a remnant from Camp Merritt? or the Rionda estate?

Related Pages:

My experience in the NJ Palisades

Manuel Rionda’s Stone Tower: A large medieval looking tower which was part of an estate that stretched to the edge of the Palisades Cliffs

There are tunnels and underground chambers in various places thruout the Palisades.

Hitler’s Rock Profile: A 160 ft tall profile of Hitler appeared on the cliffs of the Palisades during WWII

Complete history of the Palisades: A detailed summary of the history of the Palisades.

In an old cemetery in the Palisades is the grave of a fellow named “Whack me Jug”


A park cleanup in Creskill revealed an old stone bridge. It is speculated that this bridge goes back to the days of Camp Merritt, a large army base that operated during WWI. If you look at the maps on the Cresskill boro webpage the location of the bridge doesn’t fall within the confines of the Camp boundary. It is speculated that this bridge may have actually been part of the Manuel Rionda estate.


19 responses to this post.

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  2. Posted by Tony Solari on February 26, 2016 at 5:54 PM

    I also grew up in Cresskill. It was a fantastic place to grow up in the 50’s through the 70’s. Spent a lot of time tramping around the Rionda Estate. My family still lives in Cresskill. Yvonne on Sycamore St. My mom on 13th. Street. I get back whenever I can to visit. I remember the memorial day parades. The hot dogs at the VFW hall. Sat movies in the back. Trampoline amusement guy on main street downtown. Playing with John Giordano, Vincent Cioffi, Eddie Gilbertson, the Harpines, Swanson’s. We rode our bikes all over. What a great time we had at the old Quirk’s funeral home on Knickerbocker. My old street ended at the property and there was a path onto their parking lot.

    Rionda;s had a series of pools, that went from one to the other down the hill. Great place to go Halloween!

    Cresskill was the best. Has not really changed that much.


  3. Posted by Dan on January 2, 2013 at 11:26 PM

    Great town…


  4. Posted by jack grace on October 22, 2010 at 9:12 PM

    I am another alumni of Cresskill. I only went up to Rionda’s a couple of times. My brother went more often and was chased away by the watchman with a shotgun full of rock salt. I heard about the guy that cocmitted suicide up there and I think it was a kid my brother’s age and who he even knew. I also think someone he knew found him laying up against a tree with the gun. Last time I was in Cresskill, now over twenty years ago, the tower was at a center of a circle at the entrance of the new ritzy subdivision off 9W. I lived on 8th ST and at the end of it on Hillside was the Camp Commander’s old house Also on the corner was another house from the camp and the one next to it on 8th. There was also the ‘candy store’ on 12th ST from the camp. Someday someone should make a movie about Camp Merritt or at least write a book.


    • Posted by Bud Osborne on July 9, 2013 at 10:32 AM

      The kid that shot himself was a freshman at Northern Valley at Demarest HS. I lived a block away and walked home with him some times. His name was Bill Packard. Had a very troubled life. just another tid bit about the area.


  5. Posted by Bob Bonanno on January 17, 2010 at 12:02 AM

    I also grew up in Cresskill. My family lived on South Street and I ended up living on Margie Avenue, across from Merritt School. I knew John Spring the historian, I even went as far back as Harold Tallman as historian. Spent many a day chasing around the Rionda estate. It was said Rionda, a Cuban built the tower and church for his wife, who was ill. She never lived to see it. I hear all of these names, such as Burns and realize streets in town were named after them. I lived in Cresskill off and on for over 45 years. The town has changed a lot since.


  6. Posted by Tony on January 4, 2010 at 4:35 PM

    We used to go hiking up to Riondas all the time,never went up the tower it was sealed off… My sister lived on Pershing Place in Cresskill which was part of Camp Merrit, My brother in law was a land clearing contractor ,we cleared lots of land, cut a lot of trees down in Cresskill ,never saw any tunnels?


  7. Posted by Mary Ann on September 23, 2009 at 1:05 PM

    I grew up in Cresskill and have found memories of tromping through the woods with my brother and circling the Tower to try and figure out how to get in.

    Did anyone ever encounter the HUGE black dog (I think it was a Mastiff) that used to chase us kids away.

    We also used to sleigh ride at the very edge of the woods.

    Cresskill was a great place to grow up as a kid.


  8. Posted by Andrea on March 18, 2009 at 12:07 PM

    I’m grew up a Cresskill explorer! I lived across the street from Merritt School (try and check out the auditorium).My friends and I spent countless hours and ruined many pairs of sneakers looking for indian artifacts, revolutionary war and Camp Merritt remnants along the Tenakill and up into Rio Vista (Rionda’s estate).I live in San Diego, Ca.now. This site brought back lots of memories!Thanks!


    • Posted by kevin oconnell on October 20, 2010 at 5:50 PM



      • Posted by sharon Cook on May 29, 2020 at 6:11 PM

        He was married to my aunt. Grew up in Cresskill when there had been the Cook family for generations. Will be eighty and we kids always went up to Rionda’s


  9. Posted by Andrea on March 7, 2009 at 4:20 PM

    Hi! I was just reading your page about Camp Merritt! I grew up in Cresskill and it really was a great place to go exploring! We lived right behind the Westervelt house on County Rd. on the site of their old barn. George Washington supposedly surveyed the Westervelt’s land. Growing up I was only allowed the very cheapest sneakers because my parents knew I was going to ruin them ankle deep in the Tenakill looking for Lenni Lenape artifacts like clay and arrowheads. I went to Merritt Memorial School. If you ever get to go into the Multi Purpose Room, there is an extensive backstage and understage (is that a word?) area and supposedly a full theater’s worth of seats underneath the basketball courts. The rumor is that it was once a USO hall. Maybe you know?

    Every once in a while, one of us would accidently sled into a graveyard in Rio Vista before it was all built up. I hung out at the bridge off Eisenhower with out of town friends in high school. One of my friends lived in a house on Hillside Ave. that belonged to a high ranking army officer during the Camp Merritt days. It was so creepy! The guy had swords hanging on the wall and no matter how many times they painted, the shadows of the swords would still be visible. One time she had a sleepover and we were being roudy. At about 2 a.m. I guess someone had enough and there was a huge bang! Like someone threw the piano off the second floor landing. We were real quiet (and afraid to go to sleep) after that!

    I’m almost positive that the bridge off Eisenhower is part of the Rionda estate. It doesn’t fit in with anything else in the town that was part of Camp Merritt. Plus I was in the armed forces for a few years and I know none of the places I was stationed would have a structure that fancy :). A few of the houses on Madison and Grant Avenues (and in-between) were part of Camp Merritt. You can check out the book “A Town Called Cresskill” which points them all out.


  10. Posted by Richard on March 7, 2009 at 4:17 PM

    I lived in a big white house at the northeast corner of Grant Ave. and Knickerbocker Road in Cresskill from my birth, November 29, 1939, to about 1947. The house was owned by the Burns family, and my father worked for J. P. Burns construction company, which was located just east of our house on the north side of Grant Avenue, in buildings said to have been part of Camp Merritt. I remember being sent out, many times, by my mother to a scrubby area just north of our house, to pick blackberries, which grew there in great abundance.

    The blackberry bushes were growing amidst slabs of concrete on the ground. I was told these slabs were the ground floors of barracks which were located there during World War One. There seemed, to the small boy that I was at the time, to be hundreds of these slabs, extending north toward Demarest. We picked a four-quart pot of blackberries every morning while they were in season, and enjoyed them on our breakfast cereal, and throughout the day. Some time after we moved from there to Westwood in 1947, the blackberry patch was developed as housing, and I presume the slabs were demolished at that time.

    The big white house was torn down, but a few evergreen trees which were there when I lived there still exist. Across the street to the south on the east side of Knickerbocker stood what was then an “Esso” station operated by Jim Masucci, and behind it the Merritt Club, at that time a saloon where my Dad tended bar at night for a while for extra money. Both still exist, as an “Exxon” station and a bar/restaurant named “The Hungry Peddlar”, and are said to be buildings from Camp Merritt.


    • Posted by Ed Cousineau on April 13, 2014 at 2:30 PM

      I would love to know your name as I also was born in the white house and lived there for one year until I moved to Lafayette St until I left at age 21. My uncle was JP Burns Who lived in Tenafly and the Esso station was owned by Billy Burns who also owned Top Hat next door. Cresskill was a wonderful place to grow up and I always tell my kids that are now grown I would give anything for them to have experienced growing up in Cresskill during the 50/60’s.


      • Posted by Tony on April 13, 2014 at 3:32 PM

        I think the Top Hat used to be called Pfeufers Valley Inn in the 60’s.. It was owned by my brother in law Ted Pfeufer from Dumont, He also owned Pfeufers Tree Removal Most of the guys from school worked for Ted, clearing land local and all over the place, ,everyone wanted to “GET IN SHAPE” but after 1 day of burning logs in hot 6-8 foot fires, a lot of the guys couldn’t hack it !!! That was when we could burn the wood !!!


  11. Posted by Steve on March 7, 2009 at 4:17 PM

    The email you got was from my childhood chum, John Jezsik, after I sent him your page! John lived on the Camp Merritt side of Cresskill, while I was on the Rionda side. As such, he’s more familiar than I about CM and what was left of it in the 60’s. John and I agree, however, that the bridge recently uncovered was part of Rionda’s estate, and not CM. We spent a lot of time in those woods and knew it quite well. There was a *large*, round “cement pond” up the road from that bridge. It featured a cement pillared, iron beamed diving platform. The wooden beams of the platform were gone by the time we knew it, though. The roads on Rionda’s estate weren’t paved, but they did have a storm drain system. This guy was loaded! The Camp Merritt monument in Cresskill is located in what was the center of the camp. Using today’s maps and technology, along with the old records, may help you get a better idea of the camp’s boundaries.


  12. Posted by John J on March 7, 2009 at 4:17 PM

    A friend of mine in Florida forwarded your story to me re: Rionda’s Tower. Both of us grew up in Cresskill, NJ. We had a great time exploring this wonderful place. The entire area is (was) filled with ruins that included bridle paths, a rock quarry and other stuff. There was also a watchman who lived by the tower that would scare the crap out of us if we got to close. One of my schoolmates found a dead guy lying next to one of the bridle paths with a suicide note pinned on him. All of us heard the ghost stories, or a variation thereof, many times. While still in school, construction started on Tammy Brook Country Club.

    Two others followed. Still, you could still see remnants of Huyler Landing Road. This road to the Hudson River was used by both American and British during the Revolutionary War. Whoops! Here’s the second email re: Camp Merritt. Damn. I grew up by Grant Ave. and 11th St. in Cresskill. My folks still live there. We also explored the remnants of camp Merritt. When I was growing up, the North side of Grant Ave. was then JP Burns construction CO. The buildings were from the original Camp Merritt. We were always exploring this area and found a lot of stuff. We found a horse buggy that we restored. We found dynamite in small shacks. We watched the Cresskill fire dept. burn the remaining large wood structures. Of course we helped the process along by placing — naw — never mind. Anyway, we found the original sewer pipes made with barrel staves. Needless to say, we had a great time growing up in Cresskill. Your articles are fascinating! Keep up the good work. You might want to contact the Cresskill Town Historian, John Spring. My folks say that he still gives talks about things that might interest you (and me).


  13. Posted by Steve on March 7, 2009 at 4:16 PM

    I grew up in Cresskill NJ and left there over 30 years ago. Most of my teenage years were spent skulking about The Palisades, but I never knew 1/4 of what your website showed me. I especially appreciate the pages on Camp Merritt and Rionda’s tower; great picture! I have vivid memories of what we kids all called “Rionda’s”, including the first time I came across the tower. Childhood legend told of “a castle somewhere in Rionda’s Woods”, and I found it! That feeling of discovering “a cool place” has made you an addict for more, I see; I only wish I could accompany you on your treks. Sign me up for the Weird New Jersey mailing list, my friend, and THANK YOU so much for your internet site!


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