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  • Sue Tryforos, Borough Historian

Glen Rock in the 1920s

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 My main source for framing this series is an unpublished manuscript in the Glen Rock Historical & Preservation Society's archive, which was written by George Hubschmitt.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 #15 of the series.

On a personal note, let me say “Thank you” to all the readers of the Rock Recorder Blog. It has been very rewarding to me to “collaborate” with the late George Hubschmitt, who spent untold years pulling together a manuscript (never published) of his notes on the history of our borough that he loved so dearly. The new year, 2020, will bring Glen Rock a new Borough Historian who will bring a new point of view and new interests to the job. It has been my honor to serve as the Glen Rock Borough Historian since 2010. Wishing everyone a happy and healthy New Year! -- Sue Tryforos

In May 1921, the Borough of Glen Rock installed the bronze Memorial Plaque on the face of The Great Rock to honor the residents who had served during World War I. The dedication of a WWI Memorial had been a topic of much discussion for several years, with a special Committee of community members appointed to decide upon an appropriate monument. The Committee thought long and hard about how to honor the men; the top three ideas were to (1) build a Memorial Hospital on the grounds purchased for the proposed Municipal Building; (2) build a free-standing Memorial Monument in Triangle Park at the intersection of Maple Avenue and Rock Road (where the “Glen Rock” bushes are today); or (3) place a Memorial Plaque on The Rock, making The Rock itself the WWI Memorial. There were multiple Committee votes and a survey of the community with no clear choice emerging until the costs of the three options were assessed. The bronze plaque won out in the end because, in part, it was the least expensive option. The plaque idea was also embraced because Captain Peter Ebbert – Glen Rock’s first casualty of the War – had lived across the street from The Rock. The beautiful Memorial Plaque was unveiled on May 9, 1921 by Captain Ebbert’s young daughter, Catherine, who was born shortly after his death. The plaque lists Glen Rock’s five casualties first on the list of men who served. Mayor Garrabrant had proposed to rename Rock Road as Ebbert Avenue and [South] Highwood Road as Jensen Avenue after two of the borough’s fallen soldiers, but this was not passed by the Council.

The dedication of the World War I Memorial Plaque, May 9, 1921

The Borough continued to grow and prosper in the 1920s, with plans laid for new sidewalks, a sanitary sewer system, and improved roads. The Municipal Building was constructed opposite the Bergen County Short Cut railroad tracks (see previous Blog post on the Municipal Building: click here). The dangerous railroad crossings at Maple Avenue and at Ackerman Avenue were made safer by the construction of overpasses to raise the tracks above the street level, or rather to lower the streets under the tracks. According to George Hubschmitt, the land for Main Street Park (now Veterans Park) was offered to the Mayor and Council for the sum of $8,000.00 by The Glen Rock Club, a group of citizens who lived on Rodney, Bradford and Wilson Streets. Also according to Hubschmitt, the Smith-Singer Company had previously tried to sell this land to the borough for $10,000.00. [Note: I have not found anything about this sale, yet, in the original Council Minutes, although some Minutes books are missing. George Hubschmitt had access to Minutes books that cannot be located at this time.] The 1920s saw two private bus lines licensed to operate through Glen Rock. In November 1921, a motorcycle with sidecar was purchased for the Glen Rock Police Department and in 1923 the GRPD got its first patrol car. In 1925, the Glen Rock Volunteer Fire Department received its first pumper truck, an American La France, and two years later a Larabee Chemical and Hook and Ladder truck was purchased. Another improvement to the health and safety of Glen Rock residents was Dr. Wayne Hall, who moved to the borough in 1927 and became the first doctor to practice in town.

Charles van Allen became the 11th Mayor of Glen Rock in January 1922. He has the distinction of being the only Mayor to have a street named after him by the Smith-Singer Realty Company. During the summer of 1922, the Borough made an agreement to purchase a Liberty Truck from the federal government for the road department. This was one of the WWI surplus Army trucks that were offered for purchase to municipal governments. Glen Rock’s Road Superintendent John B. Smith, accompanied by Councilman Eugene Bogert, picked out a truck that had practically nothing but the chassis left. This was then completely re-outfitted by the Army with all new parts. The rebuilt truck gave excellent service for many years. 1922 was also the year that saw public library services offered in town as the Library Association of Glen Rock was formed. Space was provided in the Smith-Singer Building complex, books were donated, and circulation for that first year was 3,000 (the borough’s population was only 4,000). Plans for the new Municipal Building, completed in 1929, included space for a borough-run public library.

Several beloved Glen Rock businesses got started during the 1920s. Charles and Elizabeth Herold had purchased farmland on the Glen Rock/Fair Lawn border in 1915; Herold’s Farm and Garden Center became a popular destination for fresh produce and garden materials for more than 75 years. Rinbrand Well Drilling, established in 1919, is another long-term family business. The Glen Rock Savings Bank was founded in 1922, with Henry C. Smith of the Smith-Singer Realty Company as one of its leading organizers. Belmar Spring Water Company was started in 1924 by brothers Clifford and Edo Outwater, who at first would take the empty glass bottles home to wash and return the next day to fill them with spring water. And of course that most Glen Rock of Glen Rock groceries, Kilroy’s Wonder Market, opened its doors on South Maple Avenue (in the building now known as the Municipal Annex) in 1927.

Original Kilroy's Wonder Market on South Maple Avenue

The 1920s also saw the beginnings of community organizations such as the American Legion Post #145 (and Auxiliary), the Glen Rock Garden Club, and the Chamber of Commerce. New private homes were built in the latest styles – Arts and Crafts, California Mission, and Bungalow – in planned neighborhoods but there was still extensive undeveloped farmland south of Harristown Road. Today’s “Gold Coast” neighborhood was part of the golf course operated by the Ridgewood Country Club, which spread over both sides of Lincoln Avenue. More commuters were settling here to take advantage of the two train lines and the borough was growing so quickly that the Mayor and Council adopted a Master Plan in 1927, becoming the first community in the country to do so. Frank M. Evans, the borough engineer for over 40 years starting in 1917, is an unsung hero of Glen Rock’s development; he brilliantly advised multiple municipal administrations on how to properly subdivide farmland and woodland into residential neighborhoods with proper streets, proper sewer and water hookups, public parkland, etc. Many of Evans’ road and tax maps are now part of the Glen Rock Historical & Preservation Society’s collection.

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