On Wednesday, Feb. 16, 2000, I had lunch at Arcola with Fritz Behnke (81 years old and author of “Paramus: 1922-1960”). He was very helpful in pinpointing the various parcels of land that will come into play (in the history I started to put together) and the area he knew so well from his youth.
He recalled that a trolley line ran from Fort Lee/Edgewater on the Hudson River through Bogota, across the meadows into Hackensack, up Passaic Street to the station/stop on the Easton Estate adjoining the present Mack Office Building, continuing on Paramus Rd. to the present Route 4 and across the Saddle River Bridge, then paralleling the present Route 4, past the Barbour Estate to the Passaic River and across the trolley trestle into Paterson.
The 23 acres purchased by Denison M. Easton (Edward Denison Easton’s father) was in the vicinity of where the replica of the Arcola Mill now stands. The additional 46 acres was purchased around 1898 by Edward Easton and later known as the Arcola Gardens was east of the 23 acres. A white house across from the Mack Building and near the Arcola church was the dwelling of Denison Easton and his wife. Edward Easton built a larger house across the road, adding to the acreage to incorporate his gardens. Edward Easton gave his parents the right to reside on the property (the 23 acres) until their death.
To the east of the Mack Building and the Garden State Parkway, practically the site on which the Rama-da Inn now stands, was an amusement park. A little farther east, at the bend on Passaic St., was where Trautwein Field (airport) was located. This Trautwein was the uncle of Arcola member Ted Trautwein who was the Bergen County Assignment Judge (since deceased) in the 1970s-80s.
Mr. Behnke’s family owned a farm bordered by Rt. 17 (at Century Rd.), the Ridgewood Country Club and Sprout Brook. He often used the Arcola property as a short-cut in the late 1920s early 1930s to visit friends in the area. He said the Zabriskie family grew corn and melons on the land that was sold to Arcola, and they rotated the crops with potatoes to ward off disease.
The Arcola minutes of June 17, 1909, recognize this farming activity by stating that “land-owners be allowed to take this year’s crop off the land.” Behnke said farmers of that day somewhat disregarded property boundary lines. He also noted that Sprout Brook was diverted from its original course to prevent flooding. The Saddle River was much wider then than it is now; it also flooded the area from time to time.
Interestingly, the aerial photo of Arcola taken around 1930 and hanging in the Grill/TV Room shows golf course activity south of Route 4 in at least two places, according to Fritz. This reflects the various notations in the minutes covering the property south of Route 4 that Arcola eventually sold. The lease of land for a golf driving range offers one example.
Arcola also sold property east of the Garden State Parkway on the west side of Sprout Brook. Arcola still owns property along Route 4 next to the Parkway entrance, a strip of about 172 feet wide which provides access to the property in the future should commercial development or new housing invade club property.
Arcola’s goal in the 1940s was to ward off higher real estate taxes on highway frontage and assess-ments for highway improvements such as sanitary sewers Selling off this property was the only defense, according to the minutes.
The property purchased from Martha Kinsella Van Riper, a relation of former Arcola president John Bolton, was approximately where the Paramus Road-Route 4 East jughandle is located. Jules DeVuyst, the greenkeeper at the time, lived in a house at the intersection that was leveled to make way for the jughandle.
The Easton property, some say the Brevoort Tract, that Arcola purchased, was loaded with trees. This is borne out looking at a 1930 aerial photo showing the golf course layout north and south of Route 4. Apparently, the heavily wooded area wasn’t touched to any great extent for the golf course while the Zabriskie land to the south, which extended over Rt. 4 to Sprout Brook, comprised the primary acreage for the golf course.
The property north and west of the Easton tract along Paramus Road that comprised the 5th, 6th, 7th and 8th holes of the original (1912) course was approximately 63 acres in size. The Zabriskies sold Arcola this land. Arcola later sold it to Buitoni for its planned headquarters, which never materialized. A developer is now leveling the land for about 40 single family homes at prices ranging from $750,000 and up. The condos and town houses along Century Road start at $400,000.