Across the Hudson from upper New York City lies a gorgeous escarpment called the New Jersey Palisades.
Students of the American Revolution will recall the British took Fort Lee in New Jersey by sending Hessian troops down from Haarlem heights, across the river, and then up the nearly vertical walls of the Palisades, a perilous endeavor that might have failed had the Americans possessed sufficient information and artillery. It succeeded brilliantly, however, sending Continental Troops more or less scuttling down into central New Jersey and across the Delaware River into Pennsylvania. But back to the photo at hand…
In the late eighteenth century, the crest of the Palisades became known as Millionaires Row, as magnates of the gilded age erected stately palaces commanding an exclusive view from the heights. Alas, you can’t see anything of them today apart from rubble and a few foundations, because they were demolished in the mid-20th century to make way for The Palisades Interstate Parkway, where we found ourselves recently.
Interestingly, one of the fathers of this Parkway was the oil monopolist John D. Rockefeller, who quietly bought up 700 acres of the Palisades heights and later donated them toward this endeavor. He may have been motivated in part by a desire to stop destruction of this natural wonder, which was actually being blasted away in places by quarries. Then again, he might also have liked the idea of cars by the million traversing a parkway while consuming his oil products. In the years following World War II, New York City’s famed planner Robert Moses was also a champion of the Palisades Parkway, which finally was opened in the 1950s. As trucks and commercial vehicles are forbidden, it affords a very pleasant and pretty motorcar ride, and I highly recommend it.
History student that I am, I pulled over onto one of several also highly recommended scenic lookouts, snooped about for mansion ruins and took a few photos, including this view of the Eastern end of the George Washington Bridge.
More to come!
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