BERGEN COUNTY HISTORIC SITES SURVEY: GLEN ROCK (1983)

Architectural History of the Borough of Glen Rock

 

 

GEOGRAPHY

 

The Borough of Glen Rock occupies 2.8 square miles in the Paramus Plain in Northwest Bergen County, in an area shaped approximately like a truncated triangle.  Its southern base line is for the most part straight, cutting through blocks and streets to separate Glen Rock from the Borough of Fair Lawn.  Lincoln Avenue runs between Glen Rock and the Borough of Hawthorne in Passaic County.  Northwest, north, and east Glen Rock is bordered by the Village of Ridgewood and the angular lines which define Glen Rock's northeastern boundaries are closely interlocked with Ridgewood.  Only along the eastern side of Glen Rock is there a natural division, made by the serpentine course of the Hohokus Brook.

 

Glen Rock's terrain is low and rolling, with elevations ranging fom 60' to 160'.  The land west of Hohokus Brook (east of Prospect Street and south of Grove Street) is part of a flood plain, and along Grove is the major still functioning spring. In addition to Hohokus Brook, which flows into the Saddle River, there is a smaller Diamond Brook (formerly called Bass Brook), which flows south through the western sector of Glen Rock to join the Passaic River.  Various ridges run roughly north-south through the borough.  One ridge, for example, about 100' high, extends from the point where Prospect Street meets Glendale Road down to the crossing of Harristown and Belmont Roads.  Other ridges of the same height may be traced along the line of the Erie Railroad and between Diamond Brook and Lincoln Avenue.  A high point of about 150' lies near the intersection of Maple and Park Avenues.  

 

Two lines of the Erie Railroad were laid to cross the borough from south to north: one almost bisects the municipality while the other enters Glen Rock at it southwest angle.  These meet to form a joint line before crossing the border into Ridgewood.  Both lines have functioning stations where they cross the main east-west throughfare of Rock Road.

 

Rock Road is one of the oldest routes, having been an Indian trail connecting Hackensack and Arcola with Pompton and Ramapo, and the great granite rock which marked that trail gave its name to both road and borough.  Rock Road is the main east-west route still, and Maple Avenue (formerly the Paterson Road) is the main northbound artery.  In addition to these, other early roads, still major ones, are Lincoln Avenue, Harristown Road, Prospect Street, and Ackerman Avenue.  The only State Highway crossing Glen Rock is Route 208, in the borough's southwest angle.

 

There is only a small industrial district in Glen Rock, limited to light manufacturing and confined to about 2% of the borough's area; it is bounded by State Route 208, Harristown Road, and the Erie Railroad tracks.  A small retail business district lies along Rock Road west of the tracks.  Some 165 acres are open land: parkland, recreation areas, athletic fields and wildlife area.  But Glen Rock is almost wholly a residential community, in which 99% of the homes are single famly, owner-occupied houses; there are no apartments or large multi-family dwellings, and only a few two-family houses.  A glance at the map of the borough will indicate how densely the residential pattern has filled in the area between the main older roads, except for an S-curved strip running from south to northeaset, which marks the right-of-way of a no longer functioning trolley line.

 

 

POLITICAL GENEALOGY

 

Most of the land now included in the Borough of Glen Rock was in 1709 part of the great Ramapo Tract, except for a strip earlier patented by Richard Townley and Company, which ran from Hohokus Brook westward to the Great Rock, and was later sold to families of Dutch heritage like the Hoppers (all four stone houses included in this survey are connected with the Hopper family).  From 1710 to 1716 the Glen Rock area was part of New Barbadoes Township of Bergen County.  But from 1716 to 1777 it was under the jurisdiction of Saddle River Township, in which the southern portion of present-day Glen Rock remained until 1894.  The northern portion became part of the new Franklin Township formed in 1777, and then when Ridgewood Township was formed from Franklin in 1876, this northern area of Glen Rock was included in it.  In 1894, Ridgewood and Saddle River Townships ceded these northern and southern sections to the Borough of Glen Rock, which was incorporated on September 14 of that year.  The irregular boundaries of the northeastern sector of Glen Rock resulted from the fact that homeowners there were allowed to choose whether they wished to reside in Glen Rock or in the Village of Ridgewood, incorporated in the same year.  The population of the new Borough of Glen Rock was small; in its first census of 1900 it totaled 613.

 

EARLY SETTLEMENT PERIOD, TO THE FOUNDING OF THE BOROUGH IN 1894

 

The earliest historical relic in Glen Rock is the Rock itself.  It has played a role from the days of the Lenni Lenape to the present, as marker for Indian trails and the 1709 Ramapo Tract, and as World War I memorial.  Continuance of its role is predicated in the burial next to it of a time capsule to be unearthed in 2044, the 150th anniversary of the Borough.

 

Four of the small sturdy farmhouses built by the first settlers in the Glen Rock area are extant along Prospect Street and Ackerman Avenue.  All are included in the Bergen County Stone House Survey and listed on the State and National Registers of Historic Places.  The pages of the Stone House Survey which analyze them have been duplicated for this present report.  Only one, the Hendrick Hopper House is noted on the Erskine-Watkins map of 1778-80, but others are of equally early date (not all roads were surveyed in 1778-80).  All four are shown on the Hopkins-Corey wall map printed in 1861, on the Hughes wall map, and on the maps in Wlaker's 1876 atlas of Bergen County.

 

These four houses constructed of local sandstone illustrate the variations found in this early vernacular style, although they share its basic features.  All are oriented toward the southeast, have stone walls, fireplaces, and chimneys, and attics under gable or gambrel roofs.  Planning is rectangular, but interiors vary, and the gambrel roofs on two homes have overhangs.  Although the facades of all four houses have notably well-cut sandstone blocks, in two houses the common practice of using rubble for rear walls was followed.  The typical sash windows with 6/6 lights appear in these homes, and one uses trapezoidal lintels.  Through their long history of use all these stone dwellings have been altered or expanded.  But all remain significant as tangible evidence of early settlement in Glen Rock.

 

Maps of Bergen County pbulished in the 19th century are generally reliable guides to the development of communities. The Hopkins-Corey wall map of 1861 showed the roads then in existence through the present Glen Rock area, and the one railroad line laid in 1842 through this still sparsely settled region.  One of the extant houses shown was that of Thomas G. Snyder on Harristown Road.  This 2-story house was built of brick, then uncommon in the area, with stone window sills and with a slate-covered gable roof with returned eaves.  Large identifying initials and numerals of wrought iron "TGS 1858", were bolted through the side walls then or later.  The Snyder family was a prominent one in Glen Rock, with considerable farmland and with a mill on Diamond Brook west of the crossing of the present Maple Avenue and Harristown Road.  (There was another mill on the upper section of Diamond Brook, just north of Rock Road, owned by the Marinus family and with a cluster of Marinus houses nearby; unfortunately nothing is extant). More typical homes were the wood framed cottages like that of George Berdan on Rock Road, reputedly built in 1839.. This house has been considerably altered, but it retains the broad low massing, the gable roof, and the upper "eyebrow" windows favored in vernacular architecture of the pre-Civil War period.  Berdans were also owners of considerable land, and of houses along Lincoln Avenue south of Rock Road.

 

The Hughes wall map of 1867 showed homes of a few more settlers, and two buildings of community importance. One was the small red brick schoolhouse, built about 1866 on the half-acre of land bought from Henry P. Hopper for $100. Since 1900 the one-room schoolhouse has been included within a private dwelling, but its original form is visible and its original function designated by a historic marker (which erroneously dates it 20 years too early).  The other public building shown on the 1867 map was the "Halfway House", no longer extant, at the intersection of Rock Road and Paterson Road (now Maple Avenue).  Paterson Road's importance stemmed from the fact that it was part of the major throughfare from Paterson to Suffern, New York, along which the stagecoaches travelled.  It was still in 1894 the only macadamized road in Glen Rock.

 

The post-Civil War decade brought considerable growth, as the maps in Walker's Atlas of 1876 attest.  The northern area of present-day Glen Rock lay then in Ridgewood Township and the southern area in Saddle River Township.  On both maps the name "Glen Rock" is prominent.  The brick schoolhouse was now District #44 School of Ridgewood Township.  There was still only one railroad line, and no station in Glen Rock.

 

Among the homes shown, several are extant, and the handsomest of these is the F. Snyder house on Harristown Road. The adjacent barns and the large fields which still suuround it contribute to the image it evokes of a mid-19th century farm economy.  The house, of vernacular frame construction, includes tasteful details drawn from the contemporary Italianate style.  Under the extended eaves are paired brackets, and the arched gable windows were placed in the side gable ends.  The symmetry of the facade is accented by the upper central gable and by a large double entrance door surmounted by an elliptically arched transom.  Across the front is an open porch, the roof of which is suported by square posts with curilinear brackets.  The original clapboard surface was covered with shingles in the early 20th century, but these are compatible with the whole.  A few blocks east on Harristown Road was the home of Anthony Thurston.  Much simpler, and now more altered, this house is of historic interest because of its association with the Thurston family, pioneer florists of Bergen County, catering to a market in New York City as well as locally.  Among other houses shown on the 1876 map are the typical modest cottages of the period, and the 2 1/2 story, 3 or 4 bay cross-gabled dwellings.

 

In 1894 a dispute arose between Glen Rock and Ridgewood over Ridgewood's plan to build a new large school for the township, to close the small rural schools and increase taxes.  A special election was held in the greenhouse of Andrew V. D. Snyder on the northeast corner of Park and Maple Avenues to determine whether Glen Rock should form a separate borough.  When an affirmative vote was cast, 80 to 2, Glen Rock filed its application for borough status, and the Borough was officially incorporated on September 14, 1894.  Property owners in the north section of Glen Rock were allowed to choose which new municipality they wished to live in, and Glen Rock's boundaries were drawn so as to include Snyder's greenhouse, John Storm's marble shop and Garret T. Hopper's acres which fronted on Prospect Street.  There were then about 600 residents in Glen Rock, and the one-room brick school had one teacher and 75 pupils.  Farms, truck gardens, greenhouses, and dairies were chief components of this rural economy, which included about 100 farms averaging 25 - 50 acres and a few of 100 acres.  A map of Glen Rock in 1894, drawn for the New Jersey Tercentenary in 1964, shows its sparse settlement.  But already there had been signs of residential and community development, and Robinson's Map of Bergen County published in 1902 shows the changes brought about since 1876.

 

In the early 1880s a second railroad line, the Bergen County "Short Cut" branch of the Erie, had been laid, and there were now two stations in the southern part of Glen Rock: a Glen Rock Station on the new line and Ferndale Station on the old one.  A new Glen Rock School was built in 1899 on Paterson Road just north of Rock Road, and there were now 3 hotels.

 

Only one of these is extant (but extrememly changed): the Wagner Hotel, which in 1902 was called the Ferndale.  The Glen Rock Hotel stood near the intersection of Ackerman Avenue and Paterson Road, which north of this point was now called Maple Avenue.  For a long time, in fact, it has been called "South Maple Avenue", attesting to its funcion as extension of the Maple Avenue which led into the center of the developing community of Ridgewood.  The Halfway House, the new school, and a new church on the southeast corner of Rock Road and Hamilton Avenue by 1902 formed a central nucleus in Glen Rock, a focal point now accented by the Municipal Building and the Public Library.

 

Foremost among the promoters of the new borough scheme and one of Glen Rock's first councilmen was Garret T. Hopper, who built a new home on the corner of Prospect Street and Park Avenue shortly after the borough was incorporated.  This handsome dwelling illustrates a vernacular type (popular at the turn of the century) which utilized elements drawn from both the Colonial Revival and Queen Anne styles then current.  Hopper also led the way to suburban development in this northeastern section of Glen Rock.

 

Suburban development was also encouraged by the building of a new Glen Rock Station in 1905, near the point where the Erie Main Line tracks crossed Rock Road.  The report included in this survey, a digest of the material on the Glen Rock Station given in the 1979 Survey of Operating Railroad Stations in New Jersey, shows its location and appearance.  It was a typical suburban station, designed by the architect J. Oscar Bunce in "Richardsonian Boulder" style - a simple sturdy variant of the Late Romanesque style.  The stone rubble/cobblestone walls used here, quite different from the stone walls of the early houses, became very popular for domestic building in Glen Rock (and in many municipalities of Bergen County) in the early 20th century.

 

Beginning in the first decade, and continuing well into the century, there came a series of real estate developments which plotted new streets and lots and erected homes on former farmland or wooded areas.  Several of these developments have been outlined on the current Borough map, but there were many others.  Notable among them is the Prospect Park development of the Ridgewood Land and Improvement Company in the northeast corner of Glen Rock, embodying former Hopper land.  In this present survey a historic district has been suggested which includes houses on Prospect Street and on Maple Avenue, and which, because of its close relationship to the adjacent section of Ridgewood, can be viably designated as belonging to the Prospect Street District of Ridgewood.  Seven homes included on Maple Avenue illustrate the result of development between the 1860s and 1915, and 7 houses on Prospect Street (which flank Garret T. Hopper's home of the 1890s) illustrate a rapid development between 1908 and 1911.  All these dwellings are of middle-class or upper-middle-class suburban type.  All are vernacular, but they incoporate features of both Colonial Revival and Arts and Crafts styles which were popular from the turn of the century on.  Particularly interesting in this group is the variety achieved by builders who used the same basic elements in a harmonious street pattern.  Among developments, this district is notable for the quality of its building.  Much of the same handsome housing may be noted on Midwood Road in the center of Prospect Park, with the same combination of Colonial Revival formality and Arts and Crafts rusticity (chiefly evident in the use of cobblestones) in large houses on wooded lots.  Distinctive among all these homes is that of William L. Platt at 334 Maple Avenue, which was featured in the January 2, 1919 "Illsutrated Supplement" of the Ridgewood Herald, and which remains unchanged.  It was built of brick and stucco, with elaborate details like the paired Ionic columns of the wraparound porch, the roof covered with diamond-patterned slate and embellished with spiral metal finials and the varied fenestration, which includes a large oval window on the south side of the double entrance door.

 

The population of Glen Rock had increased considerably between 1900 and 1910, raising from 613 to 1,055.  Between 1910 and 1920 it more than doubled, to 2,181.  The map of Glen Rock published in Bromley's Atlas of Bergen County in 1913 showed the beginning of the suburban residential development, which was most active in the northeastern section of the borough.  The first sidewalk had been laid in 1907, along Maple Avenue from the Ridgewood border to the Erie underpass south of Rock Road.  In addition to train service, there was now a trolley line, laid through the borough by the New Jersey Rapid Transit Company.

 

Development continued apace in the 1920s, especially under the active Smith-Singer Realty Company.  The weekly newspaper, The Glen Rock Merchant, in the issue of December 17, 1926, commented on "the Smith-Singer development of artistically varied architecture", adding that there was now "a demand for better roads", and that 'the sidewalking of Maple Avenue southward to the borough limits" was "a master achievement".  In fact, this post-war development was so rapid that between 1920 and 1930 the population again doubled, from 2,181 to 4,369.  In 1927 the Borough adopted a Master Plan, gaining the distinction of being the first community in the United States to do so.

 

The buildings erected in Glen Rock in the 1920s were indeed "artistically varied", as three examples included in the present inventory indicate.  Both architect-designed and vernacular architecture exhibited from this period on an eclectic tendency, borrowing from both American and European styles of the past.  The Mission style of the Arts and Crafts movement, begun in California in the 1890s, now became popular for houses in Glen Rock.  Many homes with stuccoed walls and tiled roof were built, especially in the central section of the borough.  Most notable among these is the Nazzaro house on Doremus Avenue, in which multi-colored external decoration of Renaissance Revival derivation enlivens the simplicity of the Mission style.  Della Robbia medallions with fruit, lilies and winged angel heads form romantic accents, and their colors are echoed in the simulated marble panels of the north wall.  A similar romanticism, differently expressed, may be noted in the gas station a few blocks east.  Here details drawn from the medieval English Tudor style were converted to commercial use.  A cylindrical tower with slated conical roof, arched doorways, and casement windows functions not only as an office for the proprietor but also as an eye-catching corporate image in the spirit of the 1920s.  In contrast, the Glen Rock Municipal Building designed by a local architect, Clarence H. Tabor, is formal and monumental, expressing the dignity of its offices in a Colonial Revival Style derived from the English Georgian manner.  The architect made effective use of portico and tower, of belfry and parapet, of Palladian window and decorative urns, within the symmetrical composition which is handsomely framed by its landscaped setting.

 

A similar eclecticism persisted in the 1930s although, as it happens, the two buildings of interest included in this inventory follow Tudor style.  They are, however, different in function and appearances.  The building erected as his home and office by the architect Carl Loven in 1935 continued the Arts and Crafts emphasis on individuality.  In its picturesque treatment of architectural forms, varied landscaping, and sculptural embellishment it expresses a very personal romanticism.  The Junior High School designed by the architectural firm of Tooker and March and built in 1939, naturally larger and of more formal plan, is of Academic Tudor style.  It evokes the somewhat militant style of some medieval educational institutions in its salient buttresses and crenelated parapets, but its surfaces are enlivened with oriel windows and varied symbolic sculptural details.

 

The nature of the Borough of Glen Rock was by now firmly set.  It remained basically residential with single family homes predominating and with no apartment or multi-family complexes.  In 1978 its land use was classified as being chiefly low density residential for a population which had peaked at 13,011 in 1970 (and then declined to 11,497 in 1980).  Undeveloped land - vacant and farm land - in 1978 totaled only 65 acres; so the transition from the early farm economy to suburban residential use was practically complete.  Industrial and commercial use of land remained, as it had been earlier, minimal.  Commendable in Glen Rock is the fine state of preservation of so many of its historic buildings, and it may be hoped that the information presented in this survey will contribute to the borough's knowledge of its development through the past two centuries.

 

Special thanks to:

Kristin McGowan

Evan Tryforos

and the GLEN ROCK JAYCEES

 

Header drawing: copyright 1997 by R. James Aber.  Used with permission.

 

Glen Rock Historical and Preservation Society, Inc.

PO Box 581, Glen Rock, NJ 07452

hello@GlenRockHistory.org

 

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