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The Growth of Ridgewood
as a Railroad Suburb

Graydon MansionThe building of the Paterson & Ramapo Railroad and reconstruction of The Hermitage in 1848–49 drew special attention to Ho-Ho-Kus among friends and acquaintances of Elijah Rosencrantz, even those living in New York City. An increasing number of affluent New Yorkers, in fact, began to seek relief from the noisy, crowded city, especially in the heat of summer, by spending time in the countryside. One was Killie’s grandfather, the cotton merchant Captain Samuel Dayton, who took a liking to the area during visits to Ho-Ho-Kus. In the late 1840s, he spent summers at the Tolles House near the Ho-Ho-Kus railroad station until he decided to acquire a place of his own. In January 1850, he bought land adjoining The Hermitage that had belonged to Samuel Coe.

In 1853, Dayton also bought a large section of land from the Van Emburgh estate, located just south of Ho-Ho-Kus. Not only did he like the area, but as a good businessman he saw that the arrival of the new railroad would raise the value of real estate. He became the first developer in the village of Godwinville, which was soon renamed Ridgewood. At first, he attracted the families of his grandchildren—the Robinsons and the Graydons, who became leaders in the area—as well as Killie’s mother, Cornelia Street Dayton, who is credited with suggesting the name Ridgewood. Later, lots were sold to other buyers.

The Robinson and Graydon men and Dayton himself, along with other new residents, commuted to the city, helping to make Ridgewood into an early railroad suburb. New homes, stores, hotels, institutions, and activities fanned out from the station. In at least some of these activities, older residents of the area such as the Rosencrantzes joined with the newcomers. In the mid-1800s, Ridgewood (and to some extent, Ho-Ho-Kus) thus joined the growing number of relatively affluent settlements springing up around railroad stations on in northern New Jersey. These suburbs would be forerunners of the far more extensive suburban growth that would dominate New Jersey over the next century and a half.

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