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Welcome to Downtown Rutherford, New Jersey

Downtown Rutherford is surrounded by a lovely historic town, with lush tree-lined streets, beautiful homes and convenient access to New York City. Below are articles written about the rich history of Rutherford; the culture, the architecture, the schools, the organizations and the people who built Rutherford, incorporated in 1881.

Long history for Rutherford's Engine Company No. 2

In its long history of fighting fires and supporting its community, Rutherford Engine Company No. 2 has included among its members many fine men of unusual character and commitment to its cause. At the same time, this company has been headquartered in some of Rutherford's architectural gems, especially the quaint two-story building of Flemish bond brick which is currently home to one of New Jersey's quintessential gourmet restaurants.

Engine Company No. 2 Foreman J. Lewis Chapman, a highly decorated second generation fireman, was handed the keys to the company's new firehouse at 167 Park Ave. on Decoration Day in 1913. There the company, better known as the "High Hatters," remained for nearly 60 years. Today, chef-owner Peter Loria, whose reputation for eclectic cuisine once brought a three-star rating from The New York Times, is determined to remain in this venerated structure...

Breakthrough in search for birth place of William Carlos Williams

Promising "good sidewalks" and "lighted streets," Henry G. Bell (1833-1921) began building his wood framed houses on "large, finely situated lots" in the section of Rutherford known as Passaic Hill, about where Grace Episcopal Church was built in 1873. Several houses were built for a prominent New England businessman named William H. Mellen (1811-1886), Bell's friend and fellow Unitarian.

Mellen, who purchased 19 lots from Bell's Rutherford Heights Association, never resided in houses he owned on Newell and Passaic avenues. Instead, he leased them to newcomers to Rutherford, including one who would become a most prominent citizen – William George Williams (1853-1918). In time, Williams and his new wife, Raquel Helene (1847-1949), became the parents of two of Rutherford's most famous sons and ultimately built their own home on another of Bell's lots on Passaic Avenue...

Sunset Park to host remembrance of those who fought in WWl

It was affectionately called "the little West End breathing spot," a swath of land on a hillside, bounded by Union and old Division Avenue on one side, with Washington Avenue and Ayerigg Avenue, which is present-day Raymond Avenue, on the far side. Facing west, it caught the sunset, shaded by a tall solitary oak tree.

On Sept. 5, 1905, its owner granted it to the Borough of Rutherford for the sum of one dollar "for the uses and purposes of a public park and recreational grounds to be known as 'Sunset Park.'" The only condition set by the deed of Henry Rogers Jackson (1831-1912) was that ownership of the land would revert to the grantor, or his heirs, should the borough abandon its use as parkland.

Origin of stone sidewalks in Rutherford

Rutherford has had a long–running love affair with its sidewalks. Yes, that's right, sidewalks. Just a few weeks after the borough was formed with considerable fanfare, and the newly elected governing body was sworn in, its first piece of legislation was for the protection of sidewalks.

That first ordinance, approved Nov. 21, 1881, did decree that "no person shall drive over or upon the sidewalks of any street or highway in said Borough, any horse, vehicles, cows, goats, sheep or other animals." And thus began a lengthy series of legislative action during the 1880s that would cause the construction and repair of sidewalks throughout the borough. Most, but not all, were made from wooden planks, constructed or repaired by local tradesmen at the property owner's expense.

Famous physicians practiced in Rutherford

Nelson Walton Wilson as a young man in Rutherford, where he grew up with brothers Harry, later Rev. Henry B. Wilson, and Fredrick, who became a journalist in New York. Nelson Wilson obtained a medical degree from the University of Buffalo in 1898 and was Buffalo's Chief Sanitary Officer for the Pan-American Exposition in September 1901 when Leon Czolgosz, a self-described Anarchist, shot President William McKinley.

Because of his fame as the doctor-poet, it is reasonable to conclude that William Carlos Williams (1883-1963) would be counted as the most prominent physician in Rutherford's history. After all, his writing career culminated in his winning the Pulitzer Prize for literature; and during a 51-year medical career Dr. Williams was credited delivering more than 3,000 babies.


Rutherford, incorporated in 1881, was the first borough of Bergen County.

The South Bergenite's Person of the Year - The Meadowlands Museum

The 2014 South Bergenite person of the year is not an individual – it is the volunteers, the Board of Trustees and the staff of the Meadowlands Museum.

The MMUS, founded by volunteers in 1975 and housed in the historic 1685 Yereance Berry farmhouse, has seen its share of adversity in recent times.

From changes in leadership and cuts in budgets and grants to a closure due to damage from Hurricane Irene the museum has bounced back with special exhibits ranging from Steampunk to football to historic area maps.

A.P. Williams - a doctor and a poet

Augustus Purdy Williams was a military surgeon during the Civil War. He served on the USS Monticello and later had charge of St. Aloysius Hospital for the Union Army. After the war, he settled in Rutherford Park, where he played an important role in the establishment of Grace Episcopal Church.

While he built a successful medical practice, Dr. Williams found time for a favorite avocation. He wrote poetry for adult enjoyment and also short stories for children. His work was published by The Manhattan, an illustrated literary magazine that included among its authors Nora Perry, prominent writer of juvenile stories, and Julian Hawthorne, the son of Nathaniel Hawthorne. St. Nicholas: An Illustrated Magazine for Young Folks, published his humorous short story called, "The Big Black Dog and The Big Black Goat," written in 1883.

Rutherford's churches come from various beginnings

Rutherford's oldest churches – Presbyterian and Episcopal – can trace their start with services held in an unheated two-story building on Ames Avenue called Union Hall. Other churches established in the 19th century were organized in members' homes, such as the Unitarians did in Henry Bell's home, which is now Rutherford Congregational Church, corner of Prospect Place and Union Avenue; and as did the Baptists in the home of Benjamin Yates at 124 Orient Way (extant).

For another Rutherford church, now called the Rutherford Bible Chapel, its beginning isn't quite as clear. The church's own history says it began in the home of a founding member "before the turn of this century," meaning the late 1900s. That member, William J. Doig, established a residence in 1899 as a tenant of Carrie A. Boss. Carrie Boss owned a house and barn at the corner of Montross and Donaldson Avenues, which some believe once served the Rutherford residence of the 19th century author, Frank Stockton. The same house was later owned by Frederick W. Sheaf, elected mayor of Rutherford in 1919.

A year of anniversaries

This is the year of anniversaries, including the establishment of Nova Caesarea, or New Jersey, in 1664, making this the state's 350th anniversary. There have been a host of other celebrations in 2014, including the special centennial commemoration of World War I and a prominent native's 100th birthday. But first, it's important to speak to marking New Jersey's Tercentenary, plus 50.

In the mid-17th Century, the Rutherford area, then part of New Barbadoes Neck, was a mostly barren stretch of forested meadowland, surrounded by the lands first settled by the Dutch, who called it New Netherlands. In 1664, following the Dutch surrender to Great Britain, a charter of territory, stretching from the Connecticut River to the Delaware, including all of New York and New Jersey, was granted by Charles II, the British king, to his brother, James. James, in turn, granted land called New Jersey, to two British nobles, Lord John Berkeley and Sir George Carteret.

Lincoln School in Rutherford celebrates 100 years

Lincoln School in Rutherford marked its 100th anniversary with a day-long celebration of learning and reminiscing for both current members of the community and those from years past.

Mrs. Williams was a district icon, having been principal in Washington School for a long time too, said his mother, Linda Papa. She recalled her no-nonsense approach and how the students liked her. Mrs. Williams also loved her mother’s cakes that she would bring to bake sales, often buying them before they made it to the table. The mother of four children who attended Lincoln, she said she was amazed at how big the school had become, complimenting how it still felt welcoming and beautiful.


The Nereid Boat Club is one of the only local calm-water rowing sites.

A remarkable lay leader who thrived in Rutherford's religious circles

During the early decades of the 20th Century, Rutherford's community of about 13,000 residents saw remarkable growth in religious and spiritual activities. By the end of the 1920s, one religious group called Everyman's Bible Class was averaging 500 participants at its Sunday morning gatherings. Sunday attendance at the Tri-C Class for Young Men at the First Presbyterian Church was sometimes greater than 50, making it one of the largest of its kind in New Jersey.

Much of this phenomenon can be attributed to three men who were closely associated with the church. These included Charles Alexander Ross (1883-1973), a highly respected Presbyterian minister; Frank Spencer Mead (1898-1982), a clergyman, author and religious scholar; and, a third man who was a layman with an unusual interest in steamboat building and navigation and, as importantly, a strong regard for youth leadership and church teachings. This third individual was Roger Williams McAdam (1900-1971), who became the first layman to be selected in 1953 as Class Leader of the Rutherford Everyman's Bible Class. He was a leader and frequent speaker for the Tri-C, which stood for "Christians, Comrades, Co-workers," a name that drew inspiration from the first book of Corinthians, 3:9 - "For we are laborers together with God: ye are God's husbandry, ye are God's building."

VanWinkle saved pieces of local history

Nearly half-century after his death on June 21, 1967, the name of Charles A. Van Winkle is remembered by those who came to admire his fierce loyalty to his family and community, and especially to his church, First Presbyterian Church of Rutherford.

With the church celebrating its 150 anniversary this year, it is quite fortuitous that a stone that memorializes the Presbyterians' first church building was discovered recently on a Pierrepont Avenue property once owned by C.A. Van Winkle, or "C.A.," as he was known to friends. Long forgotten, the neatly hewn 144-year-old blue stone was salvaged by Van Winkle when the old Rutherford library was torn down in 1957. According to the late Edgar Van Winkle, a 1988 history of the church records that "stones from the old church were saved from the wreakers and used to build the front, or south side, of the new library." This was done at the behest of C.A. Van Winkle.

Days of grandeur here again for Rutherford's Iviswold Castle

RUTHERFORD - The $9 million transformation of the historical Iviswold Castle on Felician College campus in Rutherford is finally complete-after nearly 14 years of careful, step-by-step restoration.

After considerable delays due to the project's general contractor filing for bankruptcy in the 2012, the 18,000 sq. foot castle, which houses both student areas and administrative offices, is now the operational campus focal point that college officials had hoped it would be.

Last week, local media took a castle tour hosted by the project's principal architect, Annabelle Radcliffe-Trenner, who detailed the extensive work that went into breathing new life to the three-story, 25-room 19th-century castle.

Before the Williams Center, the Criterion entertained Depression-era Rutherford

They regularly performed dramatic plays and comedies written by major playwrights and they sponsored monthly workshops on acting and scenery production. They held poetry readings featuring local writers, like William Carlos Williams. And they once even proposed to manage their own arts center. The plan to renovate the abandoned 2-story Knapp Hat Factory on Eastern Way was approved by the Mayor and Council but later rescinded after a storm of protest from the neighborhood residents.

While this may sound like a group of thespians you might find at the Williams Center for Performing Arts, these were Rutherford theatre buffs who were actively bringing the arts to the Rutherford community in the 1930s, some fifty years before Barry Dancy ever dreamed of converting the old Rivoli movie house into an arts center. This formidable arts group was Rutherford Little Theatre, Inc., which made its home at the Criterion Theatre, a former vaudeville-movie house that stood at 40 Ames Ave., present location of Rutherford's Fire Company #4. The old theatre building was destroyed by fire on June 29, 1943.

Rutherford boating club shows fascinating history

It was nearly ninety years ago that a Rutherford carpenter named Clarence Jesse Hardin (1883-1956) acquired several lots of open land along the Passaic River on Riverside Avenue, just at the bottom of West Newell Avenue. Subsequently, Hardin would go to work and transform the property into a Mecca for boating enthusiasts when he established the Rutherford Yacht Club in the spring of 1928, headquartered in a splendid 2 and one-half story wood and brick clubhouse, built with the help of his friend, architect Louis B. Huesmann.

"Commodore Hardin," as he became known, helped promote motor boat transportation to South Bergen. Born in Hackettstown, Hardin was Rutherford's building inspector from 1925 until he retired in 1953. His club, which grew to more than 100 members, sponsored weekly outboard motor boat races over courses of four and one-half miles on the Passaic. Hundreds of spectators came to Riverside Avenue to view races in boats manufactured by such vintage names as Thompson Boat, Dodge Water Car, and Christ-Craft. Christ-Craft, originally made by Christ Smith & Sons in Algonac, Mich., subsequently opened a showroom at 350 Riverside Ave., location of the Nereid Boat Club's boathouse (extant).


Felician College takes up 10 acres in the Borough of Trees.

Restoring Rutherford architecture

It's sad to think of the wonderful architecture lost among the more than two dozen homes and structures demolished in the past quarter-century in Rutherford: the "Maples;" the Chestnut Street rooming house, which was home to many of the community's professional and business class in the late 1800s; the George Schermerhorn House on East Passaic Avenue was the residence of one of Rutherford's founding fathers; and a Second Empire-style cottage, corner of Agnew Street and Union Avenue, which bore the influence of Elisha C. Hussey, a prolific architect-builder who left his stamp here in the 1870s, and helped delineate the Union Avenue historic district.

So it is especially gratifying to witness some recent historic restoration. Three property owners have taken steps to restore a variety of historic structures, helping to highlight Rutherford history and preserve important vernacular and unique examples of American architecture.

African-American settlers of Rutherford

Early black settlers of Rutherford were mainly house servants who were employed by well-to-do white families. If they were not live-in maids, gardeners, or coachmen, then these African-Americans mainly resided close by their employers, in the neighborhoods around Wood Street and Washington Avenue.

An exception to this rule was the example of the Fitzgeralds and the Waltons, African-American families who made their homes on Wheaton Place, in one of Rutherford's most remote and densely wooded sections. These families established themselves in ways not commonly known and certainly not previously recorded in any brief history of Rutherford. The Fitzgeralds and the Waltons were highly regarded in their community. They became the foundation of Rutherford's Black church, Mount Ararat Baptist Church, first envisioned in the early 1890's.

From the Rivoli to the Williams Center

Ninety years ago, a theater was etched into the middle of Rutherford that became a crown jewel of cinema, the arts and entertainment for the region. The building once known as the Rivoli and now the William Carlos Williams Center for the Arts has a history built on success, tragedy, changing hands, economic hardships and leadership that many over the years have called triumphant at times and misguided at others.

A theater is born

The Rivoli was a premier movie house in its heyday, featuring the most popular silent films of the times when it was constructed in the 1920s and then switching to talkies. The 1946 film "The Stranger" is lit up on the Rivoli's marquee. A projectionist takes a break in between films at the Rivoli. When the theater opened in 1922, its claim to fame was that it would only show wholesome entertainment and be a good neighbor with Rutherford. In 1922 the Rivoli was constructed. It was a vaudeville and movie house with a capacity of 2,200 theater goers. The soon-to-become landmark would feature the most prominent silent films of the day while it accommodated live acts during the time vaudeville was king.

Meadowlands Museum celebrates 50 years with 1960s concert

This Saturday area residents will Come Together for a concert for awareness of the Meadowlands Museum, which opened its doors in 1961, 50 years ago. Beatles Faux Sale and the Glimmer Twins, Beatles and Rolling Stones tribute bands, will appropriately headline the Williams Center stage bringing back the sounds of the 60s.

The plan was to create a community museum with a mission that was quite ambitious: "encourage the understanding of nature, science, the universe and the art and culture of the people all over the world by providing young people, particularly, the opportunity to see live exhibits first hand."

Officials mark completion of train station restoration

One hundred and twelve years after its construction, the Rutherford Train Station was filled with county, state and local officials Monday, Oct. 25, there to celebrate the conclusion of a three-year multi-million dollar project to restore the landmark to its former glory.

Surrounded by the polished oak paneling and light green plaster of the station's restored interior, Congressman Steve Rothman sported an over-sized check for $1.9 million, the cost of the project's final phase, and extolled the importance of the station to the aesthetic and economic life of the community.

Ridge Road's long, winding history of commerce, residents

For residents and visitors alike, Ridge Road is not just the gateway to connecting Rutherford, Lyndhurst and North Arlington. Through nearly a century, Ridge Road has also united a hodgepodge of retail and restaurant mom-and-pop establishments, historic homes and a cemetery roughly one-third the size of North Arlington... KEEP READING

"Ridge Road was originally called Cromwell Street, Alpine Span and even Route 2," said Lyndhurst historian Sylvia Kleff. "Since we had Route 1 in Hudson County, Route 2 may very well be the second highway in the state. Next to Savino's real estate, right on the overpass, 'State Highway 2 – 1928' is engraved on the cement."