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  • Sue Tryforos, Borough Historian

The Turn of the Century: 1896-1908

For this year's Quasquicentennial Celebration, The Rock Recorder Blog will post a chronological (as much as possible) history of Glen Rock, NJ. My main source for framing this series is an unpublished manuscript in the Glen Rock Historical & Preservation Society's archive, which was written by George Hubschmitt. This is Part #9 of the series.

In the short years from 1894 to 1900, a change had come into the religious life of the community. Some of the people in the area wanted a church of their own. Prior to this time, the nearest churches had been those in Paterson and Ridgewood. In 1895, the Classis of Paramus of the Dutch Reformed Church was petitioned to establish a church in Glen Rock. The petition was granted on December 2, 1895 and a consistory installed. By March 25, 1896, a plan for a building had been approved and the first church building was erected that year.

Glen Rock's first Church (now the Community Church of Glen Rock)

During Henry Meade's term as Glen Rock Mayor, Council discussions centered on the need for sidewalks and street lighting. His term ended in 1900 and Richard T. Snyder again assumed the duties of the mayoral office in 1901. Mayor Snyder was followed by William H. Berry in 1903. Road conditions remained a topic of official concern and in 1904, under a new street lighting program, three street lights were installed on Maple Avenue. One was at Rock Road, one in front of School No. 1 and one at Rock Avenue (now South Highwood Avenue).

Normally in 1905 there would have been an installation of new members of the Mayor and Council in March. However, that year the date was changed to the first of the year by state law. Mayor Berry held over from March to January 1, 1906 when Adolph T. Hubschmitt became Mayor. Glen Rock and Ridgewood were both experiencing an influx of New York employed commuters and the resultant demand for housing near transportation. For speculation, a builder might risk building one or two houses but, generally, the builder was more apt to have one or two houses under construction under contract with individuals. There was seldom an entire block of a street being built up at one time. This increase in population brought about a need for better and more frequent train service to New York.

In 1905, the present cobblestone station at the Main Line Rock Road crossing was built in order to secure more commuter train service. Nelson S. Cubberley and Joseph H. MacGill were among the large subscribers raising funds to erect this building. Prior to this, there was good commuter service into Paterson and Newark via the Newark Branch. This platform station was located at the base of Ferndale Avenue on the Erie Main Line and was the western terminus of the Newark Branch. There were switches, sidings and a turntable on a level spot west of the Main Line tracks. Trainloads of sand and gravel were excavated in this area for a number of years, and the material was then taken into Jersey City and New York. A signal and switching tower and a five car switch were located on the eastern side of the Main Line. However, the main commuter service to Jersey City and New York was from the stop on the south side of Maple Avenue on the Bergen County Railroad (at grade level); this was a "flag stop", meaning that the train would only stop if a commuter was waiting.

Glen Rock's new Main Line Station, with steam engine, circa 1905

Around this same time, the first bus service between Paterson, Glen Rock and Ridgewood was established. Huge open-sided solid-tired Mack buses were used. These were only useful in clear warm weather. Maple Avenue had been paved prior to 1894, when the Borough was formed. Payments were made to Ridgewood Township and Saddle River Township for a number of years after 1894 for this paving. In 1907 a referendum vote approved a $35,000 bond issue for paving streets in Glen Rock. Unfortunately the funds ran out before the work was completed and the stretch of Ackerman Avenue from Maple Avenue to the present intersection with Clifton Place had to be covered by direct taxation. An attempt was made to sell the bonds through brokers in New York City, however this was not successful. The Mayor and Council were able to sell all of the bonds to residents of Glen Rock, Ridgewood and Fair Lawn areas.

Housing developments were moving into the area in this period. In 1907, Quackenbush and Stevens developed the Prospect Park section of Glen Rock on lands that had been part of Garret T. Hopper's farm. Hopper's original farmhouse still stands at the corner of Prospect Street and Park Avenue. In the spring of 1908, a movement was started by residents of the Prospect Park area to have that section annexed to Ridgewood. The move to annex had been encouraged by the developers in their sales talks to buyers; the salesmen had belittled Glen Rock and extolled Ridgewood. Since the commuters in this area boarded trains in Ridgewood and had most of their social, religious and fraternal activities in Ridgewood, they were receptive to the annexation idea. In March 1908, Mayor Hubschmitt and several Council Members journeyed to Trenton to protest the proposed annexation to state officials with the result that the Governor stepped into the fray to require a public referendum on the subject. In the end, the annexation referendum failed to pass by eight votes.

The Prospect Park developers even printed up postcards declaring it part of Ridgewood!

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