In-Depth History of Ho-Ho-Kus
Our Ho-Ho-Kus story commenced
generations before the three hundred years we are now
celebrating. It began with the native Americans, the Lenni
Lenape (Delaware Indians), who lived here, walked the paths,
fished the streams, hunted the forests and toiled the land.
The Lenni Lenape tribe had three distinct sub-divisions - the
Minsies, in the northern part of the state, the Unamis in the
central and the Unalachtigo in southern Jersey. Translated
Lenni Lenape means "original people". Chief Wearimus lived
east of the Saddle River with his tribe, while Chief Oratam,
born 1577, was the great Sagamore (Chief) of the Hackensack
Indians. His decision to live in peace with the first Dutch
and English settlers of his land is credited with easing the
way for the quiescent settlement of Bergen County.
No one knows when they first inhabited the area. We do know,
however, that most of the native Americans left New Jersey
The Minsies, in 1758, relinquished their land but reserved the
right to hunt and fish. During the latter years of their
residency here, they were joined by immigrants who were Dutch,
English and Polish.
Names such as Zaborowsky (now Zabriskie), Ackerman, Hopper,
Bogert and Terhune fill the pages about our first
homesteaders. History tells us that Albert Zaborowsky and
David Ackerman arrived in New Amsterdam on the same ship in
1662. David died before he re-located to this area but Albert
eventually made his way to the Paramus region and apparently
owned land within what is called the New Paramus Tract - an
area, according to several writers, which included Ho-Ho-Kus.
We know that one of David's sons, Abraham, married and moved
to Hackensack and his sons David and Adrian moved to the
Paramus area and that Adrian's son Johannes acquired land in
Ho-Ho-Kus as early as 1773. Descendants of Albert Zaborowsky
and David Ackerman still live within our borders giving them
unequalled long-time resident status.
Although there are family histories and church documentation
about early pioneers, one of the earliest written notices that
specifically mentions Ho-Ho-Kus is the 1698 Van Emburgh deed.
It records the purchase, for thirty-two pounds ten shillings,
of half of a 500 acre patent of land by David Provoast and
Johannes Van Inburgh from Issac Kingsland to whom it had been
granted by the Proprietors of East New Jersey. A transcription
from the original document states: Hoghakas (Ho-Ho-Kus) in ye
Provinse of East and New Jargy ye 2d of may ano Dom 1698 There
apaired before me Pieter Johnson and Jaccomintie his wife &
Declared This within instrement to be There vollantary act &
Deed as wittnis my hand
It is this written documentation that permits us to celebrate
the fact that the settlement of our town is over 300 years
We were called a "township" because in the late 1600's and
early 1700's the territory of "HOHOKUS" included land north
and west of our present boundaries. However, as more and more
settlers arrived, various clusters of homes eventually became
communities, e.g. Mahwah, Ramsey, Allendale, Waldwick, Ho-Ho-Kus
and parts of the Saddle River Valley.
Since our beginning we have been known by several names:
Hochaos - (Indian) Choghaxes - (Dutch)
Hoppertown New Prospect
Borough of Orville Borough of Hohokus
And how did we get to be the town with the hyphens and the
Ho's? It was by a public referendum. The residents went to the
polls to decide and voted to have us known as the Borough of
Ho-Ho-Kus. Today every man, woman and child in this historic
town is proud to live in a community whose spelling is not
duplicated anywhere on earth.
An excellent question asked by many is "What is the meaning of
Ho-Ho-Kus?". As is the case with many names of Indian origin,
there can be many interpretations some with proof and
authority and some without documentation. Here are a few
definitions found to date:
Perhaps the most accepted is that Ho-Ho-Kus was a contraction of
Mehokhokus or Mah-Ho-Ho-Kus, a Delaware Indian term meaning "the Red
Cedar", on the basis that most of the older Indian words beginning in
"me" or "mah" often lost their first syllables with time.
From the immigrants arriving, time kept marching on for the
development of the area and more and more families arrived as this
1698 - 1 family
1940 - 1626 people
1712 - 5 families
1950 - 2254 people
1770 - 10 families
1960 - 3988 people
1887 - 24 families
1970 - 4348 people
1900 - 316 people
1980 - 4129 people
1910 - 488 people
1990 - 3935 people
1920 - 586 people
2000 - 4060 people
1930 - 925 people
Along with the establishment of a colonial community came the building
of homes that, in our case, were clustered around the present business
district area at Franklin Turnpike and Sheridan Avenue (originally
called Hoppertown Road). The first stores were Vreeland's which served
not only as a general store but also as a hotel with a saloon and
Leary's General Store. Joel Miller's Store with the modern convenience
of an ice box. During the period of the late 1700's homes were
constructed on the east and west banks of the Saddle River and during
the next 100 hundred years nineteen magnificent, imposing and
impressive homes appeared on the landscape. Most of these homes are
still standing today and several qualify to be listed on the National
Register of Historic Homes.
Not only were more families arriving in the area and there was no
doubt that life was still a struggle but nothing equaled that of their
ancestors. But, now the political arena was changing. The
Revolutionary War found the people in Bergen County in a strange
dilemma. What were they to decide? What was the right thing to do? For
more than a hundred years they and their ancestors had struggled with
the soil. The farmers of 1775 were prosperous, well-fed, warmly housed
and hopeful of a great future. Their fields were yielding produce and
selling for fine prices. Their capacious barns and meadows were
well-stocked with a steadily increasing number of cattle, horses,
swine, fowl and sheep. Their capital and income were growing - and all
this under the English rule. Perhaps taxes were high but, perhaps too,
these men were able to pay them.
At first the unrest did not seem to be the concern of the citizenry
here as these Revolutionary meetings were being held in the far-off
places of Boston or Philadelphia. As a result, resentment ran high
among certain colonists who were Tories and those others who were
heart and soul for the revolutionary movement.
For several reasons it could not be avoided that the war touched us.
New Jersey was a bottleneck between the northern groups of states (New
York and New England) and the southern groups (Pennsylvania and the
other colonies to the south). What is now known as Franklin Turnpike
was one of the best routes for travel from Albany to New York directly
through Hoppertown (Ho-Ho-Kus) and Paramus. One of our families, the
Hoppers, had the spirit and foresight to believe in the cause of the
colonists and the courage to fight for their convictions. Records
indicate that the Hopper family was joined by the Vanvoorhese, Storms,
Blauvelt and VanOrden families.
The Hermitage, with its classic lines of English Gothic architecture,
its wood-shingled roofs and pointed gables, found itself in the middle
of the great struggle. In this home could be found classical music,
lovely ladies, manners and culture quite unknown in most of Bergen
County. Regular visitors, American and British, were entertained by
the Widow Theodosia Prevost. Names such as George Washington, Aaron
Burr, Alexander Hamilton, Marquis de La Fayette, Benedict Arnold and
James Monroe frequented the Hermitage.
During the conflict the romance between Widow Prevost and Aaron Burr
developed and soon after hostilities ceased they were married.
Subsequent owners of this historic home following Theodosia Prevost
and Burr were William Cutting (to 1794), William Bell (to 1804), James
Laroe (to 1807) to Elijah Rosencrantz. All of Ho-Ho-Kus can be proud
of this man - a minister, doctor, farmer, traveler, successful
business man and a leader dedicated to achieve economic and political
independence. Mary Elizabeth Rosencrantz, granddaughter of Elijah,
lived in the Hermitage until her death in 1970. The home and land were
willed by Mary Elizabeth to the State of New Jersey.
With the war behind them, the resurgence of our community began and we
entered into the 1800's. The Turnpike Era was ushered in by the
farmers need for better and cheaper transportation, an increasing
population and county development. It was during this era that
Franklin Turnpike was upgraded from a stage road. The two pikes were
the Franklin Turnpike and the Paterson Turnpike. The former commenced
at Paramus Church, followed the old stage route, straight through
Ho-Ho-Kus, to connect to the Orange Turnpike on the New York State
line. The latter turnpike followed Maple Avenue south to Ridgewood
Avenue and on to Paterson.
The Turnpikes aided developing industries as did the swiftly running
water of the Saddle River and the Ho-Ho-Kus Brook. There were grist
and cotton mills, carriage, paint and blacksmith shops and on East
Saddle River Road a saw and grist mill and a cotton and woolen mill
flourished. Perhaps the most remembered were the Zabriskie and
Rosencrantz Mills. The site of the Rosencrantz Mill, also known as the
Ho-Ho-Kus Bleachery, is at the end of Hollywood Avenue. It was the
final industrial endeavor built. Today, with those buildings still in
existence, it has been converted into Dalebrook Park, a complex of
offices, shops and warehouses. The Zabriskie Mill does not exist. Its
location was the site of the lower level of the parking lot at the
All was going well for those families living here during the 1800's
until, as history would have it, war clouds were on the scene once
again. Abraham Lincoln had been elected president, Ft. Sumter had been
fired upon, emotions rose throughout the country and we were now
engaged in a Civil War. Just as during the Revolution, opinion
differed, and while most citizens were loyal to the Union, others felt
that the war was unrighteous and unnecessary.
The National Guard of Ho-Ho-Kus was formed; the members of the Guard
drilled faithfully under their Captain Abraham Van Emburgh and they
departed for war. The majority of the men from Bergen County were in
Companies B and D of the 22nd Regiment with twenty eight of them from
Ho-Ho-Kus. To our knowledge all returned safely to their families and
Following the Civil War different type of new families started moving
into Ho-Ho-Kus. They were known as the commuters! The Erie Railroad
had begun a campaign for new settlers to the lands which it traversed.
The railroad, in 1878, published "The Erie Guide Book" and "Where To
Spend The Summer" in which glowing pictures of suburban towns were
painted. Ho-Ho-Kus is given attention in the pamphlets with a
beginning line that reads, "Hohokus station is one of the most
picturesque on the Erie".
Part of the attraction was the existence of fifty acres of Sylvan Lake
located on the Ho-Ho-Kus Brook and formed by a fifty foot high cut
brownstone dam built in 1863 by the John Zabriskie family in order to
supply water to the Zabriskie Mill. The purpose was to supply power to
local mills. The lake was a true recreational facility as it provided
ice skating, canoeing and swimming. On its western shoreline was the
Ho-Ho-Kus Hotel and dance pavilion. The eastern shore was known as
Knollwood Park. Unfortunately, when the dam broke in 1892, the lake
disappeared along with the summer tourist attraction.
Ho-Ho-Kus residents had other forms of recreation. The 1870's brought
with it the Ho-Ho-Kus Race Track. In one form or another the track
continued to exist and be used until the late 30's. There were the
traditional livestock exhibits, competitions and the many displays of
wagons and machinery. The County Fair was always the event of the
year. The last Fair was held in 1932 and the last horse races a year
later. Exciting entertainment was provided by the Ho-Ho-Kus Driving
Club which invaded the track in 1919 and remained popular until a
fatal day, July 4, 1938 when two race cars plunged into the infield
killing two spectators and injuring many others. The exhilaration of
racing was stopped. The land sold in 1950 and 1951 for a housing
When 1924 arrived so did our first public library sponsored by the
Ho-Ho-Kus Woman's Club. The library was housed in a jail cell intended
for female prisoners. Three years later the Borough officials
authorized funds for a library by purchasing a real estate office and
relocating it to East Franklin Turnpike. It was in 1988 that the
library was moved to the corner of North Franklin Turnpike and Warren
Avenue and became known as the Worth Pinkham Memorial Public Library.
The present Library Board of Trustees and the staff encourage everyone
to secure a library card not only for local use but to enjoy the
privileges of being a member of the Bergen County Cooperative Library
System (BCCLS). Without a doubt one of the most successful endeavors
at the Worth Pinkham Memorial Library are the year-round children's
Throughout the years of Ho-Ho-Kus history there have been numerous
changes - from farmlands and farmers to well established homes, to
professional and business people, to commuters and to well established
youth and sports programs. We are grateful to the town's forefathers
and the citizens who supported them for the legacy and example they
gave to us. In the real estate market homes in Ho-Ho-Kus homes usually
are at a premium. The Borough is fiscally sound enjoying the highest
rating possible for a community of our size. Families move here
because they like what they find here. Many tend to stay even after
children have left the nest. Ho-Ho-Kus continues to provide the
positive qualities of family life and community pride and involvement
that was first brought here by the Zaborowskys, Ackermans and Van
Emburghs. There is no doubt that Ho-Ho-Kus is deep-rooted in the
annals of history - the past and the yesteryears.
The above information is a thumbnail review of our story. This
presentation does not cover our more recent history, e.g. Chestnut
Ridge stables, the 1903, 1945, 1977 floods, Floyd, the war years,
Brewster Pond, the Route 17 overpass, the arrival of the townhouse
development, the trolley and many more.
Ho-Ho-Kus is many things to many people. But, to everyone, it is
peaceful, secure and protected. The community consists of a friendly,
diverse population that is family oriented. Ho-Ho-Kus is a great place
in which to live!
See brief history here
Additional Historical Data from the Master Plan
Anniversary Committee, 50th Anniversary, Ho-Ho-Kus - 1908/1958, A.G.
Anniversary Committee, 75th Anniversary, Ho-Ho-Kus - 1908/1983,
Ruth Frost, Chairperson.
Hudson, Sue F., Background of Ho-Ho-Kus History, Woman's Club of
Ho-Ho-Kus, New Jersey, 1953.
Planning Board, Borough of Ho-Ho-Kus Master Plan, 1995 Revision.
Thompson, Rusty, Spotlighting Ho-Ho-Kus, Northwest Board of Realtors.