DEMAREST's HISTORY

    Originally Samuel Demarest utilized the waters of the Cresskill Brook to run his mill. Later inhabitants
    saw the gently rolling lands covered with forests and fields as a haven from the metropolis. The hotel & race
    track which once flourished are now long gone, but nevertheless, a precedent was set for Demarest as a
    town for people and not for industry. The residential character of Demarest has survived into the present
    century & Demarest remains a community whose residents still prefer its quiet treed streets and varied
    terrain to the flat monotony of the city. Buildings such as the railroad & fire station & a number of beautifully
    restored homes recall Demarest's past.

    David Demarest, originally known as Davis des Marets, settled in Bergen County New Jersey in 1677.
    He was founder of the Demarest family in America, and was one of a band of French Huguenots who came
    to this country in 1663. The earliest settlers in the area, now known as Demarest, were the Westervelts,
    whose homestead still stands as the northern wing at 277 County Road. The year was 1723, and other
    Dutch settlers from New Amsterdam soon followed, having obtained land grants from the British owners of
    New Jersey.

    By the time of the Revolution there were six or seven farmhouses stretched along the length of
    County Road. Most of the people were patriots & prominent among them were Samuel P. Demarest (1724-
    1808), great great grandson of David, whose mill just south of the intersection of Anderson Ave. and County
    Road, supplied flour to Washington's troops when they were stationed at Tappan, and Captain John Huyler,
    a militia leader who had bought the Westervelt home. Others included Mattias Bogert (whose home, near
    Closter on "Old" County Road, is now owned by the O.T. Clarke family), Roelf Demarest, son of Samuel,
    (whose home is near Cresskill), and the Cole family whose homestead is generally thought to be a part of
    the home on the corner of County Road and Hardenburgh Avenue.
    These families bore the brunt of a devastating Tory raid on May 9, 1779. Most of the homes were burned
    and severely damaged and several of the men, including Samuel Demarest, were taken prisoner to NYC.
    Samuel's son, Cornelius, was killed, as was a ninety year old farmer named Douwe Tallman, who lies buried
    in the Revolutionary cemetery on Everett Road.

    After the successful conclusion of the Revolution, the fathers of Demarest returned to their homes
    and the little community prospered. Samuel Demarest reopened his grist mill with the help of his sons Peter
    and Roelf. Roelf's two sons, Samuel R. and John operated a brewery and a woolen mill, respectively, in the
    nineteenth century. Business was good and in 1816, Samuel R. Demarest built the beautiful sandstone
    colonial home that still stands on County Road across from the Duck Pond.

    In 1859, an event of utmost importance took place -- the opening of the Northern Railroad of NJ,
    which ran from Jersey City to Piermont, New York. It no longer took two days by ferry and stagecoach to
    reach Demarest. One of the men responsible for the line was the great-grandson of the patriot miller,
    Ralph S. Demarest, who was at the time State Senator from Bergen County. The community that was his
    home was named 'Demarest Station' in his honor, and became a well-known resort in the Victorian era,
    complete with a fine hotel built on the site of the present United Methodist Church and a race track on the
    site of the Northern Valley Regional High School. The Demarest Railroad Station, designed by J. Cleveland
    Cady, architect for the Metropolitan Opera House and the Museum of Natural History, was built in 1874 of
    stone quarried from the slopes of the Palisades. It stands today as a monument to the achievement of the
    Demarest family.

    The late 1800's saw many changes in Demarest.
    A school was built in 1852 on the corner of Hardenburgh and Brookside Avenues. This structure eventually
    became the first Catholic Church, and is now a private residence. The Baptist Church, the community's first,
    was built in 1874. This building now houses the Old Church Cultural center. John Demarest's woolen mill
    became an optical company and later a piano factory. A saw mill was operated east of Anderson Avenue,
    and on what is now Park Street, there was a wheelwright, blacksmith, livery stable and coal yard  the later in
    operation as late as the 1930's.
    Records show that in 1876, Demarest had thirty-six homes and several farms. There are two Victorian homes
    on Van Horn Street that are lovely reminders of that period. They stand, side-by-side, complete with several
    stained glass windows.

    On April 8, 1903, the Borough of Demarest came into being after having separated from the
    Township of Harrington. The first mayor was John H. Z. Demarest. By this time the town had a new church
    congregation, the Methodists, who originally met in the old bowling alley of the resort hotel, which had burned
    down in 1896. There was also a new school, a three classroom granite structure on Piermont Road.
    This building, with several additions over the years, still houses our Middle School.

    The First World War saw a flurry of military activity in the Demarest area. While Camp Merritt was being
    built in Cresskill and Dumont, troops were quartered in tents on the Demarest race track (where Northern
    Valley Regional High School now stands). A beautiful old home that still stands on Woodland Road, became
    a hostess house for eighteen secretaries employed at the camp, at the insistence of the United States
    government. It became a center of many social activities for the soldiers.

    The 1920 census indicated that Demarest had a population of 634. The real growth of the borough
    started after the opening of the George Washington Bridge in 1933.
    Many land development companies had tried unsuccessfully to develop the town after the opening of the
    railroad, but the new bridge to NYC proved to be the catalyst for success.


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