by Howard Prosnitz, Staff Writer, Teaneck Suburbanite, July 19, 2006, p. 2
This is the fourth part of a series of Teaneck's history based on the interviews with municipal hostorian Larry Robertson.
Teaneck remained a part of Ridgefield and Englewood until 1895 when it was incorporated as a township.
In the late 19th century, Bergen County was composed of nine municipalities, but the large areas with increasing populations led to problems.
"The people living in the out lying areas were paying the same tax rate, but the poeple in the downtowns were getting the police and fire services, transportation and street lighting," said municipal historian Larry Robertson. Acknowledging this discrepancy, in the 1890s the state legislature eased the rules on formation of new municipalities.
In 1990 Cedar Lane was a rural road lined with farms and large houses. Teaneck's first business district was on New Bridge Road, but the townships first storefronts were built on the block of Queen Anne Road between Fort Lee Road and Degraw Avenue, including the corner of Fort Lee and Queen Anne roads.
Prior to these storefronts, some of which still stand including 99 Cent Store and Creative Glass, stores were usually located in the parlors of houses or were set up in buildings built originally for other purposes.
Cedar Lane did not emerge as a business district until 1926, a seminal year in Teaneck's history
In that year, it became evident that the George Washington Bridge, would become a reality, said Robertson.
"The council realized that the value of the land would skyrocket if you broke it into small lots to create stores and apartment houses," said Robertson.
In 1926 the council rezoned Cedar Lane to make it a central business district. The road was widened to 80 feet to accommodate two lanes of parking and four lanes of traffic, and a hill was removed by a crew of Scandinavian laborers working with picks and shovels.
Prior to that project, Cedar Lane had a great ridge in the area parallel to Alma Terrace where the grades of the two roads were the same height. The laborers broke down the hill to create the existing grade and moved the excavated soil two blocks east for the construction of a bridge over the railroad tracks.
The equipment used to lower the tracks once the bridge was completed was the same equipment used to construct the Panama Canal, said Robertson.
In addition to the development of Cedar Lane, the George Washington Bridge, which opened in 1931, led indirectly to the creation of Amman Park.
The Port Authority's chief engineer for the project was Othmar Amman, who also designed the Lincoln Tunnel and the Bayonne Bridge. Amman lived on an estate where Amman Park is located today. He ultimately donated the land to the township.
The southeast section of Teaneck was also the scene of an attempted murder and retaliation at the close of the 19th century.
Automobiles were in then in their infancy and many commuters traveled by trolley. A trolley line ran from Paterson to Hoboken, said Robertson, who noted that Palisade Amusement Park was built by the trolley company as a trolley distination.
The tracks in Teaneck ran on Degraw Avenue and onto Old Fort Lee Road to Leonia. The trolley company maintained a yard and sandpit at Glenwood Avenue and Hemlock Terrace.
Late on a night in 1899, thieves were in the process of stealing insulated copper wire that was stored on huge drums in the trolley yard, said Robertson. Then and now, copper is valuable as a metal for resale as scrap. While the theft was in progress, the midnight trolley arrived and the two-man crew apprehended the men who were ultimately imprisoned. Their friend sought revenge, not on the trolley company, but on the crewmembers, said Robertson. Then learned when the same two would be working the midnight run.
On a dark night. they lay in wait for the trolley run on a hill, long gone, that was located at the corner of Hemlock and Glenwood.
The avengers had cut down some trees and laid them on the tracks to force the trolley to stop.
"The trolley came as scheduled but with a different crew and a single passenger," said Robertson. "They stopped at the trees and the crew got out to remove them. The snipers opened fire but, they must have been idiots, because they shot out the headlights and then didn't have an aiming point."
The crew jumped back inside and crashed the trolley forward, forcing the trees off the tracks. They headed toward Grand Avenue in Leonia where there was a track side phone. The crew phoned the dispatcher who told them to stay put.
"The trolley company turned out all the guys in the main trolley yard and armed them with Winchester rifles," said Robertson. "They came and tracked down the snipers and never called the police. They took care of it themselves."
The uptimate fate of the would-be snipers is unknown.
"The trolley company did not reveal what happened to them," Robertson said.