About a Penthouse Apartment Never Built On Cherry Hill at the old Zabriskie Farm
A Journey into River Edge
Not too long ago, buried among the incoming mail into River Edge’s Borough Hall was something other than the usual bills and legal documents.
This envelope, addressed to the assistant borough clerk, contained a newspaper clipping from 1942.
The brown envelope came from California, sent by someone who left River Edge a long time ago. But back in the 1940’s she moved into apartments near the old Zabriskie farm just as it was being readied for demolition. A recent cleaning of her home brought the discovery of an article from the Bergen Evening Record of February 24, 1942.
The article was headlined “Zabriskie House on Cherry Hill Make Way For New Construction”. It described how the Zabriskie farmhouse, purchased by the Zabriskies in 1849, was going to be torn down to make way for the new apartment buildings.
The farmhouse, it was believed, may have been built as long ago as the Revolutionary War. It is said that George Washington reviewed his troops from the top of Cherry Hill. Moreover, according to the article, there is a long history associated with the property – ranging from how it housed slaves, to an 1892 fire that destroyed some 30 head of cattle to the famous tornado of 1895.
It is well known that eventually what are now known as “The Garden Apartments” rose where the farmhouse once stood. However, less known (and previously unknown to me) was that the “Garden Apartment” project was not the first apartment choice for the property. According to that 1942 article, original plans called for construction of a 10-story penthouse apartment on the site, but that proposal was rejected by the River Edge council.
Interestingly, in the end that penthouse project was dead on arrival, stated the article, because the fire fighting apparatus were not deemed adequate for a high structure in the event of a serious fire – the same rationale that in part stopped similar proposed projects in our south end of town more than half a century later.
Finally, it should be noted though an era was ending with the demolition of the Zabriskie farmhouse, the Zabriskies themselves were not all too saddened. They received one of the new apartments at the top of hill, one with a view. The newspaper article revealed that Mrs. Zabriskie was able to move most of her antiques into the new place, “so they have not lost completely the atmosphere of former days “.
They probably were not too displeased in having picked up a few bucks in the sale of the property as well.
We should all be grateful to this former resident of River Edge and her generosity in passing along this gem of a story about our community’s past. She retains at home a bible from the Cherry Hill Church that she received on December 25, 1949. Bet there is a story there as well.
More than a few of us look to recall and celebrate what might be overlooked or dismissed by others. So, if you have any such clippings, we hope you will choose to send them along so they and their stories will not be forgotten.