William Walter Phelps

(August 24, 1839 – June 17, 1894)

According to an article in the Teaneck News of 1928, Teaneck owes much of its beauty to William Walter Phelps. Phelps is linked more closely with Teaneck’s history and development than any other individual.

Phelps was born in Pennsylvania. He graduated from Yale University and Columbia Law School. In 1869 he purchased the Garrit Brinkerhoff homestead (site of present Municipal Green). Over the years he expanded on the house and his property holdings. At one time, he owned 1500 acres from the Hackensack to Hudson Rivers.

While the Phelps estate was designed as a private demesne, it greatly influenced the development of Teaneck as a mostly residential community. He planted over 600,000 trees on his property and was a prime advocate in the movement to improve Bergen County’s roads. He spent $35,000 to widen and macademize Cedar Lane on his own property. His purpose? To enhance the beauty and add to the conveniences of his homestead acres.

In 1888 his home, the Teaneck Grange, burned to the ground and his family moved to the Griggs mansion which is now the site of Holy Name Hospital.

Phelps served in Congress from 1873-1875 and from 1883 to 1889. He held several diplomatic posts overseas and was appointed a special judge in 1893. He died from illness in June 17, 1894.


 

Portrait of William Walter Phelps:

Agnes Norton (Director of Teaneck Public Library from 1929 until 1961) reports that the painting was found in a local private home, unframed and in poor condition. How it came to be donated to the Library is lost in the fog of history. It was originally hung in the Library’s stairwell up the completion of the 1950 addition to the building, after restoration by a Miss Dribble, an art dealer/restorer from Englewood. In 1995, after vandalism to the painting was discovered, the Library board of Trustees again had the painting restored, this time by Zbigniew Pietruszewski of the Laboratory for Conservation of Fine Arts, Teaneck.


 

Chester Loomis (1852-1924):  The Artist

Chester Loomis was born near Syracuse, NY. He attended Cornell University and later studied and lived in Paris before moving to Englewood, New jersey. According to Bergen County Panorama, he was a portrait and mural painter who was noted for his strong use of color. He was a member of the National Society of Mural Painters, American National Academy of Art and the Architectural League.

 

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