Monday, March 31, 2008

[Feature] History 101: Palisades Park Wasn't Always a Square Mile

In lieu of Palisades Park’s 109th birthday (March 22nd), what better way to celebrate it than an article on “the greatest square mile” around?

As one of the founders of Life in Boxes, I have to admit that we originally thought of this blog idea out of our common interest and love: the square of a mile we call home – Palisades Park. But living in such a small area, there never really seems to be any real ground-breaking news going on.

After talking to a proud Texan and hearing about the history lessons more focused on Texas, I realized that despite my fierce loyalty to my hometown, I had no understanding of its rich, historic past. Sure, we all know about Fort Lee and its role as the original motion picture capital. And yeah, the George Washington Bridge is pretty awesome, getting us across to the city within minutes. But what about Palisades Park? Surely it must have some sort of interesting historic value…right?

Let’s be honest here. Sure, it’s a tiny town, or more correctly, a borough (1.3 square miles, to be exact). And yeah, there isn’t really much to do here besides going to a Korean bakery/café for some [overpriced] coffee and pastries, sing for an hour or so at an [overpriced] karaoke room, … I mean, who are we kidding? Broad Avenue is pretty much the most exciting area of the town (and even that runs through the neighboring towns of Leonia and Ridgefield). In fact, if you think about it, the elementary school (Lindbergh School) is right at one edge of our town (bordering Leonia) and the high school (Palisades Park Junior-Senior High School is on the opposite end (bordering Ridgefield). Pretty bizarre, if you ask me.

I’m no town-constructing expert, but I’ve played enough SimCity 2000 to know where some buildings should be strategically placed within a town. And to have our schools located at both edges of the town border seemed pretty weird to me. But thanks to some research online, the truth has been discovered.

It turns out that Leonia, Palisades Park, and Ridgefield once was a whole town on its own called Palisades Hills Township. Palisades Hills stretched across a whopping 6.9 square miles, in comparison to its neighboring township, Fort Lee. But then goat farmers from Fort Lee (known as Coytesville at the time – Coytesville was a village of its own, but gave up its independence to those Fort Lee bullies) took portions from the all-encompassing Palisades Hills (explaining why past 13th Street belong to Fort Lee). Brinkerhoff Avenue used to be known as "Nanny Goat Hill" because of all of the goats grazing on the hilly nolls; the loss of anywhere past 13th Street had a negative effect on Palisades Hills, which later sparked the differences that eventually led to the split of three boroughs.

Palisades Hills was torn apart for most of the later 1800s. After losing a part of “Nanny Goat Hill,” the demand for goat milk, cheese, and meat was high in demand. After threatening words from the farmers on both ends of Palisades Hills, the middle section of the township claimed its independence on March 22, 1899. Unable to keep the besmirched name of Palisades Hills, it was named the borough of Palisades Park. As a result of losing the whole middle section of Palisades Hills to its own independence, the formation of the borough of Leonia and borough of Ridgefield soon followed after.

Once old grudges died out and when plans to modernize the little goat-farming community came about, Broad Avenue was created to made amends with Leonia and Ridgefield. Initially, the street was to be named “Palisades Hills Avenue,” in memory of the old township. However, town officials in Palisades Park, Leonia, and Ridgefield agreed to start anew and after much deliberation, the name “Broad Avenue” was chosen.

I guess HAving a Palisades Park street (Yes, is it wrong to cAll it a PalpaRkIan street?) Like Broad Avenue running FrOm LeOnia-PaLiSades Park-Ridgefield makes some sense, afterall.


Ginny said...

Haha. Happy April Fools. I get it.

Jen Shin said...

um, i love you and i love this post.

Anonymous said...

Yeah, a bit too obvious since everyone knows that it was the sheep farmer revolt that led to the splits.

Jorge J said...

it's not sheep it's wool!

Anonymous said...

brinkerhoff was really called nanny goat hill

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