When the Car Came to Town
Journeys into River Edge
he cars have returned to town. Classic cars, to be exact.
After an absence of a couple of years (Relocation to New Milford one year and COVID another), the cars are back – though at River Dell H.S. this year (construction by Continental we are told). Over 100 cars will be on display in this 20th anniversary show. There will also be the vendors of auto memorabilia, food, music and more. Its return is yet another reassuring sign as we continue to navigate towards a sense of normalcy.
The return of these Classic Cars got us to thinking about what it must have been like around here when these cars were first introduced to the community.
Transportation had long played a large role in the development of River Edge – the river, and the building of the railroad in town in the 1860’s. But arguably the most impactful action was the introduction of the auto to the local scene.
According to our local history (Howitt 1976), the first U.S. patent for an automobile driven by a gasoline engine was issued to George Seldin in November of 1895 (Wondering if that Seldin was related to the longtime River Edge family by the same name). By 1899, grading and macadamizing of borough roads was started. In order to do the job, some $25,000 in bonds were authorized – an action causing no little controversy. In fact, there are some local historians who have written that a trigger to the statewide push for communities to become boroughs in the 1890’s was, at least in part, based on expenses they faced from the advent of the auto and what that meant to expenses that would have to be dedicated to infrastructure to accommodate the horseless carriage.
It was in 1901 that the first sidewalks were installed on the east side of Riverside Avenue (Kinderkamack Road).
The introduction of the car prompted the town’s first traffic light to be installed at the intersection of Kinderkamack with Lincoln Avenue and River Edge Road (near Critchley’s Candies). A second light would be installed at the south end of town where Kinderkamack intersected with Main Street (years unknown).
In 1924 an automobile was authorized for the Police Department, and it was in 1927 that “the first fire automobile” was purchased.
But it was in the early 1930’s that two most significant changes occurred – the and opening of the George Washington Bridge on October 24, 1931, and then the opening of Route 4 in 1938.
Some of the cars on display this weekend and touted as “classic” were then norm on local roads back then. The growth of their numbers mirrored that of the community. Thanks to the GWB and NJ-4 things had changed around here and they would never be the same.
For more on the Car Show: https://www.recarshow.org/... or https://www.facebook.com/RECarShow/
River Edge “Auto History” from Musket Anchor and Plow, The Story of River Edge, by Naomi & George Howitt, 1976, Arno
Picture: July 4 Parade, 1923