A River Edge Place That Matters - River Edge’s Hotel
Journeys into River Edge
Some are still with us today. Many are not. Either way they are places that matter to us that call River Edge home – whether it be someone who lives here today, used to or just has a soft place in their heart for our town.
Many of these sites are “historic”, some have been formally “designated”. They all have stories to tell and worth remembering & passing along to those who will follow. And, as we remember them, we hope that you too will see that they still resonate. They are, indeed, places that matter.
River Edge is not known for its hotels. But like our neighbors along Kinderkamack Road, this community’s stories includes a prominent role for local hotels.
One traveling up the road these days can still stop at the Emerson Hotel for a sliced steak sandwich, a burger or a beer. Though now just a restaurant, the place up the street from the Emerson train station continues to be a vital part of that community. Similarly, where the Delford Hotel once stood at the corner of Kinderkamack and Oradell Avenue in Oradell is now the site of Schirra Park. Both the hotel and the park) named after Oradell’s hometown astronaut) play important parts in Oradell’s history and their sense of place.
Here in town, the best known hotel was Friedman’s Hotel. It was an anchor during the 19th century in the Cherry Hill section of town. Located at the corner of Main and Elizabeth Streets, it was opened in 1871 after the arrival of the railroad and proved quite profitable to its owner Conrad Friedman, who also ran a bowling alley in the neighborhood. However, the Hotel and Friedman are recalled in our local lore as casualties of the infamous tornado of 1895.
Less known is to many is the equally significant River Edge Hotel.
The structure was originally built in 1755, when the property was sold by Peter Durie to Daniel Christie. During the Revolution, a fire occurred but the structure was subsequently rebuilt.
It was Henry Struss turned the property, conveniently located just blocks from the River Edge train station, into a hotel. Many spent the night there while checking out homes for sale in the area (Peetzburgh and River Edge), then considered to be the country. For years it served travelers (The river was a popular recreational destination for vacationers from the city) and local
Eventually, it became a residence and has so continued quietly and without much fanfare. It may come as a surprise to learn that the River Edge Hotel, though no longer a hotel still stands in our midst – there at 56 Spring Valley Avenue.
Our 1976 River Edge history book wrote:
“The main section of the building still stands, restored by its owners since 1966, Mr. and Mrs. Don Stertzer”.
There have been occasional efforts over the years to acknowledge the history of the River Edge Hotel in the form of a landmark designation, but such efforts have been met with resistance in some quarters. While admiration for the old building is pretty much universal, the exact way to recognize the importance of this century’s old structure remains a source of conflicting narrative and visions.
“River Edge’s record is not good in the preservation of landmarks”, wrote Sigmund H. Uminski in a 1963 History of River Edge.
Some 60 years have passed since that writing, and still we, as a community struggle mightily to reconcile competing interests and considerations: For example there is the effort to be deferential to a neighbor property owner. And at the same, one tries to act in a fashion that also honors the values of our larger community through respect to a structure that clearly matters, if nothing else, because it simultaneously connects us at once the past, to one another and as legacy to pass on to those who will follow us here, calling River Edge home.
Now that you know a bit about the story of this place, we hope that you might lend your voice to the ongoing discussion.
Photo acknowledgement and credit: Musket Anchor & Plow, The Story of River Edge, by Naomi & George Howitt, Arno Press, 1976