HNBL INTRODUCTION & SITE MAP
Historic New Bridge Landing preserves a compelling and scenic fragment of the Jersey Dutch countryside, strategically situated at the narrows of the Hackensack River and famed for its compelling role in the Revolutionary War. Its distinctive antique dwellings, artifact collections and scenic landscapes are uniquely reminiscent of a vanished folk culture, dependent upon the tidal river as a commercial artery and a self-renewing source of nourishment and industrial power.
Inhabited since at least Middle Archaic times (c. 3500 BP), the prehistoric features of the site may include a seventeenth-century Native American “castle” or fort. Small tributaries entering the river at New Bridge defined the familial territories of the indigenous peoples, known to history as the Hackensacks and Tappans. These prehistoric boundaries continued as property lines when the neighborhood was first settled by colonial farmers after 1677 and are perpetuated in the present civil boundaries of the four municipalities that intersect at New Bridge. The Hackensack sachem, Tantaqua, and his kin, inhabited the land surrounding the river narrows, which was partly known as Tantaqua’s Plain.
As it was technologically infeasible to bridge the wide marshes and meadowlands lying south of the river narrows, the “new bridge” remained the nearest span across the Hackensack River to Newark Bay for a half century after its construction in 1745. Consequently it was a node in the earliest network of roads leading from the Hudson River landings, opposite Manhattan, into the interior of the continent.
The Jersey Dutch sandstone architecture at New Bridge Landing, augmented by extensive artifact and archival collections of the Bergen County Historical Society and the Blauvelt-Demarest Foundation, convey a vivid sense of past life as distinctive to New Jersey as Plymouth Plantation or Sturbridge Village is to New England or as Williamsburg is to Virginia. Including numerous associations with persons and events of transcendent historic significance to the Nation, New Bridge Landing conveys an appreciation of New Jersey’s pivotal role in American history, progressing from the most culturally diverse colony to the most densely populated state.
Owing to its strategic location at the narrows of the Hackensack River and its proximity to Manhattan, the principal base of British operations throughout the war, the site has numerous associations with the American Revolution. Historic New Bridge Landing will therefore is respectfully treated and preserved as an American Revolutionary War battleground, the site of several skirmishes, military encampments and headquarters for both armies.
The Zabriskie-Steuben House is the only extant house along the route of the British invasion and Washington’s Retreat of November 1776 through Bergen County. General Washington established his headquarters in the Zabriskie dwelling in September 1780 during the Steenrapie encampment of the Continental army.
Having literally been the “Crossroads of the American Revolution,” New Bridge prospered for more than a century after the war as a commercial crossroads, situated where a major overland thoroughfare of travel and trade intersected the head of sloop navigation on the Hackensack River. The extant iron swing bridge, manually operated, was erected in 1889 to speed the passage of schooners and testifies to the importance of commercial river traffic at that date. The New Bridge is listed on the New Jersey and National Registers of Historic Places as the oldest highway swing bridge in the State of New Jersey.
The Zabriskie-Steuben House is a memorial to Major-General Baron von Steuben, Inspector-General of the Continental troops, who received it as a gift from the State of New Jersey in 1783 and who, by his own advertisement, thoroughly rebuilt the dwelling during his six years of ownership.
The Bergen County Historical Society has been a steward of the site beginning with a vision to save the Steuben House, culminating with invitation by the State of New Jersey to make its headquarters at the site in 1938, dedication 1939. In 1944, the BCHS acquired adjacent property 6.3 acres to buffer the Steuben House from the encroaching auto-parts yard (now The Meadow). When new four-lane bridge plans threatened to obliterate the 1889 swing bridge, BCHS was able to get the bridge diverted to the north but lost acreage in the process. The Demarest House Museum and the Campbell-Christie House were moved onto BCHS property in 1955 and 1977, respectively. The BCHS provides all programming at the museum site.
The Historic New Bridge Landing Park Commission was established by public law in 1995 to to coordinate and implement governmental and private development policies and other activities incidental to the preservation, maintenance, restoration and interpretation of the historic riverfront village surrounding New Bridge, so as to optimize its educational and recreational benefit to the public.
The purpose of Historic New Bridge Landing Park is to provide an authentic experience of a significant historic hamlet, using the setting of a museum village to preserve open space in a populated area and to protect a fragile riparian environment, through a program of public education and awareness. The autoparts property was acquired and remediated by 2010 through a federal grant facilitated by then Senator Robert Toricelli. The museum site was again visible when the autoparts property fence finally came down.