Historic New Bridge Landing


Story: Bryan Stephens
Photography: Deborah Powell
Tuesday, March 19, 2019

Historic New Bridge Landing, run by the Bergen County Historical Society in River Edge, New Jersey was a key site in the state of New Jersey during the American Revolution. The site is run strictly by volunteers and receives revenue from admission fees and other donations.

New Bridge Landing consists of three houses and a barn. The three houses are open during most events and the barn is open weather permitting. You can wander freely through the property and at each location or building, there are volunteers who explain the historical context. The Von Steuben House is the main house and was originally built on the property, along with the other two homes, while the barn was moved from a neighbouring town. The Von Steuben house was built in the 1740’s by the Zabriskie family in a classic Dutch sandstone style. The home was originally a five room house but the Zabriskie family made a fortune selling iron and flour to the British military during the French and Indian Wars, and were able to expand the house to twelve rooms in 1765.

When the American Revolution broke out in 1775 the Zabriskie family became loyalists to the British Crown and John Zabriskie, who owned the house at that time, became a British spy until around 1780. The house was situated right on the Hackensack River and Zabriskie got wind that George Washington and his army were heading down the river in the direction of the Zabriskie house. Upon hearing this, John and his family grabbed all their valuables including documents related to the British army, and fled to British-held New York City. Once Washington and his army arrived they seized the property, declaring the Zabriskie family traitors.

When Washington took the property he used it as a headquarters and an encampment in the area for a couple of weeks. What made this property critical, was that whoever held the property had control over that part of the river and surrounding areas. After Washington and his army left, the British moved in thinking Washington’s army was still there. The British troops who went to the house split into two groups - one went by land and the other by boat. The troops who traveled by boat arrived first and found the house empty. The troops traveling by land arrived later that night, when their vision was less than ideal, and upon seeing movement inside the house, assumed the worst. They stormed the building and immediately opened fire on the soldiers. When the smoke cleared the troops realized they had massacred the British troops that arrived by boat.

When the war ended the American government still had control over the house at New Bridge Landing. At this point the government was financially broke and had no way to pay the troops who fought in the Revolution. General Von Steuben, a Prussian drill sergeant who had left Prussia - which is now part of modern day Germany - because he felt that the Prussian military wasn’t paying him enough. Von Steuben offered his services to the Americans and went on to lead a very disciplined military unit. Many historians credit Von Steuben with organizing and training the American army so well that he is credited for at least part of the success of the American’s victory. Since the government couldn’t pay Von Steuben, they gave him the property at New Bridge Landing. Eventually Steuben needed to liquidate so he sold the house to a descendent of the Zabriskie family.

Visitor’s information

New Bridge Landing is only open occasionally on weekends when running events due to availability of volunteers and no government funding. For regular admission the cost is $10, with individual memberships at $20, and family memberships at $30.

New Bridge Landing hosts events throughout the year including a George Washington birthday celebration, vintage baseball, and Sinter Klaus Day among other events. The full list of events with the dates and times can be found at the Bergen County Historical Society’s website (http://www.bergencountyhistory.org/).

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