Source:  The Record, Friday, October 20, 1995, Advertising Supplement, p. TN-9

 

William Walter Phelps: Congressman, Ambassador, Judge

By Robert D. Griffin, Township Historian

William Walter Phelps, congressman, and judge - no single person influenced the development of Teaneck as much as W. W. Phelps.  In 1865, he purchased the Garrit Brinkerhoff Homestead, a Jersey Dutch Farmhouse that stood at the intersection of Teaneck Road and Cedar Lane.  From then on, he added to his holdings until they encompassed more than 2,000 acres from the Hackensack River to the Hudson River, and virtually all of central Teaneck.  As a result, Teaneck's growth was concentrated along the perimeter of Phelps' estate.  It wasn't until Ellen Marie (Sheffield) Phelps, Judge Phelps' widow, died that the vast Teaneck property was opened to development.

William Walter Phelps was already a wealthy man when he arrived in Teaneck.  His father John Jay Phelps was a founder and president of the Delaware & Lackawanna Railroad and, among many other ventures, he also owned a huge department store called Eno-Phelps, in Manhattan.  Young Phelps was an attorney and after moving to Teaneck he became interested in politics.  Elected to Congress three times, he was later appointed ambassador to Germany.  In 1888 he was presented as a vice presidential candidate at the Republican Convention, and late in his life he was appointed special judge of the Court of Errors and Appeals of the State of New Jersey.

But his Teaneck home remained his favorite occupation, and he devoted much money planting trees and paving roads.

 

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