History of Ridgewood

Indian TerritoryThe territory now known as Ridgewood was once the hunting and fishing grounds of the Lenni Lenape Indians. When the first European settlers arrived, they found a forested wilderness abundant in turkeys and rattlesnakes.

During Colonial times, the entire region was known as Paramus.  The first settlements were by the Dutch in the area of the Old Paramus Reformed Church located at what is now the intersection of East Glen Avenue and Route 17.  Several times during the Revolutionary War, this church served as the headquarters of General George Washington.

At the end of the War, there were still only about twenty families residing in the boundaries of modern-day Ridgewood.  The early Dutch Americans who inhabited this area were self-reliant and spent their days tending to the necessities of survival. Most lived off farming and some established mills along the Hohokus Brook or Saddle River.  Roads were few and far between.  Development was slow and most new homes were built for the descendents of the original settlers. 

For many years, the area was popularly known as Godwinville in honor of Abraham Godwin, a local Revolutionary War hero.  In the 1860s it became known as Ridgewood and the name has remained.  Today, a statue of Abraham Godwin stands in Van Neste Park as a tribute to the Village's early namesake.

Ridgewood Train Station Circa 1900The railroad arrived in 1848 and times changed forever.  In the beginning, the nearest stop was in Hohokus.  However, mill owners clamored for a closer one and in 1851 a stop was created near the present-day train station.  A second track was added in 1865 and two more in 1902-03.

The train set off a modest real estate boom as New Yorkers were attracted to the agreeable residences that were being built within easy distance of the station.  The number of houses grew from 59 in 1851 to 1,200 in 1876.  Businesses were established to service the increasing population.

By 1900, the population of Ridgewood had reached nearly 2,700.  Residents were drawn to the clean air, broad tree-lined thoroughfares and numerous parks and recreational facilities. Many depended on the convenient train commute to New York City.  The Village had also developed a reputation for families, education and pride of ownership.

Ridgewood Avenue Circa 1970Rapid population growth at the turn of the century fueled the development of a diverse central business district.  By 1930, the population had reached 12,188 and the downtown commercial center had begun to encroach on neighboring residential zones.  By 1972, Ridgewood's population was over 27,500 and the mature downtown area was fully developed within its present boundaries.

Today, Ridgewood is the pride of New Jersey with its vintage homes and "main street" appeal.  The restaurants and shops of a dynamic downtown attract visitors from all over the region. Commuting proximity to New York continues to service those who rely on the big city for their livelihood yet yearn for the peace and values of a close-knit bedroom community.  First-class schools and commitment to family encourage children to become caring and contributing members of society.  Shade trees, soccer fields and sidewalk sales - Ridgewood offers it all, with an appreciation for the past and optimism for the future.

Sources: Celebrating a Centennial: A History of Ridgewood, New Jersey. Ridgewood Centennial Celebration Committee, 1994.
Parrillo, Vincent, Beth Parrillo and Arthur Wrubel. Images of America: Ridgewood. Charleston: Arcadia Publishing, 1999.

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