Uniquely River Edge: The Colorforms House
Journeys into River Edge
Back in the 1960’s Colorforms was as popular a toy as there was.
Colorforms were created by Harry and Patricia Kislevitz, who were looking for material for an art project. The Kislevitzes at the time were artists living in a NYC apartment. Because her husband liked abstract art, they used pieces of vinyl cut into geometric shapes, Mrs. Kislevitz said once in a newspaper article, and these pieces would stick scraps on the walls of their apartment.
“I put some in the bathroom; people would go into the bathroom and never come back out again,” she said. “Harry, he thought we might have something here.”
The first commercial order, for 1,000 sets, came from F. A. O. Schwarz, and other retailers soon followed. The couple expanded with other products, including paper dolls, paints and crayons, and in the 1950s began licensing popular characters like Popeye, Mickey Mouse and Barbie for the Colorforms sets. Licensing turned out to be a smart move for Colorforms, as it became a mirror of children’s pop culture.
It also did not hurt that the Kislevitz family was forward looking enough to take advantage of the evolving but booming market through television commercials. Colorforms ads were a fixture on daily children’s programs.
The rest is history.
The Kislevitz family, after creating Colorforms in 1951, moved to River Edge and raised a family in their home on Valley Road. They also ran the business from that home – while producing the simple vinyl pieces and laminated boards at a factory in Ramsey.
Colorforms have remained on toy store shelves for more than six decades. The family of Colorforms products has grown, however, to include 3-D playsets and a felt variety.
The family has moved on, but the house remains a topic of conversation, a place of interest unto itself.
Back in the 1960’s it was a place that caused gazes to passers-by – its modernist feel, whose look and height made it stand out from its 1950’s classic ranch homes surrounding it. In a time long before McMansions, the “Colorforms House” was unique in town and beyond.
Today the house blends in a bit more with the neighborhood as architectural and social tastes have changed, and so too the property is covered with mature trees and bushes.
Still, the Kislevitzses and their home remain Uniquely River Edge – part of our community narrative.
Acknowledgement of source materials from: https://www.nj.com/.../made_in_jersey_colorforms_vint.html