HNBL MOBILE TOUR
Tour designed to work with your smart phone.
NEW BRIDGE was a prosperous mill landing, a hamlet centered upon a bridge on the Hackensack River.
IN THE AMERICAN REVOLUTION, New Bridge served as a fort, battleground, encampment ground, military headquarters and intelligence gathering post throughout the war. The Steuben House served as Gen. Washington's headquarters in 1780.
NUMBERS on the map correspond to the LINKS below. Rotate for larger view.
The Tappans, affiliated with Minisinks, occupied the northern valley of the Hackensack River and its tributaries, extending downstream to French Creek at New Bridge. The tidal lowlands to the south were occupied by the Hackensacks and Sanhicans.
The Hackensacks were closely related to natives of Long Island and had their winter hunt there. In 1676, the Hackensacks guarded the northern boundary at New Bridge with a palisaded plantation, described as an "Indian Castle." The clay flat on the west bank of the river was known as Tantaqua's Plain, inhabited by Tantaqua, a Hackensack elder or sachem, and his kin. (Where the Steuben House is located.)
Tantaqua's mark, the Turtle
Artifacts found here at New Bridge and the surrounding area are on display at the Steuben House. Above is an effigy pipe found in Hackensack.
1. The Steuben House
Jan and Annetje (Ackerman) Zabriskie prospered as miller and merchant at New Bridge. They built a five-room stone cottage in 1752 and enlarged to the present size in 1767. Sloops of 40-ton burden would navigate to and from city markets. The bridge was the first crossing above Newark Bay. Below is the oldest known photograph of the Steuben House. Notice the 3 dormer (later updated to four in later photographs and restored to 3 again) and the store wing (now gone.)
The store wing was removed in 1892 and the long forgotten diamond-shaped datestone with carved mill paddle wheel, placed in the south wall, was exposed again. It identifies the owners and the date of construction: JZ AZ Anno 1752.
During the American Revolution Jan (John) Zabriskie sided with the Crown and was arrested while on parole and the family ended up in British-held Manhattan.
It is said that the Steuben House saw more of the American Revolution than any other home in America.
The State of New Jersey presented the confiscated war-damaged house to Major General Baron von Steuben in 1783. Described in 1786 as a "Large Mansion House containing twelve rooms built with stone, with Out-houses consisting of a Bake House, Smoke House, Coach House, and two large Barns, and a Garden, Gorty Acres of Land consisting of Meadow Land and two Orchards."
Steuben's aide-de-camp, Capt. Benjamin Walker resided here, while Steuben made regular visits and summer retreats from his Manhattan lodgings. He sold it back to the Zabriskie's in 1788.
Tradition notes that in 1793, the 25 year old grandson John Zabriskie, Jr. was crushed trying to free the tide mill's paddle wheel. He lies buried in the French Burying Ground in New Milford where his sandstone tombstone still stands.
This photo of the Steuben House, c.1918, shows the 1860 kitchen wing, which was demolished in the 1939 State of NJ restoration. The Steuben House is owned by the State of New Jersey, managed by the Historic New Bridge Landing Park Commission (HNBLPC.)
The Steuben House has long benefited from a public-private partnership.
The Bergen County Historical Society (non-profit organization) and the DAR encouraged the State to save the house in 1929 and was asked to make its HQ here in 1939. BCHS brought its collections here at that time. BCHS went on to buy 8 acres that are adjacent in 1944, donated 1/2 acre to the State for a parking lot, guided the County of Bergen to build the replacement bridge and new 4-lane road just to the north of site by donating more land in 1956 and encouraged the State I 2000 (through the HNBLPC) to purchase and remediate the junkyard.
2. The Steuben House in the Rev War
In the American Revolution, New Bridge was a constant arena of the war. Washington headquartered here at New Bridge in 1780, September 4 through September 20.
Thomas Paine, Major General Friedrich Wilhelm Baron von Steuben, Major General Marie Joseph du Motier, Marquis de LaFayette, Major General Nathanael Greene, Major General Anthony Wayne, Royal Governor William Franklin, Founding Fathers Aaron Burr and Alexander Hamilton, Lt. Col. Henry Lee, Capt. John Outwater, Major John Andre, Lt. General Sir Henry Clinton, Lieutenant General Charles Lord Cornwallis, Major General Charles Grey, Capt. Patrick Ferguson, Col. Francis Lord Rawdon, Lt. Col. Stephen Kemble, Capt. Johann Ewald, Brigadier General Cortland Skinner, Lt. James Moody were all at New Bridge during the American Revolution. Per Military Historian Todd Braisted.
Washington leading the Retreat at New Bridge, November 20, 1776. Painting by B.Spencer Newman.
While New Bridge served as a fort, battleground, encampment ground, military headquarters and intelligence gathering post throughout the war, the following significant Revolutionary War events are associated with the Steuben House and New Bridge:
* British troops under Major General Vaughan attacked the American rear guard on November 21, 1776 and seize the New Bridge, which American engineers were dismantling.
* British and Loyalist troops under command of Captain Patrick Fergusen attacked about 40 Bergen militiamen at New Bridge on May 18, 1779.
* Major Henry Lee led American troops from New Bridge on August 18, 1779, to attack the British earthworks at Paulus Hook (Jersey City).
* A force of Bergen Militia and Continental troops attacked 600 British troops and German auxiliaries at New Bridge on their retreat from Hackensack and Paramus on March 23, 1780, during the two hours it took for the British to repair and cross the New Bridge.
* A body of 312 British, Loyalist and German infantry, attacked and overwhelmed an American outpost at New Bridge commanded by Lieutenant Bryson on April 15, 1780.
* Eight British soldiers were killed, and several wounded, by friendly fire when British troops attempted to attack a body of Bergen Militia in the Zabriskie-Steuben House at New Bridge on May 30, 1780.
* Brigadier General Anthony Wayne led American troops from New Bridge on a raid against the Bull's Ferry Blockhouse on July 20, 1780.
War of Outpost, March 23, 1780. Painting by Jeff Trexler
* General Washington made his headquarters in the Zabriskie-Steuben House during the Steenrapie encampment of the Continental Army, encompassing nearly 14,000 men, on September 4-20, 1780.
Grand Forage Map showing British troops and forts on Cherry Hill, River Edge, NJ
Baron von Steuben offered his services "as a Volunteer" to the American Congress in December 1777 and is best remembered for organizing and training the Continental troops at Valley Forge. He was commissioned Inspector-General on May 5, 1778. He retired from military service in March 1784. Major-General Baron von Steuben died at Remsen, Oneida County, New York, on November 28, 1794. Remsen is a hundred miles north-west of Albany, NY.
Did Steuben really live at the Steuben House in River Edge, NJ?
The Steuben House is the only extant 18th century building that General Steuben owned.
The State Legislature gave Steuben the house on the condition that he occupy it and not rent it to a tenant. This was interpreted (in a letter to Steuben from NJ Militia General Philemon Dickerson, dated 1783) that General Steuben would have to keep a bed & a servant there and make regular visits.
He installed his aide-de-camp, Captain Benjamin Walker, in the house as a full time resident. By 1786, he leased one half of the house back to the Zabriskies, who then operated the mill and river landing under the partnership of Walker & Zabriskie.
At least one visit by General Steuben to the Steuben House, on July 4th, 1786, is well documented: Mr. Zabriskie invited the the townsfolk to a Fourth of July celebration in the Baron's honor and charged the refreshments, which he obtained from the New Bridge Inn, to the Baron's account. General Steuben did not realize that he had paid for hosting the neighborhood until he returned to New York city some weeks later.
Most importantly, Steuben paid a considerable sum of money to repair the war damages to the house and to restore its commercial operations. When he sold the house in 1788 (after owning it five years), he advertised it as "thoroughly renovated of late." Thus he left a permanent mark on the building that bears his name and was the greatest compensation he received for his services in the American Revolution.
The building you see today is largely that building.
The Jersey Dutch
New Jersey was the most culturally diverse of the English colonies. The process of creolization led first to regional folk patterns of culture (such as the Jersey Dutch), which eventually nourished the emerging American culture.
At the time of the American Revolution, only one-third of the population of Bergen County, New Jersey, could claim Netherlandish descent. Africans comprised one-fifth of the population; Germans comprised another fifth; while English, French and Scotch-Irish formed the remainder of the population. Through intermarriage and the convenient adoption of a hybrid language, rooted in Dutch, this varied stock blended to form the Jersey, or Bergen, Dutch. Besides such distinctly Dutch surnames as Akkerman, De Groot, Blinkerhof, Hopper, Van Winkel, Brouwer and Blauvelt , the surnames of some founding families echo a diversity of origins: Zabriskie (Saborowski), Demarest (De Maree), Lozier (La Seur), Campbell, Christie, Stagg, Sandford, and Kingsland.
Thomas Gordon wrote in 1834, "There are few spots in New Jersey presenting more pleasing attractions than this country above the Hackensack, and on the highlands on each side of the river. The houses, built in the ancient Dutch cottage form, of one full story, with its projecting pent houses, and dormitories within the slopes of the roof, are sometimes large, always painted white, and surrounded with verdant lawns, shrubbery, and well-cultivated gardens. And we may here remark, that the taste for horticulture and ornamental shrubberies, appears more general in the central and northern parts of New Jersey, than in the southern parts, or in the state of Pennsylvania."
In 1982, 195 of the surviving Jersey Dutch sandstone houses were listed through a Thematic Nomination of Early Stone Houses of Bergen County in the New Jersey and National Registers of Historic Places. BCHS trustee emeritus Claire K. Tholl completed the field work for the survey. The houses are found throughout Bergen County and most are still privately owned. Many have a BCHS Blue Marker.
Slavery existed in Bergen County, it is estimated that up to 20% of the population in the 1700s were enslaved African-Americans. There are few surviving records regarding the people that were enslaved at New Bridge.
Daguerreotype is of one of the last eye-witnesses of the Revolutionary War at New Bridge.
Born into slavery in 1773, emancipated 1840, died 1871.
Another Revolutionary Relic Gone. On the 21st last, a colored woman living in the family of James Paulison, at New Bridge, died at the advanced age of ninety-eight years. She was born a slave in the Paulison family, at the old homestead below the village of Hackensack, where she lived until emancipated in 1840, after which she resided in the family of James Paulison. She retained a vigorous mind until near her death, and her recollections of Revolutionary times were very vivid. The Bergen Democrat, March 24, 1871. (newpaper clipping appears on left side of daguerreotype) From collections of BCHS.
Nineteenth century revolutions in transportation, mechanization and industrialization progressively forced regional folk cultures into competing in a national marketplace, inducing increasing economic specialization and cultural standardization. In 1876, the author of Walker’s Atlas of Bergen County, commenting upon Union Township, duly reported, "Fifty years ago this township was occupied by farmers and gardeners of the Holland Dutch stock, who plodded on from year to year, taking their truck to market in their wagons frequently over night, and reducing their expenses by such return loads as they could get for the country stores, etc. The old inhabitants were peculiarly jealous of strangers, and it was with great difficulty that they could be persuaded to part with any of their land. This feature held sway over them long after the building of the New York and Paterson Railroad, which was one of the first railroads in the country; and it is only within about twenty years that any serious inroads have been made on the domains of this peculiar people. Possessing one of the most desirous and attractive districts for the suburban residences of New Yorkers, they refused to use their land for improvements, and continued to plant and plod on as aforetime, while other localities, far less attractive, were being built up and making the land-holders wealthy. There was not even a village in the whole township."
The plodding Bergen Dutch were slowly overwhelmed by suburban encroachment on their agrarian communities and lifestyle. By the 1890s, the growing population of new comers, called Commuters, were warring in school elections and borough formation to seize political control from the old-time rural natives, called Punkin-Dusters (in reference to their supposed habit of dusting the frost from pumpkins).
New Bridge Part 2
A "New Bridge" with sliding draw was built here in 1744. Eye-witness Thomas Paine described the small bridge as "our first objective" in the American Retreat from Fort Lee on November 20, 1776, memorializing the darkest hour in the hopes for American independence as the "times that try men's souls."
This crossing saw much activity during the war because it is the narrows of the river above Newark Bay.
The present Pratt-type Low Truss Swing Bridge, installed by the King Iron Bridge Co. of Cleveland using channel iron made by the Phoenix Iron Co. of Philadelphia, opened February 2, 1889. Joseph W. Stagg built the sandstone abutments. Closed to automobile traffic in 1956. Listed on NJ and National Registers by BCHS as the oldest swing-bridge in NJ. The bridge mechanism was so perfectly balanced that one person alone could rotate the bridge to let ships pass.
BCHS donated the land for the 1956 four-lane bridge & road just to the north, there by saving the Steuben House and 1889 bridge from being eclipsed and obliterated.
"New Bridge" referred to the neighborhood around the bridge. An inn was located on the east side of the river as early as 1760, along the stagecoach route. Residents included Abraham Van Buskirk, a Tory and surgeon, who lived near the very large sycamore tree in Brett Park.
3. The Landing
New Bridge Landing was the business center of the upper Hackensack Valley - the shopping mall of its day. Iron made in stone furnaces along the Ramapo Mountains was carried in ox-carts to New Bridge Landing where it was loaded onto boats for shipment to market. Flour and animal feed was shipped from the mill.
All kinds of wares came in from boats returning from the city. This location had an added advantage: because of the wide Hackensack Meadowlands downstream, New Bridge remained the nearest river crossing to Newark Bay until 1790. Overland traffic including farm wagons and stage coaches, going to and from New York City, crossed the river at this spot on their way into the interior parts of the country.
Below is a fragment of pig iron found at New Bridge Landing. It is stamped "LON" indicating place of manufacture, Long Pond Ironworks. 7" x 3" BCHS collections.
The Zabriskies & The Store
Jan Zabriskie, Senior, miller and wily middle man, had that proverbial "thumb of gold." By quick study (and perhaps by nature), he became profitably conversant with back-country farmers, river boatmen, drovers, teamsters, ironmasters and the polished upper strata of city merchants. His twin children, Jan and Elizabeth, married into Manhattan's mercantile families. Elizabeth married Edmond Seaman, son of Judge Benjamin Seaman and his wife Elizabeth Mott, on Christmas Day, 1768. Judge Seaman was a successful New York merchant and politician. The young couple produced three sons, John, Benjamin and Edmond Seaman. Childbirth was risky in those times and Elizabeth Zabriskie Seaman, wife of the Clerk of the New York Assembly, died February 26, 1774, aged 30 years, one week after the birth of her youngest son, Edmond.
Jan Zabriskie, Junior, married Jane Goelet in November 1764. Certainly, local wags knew that her brother, Francis, had married the daughter of a respectable Perth Amboy family, set up business in his wife's hometown, only to fall into "unhappy circumstances," as bankruptcy was euphemistically called in those times. Jane's spinster sister, Mary, moved from New York to New Bridge, settling into the former academy, where she kept shop. This property, located on the high bluff above the river, opposite Zabriskie's Mills, was purchased by Edmond Seaman.
John Zabriskie, third generation of that name to inhabit the sandstone mansion at New Bridge, was born September 30, 1767, the son of John and Jane (Goelet) Zabriskie When his grandfather, John the first, died in September 1774, he assumed the title of Junior. We can imagine the wide-eyes of this nine-year-old boy, face pressed against the pane, as he counted the ragttag garrison of Fort Lee, General Washington at their head, passing his threshold and vanishing southward in a cold drizzle.Continental troops used his home as a fort to defend their passage. We don't know what he overheard of his father's political whisperings, but on July 14, 1777, he may have watched approaching bateaux, loaded with soldiers under command of Major Samuel Hayes, as they landed alongside the gristmill. They arrested his father as a "disaffected person" and imprisoned him at Morristown. Once on parole, John, Senior, abandoned the family homestead and trade, fleeing to New York City where his family found refuge with the Seamans. Whatever bitterness the Zabriskies felt at the British evacuation of Manhattan could only have been compounded by confiscation of their properties by the victorious revolutionary officers of the State of New Jersey.
The Zabriskies did not join the fleeing tide of Loyalists to Canada, but returned to New Bridge, leasing their home from its new owner, Baron von Steuben, and operating the mill landing in partnership with the Baron's aide-de-camp, Captain Benjamin Walker. John Zabriskie, Jr., was twenty–one years of age when, on December 12, 1788, he paid 1,200 Pounds to Baron von Steuben for purchase of the Zabriskies' New Bridge estate. On October 13, 1792, John married the girl–next–door, Caty Hoogland. Her father, Cornelius, had acquired the old stone tavern on the east side of New Bridge from Andrew Van Buskirk in 1771. John Zabriskie, Junior, died June 6, 1793, aged 25 years, and was buried in the Old French Burying Ground (New Milford). Tradition says that he died in a mill accident, but no proof has yet been found. His widow married Abraham Collins of New Bridge on February 1, 1795. She released her dower right in the Zabriskie mansion and mills to John, Benjamin and Edmond Seaman on April 21, 1795. Only four months later, Edmond Seaman of New York and New Barbadoes, merchant, sold the premises to John and Dirck Banta.
John Zabriskie's administrators, in preparing an inventory of his stock in trade, have bequeathed to posterity a valuable insight into the material culture of the late eighteenth century, carefully listing everything from mouse traps to fiddle strings. Of particular interest to our docent group, now studying the clothing of that era, is the variety of cloth mentioned. One looming perplexity, however, remains the location of this stock of merchandise. A few items of household furniture appear near the beginning of the inventory - was the store room located in the Steuben House? If so, where are the beds, andirons, personal clothing, et cetera, that would confirm occupancy? Were these few items of furniture used to warehouse bolts of cloth and other commodities? Perhaps cabinet-work (possibly imported from New York or England) was included in the Zabriskie's range of merchandise? Maybe the entire house was a store - but then where did the Zabriskies reside? If the store was kept in a separate building (or an appendage to the main house), then why didn't the appraisers include more of John Zabriskie's personal possessions in the inventory? They certainly visited his carriage house and barn, mentioning the family cow. Did his moveable estate perish with him - in a fire???
An Inventory of all and Singular the goods and Chattels, rights and Credits which were of John Zabriskie, Junior, deceased, at the time of his death, who died intestate, made the seventeenth day of July 1793 in the presence of Albert Zabriskie, Administrator, made by John Earle and Christian Zabriskie, appraisers.
4. Tide Mill
At Historic New Bridge Landing, traces of a tidal milldam, millstones, and mill foundation tell us how our predecessors in time and place once raised cereal grains on these fertile bottom lands, capturing the river tides to process feed, meal and flour.
Shortly after marrying Jannetje Lozier in 1713, Johannes Ackerman settled upon lands fronting the Hackensack River, which his father, David Ackerman, purchased from Matheus Corneliuson in 1695. He not only erected a dwelling house near Kinderkamack Road (at the present intersection of Main Street and Elizabeth Court in River Edge), but he also built a gristmill near the outlet of Coles Brook, just south of the Zabriskie-Steuben House. High tides on the Hackensack River were trapped in the outlet of Coles Brook behind a sluice dam, creating a millpond twice daily. The water from this impoundment was released when ebb tide in the river allowed a sufficient fall of water to drive the millwheels.
Jan and Annetje Zabriskie bought the mill from Johannes' son, Nicolas Ackerman, in 1745, immediately after the opening of the "New Bridge" made this strategic location a valuable crossroads for trade. Jan Zabriskie built the oldest part of the Steuben House in 1752. A sandstone lozenge or date stone, set in the south gable end, depicts the waterwheel of the mill. In October 1759, miller Jan Zabriskie advertised the sale of a fully rigged, seven-cord boat which, when fully loaded, had a draft below water of four feet, eight inches. This boat plied weekly between Zabriskie's mill and the Great Dock in New York.
The map below is the 1839 coastal survey with labels added.
The tidemill provided a vital service to farmers who wished to sell their grain at the best possible price in city markets or to the West Indies. Grinding kernels into flour or animal feed tripled the value of their principal export. Two heavy stone wheels, called millstones, did the work of grinding. The bottom or nether stone was fixed in the floor of the mill while the top or runner stone turned above it. The grain trickled from a large wooden holder or hopper through an eye in the center of the runner stone. The spinning upper stone pushed the kernels outward between the two rough stone faces, reducing them to a fine meal. The finished flour dropped off the edges of the stones and was trapped in a circular wooden tub or husk surrounding the millstones. It fell down a wooden chute into a barrel or bag. A waterwheel turned the heavy runner-stone through a simple system of wooden axles and gears.
The mill was not listed in the Schedule of the Products of Industry, 1850 Federal Census having ceased operations. It burned down in 1852.
Below is a 1910 photo of the tidemill site.
The steep escarpment of the Palisades secludes Bergen County from the Hudson River and Manhattan Island. Only Sparkill Gap at Piermont breaches this otherwise uninterrupted impediment to travel and commerce. Rising in Rockland County, New York, the Hackensack River gathers its headwaters at the foot of South Mountain before turning south, draining the eastern side of the Great Sandstone Plain.
New Bridge marks the narrows of the stream, nineteen miles inland from its outlet in Newark Bay. The name memorializes construction of a wooden drawbridge in 1745, which remained the nearest road crossing to Newark Bay for the next half a century. From opposite banks, Coles Brook and French Creek enter the Hackensack River at New Bridge.
Rain or snowmelt mired overland transportation and farmers either carried their summer harvest in oxcarts and heavy wagons during August or waited until late November when frozen mud roads became passable, especially under a coating of snow or ice, allowing sleds to haul heavy goods. Consequently, the river provided the best outlet to city market, generally open to traffic between the third week of March and the end of December. In October 1751, Reverend Henry Muhlenburg observed local farmers and merchants bringing “the products they raise to the market in New York in little ships or vessels, and take back whatever is necessary for subsistence.” Flowing through the cultivated heartland of the Jersey Dutch, the river was “navigable for Vessels of about 50 Tons” to the head of tides at Van Buskirk Island in Oradell, but canoes also freighted wood and produce. Tides dictated their timetable.
Two-masted sloop yachts and large, three-masted schooners plied the river during the last half of the nineteenth century, exporting bricks and vegetables and importing lumber, coal and stable manure. At low tide, the last remnants of Jacob Van Buskirk’s schooner are visible, just north of the 1889 swing bridge. It burned in January 1868, while anchored at the bridge, its last cargo consisting of 1400 empty bags and 30 cords of wood. From 1876 to 1890, Captain D. Anderson Zobriskie, of New Bridge, commanded the steam tugboat Wesley Stoney, pulling brick scows and large vessels. In 1889, commerce on the Hackensack River amounted to 150,000 tons, valued at $1 million.
The river harbored a rich diversity of fish, game and wild plant foods. In February, fishermen speared eels through the ice. Silvery smelt appeared in March. From the first week of April through the middle of May, fishermen hauled shad from the river in seines, working under moonlight when the tide was right. Sturgeon measuring 6 to 8 feet in length frequently became entangled in their nets. The catch also included herring, bass and a great variety of other fish. At the beginning of May, large snapping turtles, some weighing 30 pounds, were caught in the meadows. Yellow perch arrived between the end of June and the middle of August. Bass were taken toward the end of July, some weighing three and a half pounds. Large crabs were also found at this season. In late August, large flocks of reedbirds filled the meadows. When railbirds became plentiful about New Bridge in the first week of September, hunters poled shallow rail boats, or gunning skiffs, over the marshes at high tide. The southward flight of wild ducks in November signaled winter’s approach.
German carp appeared in 1876, replacing native species. Perch and striped bass were scarce by 1890. The last sturgeon of record was caught in the Hackensack River at New Bridge in 1904.
River meadows annually supplied salt and fresh-meadow hay. Wetland reeds were used to weave baskets, mats and nets, which eased the task of gathering and storing wild foodstuffs. Cattails were harvested in late summer (before they became brittle) and dried for use as rush in matting chair-seats or in stuffing mattresses.
Because the red-burning clay of the Hackensack Valley is easily molded and burns hard at a relatively low temperature, it was used extensively in the manufacture of pottery and bricks. Andrew Zobriskie operated the first commercial brickyard in the Hackensack Valley at New Bridge between 1813 and 1829, using straw as a binder.
As an inland port and trading center, New Bridge grew to include the stone mansion of a prominent river merchant and miller, with its attendant outbuildings, and a gristmill and wharf. On the east side of the river, there was a commercial bakery, a stage-wagon and drovers’ inn, and a classical academy. Stores, workshops and several farmhouses lined the riverside roads leading to the bridge.
Birds and Critters found at New Bridge since 1981:
Double Crested Cormorant (now common, not so often in early 80s), Canada Goose, Buffle-head Duck, Red-tailed Hawk, Broad-winged Hawk, Bald Eagle, Ring-necked Pheasant (Male & Female), American Egret, Great Blue Heron, Black-crowned Night Heron, Yellow-crowned Night Heron, Killdeer, Lesser Yellowlegs (in spring), Mourning Dove, Red-bellied Woodpecker, Hairy Woodpecker, Red-headed Woodpecker, Downy Woodpecker, Yellow-shafted Flicker, Tufted Titmouse, White-breasted Nuthatch, Black-capped Chickadee, Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, Brown Creeper, Robin, Brown Thrasher, Wood Thrush, Catbird, Mockingbird, Cedar Waxwing, Barn Swallow, Yellow-throat Warbler, Yellow Warbler, Yellow-throated Vireo, Red-wing Blackbird, Scarlet Tanager, Blue Jay, Kingfisher, Baltimore Oriole, Cardinal, American Goldfinch, Rodpoll, Purple Finches, Towhee, Slated-colored Junco, Song Sparrow and Box Turtle. 11 American Egrets across from the Steuben House roosting in the willow trees, one evening summer of 1988. Purple finches would make their nests behind the second story shutters at the Steuben House. Flocks of gold finches zipping around the backyard. Mallard Duck sitting on nest along side of Steuben House until ferral cat broke her neck. Snapping turtles laying eggs behind the Steuben House. Chasing away trappers hunting muskrats in the 80s just north of the Steuben House. Fiddler Crabs in the mud by the western abutment of the swing bridge. The Blue Claw crabs, Striped Bass, American Eel, Herring, Alewife, Shad, Carp, White Perch, Mummichogs, Catfish, Yellow (tiger) Perch. Terrapins sunning on the landing, a dead porpoise found in French Creek in the winter of 2006. "Elvis" a harbor seal visited New Bridge in 1985. Coyote tracks in the snow behind the out kitchen, the many skunks, possum, gray squirrels, rabbits, ground hogs, field mice, deer, and fox that roam the grounds. The Orb Weaving Spiders make great webs on the swing bridge to gather the insects that the bats and swallows do not get. Six immature Bald Eagles in the trees on the Landing one winter day. Osprey in Brett Park, Peregrine Falcon, Merganser's (common & Hooded) in the winter. Least Sand Pipers by the flag pole. Two Pileated Woodpeckers on Old New Bridge Rd, doing a funky dance together.
5. Demarest House Museum
The Demarest House Museum (1794). Because of its proximity to the French Burying Ground and to the site of an old gristmill on the river, some twentieth-century observers mistook this simple two-room stone dwelling for the original habitation of David Demarest, Senior, erected in 1678. The Huguenot pioneer, however, actually resided at Old Bridge, near to the original family gristmill.
We know little about the earliest dwellings built by pioneer settlers - none having survived - except to say that they were probably built of heavy frame construction. While field stones were probably used in foundations, such a labor-intensive material as dressed stone was seldom used in frontier dwellings of the seventeenth century and the Demarests' saw mill, built before 1683, certainly suggests that timber would have been the most convenient and familiar material for construction purposes.
When it was realized that the tract whereon the old cemetery and adjacent stone dwelling were situated originally belonged to David's son Samuel, construction of the little stone house was mistakenly attributed to him. Consequently, its history was confused with that of another vanished old dwelling - the homestead of Simon Samuelse Demarest - which formerly stood on the west side of River Road (near about the present site of the New Milford Borough Hall), but which was razed about 1922. In any event, the Paulison Homestead, relocated to River Edge in 1956 and known as "the Demarest House," is the best surviving example of a Bergen Dutch sandstone cottage with two rooms and two entry doors with a stoop shaded by the spring-eaves extension of the roof; this type of "starter home" was most popular between 1790 and 1820.
For many years, the old stone house near the French Burying Ground was occupied on weekends in summer by a group of city artists known as the Pochard Club (above photo). The Demarest Family Association was organized in January 1937 to save the old house. Hiram B. Demarest Blauvelt, president of the Comfort Coal & Lumber Company, purchased the house from Henry B. Pratt and Henry Rieman, executors of Emma H. Rieman's estate, in November 1939. The dwelling was painstakingly disassembled and reconstructed on Main Street, River Edge, directly behind the Steuben House, in 1955/56. It displays a collection of Bergen Dutch furnishings, many associated with the Demarest family. The photo below shows the house during reconstruction at New Bridge.
The Demarest House Museum, restored in 2009.
6. Campbell-Christie Hs
The Campbell-Christie House (1774) is a sandstone center-hall 4-room house with a full cellar and full garret/attic capped with a gambrel roof. Originally located at the crossroads of Henley and River Roads, leading to Schraalenburgh Church and New Bridge.
The Campbell-Christie House was built by Jacob Campbell, a mason, about the time of his marriage to Altche Westervelt in April 1774. In 1776, Jacob and 3 brothers were listed as privates in Bergen Militia. Damages suffered by William Campbell (Jacob's father and co-owner) from 1776 to September 1778 were appraised at the substantial sum of £400..9s.1d. Jacob Campbell is first listed in tax records as a tavern owner in 1780. At the time of his father's death in 1794, Jacob sold the tavern-house and south-side lot to Abraham Brower.
John Brower, Jr. died a year later and the property was sold to John Christie and Helena Banta, both of Schraalenburgh March 11, 1795.
Tavern Rates for Bergen County, 1763, BCHS Collections.
John Christie operated both the tavern and blacksmith shop at this busy crossroads, for a road survey, dated November 14, 1796, mentions "the Tavern of John Christie" at this location.
J. Walter Christie, born in the house on May 6, 1865, achieved fame as an automobile racer, mechanical genius and inventor.
Christie invented automotive front-wheel drive, many units of which were produced in 1913 and 1914 for fire trucks. He is best known as the "father of the modern tank," having developed the design in 1930 for high-speed tanks that moved optionally on wheels or track. J. Walter Christie died at Falls Church, Virginia, on January 11, 1944.
The house was moved from New Milford to River Edge in 1977 onto Bergen County Historical Society land on a flatbed truck. The house is opened for special events by BCHS.
The Campbell-Christie House and Outkitchen, 2020.
7. Westervelt-Thomas Barn
The Westervelt-Thomas Barn was built 1889 by Peter J. Westervelt on his farm on Ridgewood Road, Washington Township. Henry Thomas purchased the farm in 1906. It was used for horses and carriages.
Donated to BCHS and relocated onto BCHS land behind the Demarest House Museum in 1958.
Behind the Campbell-Christie House BCHS has recreated an authentic out kitchen with bake oven and open hearth cooking. Using antique materials it replicates the John R. Demarest Out Kitchen in Demarest. Includes a beehive oven and smoke room.
9. Brett Park
Brett Park is part of the New Bridge American Revolutionary War battleground. Later site of Rekow's Farm and Bensen's campgrounds.
The park was named after former Teaneck Mayor Clarence Brett in 1971 and includes a variety of trees. The oldest is a Sycamore which is near the location of the house of loyalist Abraham Van Buskirk. The viewshed is protected with the inclusion of Brett Park in Historic New Bridge Landing.
The Friends of the Hackensack River Greenway Through Teaneck maintain a marked pathway thru Brett Park and south.
10. The Meadow
The BCHS purchased the land between the Steuben House and north of Main St. in 1944 to buffer and protect the Steuben House from the c.1930s auto parts junkyard.
The end of the junkyard began in January 2000 when HNBL Park Commission secured a $1.1 million Federal grant to buy & clean the junkyard thru Sen. Torrecelli. The junkyard is now completely remediated.
Maypole dancers in the Meadow at Pinkster, a Dutch spring celebration.
New BCHS Museum
BCHS has long planned a museum building for exhibits, conservation and storage. We now have plans to build a Museum Building in the style of a Dutch - in keeping with the landscape and Jersey Dutch sandstone buildings located at Historic New Bridge Landing, a Revolutionary War Battleground.
As a private landowner, we have the perfect location at HNBL in River Edge!
As New Jersey's wealthiest and most populous county...isn't it time for Bergen to have a cultural history museum?
Checks may be made to:
Bergen County Historical Society
PO Box 55, River Edge, NJ 07761
Your donation is appreciated. It is fully tax deductible to the extent allowed by the law. BCHS is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization.
100% of your donation goes to the project.
Or visit the Donation page on BergenCountyHistory.org
The Bergen County Historical Society was founded in 1902 and is a 501 c3 non-profit all-volunteer organization and is the largest landowner at Historic New Bridge Landing. 100% of your donation goes to our mission!
The Bergen County Historical Society (BCHS) promotes the preservation, study and appreciation of civil, political, military and the general history of the USA, particularly of Bergen County. Beginning in 1939, our museum collections were displayed at the Steuben House, a State Historic Site. The site has long benefited from a public-private partnership.
The Campbell-Christie House, the Demarest House Museum, and Barn are located on BCHS land. BCHS operates the historic house museum and provides programming at HNBL. Other activities include placement of informative roadside Historic Blue markers, educational events, museum exhibits, monthly lectures, and an extensive library collection. More historical research is available on our website.
We are not a government agency, we rely on private donations and membership.
The museum and library collections comprise the greatest survival of significant Bergen Dutch artifacts and documents in the public domain.
BCHS has over 4,000 objects, many from a time when possessions were handmade or locally made. Furniture, quilts, coverlets, paintings, pottery, tools and prehistoric objects are all represented. More recent donations include the pick that broke ground for the George Washington Bridge.
The library-collections encompass family genealogy, diaries, and manuscripts; church, cemetery, and bible records; books, clippings, and on local and county history, the Revolutionary War, and historic architecture; postcards, photos, videos, atlases, and maps. The photograph collection is founded upon late nineteenth century glass plate negatives, which record the earliest views and studies of Bergen Dutch architecture, and has grown to encompass an important visual record of the county's growth as a metropolitan suburb.
I Spy Game
Take the Historic New Bridge Landing Challenge!
HNBL, 1201 Main St, River Edge, NJ 07661 (Use for directions)
US Mail: BCHS, PO Box 55, River Edge, NJ 07661-0055
(201) 343-9492, answering machine
EVENT ADMISSION FEE:
$12 adult, $7 children, BCHS members are free, unless the event is otherwise noted. 100% goes to our mission.
The grounds are now open to the public, DAWN-TO-DUSK, please refer to the NJ Governor Executive orders for COVID-19 advisory on park use.
The historic buildings are currently closed, visit our event page as we begin to be able to schedule events Summer 2020.
The houses are connected by a ADA compliant gravel walking path.
The museum site of Historic New Bridge Landing is located on the west bank of the Hackensack River on Main Street, River Edge, NJ. Nearby streets are marked with brown "Historic New Bridge Landing" signs. The historic buildings are open for special events throughout the year. See our events page to see schedule.
We have one existing kiosk with 5 new ones coming soon in later 2020. We suggest visitors wear walking shoes when going between the houses. Free parking for the museum site is available in the HNBL parking lot at the corner of Hackensack Ave and Main Street, River Edge, NJ.
GARBAGE: Carry In, Carry Out.
Dogs are allowed on the grounds but must be kept on a leash and they are not allowed in the historic houses.
No metal detecting or digging are allowed by law and may be subject to fines.
Zabriskie Store Inventory, 1793
From Jan Zabriskie's estate at the time of his death
1/2 Sloop 120.00..00
1 Riding Chair with a fixed top 30.00..00
1 Bay Horse with a white face 16.00..00
1 Ditto Ditto 16.00..00
1 Sorrel Colt 20.00..00
1 Cow 5.00..00
1 Wild Cherry Clothes Press 8.08..08
1 Desk 2.10..08
1 Cass [kas] 0.16..08
1 Iron bound Hogshead 0.10..08
2 Empty Barrels 0.06..00
1 Barrel of Herring 1.10..00
1 Saddle and Bridle 2.18..00
A quantity of logwood 0.10..00
A hogshead containing some Molasses 10.10..08
A barrel containing some West Indian Rum 3.05..08
A Keg with peach Brandy 3.10..00
A cask with some Cherry [brandy] 1.04..08
1 Hogshead containing York rum 13.15..08
A Bushel of Salt 1.12..08
A Quantity of Sand 0.08..00
3 Iron bound Hogsheads 1.04..00
6 Barrels 0.18..00
A Lot of Brooms 1.12..00
A Quantity of Indian Corn 12.10.00
18 half Gallon Stone[ware] pots and Jugs 0.12..00