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Walking Through History: Historic New Bridge Landing Park

Walking Through History: Historic New Bridge Landing Park

Historic New Bridge Landing. Photo by Deborah Powell

During our nation’s war for independence, New Jersey saw more action in the way of battles, skirmishes, and raids than any other colony. In fact, General George Washington and the Continental Army spent more days in New Jersey than any other state, according to Crossroads of the American Revolution. 

A prime spot where this history took place was in River Edge at Historic New Bridge Landing. 

“New Bridge served as a battleground, fort, encampment, military headquarters, and intelligence gathering post in every year of the American Revolution” Bergen County Historical Society (BCHS) reports. 

The 13-acre park consists of three historical homes, a traditional barn, and an 1889 swing bridge over the Hackensack River. 

On a cold winter afternoon, I walked the grounds of the park accompanied by Deborah Powell, a past president of BCHS and one of the park’s commissioners. 

Photo by Deborah Powell

We began our stroll outside of the Steuben House (c1752) adjacent to the bridge and the Hackensack River. Here Powell described the overall significance of the historical park. “New Bridge was a strategic crossing point during the war because it was the first bridge located above the Newark Bay.” 

Although the original 1744 bridge no longer exists, an 1889 Swing Bridge serves as an attractive replacement with its own historical significance. Listed on the NJ and National registers, it is the oldest swing bridge in the state.  

On November 20, 1776, after abandoning Fort Lee to British forces, Washington led the Continental Army on a retreat across the (1744) bridge as they were being pursued by the enemy. 

Thomas Paine, publisher of the popular pamphlet “Common Sense,” was an eyewitness to the retreat and aide to General Nathanael Green. He wrote that the Continental Army’s “first objective was to secure the bridge over the Hackensack.” 

Westervelt-Thomas (1889). Photo by Deborah Powell

Paine is best known for the phrase “these are the times that try men’s souls.” 

Powell said the Steuben House, “saw more of the Revolution than any other house.” The house was also a military headquarters for Washington later in the war during September of 1780. 

Exhibits inside the house include nine Revolutionary War maps of the New York region, musket balls (including one that was shot at the house), and a Charleville musket unearthed at New Bridge in 1915. 

“This type of musket was imported from the French, who were aiding the American cause,” Powell said. 

The other historic houses at New Bridge include a two-room, sandstone cottage named Demarest House (c1794), and the Campbell Christie House (c1774).  

“The Campbell Christie House is the welcoming point for all of our events,” Powell said. During these events, which typically occur twice a month, the house serves as a tavern where food is sold, and re-enactors demonstrate activities like cooking and black smithing. “Our focus is on the visitor experience,” Powell said. “And the people who visit like to keep coming back.” 

1889 Swing Bridge. Photo by Deborah Powell

All the historic buildings are open during events, which include a Pinkster celebration in May, and walking tours of the park during the month of June. The park’s grounds are open daily, dusk to dawn. 

Moving forward, a museum is being planned at the site, and fundraising to cover its construction is underway. “The new facility will provide us with exhibit space, storage for our collection, and two ADA bathrooms,” she said. “This will be a big help with the visitor experience.”  

Concluding my visit, I crossed the 1889 swing bridge under a hazy late day sun. Overhead, a group of angry blue jays were causing a racket. At the same time, the rattle of a kingfisher was heard in the distance.  

And just downriver maybe a mile or so, a pair of immature bald eagles were seen perched on a tree looking down at the water, perhaps searching for a late day meal. 


Steve Kelman is a writer and musician who works and performs in the Northern New Jersey and Hudson Valley areas. He performs at farmers markets, restaurants and cafes everywhere from Ramsey (NY) to Southern Vermont.  




File: Historic New Bridge 

>caption: Historic New Bridge Landing 

>credit: Photo by Deborah Powell 


File: SteubenHouse 

>caption: Steuben House 

>credit: Photo by Deborah Powell 


File: River 

>credit: Photo by Deborah Powell 


File: new museum building rendering 

>caption: Rendering of the new museum building 

>credit: Photo by Deborah Powell 


File: Barn 

>caption: Westervelt-Thomas (1889) 

>credit: Photo by Deborah Powell 


File: Swing Bridge 

>caption: 1889 Swing Bridge 

>credit: Photo by Deborah Powell 




By Steve Kelman 


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