It is believed that Closter was named after Frederick Closter, who received a grant of several thousand
acres as a military reward from King Charles I of England. Reminders of Closter's early Dutch and French
history abound in local street names: Bogert, Demarest, Durie, Lindemann, Naugle, Parsells, Vervalen and
Westervelt. Before the Dutch arrived in the early 17th Century the Lenni Lenape Indians tilled the soil, hunted
in the woods & fished in the rivers of the area in and around today's Closter. The Dutch settlers left however
an indelible mark on the area. In 1669 Governor Philip Carteret granted the Balthaser De Hart a strip of land
which extended from the Hudson River to the Tiena Kill & in 1677 a Chief of the Tappaens tribe deeded to
David Des Marets a tract of land stretching from the Hackensack River to the Hudson River.
The area now known as Closter lies within these general geographical boundaries.
In 1710 the first European settlement commenced in Closter with the arrival of Dutch families. The Naugle
Brothers, Barent & Resolvent, settled on the eastern side of the Borough. The Barnabus VerValen family
settled in the same year on the western side. For the next hundred and fifty years they farmed, speaking
Jersey Dutch and living a life that was generally, with the exception of the disruption of the Revolutionary War,
unwavering in its sameness. Farming was generally subsistance farming. If you made money, it was by raising
beef: Before the opening of the West, Northern Valley was really cattle country! For this period Closter was an
isolated place. A trek to any larger outpost of civilization, such as New York, represented an investment of time
the Hudson Highlands. No major battles were fought in Closter, it was however a scene of numerous foraging
raids by both the British & Continental armies. One such raid took place on May 9, 1779 when a raiding party
seized Samuel Demarest, burned his home, killed his son Cornelius and wounded his son Hendrick.
Most notorious & documented by newspaper accounts was the murder of 90 year old Dowe Tallman who lived
in a stone house on Piermont Road in Closter. Similar incidents were common throughout the county.
The Tories considered Closter a hotbed of rebels & a threat to the loyal subjects of the King.
Indeed Piermont Rd. was a focal point in many of the raids which took place. A monument on Piermont Road
recalls the Lone Horseman, credited with warning General Greene at Fort Lee that the British were coming.
When Lord Cornwallis landed at Closter Dock with 5,000 troops on November 20, 1776, climbed the Palisades
and headed South, the soldiers at Ft. Lee had already moved on to Hackensack. This event is commemorated
by the Lone Horseman depicted on the Closter Borough seal. He is the Paul Revere of Bergen County.
railway, the "Iron Horse", roared its way throughout the area & changed everything forever. One such new
arrival was John Henry Stephens, a carpenter & businessman from Manhattan. Perhaps because he had
connections to the area (his mother was a deClerk & his wife a Huyler), he was able to scope out the situation
early and, starting around 1857, buy up a lot of property down by where the railroad would soon come in.
As the word spread through lower Manhattan that up north was a paradise, people rode up for vacation,
booking rooms in the many hotels that dotted the line. Those who liked what they saw stayed, and a new
community, Closter City, sprang up around the first depot, which was no more than a “tin box, ticket sales, and
a hut that contained the U.S. Mail”, according to the Handbook of the Northern Railroad.
Soon John Henry, as clever an architect as he was a businessman, was putting up fine little villas and houses
for his new neighbors, and making lots of money at it. His own mansion stood tall on a rise overlooking Closter,
the jewel of Durie Avenue and Knickerbocker Rd. Soon a proper station was built in 1875 in the then-popular
Victorian Stick style.
Postal service began when the railroad did, although home mail delivery service was not offered until almost
100 years later. Telephone service came to Closter at the beginning of the 20th century with a switchboard
installed in the rear of a shoe store on Main Street. By 1911 there were 170 telephone subscribers. Banking
services were offered by Closter Mutual Savings & Loan, incorporated in 1888. Closter was now an affluent
community along the Hudson River, filled with farmlands, a commerce area and transportation by rail to & from
New York City, the means for a true commuters life style. In 1903, the Closter Chamber of Commerce reported
that the population was about 1200; two-thirds of the male citizens were commuters and had businesses in
New York City, the rest were men who made their livings in Closter and the surrounding towns.
train, twice a week, runs over the tracks that once carried thirty-six trains a day. The old station still stands, it
is now a private home.
In 1904 the Borough of Closter was incorporated and present town boundaries were established,
Education: Closter was the educational center for the Northern Valley area & Old Harrington Township
Dutch citizens the King's English. The first private school, for boys only, was located in a stone house on
Harvard St. Later when Closter became a railroad suburb, Isabella Hammond opened a private school in the
basement of the Dutch Reformed Church in 1864. The first public school in Harrinton Township opened in
1870 in a Barn on High Street, while the new school known as the "Elms" was completed in 1871. This building
stands at the juncture of Durie and Demarest Ave. In 1900, classes expanded to a new building, the Village
School. High school classes were added in 1909 and the first graduating class was in 1913. Closter later
became a receiving district for high school pupils from nearby towns. Later in 1955 with the completion of
Northern Valley Regional High School at Demarest, Closter High School was dissolved & Village School
became the middle school.
later became the first public meeting area & also housed the first school in the Closter historical district.
The Congregational Church was built in 1879 and St. Paul's Lutheran Church in 1888. The A.M.E. Zion
Church, an important African American landmark, was founded in 1896. St. Mary's Roman Catholic Church,
housed in 1914 in what was Marian Hall, dedicated a new church building in 1960.
The Closter Gospel Assembly occupied a chapel from 1923 to 1965.
In 1953, Temple Beth-El of Northern Valley was built. The Jehovah's Witnesses created Kingdom hall in 1966
& constructed a new building in 1987. The site which was formally Marian Hall is now the Emmaus Mission
Church which was built in 1994.
Temple Emanu-El of Closter was completed towards the end of 2002.
Closter Town Information
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|Y o u r R e a l E s t a t e P r o f e s s i o n a l
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