The Palisades Interstate Park is a National Historic Landmark.
Palisades Interstate Park in New Jersey

Return to Carpenters

Carpenter's Grove at the Ross Dock Picnic Area. Carpenter Brothers' Quarry, 1897 Construction of Carpenter Trail, 1931 Carpenter Bathhouse, circa 1931 Carpenter area, circa 1932

“Return to Carpenters” was first published in the July-August 2012 issue of “Cliff Notes.”

See also, “Hazard’s.”


1897

The rough old crag known for many years as Washington’s Head, about one mile north of Fort Lee, is no more. … Amid a cloud of brown smoke, and with a roar that was heard miles away, tons of loose rocks were thrown high into the air. The great crag shook, swerved for a second, as if balancing itself on some hidden pivot, and then collapsed. Into the platform of sand below came tumbling immense boulders, weighing tons, and the beautiful cliff was a thing of the past, sacrificed to the demands of modern paving… The quarry where this blast took place is said to be the largest in the Palisades. It is owned by Carpenter Bothers …

New York Times

1902

By the 1st of January, 1902, [he Commission] had secured title to 11,832 feet of frontage south of Huyler’s Landing from sixteen different owners, at a cost of $178,210.62. Included in this amount was the item of $l22,500 paid for the Carpenter Bros.’ land, riparian lease, machinery, &c. … The $122,500 paid for Carpenter Bros.’ property, was donated by Mr. J. Pierpont Morgan.

Annual Report of the Commissioners of the Palisades Interstate Park

1917

A path is now under construction up the face of the cliffs at the Carpenter property in Coytesville. This path will be 650 feet long, 6 to 8 feet wide and will be protected along its entire length by a stone retaining wall 5 feet high. Annual Report of the Commissioners of the Palisades Interstate Park 1927 [An agreement was reached] that the Port Authority, in consideration of the temporary diversion from park purposes of the bath house, the dock and the lunch stand at Hazzards Landing [during the construction of the George Washington Bridge], replace these structures with like buildings at Carpenter’s Point, some 1,000 feet north of the bridge zone.

Annual Report of the Commissioners of the Palisades Interstate Park

1930

The total number of bathers using Carpenters Bath House during the year 1930 was about 40,000, of which number approximately 35,000 used the free portion of the bath house, 4,219 having paid the regular entrance fee for the use of the rooms and lockers. …

Annual Report of the Commissioners of the Palisades Interstate Park

1931

The temporary bath house (used during the construction of the George Washington Bridge near Hazzards bath house) was razed…

Annual Report of the Commissioners of the Palisades Interstate Park

EN

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“It was intensive,” Operations Supervisor Anthony Taranto said as he began describing the project of clearing and constructing Carpenter’s Grove, the new picnic grove along the road to Hazard’s Dock boat launch just south of the George Washington Bridge at Ross Dock Picnic Area. The project began in early March 2011 when Taranto, chainsaw in hand, did an initial clearing of the area before seventy-five church volunteers arrived on March 20. The volunteers worked three-hundred man hours in one day, removing dead trees, branches, rocks, and other debris. A contractor flattened and raised the area and park maintenance workers, led by Frank Donahue, scraped the hillside to create parking, planted grass, and reused Palisades rock from a Fort Lee building site for parapet stones along the road — reminiscent of Depression-era Works Progress Administration projects in the park that used local effort and materials to create walls, picnic tables, and pavilions.

Since opening for the 2012 season, the picnic grove has served as a quiet retreat from the crowds of Ross Dock’s main picnic area. When asked about this, Taranto said, “The grove was created because park visitors wanted their own area at Ross Dock that they could reserve.” With a permit, which costs $150, come twenty-five picnic tables, fifteen parking spots (a separate cost paid upon entrance to the picnic area), and a large grill — perfect for the company picnics, birthday parties, baby showers, and other events which have already been scheduled for the summer. Carpenter’s Grove is a wholly natural area: there is no concrete pad, electricity, or running water. What is remarkable about the grove is that, along with relieving the pressure from overcrowding at Ross Dock, “it allows the public, for a reasonable fee, to have one of the most impressive views in the world — the Hudson, the George Washington Bridge, and the Palisades,” Taranto concluded.

Carpenter’s Grove must be reserved by permit. Call Park Headquarters at 201 768-1360.

The same mild winter that allowed Taranto to lead the construction of Carpenter’s Grove allowed Trail Crew Supervisor Christina Fehre and her team to take on another immense project — repairing and reconstructing sections of the Carpenter’s Trail, known to locals as “The Thousand Stairs.” This trail, located a few hundred feet north of the new grove, is one of the most popular in the park. Fehre called this project “absolutely necessary” because of the state of disrepair the trail had fallen into due to erosion and other natural processes.

With seven trail crew members, volunteers, and a $21,000 grant from the Recreational Trails Program through New Jersey’s Department of Environmental Protection, the project was begun in November 2011. Fehre had applied for the grant with this project in mind. She stresses the importance of grants such as this, because it allows for the completion of projects that could not have been funded by the Park Commission. With the grant funds, the Trail Crew was able to purchase rigging equipment, winches, chisels, and other tools for working with the 15,000 pounds of stone used to re-point and rebuild collapsing, nearly hundred-year-old walls and stairs (twenty-one of them, each five feet wide). Fehre, diagrams in hand, explained the four-tree high line system of pulleys, rigging, and lines used to transport nearby rocks to the building site. Reconstruction was completed without mortar, Fehre explained, which will allow for a sturdier construct than the original. Though the project was completed this June, the rebuilt walls and stairs blend in with the original stonework and look as though they have always been a part of the trail. For Fehre and her crew, this fulfills their goal of “keeping our historic trails safe and enjoyable.”

Our trail crew always welcomes and appreciates volunteers. For more information, email Christina at cfehre@njpalisades.org.

PIPC

Lindsey Foschini & Jenna Bacci