Camp Merritt was originally called camp Tenafly because all communications and early negotiations concerning the camp's construction were dated from Tenafly and the site was then referred to as Tenafly. It was later named in honor of Major General Wesley Merritt, an 1860 graduate of West Point, whose military fame began as a Union Army Cavalry Officer at the 1865 surrender of southern forces that ended the Civil War at Appomattox Courthouse in Virginia. As a Major General he commanded the Philippine Expedition in 1896 and was the first Governor General of the islands.
The approximate cost of construction was $11 million dollars. The camp covered an area of 770 acres and contained well over 1,300 buildings. A total of 1, 088, 081 solders passed through Camp Merritt's gates. The cost of Camp Merritt was, therefore, about $10 per man.
The capacity of the camp was 2,000 officers and 40,000 enlisted men. All troop movements were conducted between the hours of midnight and 5 a.m. These facts are from the Bergen County Office of Cultural and Historic Affairs (355 Main Street, Hackensack, N.J., October 1979) and "The Merritt Dispatch" dated May 30, 1919, page 19.
Grant and Knickerbocker on August 21, 1917
The camp was opened in 1917, its 770 acres of land extending through Dumont, Cresskill, Bergenfield, Tenafly, Haworth and Demarest. It became the main "Replacement Depot" for troops from all over the nation headed for France. "The Western Front" where 4,734,991 Americans fought in the World War. More than 1,000,000 U.S. solders passed through Camp Merritt, bound directly to the Transshipment Terminal in Hoboken.
The center of Camp Merritt was at the intersection of Knickerbocker Rd. and Madison Ave., the site of monument and circle today. The view in the above photograph is looking south on Knickerbocker Rd. as it appeared on May 30, 1919. ( see "Camp Merritt" by Howard W. Rose, 1984. pg 32. )
Watercolor view of Monument Circle looking north along Knickerbocker Rd.
The Camp was closed in 1919, decommissioned at the end of the war. By 1921, the whole Camp was gone, most of it destroyed by three unexplained fires, which consumed hundreds of buildings at a time.
Of the Camp's original buildings, only a few remain standing today. One of the survivors is on the southeast corner of Grant Ave and Knickerbocker Road. Back in the 50's it was the "Burn's Inn", then it became "Tattered Toms", and today it is "The Hungry Peddler" ... the grounds still belong to the Burns brothers who reside in New England.
Shown above is the South East corner of Knickerbocker Rd. and Grant Ave. The Cresskill Service Station is owned and operated by Fred and Kamil, two very friendly and more than capable auto mechanics. The building on the right is the present day Hungry Peddler, one of the few original Camp Merritt structures in the area that is still intact. If you are in the neighborhood and want to experience the atmosphere of a World War I Camp Merritt barracks, visit the Hungry Peddler. While a few structural changes have been made over the years, the atmosphere of an Army Barricks from W. W. I still lingers. P.S. the food served at the Hungry Peddler is very good. Both the Cresskill Service Station and the Hungry Peddler are on the property of the Burns Family (see map above).