History of Cresskill
The Borough of Cresskill has an interesting history dating through time from America's colonial period to the present.
Please take the time to view the various "More About Cresskill" web pages to learn more information about the borough, as it is now and as it was in the past.
Of all the traffic circles in New Jersey none is more renowned than the one in Cresskill. It is at the intersection of Knickerbocker Road and Madison Ave. (on Route 501). The Circle embraces the 65 foot obelisk that was dedicated in 1924 as a national symbol and recognizes the contributions made by the 563 men andwomen that lost their lives while serving their country at Camp Merritt during World War I.
The nation's first traffic circle, Airport Circle, was built in Pennsauken, Camden County, in 1925 - 1926. Over the next fifteen years, approximately 75 circles were built throughout New Jersey.
New Jersey's highway engineers experimented with circles, clover-leafs, and a variety of other intersection designs to improve traffic flow in the late 1920s and 1930s.
In the late 1970s it was recognized that dramatic increases in traffic volume at some circles made it necessary to redesign them.
This Monument marks the center of Camp Merritt and faces the highway over which more than a million American soldiers passed on their way to and fromFrance during the World War, 1914 - 1918.
Cresskill's Tallman House provides education & history as one of Cresskill's oldest homes. It is available for rent by an organization. Please see Use of Facilities application in the forms center.
In memory of those soldiers who gave their lives for their country while on duty in Camp Merritt.This Monument marked the center of the Camp and faces the highway over which more than a million American soldiers passed on their way to and from the World War, 1917 - 1919.
The 56-foot Merritt Circle Monument is located at the intersection of Knickerbocker Road and Madison Avenue on the border of Cresskill and Dumont. It was dedicated in 1924, in honor of the 563 men and women who died in the 1918 flu epidemic while stationed at Camp Merritt. The dedication was made by General John Joseph "Black Jack" Pershing, the man who led the American forces to fame and triumph in World War I.
Madison Ave. looking toward Dumont from Cresskill ... about 1910
The monument encompasses the entire circle, including the four curved stone walls (two of which are still standing). On the North face of the monument is a bas relief depicting a noble warrior standing proudly in defense of his country and offering protection to the departing solders on their way to the war in Europe. At the base of the southern side is a plaque designed by Katharine Lamb in 1919 depicting the Palisades. The plaque indicates that Camp Merritt was used as an area for embarkation. A little-known but interesting aspect of the monument lies at the north-facing base. It is a three-dimensional stone carving of the buildings that were in Camp Merritt.
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, 1917Looking North
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).