Camp Merritt

Camp Merritt was an army camp built in 1917 along the Cresskill-Dumont border. It was 770 acres in size. Troops traveled here from other parts of the country, then traveled to Hoboken, and from there went to Europe to fight in WWI. In 1918 a deadly flu epidemic broke out, with many victims dying in 24 hours of saturated lungs. The epidemic typically lasted 3 weeks then went away. The Camp asked that they not send any troops out till the epidemic cleared but men were needed at the front lines, and their requests were ignored.

Men collapsed as they marched to the ferries; doctors tried to screen out the sick once they arrived in Hoboken. It was impossible to eliminate all the sick and some made it onto boats headed for Europe. The bunks were 4 high; the nurses couldn’t climb to the sick men; the sick soldiers couldn’t climb down, and many died in their bunks halfway to Europe. The Camp was immediately quarantined until the end of the war. The camp suffered 3 fires, each of which destroyed hundreds of buildings. The camp was closed in 1921, according to this page on the Creskill boro website.

There is a giant monument within a circle at the top of the hill between Cresskill & Dumont.

The following detailed information was obtained from a pamphlet about the dedication of the Camp.

CAMP MERRITT was situated ten miles northwest of New York City, on a ridge midway between the towns of Cresskill and Dumont, Bergen County, New Jersey. It occupied an area of 770 acres, 580 acres of which were occupied by the camp proper. The remaining 190 acres were taken up by warehouses, railway areas, an athletic field, and a truck garden of some 60 acres which produced a large quantity of garden truck for the various messes. The camp was one mile long and three-quarters of a mile wide.

It had the following buildings:
611 two-story, 6o-man barracks.
189 lavatories.
165 company kitchens and mess halls.
40 two-story battalion officers, quarters.
4 one-story battalion officers’ quarters
17 administration buildings.
15 post exchanges.
39 warehouses.
4 fire station houses.
5 garages.
93 hospital buildings.
94 miscellaneous buildings.
28 welfare organization buildings.
Total 1314

Capacity of the camp:
Officers ……………………..2,000
Enlisted men ………… 40,000
Total………………………. 42,000

143 miles of concrete road was constructed in camp, and 3.6 miles outside. Railway spur and trackage about four miles from the West Shore Railway. Water supply from the Hackensack Water Company’s supply at New Milford, 2-1/2 miles from camp; 12-inch main throughout the camp, with a total of 19 miles of pipe. A disposal camp at New Milford for sewerage, 2-1/2 miles from camp; two trunk line sewers in camp, to inches, 3 miles in length, with 10 miles of smaller sewers. The septic tank’s capacity at New Milford was 725,000 gallons.

260 miles of wiring, 1029 poles, 235 street lamps, 29,000 lamps in buildings, is the story of the electric installation. This was the only camp in which every building was painted. A total of 6,500,000 square feet of surface painted, using 40,000 gallons of paint.

ADMINISTRATION
The personnel necessary to operate the camp at its maximum (at the time of signing the Armistice) was approximately 500 officers, 7,000 enlisted men. The building of the camp started in August 1917, the Cost approximating $11,000,000. The first troops to arrive were Company F, 22nd Infantry, 65 men all told, on August 30, ‘1917. The 49th Infantry arrived September 17, 1917, strength 2,010 all told. As there were no buildings then ready,. these troops were quartered under canvas, about a mile north of the camp on the old race-track.
The first troops to arrive for overseas duty were the 501st, the 502nd, the 503rd, and the 504th Battalions of Engineers, which arrived between October 1 and 8, 1917. The last troops to arrive at Camp Merritt from overseas consisted of a Casual Attachment of 9 officers and 400 enlisted men, who arrived on January 26, 1920.

Camp Merritt was the camp of the Casuals, over 200,000 of which passed through it on their way to the War. For the purpose of administration, the camp was divided into 7 Districts, a permanent officer known as District Commander in command of each District. A Liaison Officer was stationed at each railway station to direct troops to camp

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5 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Berry desendent on August 27, 2016 at 2:08 AM

    My Grandfather was at Camp Merritt and we have found some picture post cards (10) of various buildings there.

    Reply

  2. The picture on the web site is of one of several beautiful stone bridges on the estate !

    Reply

  3. Posted by Andrea on March 7, 2009 at 4:19 PM

    Great site! I was an avid Cresskill explorer as a kid. I’ve got a question for you. My dad took me to a stationary/soda fountain on the Washington Ave. triangle in Westwood when I was a kid so I could see what life was like when he was a teenager. Apparently the owner just locked the door one day back in 1960-shmikety and never opened up shop again. It was kinda like looking into a time capsule. I live in San Diego, Ca. and I’ve heard that it has since been turned into something else. Do you know anything about it?

    Reply

  4. Posted by Bob on March 7, 2009 at 4:19 PM

    My name is Bob, and I lived in Cresskill on the south west corner of 10th St. and Madison Ave. from 1943 until 1957. My parents continued to live there until the late 1970s. Having read your page, and the input from Steve, etc. I will throw in some random memories. As a kid, the J. P. Burns construction yard was abandoned. On a lot on the corner of Grant Ave. and Knickerbocker Rd. were abandoned pieces of equipment. A steam shovel, and I mean steam, it had a fire box and boiler. A couple of Mack trucks with solid rubber wheels and chain drive. We played on them.

    Camp Merritt: I lived three blocks from the monument. Until the fifties, Knickerbocker Rd ran with in fifteen feet of the monument it self, up against the paved stone base surrounding the monument. There is a relief map of the camp on this “Plaza” There is a six or eight inch wide ledge about four feet high surrounding the monument, and we used to play “monument tag” on it. West, up Madison from the monument is Elm St. the last street in Cresskill before Dumont, it had a low stone wall put in as part of the camp. From Madison Ave. south to Tenafly was a vast field, crossed by dirt roads, the continuations of 11th and 12th streets, and full of small cement cellars. We covered them over to make “forts” At the end of 10th st. were concrete pillars that had been over grown by Locust trees. It was eerie to pass them ,as a kid, coming home at dusk. Across 10th street is Highland, half a block up on the right is a large house that was visitors accommodations. Going down Madison Ave (east) on the right between 9th and 8th streets is an officers mess, now a home.

    Rionda Estate: The picture on the web site is of one of several beautiful stone bridges on the estate. The estate had a net work of gravel roads with drainage. On occasion we would camp under a bridge close to Hillside Ave. The famous tower was in fact the water reservoir providing gravity fed water to the estate. Having climbed the tower several times, I remember a metal (steel?) receptacle that took up at least two stories. Down the hill, toward Hillside Ave, was the pond or lake with the steel and concrete remains of the dock. There was the remains of a pump house complete with rusting machinery, next to it. There was four artesian wells with concrete caps, but open. these fed the pond. This pond was the favorite skinny dipping location for all Cresskill and Demarest kids. There was the remains of a Dairy that had burned down at some point.

    Thanks for the memories, if I have any more of my own, I’ll pass them on.

    Reply

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