The ‘Ghost Bridge’ of Oak Ridge Reservoir

The Oak Ridge Reservoir was constructed in the 1890s to help supply Newark’s burgeoning populace with a supply of fresh water.  It was one of several reservoirs in north NJ built at about the same time. (The others are Canistear, Charlotteburg, and Clinton.)

Ghost Bridge of Oak Ridge Reservoir (2014)
Click for full-sized image

The village of Oak Ridge was, unfortunately, right where the reservoir would go — so the village of Oak Ridge, and a smaller one known as Wallace Corner, had to go. Today, their locations are underwater. (If anyone knows of a map of the original village, please let me know.)

But, as the article notes, an old stone bridge that once connected Oak Ridge to the main road — known then as the Paterson-Hamburg Turnpike — was spared, because it was useful in the construction of the dam. And every so often, when a drought hits the area, the waters will recede enough for passers-by to see the bridge.

As the article notes,

“You can locate this bridge (or at least, the spot of water it’s under) by travelling on Route 23 about a mile south of its intersection with Canistear Road. At this spot, southwest and right next to the highway, a narrow tongue of Oak Ridge Reservoir snakes its way up along the base of the mountain. This follows the original route of the Pequannock River.”

 I’ve been there, and seen, the “ghost bridge” a couple of times… but that’s another post.

 

Pequannock’s Memorial Day 1968 flood

Newspaper article, flood of May 1968
Newspaper article – flood of May 1968

 

One of my early and vivid memories: Toward the end of May, 1968, we got rain in north Jersey. Lots of it. Not just in Pequannock, but that’s where I lived then; that was my world.

I’d never experienced the sight of water coming up our street, reaching our driveway, surrounding our house… and, finally, getting into our house.  Filling the basement, and inexorably climbing the basement stairs. Heavy stuff for three young boys as their parents did what they could to save our stuff.

Many say this is still the benchmark by which all subsequent floods are measured.

Click the image for the full-sized version.

The view from Federal Hill, 1890 edition

This view from Federal Hill dates from about 1890, thanks to the intrepid unknown photographer who scaled the hill carrying a lot of heavy camera equipment.

Neither the view, nor the hill, are the same today.

I’ll have posts on Slater’s Mill and Richards later. (The funeral parlor was actually called ‘Richards Bros’ at this time.)

Click the photo for the full-sized version.

Richards corner, Riverdale NJ (about 1890)
Richards corner, Riverdale NJ (about 1890) Click for full-sized version.

Riverdale’s longtime car dealership

The area of the intersection of Paterson-Hamburg Turnpike and  Newark-Pompton Turnpike has hosted a variety of businesses since the 18th Century.  We don’t know about all of them, but here’s the story of a car dealership.

In the 1930s, this building housed Guy Cook Motors, which sold Hudson motor cars.

Hudson Motor Cars (1930s)
Hudson Motor Cars (1930s)
Hudson Motor Cars (1930s)
Hudson Motor Cars (1930s)

 

The company, founded in 1909, was named for Joseph L. Hudson, a Detroit department store entrepreneur and founder of Hudson’s Department Store. The company’s goal was to produce an motor car which would sell for less than $1,000 (roughly $25,000 today).  It was a successful venture that lasted decades, and spawned dealerships all over — including Riverdale.

By the mid-1950s, Hudson was acquired by Nash-Kelvinator, which manufactured Nash and Rambler automobiles, and re-branded as American Motors.  Their Hudson Ramblers continued to sell well.  At some point, likely in the late 1950s or early 1960s, Guy Cook Motors, too, was re-branded as Riverdale Rambler. (This is a terrific photo, taken from the same angle as the 1930s photo.)

Riverdale Rambler
Riverdale Rambler, early 1960s
1965 Ad for Riverdale Rambler, 1965
1965 Ad for Riverdale Rambler

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Rambler American continued to sell well as an affordable ‘compact’ auto.  Wikipedia notes that “The compact Rambler American was most often the lowest priced car built in the U.S. It was popular for its economy in ownership, as was proven by numerous Mobilgas Economy Run championships. After an optional second-generation AMC V8 engine was added in 1966, it also became known as a powerful compact performance model…”

By the early 1970s, the building had been converted into a general-purpose auto-parts store called Auto Trade Town.

The lot at 72 Hamburg Turnpike, today, is home to a strip mall.

72 Hamburg Tpk, Riverdale NJ
The view today at 72 Hamburg Turnpike, Riverdale NJ

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The George Chamberlain house

Geo Chamberlain house
The George Chamberlain house once served as the town’s library. Today it’s the township museum.

This was originally known as the George Chamberlain house. In the 1870s, Amos Chamberlain, a resident of Milton Village, built a house for his son, George and his bride Ruth Elizabeth Speaker. The family enjoyed life in Milton Village until the 1890s. For many years afterwards, the house was home to various families who rented from the Chamberlain family.

In 1960, the Chamberlain house was purchased by the Friends of the Library, which turned the building into the township’s library. For the next 19 years it functioned as the Violet Riker Library.  (For more history of the library, see here.)

The house, while charming, is really rather small, and the library’s needs outgrew the building’s capacity. A new and much larger library was built in 1980, and the township acquired the Chamberlain house for use as the Jefferson Township Museum and home of the historical society.

 

Pequannock in 1887

1887 map of Pequannock Twp
1887 map of Pequannock Twp. Click for full-size version.

Here’s what Pequannock looked like in 1887. It was much larger than today’s 7-square-mile area — it still included Bloomingdale, Butler, Kinnelon, and Lincoln Park. Jefferson had split off in 1804, Rockaway Township in 1844, and Boonton and Montville took their leave in 1867.

Butler kicked off the 20th Century by declaring itself a new borough in 1901, while Kinnelon and Lincoln Park went their separate ways in 1922.

Riverdale Borough followed in 1923.