What Was Once the Heart of the Community

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What Was Once the Heart of the Community

A Journey into River Edge

What  makes for a community ?

Its people ? Its history ? Shared values ? Shared past ?

In some instances it can even be a building or a landmark.

One such building was located at the corner of Main Street and Elizabeth Street - just across from wher McDonald's now sits.

And, it was a place that mattered for a long time to different generations of locals for different reasons.

It started as a church - the home of the Reformed Church of Cherry Hill.

It was back in 1876 that the Reformed Church of Cherry Hill and New Bridge was organized. Cherry Hill was the name of the area where the original church stood at the corner of Elizabeth Street and Main Streets (Thus, our local origin for what later became known as the and the now demolished Cherry Hill Shopping Center and the Cherry Hill School).

A more complete background on the formation of the church may be found at an earlier "Journey into River Edge".

The place was dedicated in November, 1876. It was a white frame, steepled structure, entrance on Main Street. The Sabbath School fronted Elizabeth Street.

It was all destroyed on August 25, 1892 from a fire that followed a lightning strike. Only 18 chairs and 23 hymn books could be saved.

The church rebuilt and a communion service was held in the new building on May 7, 1893. This new building was severely damaged by the famous tornado of 1895, repairs were made.

Over the years a stained glass memorial, organ and other improvements and enlargements were added, turning the building into the landmark still recalled by old timers – there at the corner of Elizabeth and Main Streets.

The continued growth of the congregation, especially in the post World War II years, prompted church leaders to seek a larger property. It was then that the parcel at the top of the hill was purchased.

A parish house was built in 1952, followed by a parsonage in 1955. It was on June 2, 1957 that the new church itself was dedicated.

The stained glass memorial window, organ and church bell and stones were integrated into the new building.

Reverend Harold Green led the congregation during this period and is still well recalled.

The building at the old site became the River Edge Jewish Community Center, River Edge’s first Jewish house of worship and forerunner to what is now Temple Ahavat Shalom .

In later years, the building served as a beauty salon. Today it is the site of a parking lot to one of the medical arts buildings that dot the area which continues to be slated for redevelopment.

It's a busy location - folks hurrying past on the way to somewhere else either in their cars or on foot. Most would not even know to contemplate what was once there, nor does that history much impact.

But for those who know or those increasingly few whose still can remember, this pretty non-descript corner used to be an important place - the address that marked milestones - a place that mattered.