Gilsenan and Company Realtors

Gilsenan and Company Realtors

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Ridgewood is located in Bergen County, New Jersey, one of the state’s northern counties. Conveniently located less than an hour from New York City, Ridgewood is home to many New York-based professionals and executives.

It is also ideally located for commuting to the numerous corporate headquarters throughout the county. With its numerous shops and boutiques, downtown Ridgewood is a favorite destination for the town’s own 24,000 residents, as well as shoppers from neighboring towns and beyond.

Ridgewood traces its roots to 1687 when the East Jersey Proprietors granted several hundred acres to Isaac Kingsland. Johannes Van Emburgh bought some of this land in 1698 and his descendants built one of the first houses in the area. Originally an agricultural community named Godwinville (after a Revolutionary War Hero); the name was changed to Ridgewood in 1894. After a rail service to New York was instituted in 1851, the downtown business district began to develop. In 1853, Samuel Dayton bought the Van Emburgh estate and set the stage for the development of Ridgewood as a flourishing suburb.

Ridgewood’s documented history begins in 1698 when Johannes Van Emburgh and David Provoast purchased 250 acres of land in what is now Ridgewood. It was then a wilderness of trees and streams. The area was called Hoachas (now Ho-Ho-Kus) after the Native American name of a brook that runs through the village.

Later the entire area was known as Paramus and the first settlements in the area were just east of Ridgewood along Paramus Road. Ridgewood’s earliest settled area is just north of Paramus Road at East Saddle River Road and Glen Avenue. Four historic buildings still stand there today. Just across the river is the beautiful Old Paramus Reformed Church, built in 1800. This congregation was established before 1730 and still thrives today.

The Paramus Reformed church was a strategic military point during the American Revolution. Troops encamped here throughout the war; George Washington visited and wrote letters here; and the Patriots and the British skirmished in the churchyard and just up the Franklin Turnpike in present day Ho-Ho-Kus.

Ridgewood was an agricultural community settled primarily by Dutch Americans and those who had been assimilated into the Dutch American culture. There were also mills along the Ho-Ho-Kus Brook and the Saddle River. In addition to the saw and grist mills, which served local needs, there were mills associated with the textile industry.

The first harbinger of change was the building of the railroad between Paterson and Suffern in 1848. Shortly after this, the Van Emburgh estate (greatly enlarged but still in the hands of the descendants of Jahannes Van Embergh) came on the market and Samual Dayton of New York City bought a large plot of land. He built a farming estate for himself and sold land to his son-in-law, B.F. Robinson and Samual Graydon. They, too, built large estates.

Although the area had been known as Godwinville since the Revolution, Cornelia Dayton, the wife of Samual Dayton, renamed it Ridgewood to reflect its new, more cosmopolitan nature. This was the beginning of the development of the suburb that Ridgewood is today.

The center of town moved from the Paramus Church area to the area where Ridgewood Avenue crossed the railroad tracks. Commercial development clustered near the train station and new houses followed shortly thereafter. Entrepreneurs and commuters moved to Ridgewood from New York City-to take advantage of the clean air and healthy environment. The population grew rapidly between 1870 and 1970, by which time Ridgewood was fully developed. Many styles of residential architecture are evident. Striking individuals include 18th century Dutch sandstone houses, a home built by Henry Hudson Holly, and the James Rose house. Streetscapes of similar or harmonious houses exist all over the Village from the late 19th century Tudor revivals to post-war Cape Cods.

The downtown historic district is centered on the 1916 Mission Style railroad station buildings. At the time the station was built, traffic was diverted from the dangerous grade crossing of Ridgewood Avenue to an underpass on Franklin Avenue. This has served to maintain the heart of the commercial district as a spacious and beautiful plaza surrounding the railroad station buildings. The other commercial buildings were built in the late19th and early 20th centuries and retain common elements while also reflecting individuality. Anchoring the western end of the district, on the side of the hill, is the George L. Pease Memorial Library (currently home to the Ridgewood Police Department) built in the Italian Renaissance style. Shaping the plaza on the eastern side of the tracks are the Moore and Wilsey buildings, each with a distinctive tower on the corner. Farther east on Ridgewood Avenue is the Archibald Vroom house- an18th century sandstone house, much altered but still visible and a rare survival in a downtown area. Today the downtown historic district forms the backdrop to a vibrant shopping area.

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