to maintain the tower’s historic authenticity. Attention is being given to the placement of exact shaped decorative shingles and the repair and replacement of the original slate roof are among the initial stage of it’s restoration.

Mission Statement: The All Aboard continues seeking membership and financial support to complete the tower with the vision of becoming “The Harvey Springstead Memorial Tower at Waldwick” for generations of Waldwick citizens and for rail enthusiasts everywhere. If funding continues the tower is sure to be the pride of Waldwick with time and care. (All Aboard Pamphlet of the Waldwick Historical Society).

I was the only one at the tower that part of the afternoon. It was a colorfully decorated tower full of pictures and timelines. The docent who was there that afternoon could not believe the number of visitors that the tower was getting that afternoon. I told him if it were not for the tour, I would have never known the tower even existed. The history of the tower and how it played a role in the town of Waldwick. It was considered very innovative at that time. The fact that it was still being used into the 80’s was pretty amazing. Now they want to bring back some of the equipment that was being used at the time that is just sitting in warehouses. It will be an interesting place to revisit once those items are put into place.

I double backed on the tour with only an hour left and I went to the Zabriskie House at 421 Franklin Avenue in Wyckoff, New Jersey (See my review on TripAdvisor and VisitingaMuseum.com). This old home is a combination of historic home and modern day living as it was in the family’s hands until 1973.

Zabriskie House

Zabriskie House in Wyckoff, NJ

The original stone structure of the house was built by William Van Voor Haze in 1730 on a 550 acre of tract of land and is believed to be the oldest house in Wyckoff. Prior to 1806, a small parcel of land was purchased from William’s son and heir, Albert, to build the Wyckoff Reformed Church. In 1824, Albert completed a major addition to the house in the classically Dutch Colonial style and the original section of the home became the dining room.

The house was purchased by Uriah Quackenbush in 1867 and was willed to his granddaughter, Grace Quackenbush Zabriskie, the wife of the late County Judge John B. Zabriskie. In 1964, Mrs. Zabriskie, the last resident owner, donated the pond and the surrounding acreage to the township of Wyckoff. Upon her death in 1973, she bequeathed the house and the antique furnishings to the town. Throughout its history, the Zabriskie House has been used, at different times, as a village store, a candy store, a tavern, a hotel and a ballroom.

Under the guidance of the house’s Trustees, the Zabriskie House is continuing restoration for future generations to enjoy. The Trustees have recently overseen extensive work on the porch and stairs, re-oiling of the roof, stone step repairs and limited gutter installation. Children can try colonial toys and all can guess the at the ‘What It’ table.

This was one of the quickest tours I went on as the house was closing down for the day and I was in the kitchen looking at one of the docent’s daughter’s wedding pictures. I excused myself and walked through out the house. It had been left the way it had when Mrs. Zabriskie was still living there. There were many antiques mixed in with the modern furniture. Nothing remains of the original owners but the docents told me that a clock was still in the house from the Quackenbush family. Most everything left in the house was owned by Mrs. Zabriskie.

The docents described all the rooms to me and how the house was added on through the years. Watch your head as some of the places have low ceilings. The kitchen really gives you an idea of how old the home really is in comparison to the rest of the house. It was a nice mix of the old and the new. At the end of the tour, the members of their Friends group had the nicest selection of homemade treats and lemonade. It was nice to talk to members and what goals they have for the house. It looks over the pond in the park next door and is a picturesque view.

I had just enough time to visit my last house, the Van Allen House at 3 Franklin Avenue (corner of Route 202 & Franklin Avenue) in Oakland, New Jersey. Most of the volunteers were leaving for the day but let me still walk around as many of them were talking around a table. The house is falling apart and the grounds are over-grown.

Van Allen House

Van Allen House in Oakland, NJ

The Van Allen House was host to George Washington and troops on July 14, 1777 and helped get word to his field officers by allowing him to compose documents there which were dispatched by carriers along the Ramapo Valley trail, now Route 202. In 1915-1919 owners of the Van Allen House and builders of the Stream House adjacent were the publishers and editors of the Sussex Register of Newton, NJ. Edward Page often published trade and economic articles in the NY Times, inspiring his son Allen to take over the Sussex Register until Allen’s death in 1917, passing on ownership to the father Edward until he died 12/26/1918. The Sussex Register joined the NJ Herald in 1928. (Tour Pamphlet)

I was able to tour the Van Allen House and grounds on my own. Most of the docents were relaxing after a long day. I walked up and around the house and there was not much to see as the house needed a serious renovation. The new roof had just been put on the house but there still were leeks in it. The grounds were loaded with weeds and was in need of a good landscaper. The one thing the house had going for it was their gift shop. They had the most interesting sewn dolls that one of the members makes and they had a beautiful selection of Christmas ornaments.

One the Van Allen house goes through some form of restoration, it will really be a jewel on the tour as it sits on a nice piece of land that was part of the original estate.

Overall it was a nice tour of the historical sites and gave me a real insight to old Bergen County when it was still called Franklin Township that was formed in 1771. The population was small. The families who lived here all knew one another , worshipped together and intermarried. It showed the important role that Bergen County played in the American Revolution. If you are able to take time out to visit these sites, you will be pleasantly surprised on what you will learn. I did not realize how much history was right in the neighborhood. (Tour Pamphlet)

Don’t miss this amazing tour of Historical sites in Northern Bergen Country each May.