The Historic Homes of Cragmere Park
by John Bristow
The stately stone pillars at the Mahwah Road entrance to Cragmere Park say “Cragmere 1909.” But in the history of Mahwah, Ramsey and Cragmere, the year 1908 is a more interesting one, and it is there, with an occasional flashback, that this history of Cragmere begins.
In 1908 Ramsey had just split from Hohokus Township and had become a Borough. Governor Fort, in May, appointed Jacob Straut and Charles D. Vanderbeck, of Hohokus, as new members of the Township Committee to replace the Ramsey renegades. They joined Albert Winter, who was elected chairman for the balance of 1908. Addison L. Clark, of the American Brakeshoe and Foundry Co. was the Township’s clerk and James Devine, Jr. was the assessor.
The same A. L. Clark was president of the school board and Abram Banta was vice president. The school board decreed that $4,900 was the total amount to be raised by taxation for school purposes. Some voters at the annual meeting wanted to increase the appropriation. How things change!
Then, as now, traffic volume and speed were a subject of concern. A petition was being circulated to widen Miller road to a width of 50 feet. The Ramsey Journal reported little opposition to the project although some people thought that “the road will not be traveled enough to warrant the expense of widening.”
New macadam was being laid on Franklin Turnpike and the Township Committee was concerned about the damage being done by “fast auto driving.” The Committee opinion was that it would only be a short time before the road would be “ditched and gullied” if autos were not compelled to heed the speed limit.
Richard Wanamaker reported that 155 autos passed his place last Sunday. The Journal asked, “Is it any wonder the road needs repairs?”
John Y. Dater, then known as John Y. Dater, Jr., was 11 years old in 1908 and on October 31, James Glasgow, Sr., who was in charge of the Havemeyer Bros. fancy poultry and pigeons, set sail for London to exhibit 24 choice fantail pigeons at the Crystal Palace.
On the national scene, there was a hotly-contested presidential campaign going on. William Howard Taft, the Republican, against William Jennings Bryan. The Ramsey Journal took a non-partisan view with headlines such as, “Clergy endorse Taft” and editorial comments such as “Republican voters will make the ‘peerless one’ without peer in the number of his defeats.” Just to make sure, the Journal was peppered with fillers such as
“Perhaps the Bryan Managers display such fondness for campaign rainbows because they dream of the traditional pots of gold at their end.” – Ramsey Journal
Needless to say, Republican Taft beat Bryan by a 211 to 86 plurality in Hohokus Township. Some things never change!
The Erie was running regularly, as usual, but as usual, was in financial trouble. In April, E. H. Harriman was forced to bail the road out with cash because it was not able to meet its notes. In October he pledged another 14 million dollars so the suburban service could be electrified. The trolley line from Paterson to Suffern was under construction.
Zoning-something every Mahwah resident knows about today–was just a gleam in the eye of some progressive planner. New York City would not adopt its first zoning resolution until 1913.
And in 1908, the cities were not the most healthy place to live. Jacob Rits in his 1904 book, How the other Half Lives described the foul conditions in the New York tenements and Upton Sinclair in The Jungle did the same for the Chicago tenements.
Thus the scene is set for the arrival of Cragmere.
OWENO AND THE DUNLOPS
On December 1, 1908, for the sum of $50,010 the Estate of the late Colonel Ezra Miller, known as Oweno, was sold to George M. Dunlop of Spring Valley. The sale was both the beginning of an era and an end.
Colonel Miller, the inventor of an automatic railroad coupler known as the “Miller Platform”, had assembled his magnificent estate east of the Franklin Turnpike between 1872 and 1879. Miller lived in Brooklyn at the time he purchased his Mahwah land and paid about $14,000 for it. The sellers were John Mack and his wife, Rhoda, James Crouter, Jr., Clarissa Allcot and Peter P. Maysenger.
In at least one case the landowners apparently “saw Miller coming.” John Mack sold the Colonel a part of the estate for $8,800 at a profit of $1,100 over what Mack had paid for it 5 months earlier.
In 1874-75, Miller had a mansion house built on the property. He spent over $60,000 for the house and furnishings but he was able to enjoy it only for about ten years before his death in 1885.
After his death, the Colonel’s estate was confused for years. His will left the mansion and property in trust for his five children, Amanda J. Heinman, Ezra W. Miller, Harriet M. VanKirk, Jordan G. Miller and Franklin P. Miller, His son Ezra W. Miller was the trustee.
Shortly after the colonel’s death the mansion house was turned into a boarding house operated by his son Ezra until the evening of September 28, 1899 when the main house burned to the ground.
The Journal reported that the fire started in a butler’s room and spread rapidly when the door was opened. The fire extinguishers on each floor were missing and later found in an orchard. The fire hose was rendered useless when it burst because “in the excitement”; the fire fighters failed to straighten it out. At the time of the fire there were twenty-two guests in the house and at least one of them lost three diamond rings worth over $1,000.
Right after the fire Mr. Miller, the trustee, reported that he intended to rebuild a more modern boarding house and one was built about 1,000 yards to the north of the old mansion. But Miller seems to have lost interest in the administration of his father’s estate. In 1905, after many unsuccessful attempts to get him to account for his stewardship. Ezra W. Miller was removed as trustee and Thomas W. Dobbie, the husband of one of Colonel Miller’s granddaughters was named.
The new trustee reported to the Court in 1905 that he could find only one estate bank account–with only $16.81 left in it.
In 1908, the new trustee, through Clarence I, Smith, a local realtor, sold the property, after getting Court approval, to George M. Dunlop, the founder of Cragmere.
George M. Dunlop was one of the sons of John Dunlop and Jean Armour Beveridge, immigrants to the United States from Scotland. John Dunlop had founded a silk mill in Paterson in 1864 and at least part of the business was later moved to Spring Valley where it was operated by Beveridge C.Dunlop and George M. Dunlop as John Dunlop’s Sons.
George Dunlop and his wife, Lillian, acquired the Cragmere property in two tracts, one from the Miller Estate and the other from the Estate of James J. Carlough.
Even before he had acquired legal title to the ground, Dunlop announced that he intended to subdivide the property into plots of “half an acre and upwards.” He expected the demand for lots to be “immediate and numerous” because the property was “without a doubt the most attractive and healthful location on the main line of the Erie.”
THE MAHWAH COMPANY AND THE PLAN
Dunlop recognized the natural beauty of the Miller Estate and planned a beautiful residence park with a “magnificent view of the mountains from any part of the property.” In 1908 he expected that the “grand old oak trees along winding drives and the pretty little Oweno lake surrounded by beautiful sloping lawn” would enhance the park. He chose Vincent W. Vander Weyde, a landscape architect to assist with the plans.
In 1909 Dunlop, his wife, Vander Weyde, and Clarence I. Smith formed a corporation–The Mahwah Company–to carry out the plans. Mr. and Mrs. Dunlop conveyed the land to the Mahwah Company and Vander Weyde laid the land out into lots.
The first lots on Oweno Road were sold on June 1, 1909 to Henry P. Fletcher of Manhattan. Other early deeds were to David A. Kerr on Highland Road; to Francis J. Hayward, of Ridgewood, at the corner of Beveridge and Summit Roads; and to Andrew J. Winter at the corner of Beveridge and Airmount Roads.
These early deeds reflect the park plans. They contain a number of restrictions that tell what kind of a community Cragnere was to be.
- No business or manufacturing was permitted.
- No sale of liquor was permitted.
- No flat roofed houses, or two-family houses, or apartment houses were allowed.
- No “fence of stone, hedge or shrubbery” was to be allowed within fifty feet of any street line and no board fence, except a picket fence, was permitted any where.
- No signs, other than “To Let” or “For Sale” signs were allowed.
- The Mahwah Company had to approve all plans of houses and out buildings.
- And the electric light, telephone and other wires were to be placed on the lots not on the streets.
Anyone who purchased a lot agreed to become a member of the Cragmere Association and to pay 50 cents per 1,000 square feet of land every year after January 1, 1912. The money collected by the Association was to be used for the care and maintenance of facilities and conveniences desired by not less than three-quarters of the members. The first expense of the Association was to be for conveyances to carry members to and from the railroad station without charge. Other purposes of the proposed association were establishment and maintenance of a club house, stables and the like, street sprinkling and lighting, and keeping the property clean and attractive. All members of the Association and their families were entitled to equal rights and privileges.
The Mahwah Company developed an attractive advertising brochure containing a picture on every other page and a persuasive, descriptive patter:
This booklet is intended to introduce to you a residential park at MAHWAH, NEW JERSEY, situated at the beginning of the Ramapo Mountains and overlooking the valley through which flows the picturesque Ramapo River.
Very few localities combine the advantages of such a healthful location, beautiful natural scenery and high altitude (610 feet) as MAHWAH, where one can have an unobstructed view for miles of mountain, river and valley.
LOCATED thirty miles from New York on the main line of the Erie Railroad, which is four tracked to Suffern, MAHWAH has the benefit of both local and express service.
THERE is no doubt that the transit improve ments now under way, and those proposed, will greatly increase the land values in this sec tion. The Erie has commenced the electrifica tion of its system, and it is expected that the main line as far as Suffern will be completed in about a year. The McAdoo Tunnels leading to Cortlandt and Christopher Streets and thence by Subway to Sixth Avenue and Thirty-Third Street, Manhattan, will be connected with the Erie within six months, enabling the residents of MAHWAH to arrive in Manhattan with but one change of cars. The Bergen Tunnel at Jersey City is now being paralleled with an open cut which is to be used entirely for passenger service, with the exception of the under water portion, which will be made in the open air.
AN express trolley line is now in course of construction between Jersey City and Suffern, passing through MAHWAH, completing the line to New York. The roadbed will be constructed to permit a high-speed service, and its connection with the McAdoo Tunnels at Jersey City will bring MAHWAH within fifty minutes of Herald Square without change of cars.
A HIGH mountainous country with a sandy sub soil, makes perfect drainage, and in consequence MAHWAH is one of the most healthful suburbs of New York. During the winter season the climate is milder than in the city, and in summer the absence of brick and pavement lends to a considerably lower temperature which is marked by the absence of humidity.
DIRECTLY north is the Torne, one of the peaks of the Ramapo Mountains, which rises eleven hundred and seventy feet above sea level, and a few miles further north is well-known Tuxedo Park.
THE engineers have taken advantage of the natural contour of the land and laid out winding roads that alternately pass through groves of stately oaks and chestnuts, and between cleared knolls, Birch trees, which Tennyson so aptly termed “The Lady of the Woods,” evergreen cedars and large trees that rise to a height of sixty and seventy feet, give MAHWAH a parklike appearance that can only be compared with Central and Bronx Parks in New York City.
THE improvements that are to be made will be of the best character and no expense will be spared to make MAHWAH all that could be desired from any standpoint. The property has been divided into plots of approximately half an acre, and are of such variety that should one desire the seclusion of the woodlands or the freedom of the open hillside, it is there to choose from,
THE well-known Houvenkopf Country Club is only a mile from MAHWAH, and its extensive golf links, tennis courts and attractive club house provide both recreation and social intercourse.
THE company has acquired this property at a price that enables it to offer plots at figures that will bear favorable comparison with those of any other section within the same radius of New York.
AN inspection of the views that are reproduced in this booklet will give only a faint idea of the natural beauties of MAHWAH, and while an attempt has been made to express the facts clearly, it is impossible to give an adequate idea of its natural advantages by printed or pictured description; only a visit and personal inspection will convince you of the truth of our statements that
THERE IS NO OTHER TOWN OR SECTION in either New York Or New Jersey THAT CAN BE COMPARED WITH MAHWAH for its location, healthfulness and natural beauty and that IT IS in every way, THE MOST DESIRABLE SUBURB OF NEW YORK CITY.
WRITE for a map and further particulars, or better yet, come and see us, and DO IT NOW.
THE MAHWAH CO. Mahwah, N. J.
Telephone 166 Suffern
George M. Dunlop, President
Clarence J. Smith, Manager
V. W. Wander Weyde, Engineer
6 Feb. 1909
True to the advertisements and to the plans the streets WERE laid out to allow residents enjoyment of the Ramapo Mountain view. The residential streets required a minimum amount of excavation because they were laid out along natural contours. And, as some of our members will attest, the east-west streets–Airmount Road and Mahwah Road–have steep grades conducive to sledding.
A large tract of land was retained for Oweno Lake and park, designed as the central park for the community.
The man responsible for the layout was Vincent W. VanderWeyde, who according to the maps, had his office at 110 West 34th Street, New York and was a landscape engineer. VanderWeyde was a relatively young man and must have lived in Mahwah during the construction of the roads.
In 1910 he met a bizarre fate. In an attempt to steal diamonds in New York City he was caught and immediately swallowed poison and killed himself. After his death, it was reported that he owed considerable sums of money to local people. Abram C. Banta, the district clerk of the Board of Education had endorsed a note for him, and Mr. Miller said that Vander Weyde owed him some $500 for board.
The streets were named in various ways. Maysenger Road was named after Peter P. Maysenger, one of the persons who had sold some of the original property to Colonel Miller. Similarly, Alcott Road appears to have been named for Clarissa Allcot, one of the original owners of the land, although the spelling was slightly different. The Miller estate was known as “Oweno,” and thus the name of Oweno Road. Armour Road and Beveridge Road were Dunlop family names. George Dunlop’s mother was named Jean Armour Beveridge and his brother’s name was Beveridge Dunlop. Malcolm is also a Dunlop family name because in later years some of the lots were deeded to a Malcolm Dunlop. And Highland Road and Summit Road at the top of the hill naturally take their names from their locations.
Drinking water was supplied to each lot at an early stage. George and Lillian Dunlop retained the right to supply the water to the property sold by The Mahwah Company. Their well-drillers originally went down about 1,100 feet but could not find enough, so other wells were started. Some of these wells were “flowing” wells, and are still in use today. By the spring of 1912 water meters were being installed in the houses by the Ramapo. A reservoir was built at the bend of Mahwah Road where Mahwah’s water tank sits today.
The Dunlops formed a corporation known as the Cragmere Water Co. in 1912, but they never used the corporation in connection with their Cragmere development. Instead they supplied water until 1925 when the heirs of Lillian Dunlop deeded the system to Albert Winter for $24,575. Albert Winter deeded the water system to the Mahwah Water Company in 1931 and the system became part of Mahwah’s system in 1950.
All of the other community facilities were assumed by the Cragmere Association. This was a non-profit corporation formed in December, 1911 by the Dunlops and some of the original Cragmere property owners. The purposes set forth in the certificate of Incorporation give a clear picture of the Association’s functions :
- –to take title to the park lands –to maintain parks, lakes and streets –to build a clubhouse –to establish a bus service –to maintain a force to fight fires
- –to maintain a police force
- –to plant, preserve and maintain trees,shrubbery, flowers and lawns.
All persons owning at least 4,000 square feet of property were entitled to membership.
The Association did carry out some of its functions. In September, 1912 the Association took title to the streets, the lake and the park.
By May, 1913 the autobus had arrived after a long delay.
The community flourished in its early years as a summer community New Yorkers started to arrive in April and left in late October and early November. But the snow of February, 1914 must have been good because the Journal reported that several of the residents returned for sledding on the Washington’s Birthday holiday and that Leo Bugg had dislocated his shoulder while sledding on Mahwah Road.
Tennis was the vogue then as it is today. Courts were built near the reservoir at the top of the hill.
By September, 1913 another court was built near Oweno Lake. An initiation fee of $3.00 and an annual member ship fee of $2.00 was charged for membership in the tennis club.
On the Fourth of July, 1913 the residents were treated to an outstanding display of fireworks. The lake was illuminated by lanterns and Roman candles.
As for fire fighting, the Journal of May 16, 1913 reports that the previous Tuesday the “Wet Broom Brigade” was called out to fight a severe fire in the woods near Mr. Bennett’s home on Beveridge Road. The men of the Park were armed with “wet brooms, shovels, wet burlap” and the like and, after two hours of fire fighting came home “dirty and exhausted.”
A library was established in 1912 by Mrs. Eleanor Bugg and several of the other interested Cragmere residents. It was located in the Miller barns and was open from two until five on Mondays, Thursdays and Fridays.
The Cragmere Association went out of business in 1918, by conveying its property to the Cragmere Community, another non-profit corporation formed by Cragmere residents. In 1926 the streets were dedicated to the Township and in 1938 the lake and park were conveyed to the School Board for the Betsy Ross playground.
The Mahwah Company did not build homes, it simply sold lots. Therefore, unlike the large-tract developments of the 1950’s and 1960’s, there is a wide variety of houses in Cragmere. In addition, many lots remained unsold when Leo Bugg bought out The Mahwah Company as lots in 1925. And at least some of the original Mahwah Company purchasers did not build on their lots. Thus, it is difficult to pinpoint all of the original houses.
There were several sources used in this paper to locate the early houses. The Ramsey Journal for this period carried a report of Mahwah news almost every week. In April, 1912 for the first time, the newspaper began to separate the news of Cragmere from the news of the rest of Mahwah. A comparison of the names found in the newspaper with the deed records in the County Clerk’s Office allows some of the original houses to be placed.
In the municipal records for the Township there is a tax book for 1919. It is possible to tell from that list the names of the persons who had homes here in 1919.
By way of these sources it is possible to locate the first house built in the community. But beyond that the evidence is inconclusive as to when each of the later houses were built.
The first home in Cragmere Park was built for Mr. and Mrs. Henry P. Fletcher of Manhattan. It was located at 103 Oweno Road, on the east side, the fourth house south of Airmount Road. Today it is owned by J. Randall and Ann Kuiper.
Mr. Fletcher was the first person to buy a lot from the Mahwah Company in June, 1909, and despite cries of “business depression and hard times” heard in some quarters, the house was nearing completion in November, 1909.
It was designed by The Craftsman Architects located at West 34th Street, New York, within a few doors of Vincent Vander Weyde’s office. It had the characteristic’ 18″ thick fieldstone foundation walls and stained shingle siding, although the original plans called for clapboards.
The front of the house has a fieldstone open-air front porch with a cement floor. Inside there were originally a living room, kitchen, bath and three bedrooms. At some later time another room was added.
The living room has a false-beam ceiling and a large fieldstone fireplace although the plans originally called for a brick fireplace. The added room also has a fireplace.
Although the house was built and used by Mr. Fletcher at least for the first several years as a summer house, it was equipped with central hot air heat.
A kitchen “dresser” was designed and built of chestnut, a wood that was popular for paneling and trim in many of the early homes. The chestnut was apparently supplied for many of these homes by W. K. Findley of Mahwah.
Mr. Fletcher was one of the incorporators of the original Cragmere Association and lived in the park until he sold the house to Mr. and Mrs. Clifford Schoonmaker. Mr. Schoonmaker continued to own the house until his death in March, 1971 and his widow sold the house to Mr. and Mrs. Kuiper in November, 1971.
Leo Bugg was another founder of the Cragmere Association and an early home builder. His house was also built on Oweno Road. It was later divided into two houses which are today owned by Mrs. Bourgholtzer and Mr. and Mrs. Arthur Iserman.
In later years, Mr. Bugg developed a number of homes in Cragmere and is credited with “shaping the architectural character of the homes in the development.” But he lived here himself as early as 1911 and, before he became actively involved in Cragmere building, he had subdivided and sold lands in Ramsey. Through his Leo Bugg Realty Co., a New York corporation, Mr. Bugg also sold property in Ridgewood.
Mr. Bugg’s wife Eleanor was active in the Cragmere community and was the founder of the Library in 1912. She contributed “time, money and a number of books from her personal library.”
In 1925 Leo Bugg acquired most if not all of the remaining lots still owned by the Mahwah Company and began to sell lots. He sold a lot of property, but the Depression brought hard times and in 1934 the Mahwah Company bought the land back for $500 at a sheriff’s sale. At the time of the sale there was still $61,413.39 due on Bugg’s 1925 mortgage to the Mahwah Company.
Another early Cragmere home, also on Oweno Road south of Airmount, is now owned by Mr. and Mrs. Peter L. Murphy. The first Cragmere baby was born in the house to Mr. and Mrs. John Oest in April, 1912.
In May, 1910 the Journal reported that Miss Emma Prince had contracted with builder McPeek of Ramsey for the construction of three cottages. Only two of them–one on Mahwah Road and one on Alcott Road have been located.
Builder McPeek also built one of the most unusual and stately homes in Cragmere–the Brandenburg house on Airount Road at the end of Alcott Road. The scalloped dormer parapets distinguish this house which was built in 1912. The house in now owned by Helen Edgar.
Two of the early houses were built near the corner of Beveridge and Airmount Roads. Florence Price Bennett purchased a lot on the east side of Beveridge in 1911 and the house was there by 1913 when the “wet broom brigade” was called out to fight a fire in the woods behind the house.
Across the street on the northwest corner, a house was built by Mr. Phillip L. Clarke, who was one of the founders of the Cragmere Association. In 1913 Mr. and Mrs. Clarke sold the house to Mr. and Mrs. Charles Bacon of Brooklyn and built a new house on Armour Road.
In the same neighborhood, Mr. and Mrs. Eliot C. White built a house on Beveridge at the intersection of Summit. Today this house looks backwards, because it was built for the mountain view. The house is owned today by Mr. and Mrs. Shaw.
Another one of the Cragmere Association incorporators, S. Grace Leavenworth built an early house on Armour Road. The house is today owned by Mr. and Mrs. John Edwards, the present Secretary to the Mahwah Board of Adjustment.
In October, 1913, Miss Levenworth, who was then married to Eugene Rosedale, sold the house to Mr. and Mrs. Hugh Goodridge. Mr. Goodridge was active in the community. He helped in the early days of the library, was an incorporator of the Cragmere Community and was secretary of the Cragmere Association.
The two homes north of the Leavenworth house were also early ones. In 1912 they were owned by Basset Jones, Jr. and E. C. Keys.
Joyce Kilmer owned one of the original Cragmere homes. He purchased his home at the corner of Airmount and Armour Roads in August, 1911 and sold it in April, 1917, less than a year before his death on a World War I battlefield. It was here that Kilmer wrote “Trees,” his most famous poem.
Another writer, whose works have not been located, was Mrs. Carleton, who in 1913 had a home built at the corner of Beveridge and Summit Road. The house was later owned by Mr. and Mrs. Donald Parker.
Next to the Carleton house there is another early house owned by Mr. and Mrs. Harper in 1912.
In the same neighborhood there are two stucco homes that are early Cragmere houses. The home today of Mr. and Mrs. William Clark was owned in 1912 by Clara Marquard. And, across Summit Road a home was built for Mr. and Mrs. Frederick Schulz in 1913. They lived in their garage while the house was built.
At Highland and Mahwah Roads there are a number of early homes. The Austin home was there in 1912 and, on Mahwah Road, the Tintles and the Taltavalls were next-door neighbors.
The Adamsons lived at the corner of Maysenger and Airmount in the summer of 1912 and Mr. and Mrs. Paul Trieb lived at the corner of Malcolm and Airmount.
On Alcott Road, Walter Griffen, the first vice president of the Cragmere Association, built a stone house and occupied it for the summer of 1912. And Mr. and Mrs. Hotchkiss also owned a home on Alcott Road. Frederick Waterman had an early home at the corner of Alcott and Mahwah Roads.
The Lord house, at the corner of Maysenger, Mahwah and Oweno was built prior to 1913.
James A. Biggs purchased his property in 1912, Today the house is owned by Mr. and Mrs. William McCutcheon. In the same neighborhood there was a house owned by Mr. and Mrs. Laertes Gunmaer.
Robert C. Darby built a large house on Armour Road and moved in in April, 1912.
The Powells lived on the other end of Armour Road, near the Kilmer house, in 1912.
And finally, the house that is today the Mahwah Education Center was built in 1913 for Mrs. Theuson of Jersey City. It overlooked Oweno Lake.
You can almost spot the historic homes of Cragmere Park by their grace and beauty. The architectural varieties seem to be infinite.
There are large homes–like the one formerly owned by Howard P. Holman, the Chairman of the Board of Diamond Match co. And there are small looking ones–like the one on Mahwah and Malcolm.
There are stucco houses–like the one formerly owned by Mayor and Mrs. Mowery, now owned by the Mulliers. And there are stone and stucco houses–like the one owned in 1912 by the Harpers and now owned by the Nicolettas.
There are houses with steep roofs–like the one at the corner of Mahwah and Summit, and the Leavesley house– formerly a kindergarten. There are houses with gently sloping roofs, and sweeping roofs, and dormer roofs and unusual roofs, but–true to the Cragmere restrictions–no flat roofs.
And there are an infinite variety of porches–one with a rotunda, one with glass, one with screens, and one with stone pillars.
And they haven’t already made it.
These houses of Cragmere will certainly become part of Mahwah’s heritage.
This manuscript is a part of the John W. Bristow Papers, at the Mahwah Museum.