The history of this place begins with Joseph Slater, who around 1861 bought Ford’s Mill, located on Paterson-Hamburg Turnpike near the intersection of Newark-Pompton Turnpike. That mill became Slater’s Mill, which processed felt for hats. A relative (brother?) named Otis built a house across the intersection on the southeast corner.
I don’t know the full history of this busy corner, but at some point the house was transformed into a tavern, and later added rooms to let, making it Riverdale’s first (and likely only) hotel. This very busy place was apparently known as (not necessarily in this order):
Old Maple Inn (unconfirmed)
Scherer’s Inn (Joseph Scherer, proprietor) – 1920s
Riverdale Hotel and Restaurant – 1930s
Old Heidelberg Tavern (Herman & Anna Zerr, proprietors) – 1930s
German Inn (unconfirmed)
Hunter’s Inn (Bert Lamb, proprietor) – early 1940s
(Lamb sold it in 1946 but it was still in operation in 1948)
I don’t know the full history of this busy corner, but at some point in the 1920s the house was purchased by a German immigrant named Joseph Scherer. He might have turned the place into a restaurant/guest house (or perhaps it already was) and named it” Scherer’s Inn”. Scherer and his family — a wife, four (or five) children, and some others — lived there as well as ran it.
At some point in the 1930s, it became the Old Heidelberg Tavern and was operated by Herman Zerr and his wife, and likely his two daughters as well. Apparently they kept it up until Herman’s death in 1937.
There was probably another owner and another name, maybe more than one, before Bert Lamb bought it. Lamb, a New York entrepreneur, ran the place as a diner/tavern in the early 1940s which he called the Hunter’s Inn. Evidently he upgraded it to “Bert N. Lamb’s Riverdale Lodge” in 1942, and held a glorious grand opening on May 20, 1942 from 2 p.m. “until closing”. Guests enjoyed a buffet lunch and barbecue to the sounds of Harold G. Hoffman’s band.
A 1946 newspaper article notes that Lamb sold it to Joseph Sudyka of Bloomfield for $40,000. An article from 1948 revealed that it was still a going concern.
It’s worth noting the telephone number, from Scherer (at least) through Lamb, never changed: POmpton Lakes 540.
A classified ad offered the place for sale in 1963, noting the property contained “152 foot road frontage on Paterson-Hamburg Turnpike” and was “357 feet deep”.
At some point — perhaps the 1960s — the decision was made to widen that portion of Hamburg Turnpike. That spelled the end for the venerable old house. Today, the site is occupied by a gas station.
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.
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.)
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.