Button Woods revisited

In 2002 I was headed out to Passaic County with my son Andrew (age 4 at the time) to check out some safe, easy weird stuff. I was 3/4 of the way there when I realized I had left my GPS at home. I use my gps to store locations I want to visit, as well to guide me there. Without it, I’d have a hard time finding anything. I decided not to return home but to just go out and explore and get myself lost.

I realized I was near Button Woods so I decided to re-visit it. I turned off Two Bridges Rd, not entirely sure if I was in the right place. Once I got a 1/4 mile in, I knew I was here. The road was creepier then I remembered. The first thing I noticed was how uninviting the area was. The Passaic & Pequannock rivers lay to the east, and there were thick woods to the west. There are some woods that are warm & inviting. Then there are woods that are very thin, wide and expansive, suggesting freedom and peace. Then there are very thick woods, that are isolated from the rest of civilization, but which have such a variety of flora, fauna, and animal life that you feel like you’ve been transported back in time. Then there are woods like this. The trees brood over you, like a street punk ready to take your money. The woods were silent, suggesting that even the animals have the sense not come here. The colors are a bit more somber, the sun sets a little bit earlier, and the trails just a little less forgiving, all of which is a sign:

You. Don’t. Belong. Here.

I rolled the windows down, listening for any strange noises. Unfortunately my son was singing loudly and it took great effort to get him to quiet down. I drove slowly (but not too slow), camera in hand to take pictures at a moments notice. I found three different houses that were torched, as reported by a letter published in Weird NJ issue 17.

I encountered perhaps a half dozen houses that appeared as if they might be occupied, but almost all looked abandoned. I encountered one that looked like a junk yard, and as I drove by I hoped to grab a picture. As I got close, I raised the camera when I suddenly realized there was a large man in front, working on some piece of machinery. As I drove past he yelled,”Hi sweetie!”. I quickly decided not to take a picture and drove on. Quickly. He was posing for the camera, yeah, that’s the ticket…. I later confirmed that this was the “giant of Buttonwoods”

I saw a few trails which I wanted to explore, but not with a 4 year old in tow. After encountering the giant, I felt I had seen enough. I had driven around the entire area (about 3 square blocks) twice and felt if I hung around longer I’d attract attention, something I did not want, so I left.

I decided to explore the surrounding area, so I went over the river and drove around. I found several more boarded up, abandoned houses. What is it with this area? Why does it all look so trashy? And it’s only the houses right along the river. Go two blocks away and the whole area looks reasonably respectable. I would later learn the answer lay in the fact that the area gets flooded so often that many people get sick of rebuilding.

2ndburnt

burnt

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8 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by James J Westervelt on May 19, 2017 at 3:52 PM

    When I was a kid- i’m now 70- we had a bungalow on Milton Drive on the water- it was off of BUTTONWOOD- FORMERLY SYCAMORE RD. I went back there 20 years ago and the place was still there, but the man I met there told me I didn’t belong.There were about 8 houses there originally-most summer places. When was the area changed to the Pequonick River park?
    And , yes, the area flooded every spring.

    Reply

  2. Posted by Keith Nestinger on November 13, 2012 at 8:38 PM

    I grew up on Riveredge Road in Lincoln Park, NJ, in the Sixties & Seventies. I played back in the woods off Buttonwood (Sycamore Avenue) all the time. I knew the woods very well. I loved the big old trees back near the dropoff into the old river channel. Lot’s of shade on a hot summer day. Them trees were there long before I ever took my first breath, and I hope they are there long after I’m gone. I have fond memories of riding my bicycles and later motorcles on all the trails we made and maintained. The state should buyout any remaining homes at the end of the road, clean the area up real good, and maybe pave a hiking trail or two. That would really enhance the recreational use of this old floodplain. Whenever I visit my extended family who still lives in the area, I like to take walks back on Buttonwood and remember the childhood fun we had.

    Reply

  3. Posted by Carly on December 22, 2010 at 4:43 PM

    I love your blog. This buttonwoods place looks crazy. I see it’s off of 2 Bridges Road but which road? I know a lot of people don’t like to share so if not, no worries. šŸ™‚

    Reply

  4. Posted by C S on March 17, 2009 at 9:42 AM

    I just found your website and i was wondering if you have ever been down Buttonwood rd. in Wayne, its off Sycamore rd in lincoln park. I live in lincoln park and I’ve been down that way. I think its pequannock river park according to the tax maps and everything else. My house is on the river however its not abandoned looking whatsoever, so im not one of those crazy river persons. I plan on taking a boat out to explore a little bit more. What was your experience? Did you get chased out like I did by a guy with a blue truck? I have not gone exploring back there since last year.

    Reply

  5. Posted by Mike on March 6, 2009 at 10:40 AM

    I had emailed you awhile back about having gone to Lincoln Blvd in Lincoln park and also the nearby buttonwoods and my theory that the river there had changed course, thus allowing easier access to the former island that is buttonwoods. I don’t know if you remember. I also mentioned having seen the old bicycling lady in Bloomfield but no big deal there, just confirming having seen her. Also letting you know about specific rail activity at Ridgefield Park station. I forget what else I mentioned. I sent two emails I think. I’ve been to buttonwoods again about a month ago. Just drove all the way down the road into there from the end of sycamore Ave in Lincoln park.

    (Side Note: For the first time, I read a sign that is where the paved road ends. It’s a good quality, town-posted sign that more or less reads: Please do not dump trash in culverts, the house you flood may be your own! Quirky, huh?) This was the first time I went all the way down the road. It ends right at the banks of the pequannock river. Saw a few more decrepit shacks, lots more rusty appliances lying around, definite signs of inhabitation in some shacks. A beat up car or two, a light in a window. Call me foolish, but I’ve only gone there at night. It’s mainly been a matter of what time has been convenient for me. I haven’t left the car yet on any of these trips to buttonwoods or Lincoln Blvd for that matter (as I always hit both due to proximity) I would definitely like to go back on foot during the day in a group and as I mentioned before, if schedules allow it would be cool if you want to go. A couple of my friends at work will probably join me, since they went with me to both places last time I went. They’re young guys, about 20 (me being 25) so they love this type of stuff. Let me know, but don’t worry if you can’t fit it in, if we go I”ll definitely fill you in on the details and hopefully get you some pics too.In any event, a couple of notes on the latest update (a nitpick and a tidbit really):

    Reply

  6. Posted by Dean on March 6, 2009 at 10:38 AM

    hey, I live in Wayne, NJ, but I visit my relatives every week in Lincoln park, next to my relatives townhouse’s golf course, there is a road called ‘peace valley road’…r u referring to that street? my uncle went on peace valley road before because it leads to the Montville library, …he entered the street just when pine brook rd becomes a very steep road…do u remember seeing a golf course and townhouse development when leaving or entering the street? I am really curious if you are speaking of Peace Valley Road.

    Can you please email me back cuz id really like to know if you know about peace valley road (if that’s the street you went to), and also if you’ve digged deeper into the buttonwoods Ave scenario. talk to you soon…

    As I am thinking about buttonwoods off Fairfield road, I remember that there are some houses in that area that do not have a road connecting to them. They are very visible from what I remember, because the trees are very far apart with no leaves. I remember the houses to be in OK condition , not as bad as some of the ones on Fairfield road. I think it’s before the Wanaque pump station and across from Demarest. Before, I never really paid attention to that area because I thought you could get there via small roads from Lincoln park or something, but maybe in reality, it is really just an island only accessible via boat.

    Reply

  7. Posted by Kyle on March 6, 2009 at 10:35 AM

    I’ll go Dude, and if you want ill bring a friend or two… and we’ll record it all on camera. I am differently interested…Let me Know.

    Reply

  8. Posted by Max on March 6, 2009 at 10:34 AM

    My name is Max. I am 14 years old and I live in Wayne. After numerous times getting lost and sidetracked I finally got to check out the Buttonwoods…. After driving up and down Lincoln Blvd. Several times, I left and headed to the Wayne/Lincoln Park border in the Mountainview section. I headed down to Buttonwood Ave. in the deepest section of the middle-class neighborhood. Upon finding that the car could not make it down the road I turned to Mapquest and Hagstrom for advice.

    From what I can tell, there are two parts to the Buttonwoods. The first part is where you were in the story printed on your web page. The other is on an island labeled Pequannock River Park on my map. Buttonwood Road, as you suspected, runs through here. I have come to grips with the fact that I cannot get into the Buttonwoods. For those reasons I hope that you will allow my father and I to join you on your next trip there. Please get back to me as soon as possible. Thank you!

    Reply

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