Another Van Riper House, Passaic, NJ 1960

Stately homes razed in ’60s for Route 21

Monday, September 30, 2002

Herald News

Succumbing to their daily commute, most drivers on Route 21 are
unaware of the discarded
history that they are driving over.

However, it’s not their fault.

Apart from the occasional smokestack or church spire poking
through the horizon, the city of
Passaic seems neatly tucked away underneath the state highway.
There is no evidence of the
Passaic Home and Orphan Asylum that once housed unfortunate
children, the Armory that
commemorated the city’s fallen or the countless colonial
homesteads that once stood on River
Drive, the highway’s predecessor.

“Today, that whole area (River Drive) would have been subject
to gentrification, young
professionals would lovingly restore all those beautiful
brownstones by the river,” said Passaic
County Historian Edward A. Smyk.

One prime example would have been the stately Van
Inderstine-Richard Ludlow House, once
located at the corner of Van Houten and River Drive.

Built in 1762 by George Van Inderstine, it was occupied by
Richard Ludlow, a sawmill operator
and a general store and dock owner during the Revolutionary

Back in the days when Passaic was known as Acquackanonk,
farmers from Great Notch would
send timbers down river to Ludlow’s mill, where it would be
processed and sent off to Perth
Amboy to sell. The farmers would later drink away their profits
at Ludlow’s General Store.

According to the legendary, but sometimes fallible, Passaic
historian William W. Scott, Ludlow
was one of the prestigious local residents who met Washington
as he retreated past the bridge at
Acquackanonk. After the Revolution, the Ludlow home was sold
and passed through a list of
familiar Passaic County names, including Van Houten, Rettger,
Terhune, Kistler and finally Van
Scheik. Mrs. Joseph Van Scheik told the Herald News in 1966
that she loved anything old, but
this house could be made beautiful.

“But then the highway came along, so I didn’t bother,” said Van

The Passaic County Historical Society tried to persuade the
state to realign the highway, but the
request fell on deaf ears. “Our heritage in Passaic County is
constantly subjected to progress in
the form of growling bulldozers and voracious development,”
said Smyk.

Another pre-Revolutionary home that survived British raids, but
not the growling bulldozers,
was the Van Riper House, once bearing the address of 638 River

Nearly 250 years ago, Harmen Van Riper built the old stone
house on his property that
stretched between present-day Brook and Van Houten avenues.

A classic example of a Dutch-style house with a sweeping
roofline, the Van Riper home was last
known as Arthur’s Restaurant, a roadhouse nicknamed the “oldest
gin mill in Passaic.”

Down the road from the Van Riper estate was the mysterious
Alden home.

Built in 1716, when River Drive was known as King’s Highway, a
family of ministers owned the
home until Levi Alden purchased it shortly before the Civil
War. Alden, a tanner from New
York State, was reportedly a direct descendant of John Alden,
one of the leaders of the
Plymouth Colony and the inspiration for the John Alden
character in Longfellow’s poem “The
Courtship of Miles Standish.”

After his death, Alden left the home to his children, a
bachelor son, James, and two unmarried
daughters, Elizabeth and Mabel Blanche. For more than 70 years,
the family lived secluded from
neighbors in the old brick house on River Road near Brook

On July 12, 1934, the Herald News interviewed James Alden in
the mansion, which was
described as untouched since the days of the Civil War.

“Some people like to go to the movies and so-called
entertainments, but I like nothing better than
to stay home to read and think. You know, when one starts
getting old, he wants more time to
think,” Alden told the Herald News.

By 1947, all the Alden children had stopped thinking for good,
and less than 20 years later, their
childhood home was razed to make way for Route 21.

Torn down like the others was the Steinmetz-Sip-Muth Home, also
once located on Passaic’s
doomed River Drive. Built by Christophel Steinmetz in the early
1700s, it was sold to the Sip
family between 1750 and 1762. Helmagh Sip owned the house
during the Revolutionary War,
when the British raided it, like other residences.

Condemned to demolition in May 1966, the brownstone from the
Steimetz-Sip-Muth Home
was salvaged for use in the construction of the plantation
house on the Dey Mansion property
in Wayne.

Built to resemble the Doremus House in Towaco, a section of
Montville, the plantation house
may be one of the few vestiges of historic River Drive.

Other River Drive relics can be found in Bergen County.
According to Passaic City Historian
Mark S. Auerbach, materials from some of the old homes were
also salvaged by the
Meadowlands Museum on 91 Crane Ave., Rutherford.

“Some of the beautiful old woodwork was saved from the houses
on 21 and is being used in our
‘homespun exhibit’ which mimics a cooking fireplace from the
late 18th century,” said Jackie
Bunker-Lohrenz, director of the Meadowlands Museum.

Reach Mauro Magarelli at (973) 569-7100 or


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