Englewood is situated in the southern part of Bergen County's Northern Valley region, just north of the great Jersey meadowlands, three miles west of the George Washington Bridge and ten miles from Times Square. It occupies 4.9 square miles descending from a height of 410 feet on the western slope of the Palisades to almost sea level in the valley.
The Wisconsin Glacier, the last of three glaciers that covered this part of New Jersey, was responsible for many of the features which made the area desirable to early European settlers. Tumbled rocks provided building material; may streams could be dammed to create water power for lumber and grist mills; the soil of the valley was rich enough for good crops and grazing land.
The city's flat and fertile central area first attracted the early Dutch farmers. Water transportation was facilitated by tidal waterways - the Hudson River, the Hackensack River and Overpeck Creek - that remained navigable most of the year.
Many years before Europeans came to the Hackensack Valley, the Lenni Lenepe, the "very original people" (a part of the Delaware Nation of Native Americans) came from the west and settled here. The great peninsula of land we know as New Jersey, they call Scheyechbi, the "Land Along the Water." In 1607, when Henry Hudson sailed the Half Moon up the river which would later bear his name, he claimed for the Dutch both the river and the valley it drained. Hudson's journal says of the Lenni Lenepe: "The people of the country abord of us, seeming very glad of our coming, and brought green tobacco and gave us it for knives and beads. They go in deerskins, loose, well dressed. They desire clothes and are very civil." However, trouble broke out after the Europeans settled, and of the estimated two thousand native people who originally lived and hunted in New Jersey, only about fifty remained in 1832.
Early in the seventeenth century the Dutch West India Company established a trading post on high ground in present-day Hudson County, calling it Bergen, which meant "hill" in Dutch. The company offered few incentives to settlers, however, so the west side of the Hudson north of what is now Jersey City was sparsely occupied by Europeans during this period. In 1664, when the Dutch surrendered their New World colonies to the British and the part of New Netherland on the west side of the Hudson was renamed the Province of New Jersey, the European population began to increase.
The English, to encourage settlement , were generous in granting rights and land. Consequently, many Dutch and French came along with the English. Englewood street names still attest to the dirverse backgrounds of early settlers: Brinckerhoff, Van Brunt, Lydecker, Van Nostrand, and Durie (Duryea), all Dutch; Demarest (de Marais), DeMott and Lozier (LeSueur), French Huguenot; and Moore, Lawrence, Day, and Cole, English.
One Englishman, Samuel Edsall, began buying and selling land in northern New Jersey soon after his arrival in America in 1664. Settlements grew and became permanent. In spite of the still strong Dutch character, the area became known as "English Neighborhood" and stretched from Ridgefield to Closter.
The oldest known land grant in the area which presently constitutes Englewood was awarded to Garret Lydecker in 1703 by the English Queen Anne. Early land grants were long strips of land extending from either Overpeck Creek or the Hackensack River to the Hudson
Several roads ran north and south along the valley. One of these was the King's Highway which followed the present course of Grand Avenue. It made a sharp turn west to meet what is now Tenafly Road, Liberty Road and Lafayette Avenue. The junction provided and excellent location for an Inn, and at various times three different inns occupied the site.
In 1776, the proprietor of the inn, a zealous Patriot, followed the example of the Liberty Boys in New York and erected a Liberty Pole with a gold Liberty Cap to celebrate the repeal of the Stamp Act. The inn, known as the Liberty Pole Tavern, was the center of economic, political and social activity, and the surrounding area was also called Liberty Pole.
Although no major battles were fought here, events vital to the American cause did occur in Englewood. On the night of November 20, 1776, the British General Lord Cornwallis crossed the Hudson with nine thousand men to what is now Alpine, planning to capture the rebel forces at Fort Lee, under Nathaniel Greene. General Washington, alerted to the plan, led his army from Fort Lee, down the King's Highway to the Liberty Pole Tavern, and cut over on what is now Teaneck Road to New Bridge, where he was able to cross the Hackensack. Contemporary reports suggest that the Americans passed through Liberty Pole just minutes before Cornwallis arrived, coming down Tenafly Road. Instead of pursuing Washington, Cornwallis went on to Fort Lee to seize goods stored there. Washington's army escaped to safety.
The British crossing the Hudson and scaling the Palisades to
This was done north of Englewood at the lower Closter Landing on Nov. 20, 1776 to capture Fort Lee. It was also an attempt to trap General Washington in his escape from Fort Lee. This came very close to succeeding and would have ended the Revolutionary War right here in Englewood, at the site of the Liberty Pole, at the west end of the city.
Washington's Englewood Headquarters
This house was used by General Washington as his Headquarters in 1780. It stood on the northeast corner of the intersection of Palisade Avenue and Tenafly Road. This area is now a small shopping center.
Leaders of the Continental Army held many conferences at Liberty Pole, such as the one on July 16, 1779, when General Anthony Wayne planned the taking of Stony Point. It was also from Liberty Pole in September, 1780, that Lt. Col. Alexander Hamilton wrote the letter to James Duane which is believed to be the first documented call for the conference which became the Constitutional Convention.
Throughout the Revolution, the people of the valley were divided in their allegiance, with bitter feeling between Patriots and Tories. Both armies regarded the Hackensack Valley as a source of food, and foraging raids were common. When the Continental Army was not able to protect the farmers, they organized their own militia, causing further internal conflicts within the Patriot groups.
It was a number of years after the war before the farmers could recoup their losses, restock their farms and return to the quiet lives they had known. During the same period, new settlers also arrived, including a German named Andrew Engle.
Until 1840, travelers to New York had to endure a three-hour trip by stagecoach to Hoboken, where they would board a ferry for New York City. In that year, a railroad was built from Jersey City to English Neighborhood. The venture proved so successful that in 1858 proposals to extend the line further north were submitted. John Van Brunt and Thomas W. Demarest, English Neighborhood residents, organized the Northern Railroad, which eventually ran to Piermont, just across the border in New York State.
The railroad's chief engineer invited a friend, New York lawyer J. Wyman Jones, to join him on an inspection trip over the new route. Impressed by the beauty of the country, Jones foresaw the likelihood of development when the railroad extension was completed and set about acquiring property rights. With friends he obtained control of six farms, laid out named streets, had a map drawn, and, on August 15, 1859, registered Englewood, the nucleus of the present city, in the County Seat of Hackensack.
The selection of the name was a subject of considerable discussion. The village encompassed much of the portion of English Neighborhood which had been known as Liberty Pole. Area residents and friends of Mr. Jones met in Van Brunt and Walters' carpentry shop to consider various names, including Paliscene and Brayton. The group finally adopted Englewood, Mr. Jones original proposal. According to Adelaide Sterling's 1922 history, the derivation of the name is not certain. Some said it was a variation of "English Neighborhood", while others claimed it stemmed from the Engle family name and woods of the hill section.
Mr. Jones encouraged many acquaintances from New York to join him in the community he had created. Among the first to come were Jeffrey A. Humphrey, E.S. Brayton, Hiram Slocum, Bryon Murray, Nathan T. Johnson and the Reverend James H. Wilder Dwight. Mr. Jones' sister and her husband, Mr. and Mrs. William B. Dana, arrived in 1861. Mr. Dana was the editor of THE FINANCIAL CHRONICLE, and many of the families recruited by Mr. Jones were associated with financial institutions in New York.
Englewood grew steadily and attracted an increasingly varied population as more and more goods and services were provided locally. A commercial center grew up around Palisade Avenue, and merchants, artisans and small businessmen settled in the area. Many were recent immigrants from Europe, and a few were black. Gradually local citizens established the institutions needed by the larger community.
The predominant religion in the early days had been Dutch Reformed, and worshippers had traveled to the English Neighborhood Reformed Church in what is now Leonia. In July 1859, Englewood residents began to raise funds for a local chapel, which was dedicated in March 1860. In June it became officially the first Presbyterian congregation in Bergen County. Shortly thereafter, a variety of other churches were built: a Methodist church in 1862, St. Paul's Episcopal Church in 1865, St.Ceclia's Roman Catholic Church in 1866, the Christian Reformed Church in 1875 and Bethany Presbyterian in 1880. The First Presbyterian Church quickly expanded, and the original chapel was moved in 1877 to its present site in the Brookside Cemetery on Engle Street. Many other congregations also built in Englewood, including the first orthodox synagogue in Bergen County, Ahavath Torah, and the First Church of Christ, Scientist, both completed around the turn of the century.
The earliest known school had been built in 1804 near Liberty Pole. In 1818 a new Liberty Union School was erected at the head of present-day Bennett Road, near the monument. The building was moved in 1850 to the corner of Tenafly Road and Pleasent Avenue, where it still stands. (At the turn of the century it became a private residence.) In the spring of 1860 a Young Ladies' Seminary was started on Palisade Avenue. At about the same time Mr. Duell established a boarding and day school for boys, and other boys' schools followed. One was located in what is now the Red Cross Chapter House on Grand Avenue. In 1867 public education was instituted in New Jersey, and Englewood's first free school, School Number 1, was constructed in 1869 on Humphrey Street and Englewood Avenue. St. Cecelia's Roman Catholic Church started a grammer school in 1872. Dwight Englewood School for Girls was established in 1889.
J.A. Humphrey recalls in his book of remembrances entitled Englewood, "A Village Improvement Society was formed in 1868 to take a general supervision over the village, such as lighting the streets, planting trees and removal of any unsightly refuse that might accumulate in the highways and unenclosed grounds. This Society accomplished much to improve the general appearance of the village during its existence." Inhabitants also contributed a certain amount each year to light the streets with oil lamps.
The Englewood Protection Society was organized in 1869 and given police authority by the state. In 1887 a Hose Company formed and firefighting equipment was purchased. The Englewood Hospital Association was formed in 1888. Land between Engle Street and the railroad was acquired and construction began. The hospital opened two years later.
In 1890 the Lyceum opened. located on the site of the old Dominie Demarest farm, at the corner of Engle Street and Palisade Avenue, the building housed the Citizens National Bank, the men's club, a concert hall, and the library. Life memberships of $200 per person in the Englewood Library Association provided $3400 for the purchase of books. Furnishings were donated by public-minded citizens, and seperate reading rooms for men and women were provided.
A Suburban Guide issued in 1895 by the Northern Railroad of New Jersey and Piermont Branch described Englewood as follows: "One of the healthiest and most progressive towns in the State. Population 6,500. The town is picturesquely located on the western slope of the Palisade Ridge...extending from the railroad quite to the cliffs... There are good fishing and gunning, and splendid drives in every direction. The town has a natural drainage which is perfect, is lighted by gas, and has a bountiful supply of pure water obtained from mountain springs and from artesian and driven wells. The streets are broad, macadimized and well shaded. One of the finest amusement halls to be found outside the largest cities is located here, and two well-conducted newspapers keep the inhabitants posted on all matters of local interest."
The village of Englewood was part of Hackensack Township from its inception until 1871, when the state legislature divided Bergen County into four townships: Hackensack, Palisade, Ridgefield, and Englewood. An act of the state legislature in 1894 eliminated large township school districts and made each municipality a seperate district. Residents were compelled to pay off the debts of the old district on a pro-rata basis. For some reason, boroughs, towns, villages and cities were exempted from the law. Consequently, there was a rush to form such governments and Englewood moved to incorporate as a city in 1896. Because of a defect in state legislation, the process was not completed until March 1899.
The first thirty years of the twentieth century saw the population of the city triple from the 6,253 figure recorded in 1900. During this period, more leaders of the finacial community moved in, liking the easy commute to Wall Street. Among them was Dwight W. Morrow, a partner of J.P. Morgan & Co. who also served as ambassador to Mexico from 1927 to 1930. Shortly after his death in 1931, his wife helped lay the cornerstone of the new public high school dedicated in his memory.
Development was stimulated partly by trolley service, which has been instiuted in 1896 and took workers and shoppers to the Edgewater Ferry, which connected in turn with the New York subway. The advent of the automobile brought another period of expansion for Englewood, but passenger service on the railroad and trolley gradually declined. The Public Service trolley made its final run to Englewood and Tenafly in May 1937. The last passenger train ran in 1966; long before, service had dwindled from a peak forty-seven trains to only two.
The Great Depression of the 1930's postponed the influx that was expected when the George Washington Bridge opened. It was not until after World War II that people again settled in large numbers. Among the new citizens of this period were many professionals, including some of national reputation. One such was Dr. John W. Davis, a former college president and United Sates Ambassador to Liberia.
Englewood's population peaked around 1960 at about 27,000, then, as in Bergen County generally, fell slightly in the 1970's. Since then, with minor variations, the number has stabilized at roughly 24,000. With unoccupied land scarce and development generally restricted, great population fluctuations are not anticipated in Englewood's future.
At present Englewood is a sophisticated city which combines much of its historic grace and charm with an exciting cosmopolitan atmosphere. It has many contrasts - between elaborate Victorian mansions and modern low-rise condominiums, between quiet tree-lined residential neighborhoods and the bustling central business district, between large estates and affordable apartments. Its proximity to New York City continues to be a significant feature, but it also has a vital and distinctive character of its own, forged from the richly heterogeneous backgrounds, interests and talents of its citizens.
Englewood's population is far more diverse than that of most suburbs, including many of its Bergen County neighbors. Occupations range from highly paid professionals to unskilled trades. Due to the proximity of New York hospitals and the ever-expanding, doctors abound. There are also many lawyers, business men and women, engineers and professors, as well as a number of artists, musicians, and entertainment and sports figures. One of many distinquished residents was Dizzy Gillespie, after whom a downtown area is named.