Manuel Rionda’s stone tower

Related Pages:

My experience in the NJ Palisades

Old Bridge: In the woods of Creskill is a large stone bridge, which may be a part of the old Camp Merritt. A bit of research and a few emails from readers suggests this bridge is more likely a relic from the Rionda estate…..

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”

totaltower

Manuel Rionda was a Cuban sugar dealer who owned an estate in Alpine. Bought in 1904 with only 13 acres, by the time of his death his estate had grown to over 200 acres, running from the middle of Cresskill to the edge of the cliffs along the Palisades. Among the more notable elements of the estate was a manmade lake, and a 100+ foot stone clock tower. The path to the tower was flanked by cedars, giving the impression of royal guardsman. The tower boasted an iron elevator and was flanked by a library and a chapel.

His wife Harriet died in 1922 and he had her interred here for over 20 years. Rionda’s property was open to anyone who wanted to stroll, a sort of a public park. Rionda offered the property to the town of Alpine to become a public park, and they rejected the offer. He sold the land instead and now his property is home to the Tammybrook Country Club.

The rest of the property was sold off in pieces, and the only thing that remains is the tower. Numerous homes in the area were built from the carriage houses and satellite buildings, and as such they share the same look as the tower.

When Rionda died, his will required his wife be removed from the mausoleum, and that he and his wife be burying at Brooklawn Cemetery in Englewood where they remain to this day.

Vandals and rumors have done irreparable damage to the old tower. The ornate stained glass windows are broken out, the tower was vandalized so often it has been sealed it off completely and there is no access to the upper sections. The building still retains that old gothic, medieval church feeling, and that has led to much storytelling among the local youths who come to drink and hang out (which amazes me could go on in this clearly private prim & proper section of town). The rumor is that if you drive around it backwards (meaning counter-clockwise I guess?) three times at midnight, a woman’s ghost will appear. I’m guessing this would be his dead wife. A similar rumor says if you walk around it backwards six times, the devil appears…

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76 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Alex on January 16, 2017 at 7:31 PM

    Can some one tell me if the tower is still there and can get in? If so can you tell me the closest street to get there ?

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  2. Posted by Tom Conlon on June 10, 2014 at 10:53 AM

    I grew up in Demarest. We would ride over to Hillside Ave., ditch our bikes over the stone wall, and hike up through the woods after school some afternoons, 1974-76. We almost always got into the tower. The chapel and library wings were unrecognizable to us, we had no idea what they were. We could get in one of the boarded up windows, and enter the main tower on the second floor, above the arch. I’d forgotten the large wooden vat which we had no idea had served as a water tank. There was an old wooden stair case that followed the wall, probably went along two walls with a turn at the corner on each level. The staircase at the first level was missing the first four treads, probably to discourage climbing. We went up the stairs no more than one person at a time. The next floor housed the clock works. As we approached from the downhill side of the estate we weren’t aware of the many cottages or other features described by others here. The view from the top was breath-taking and awe-inspiring and we would linger there until just before dark, while there was still just enough light to find our way back down through the tower and the woods. The best time to go was at dusk so we could watch the lights come on in the City.

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    • Posted by Bill Kraemer on June 11, 2014 at 11:22 AM

      Man Tom You got some memory. Did I ever go up there with you? Hope you still have time to ditch your bike on the other side of walls and hike 3 or 4 miles to check out some interesting stuff.

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      • Posted by Tom Conlon on June 11, 2014 at 11:48 AM

        Bill, who taught me and Tommy Evans the words to “Teach Your Children” in fifth grade, I’m quite confident you led us, me and Bruce, John Cook, up there the first time. Can you explain to me again, how water runs uphill? I remember you going toe to toe with Mrs. Weinstein over this theory/fact. tomchalant@hotmail.com

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        • Posted by rob mackenzie on October 20, 2014 at 2:36 AM

          I remember going there and to the ice house(?) near some water, at least that was what someone said it was. I was scared of Mrs. Weinstein…

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    • Posted by John Cook on June 13, 2014 at 5:43 PM

      Hi Guys, Bill was definitely up in those woods. I know he lived the closest. Lots of good memories up there. I’m not sure which of you guys were there when we got chased by the dogs? I never knew there were people living up there and the property was relatively “open”. I remember hiding from everyone and being scared of being caught. We used to play with frogs in the pond down near Hillside Ave. And I remember hoping that some of the girls from Holy Angels would come out and see us!!! I remember being scared and think we were afraid of one of the buildings and thought there was someone buried in one of them, The ones close to the tower were locked up.

      Getting up the tower, if I remember right, the lower windows were either boarded or concrete blocked up. I think we had to climb to the top of one of the side wings by putting our feet on one wall and our backs on the other and “walking” up…but I also remember being able to get inside one of those lower rooms and climbing pipes. It’s been a long time so it’s hard to remember clearly. Oh, and pigeon poop everywhere.

      I do remember the view from the top. And the elevator shaft was just an open hole through the floors. And I shouldn’t admit this but…one time I remember taking a can of paint up and trying to write my name on the wall in the top room…but the wind blew the paint spray back on me and ruined my brand new jacket. It was a Porsche/Audi jacket I think.

      We definitely had our share of adventures.

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    • Posted by Donna Ray on June 24, 2014 at 9:45 PM

      I was born in Rio Vista and my family moved to Demarest around 1965. I went to Saint Joseph’s in Demarest but Rio Vista was a huge part of my childhood. Long beautiful walks through the trails, revisiting areas where my dad brought his Boy Scouts, camping out by the tower, the water fountain that did not work, the beautiful man made ponds, the boarded up church that you could just about get a peek of what was inside, finding Indian arrow heads in the corn fields and of course trying to climb the tower., What a beautiful place…before all the mansions came in! A memory in time.

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    • Posted by Dan Ferry on April 13, 2015 at 11:44 AM

      Wow I did the same thing. I gew up on Central ave, and we would take Ross and Oak and cut through Holy Angles, hide the bikes there and over the stone wall we went. Got chased by the dogs too. This was about 1977 or so.

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  3. In 1972 I had the privilege of renting with my friends this main house of the former 200-acre Rio Vista estate which was built by sugar baron Manuel Rionda and it exemplified the turn-of-the-century Gilded Age excess. The living room with its 24’ x 24’ had a 6’ marble fireplace with an ornamental mantel flanked by winged Griffiths, 17th century stained glass from Europe, medieval candelabras or candle chandeliers were located on all four corners of the room, etc. Exactly above that room on the second floor was an identical room with another 6’ fireplace – the ballroom or entertainment center and it even had a dumbwaiter down to the kitchen for food service from the staff. The developer of Glen Goin was Malasardi and he bought the main house after we left!

    Built in 1904 by Spanish immigrant-turned sugar baron, Manuel Rionda (“a patrician Spaniard” in The Sugar King of Havana)- the estate included a man-made lake, tennis courts, a swimming pool and a 100-foot-high water tower. The tower contains a library and chapel wing designed by New York architect Charles Rollinson Lamb. And yes we had parties there too…about 250 people for a Halloween party with costumes and a New Years eve party for 300 people that included 2 bands – one upstairs and one downstairs too! In fact Gary Wright from the band Spooky Tooth ( Song Dream Weaver) came to our party and played – since he also lived on the estate which included about 24 stone cottages that were built for World War 2 widows who lived there rent free – compliments of Harriet Rionda! Robert Scheurer

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  4. Posted by Robert Shultz on September 2, 2013 at 12:06 AM

    I grew up in Glen Goin from 1975 to 2001 and was hoping to get in touch with any legacy Glen Goin Club members who knew my mom Pat Shultz.

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    • Posted by Cathy McMullen on November 21, 2013 at 5:45 PM

      Hello Robert, I lived in Glen Goin until 1975, remember you and Megan and your mom. I last saw her at her home in the late 80’s (?), as her house was going to be torn down and she was planning to remarry and move to the Midwest. She threw a lovely farewell party. Where is she today?

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    • Posted by Barbara Sgtrull Litinski on November 21, 2013 at 8:37 PM

      I was in Glen Goin from 1976 until 1982 and lived in the chicken coop. Probaly knew your famiy but can’t remember. Where was your house? Do you have any pitcures? Do you remembe when Joe Piscopo lived there? My last name was Strull when I was there and I met my husband there when he was visiting my neighbor in the “ice house”.

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  5. […] 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 […]

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  6. Posted by Frank Salvado on August 25, 2012 at 1:31 PM

    Living in Alpine was like living in a place like no other. It was small and didn’t have much, however the people were all friendly and willing to help their neighbors. My memories are many that on a visit a few years back the changes and the prices were hard to believe for a town that was once ‘my hometown’ though it’s still here. I can’t ever forget the good times when with those whom were friends. Of all of them I only hear from one of them; that being Don Prosser and I am proud to say that he and I are still friends and will be for many more years.
    Now I would like to be in touch with some of the others I once thought were friends; even those that weren’t I would like to be in touch with. There is that bond of having lived in Alpine when it was a small town with the very best of places to have lived at.
    Frank Salvado

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    • Posted by Barbara (Strull) Litinski on October 27, 2012 at 4:18 PM

      I am so excited to add to these posts! I lived for a brief time in Glen Goin from 1977 – 1981 when Bob Malesardi owned it and lived in the main house. I lived in the chicken coop attached to the ice house. It was a wonderful time, although when I moved there I had just broken up with my high school boyfriend of 17 years.

      I well remember the house at the entrance where the Glass family rented. I kept two Siberian huskies in a pen outside my kitchen door and because I was showing one, I used to leash her and run her alongside the car on the private roads to keep her ready for showing. Whenever a dog was loose in Alpine, the police called me to help. My two Sibes got out of their pen one winter morning after I left for work (in Englewood Cliffs). During rush hour traffic they crossed 9W and the Interstate and went down to the boat basin! Amazing that there were no accidents.

      Joe Piscapo lived in the ice house with his first wife and “Little Joey” and he would leave at 1:00 AM to head to the Improve in the city. It was primitive living. My old boiler never worked, mice lived in the oven, and the washing machine was in the boiler room of the ice house. My garage (which I was lucky to have) was detached and far away on the other side of the house. Snow was beautiful and we played platform tennis all winter and tennis during the summer. Other renters were young and fun.

      Six months before the Glen Goin houses were put up for sale, my neighbor Charles had a visitor from Atlanta. I had just broken up with someone I thought I would marry and I was not very happy but Charles knew I was very single. He sent his friend George over to borrow some coffee, a fictitious need if there ever was one. They didn’t even have the propane hooked up to the ice house. I knew they weren’t making coffee!. So George introduced himself and we have been married for 31 years!

      Thank you Glen Goin.

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      • Posted by Jay Prosser on October 27, 2012 at 7:53 PM

        Wow, quite a story. My family was well prior to your arrival. I have no recolection of an ice house or a chicken house. Interesting.

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        • Posted by Barbara (Strull) Litinski on October 27, 2012 at 10:10 PM

          When you entered the main road off 9W, there was a house immediately on the left. If you continued on the road until the first intersection, you would see the back of the ice house and the chicken coop as well as the separate garage, also to your left. To get to the front of the house you would have to turn left at the first intersection and then left at the next road as if you were heading to the tennis courts. The house and garage would be the only one on your left. If there is a way, I could send some pictures to you.

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          • Posted by Jay Prosser on October 28, 2012 at 8:48 AM

            Now I remember. We thought it was just a maintainance storage facility. We used to play in it from time to time. That first house on the left is where we lived for several years until we moved to Tenafly. I attended the old Alpine school for 6 and 7th grade. Then bus to the old Tenafly jr h.s. I graduated THS in ’62. The people I remember in Glen Goin were Teague’s, Marsh, Halstead, Nixon, Smythe.

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            • Posted by Barbara (Strull) Litinski on October 28, 2012 at 9:01 AM

              HaHa! It should have stayed a maintenance shack! It was cold, windy and had all the shelves around it for the chickens to roost on. The windows were big and beautiful and the curved ceiling in what became the bedroom was also lovely. I really enjoyed being there but left when it became condo and then apprently private homes.

              I graduated Teaneck HS in ’91 and worked in the Englewood Cliffs School District until 1991. I live in Palm Beach County near “Big Sugar” where the name Rionda is very popular.

              It saddens me to see that Glen Goin has lost all its privacy and wooded area and the wonderful old stone houses seem to be gone.

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              • Posted by elwood on June 29, 2013 at 1:30 AM

                I guess I’m not the only one who moved from the Shadow of Rionda’s tower to Fanjul territory!

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  7. Posted by Jay Prosser on June 17, 2012 at 10:18 PM

    I grew up in Alpine and lived in Glen Goin. Ours was the closest house to,9W. We lived there in the late 50’s early 60’s. We were well acquainted with Mrs Rionda. I have explored every building at Rio Vista. I climbed the palisades on numerous occasions with nothing but shoes and clothing. There was also Rionda buildings on the Palisades prior to Palisades Parkway which we explored. There was nothing in Alpine whe we lived there. One store. Two,gas stations.

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    • Posted by Claire on July 10, 2012 at 10:06 PM

      I was born in Englewood Hospital in 1954 and we lived in one of the buildings on the Rionda estate when I was young. My mother, who is 92, remembers Mrs. Rionda well and just the other day was describing where we lived: in a stone “double house” that was near the tennis courts. She has wonderful memories of their time there.

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      • Posted by Barbara Litinski on April 9, 2013 at 11:07 PM

        That could have been the ice house attached to my chicken coop. I was near the tennis courrts.

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    • Posted by Buck Kidder on August 5, 2012 at 6:01 PM

      I wanted to reply to both Clare and Jay separately, but, being 64 and somewhat computer-challenged, I couldn’t figure out how to to do that.

      Anyway …..

      My name is Buck Kidder and I lived in Glen Goin from 1947 to about 1962, when our family moved to Englewood, NJ.

      Jay, I remember you well … and your brother Don, who, as I recall, went to West Point. And your mother (Paula ?) . And I remember the day your father died. All of us were very sad for you and your family. Tough age for you to lose your father. I seem to recall that a cousin of yours (I think) came to stay during that time.

      Your house is still there. It’ s one of the very few that remain. Surpoiringly, it looks pretty much as it did when you guys lived there.

      As an aside, isn’t that something seeing Mike Nouri’s mug on TV every time you turn around ? Knowing him and his family well (little contact in recent history, though) and knowng what a goofball he is (great sense of humor), I always laugh when I see him play these oily, menacing characters in movies and on TV series. .

      And yes .. I too climbed on the Palisades. The fact that I survived to tell the tale is truly astonishing. If my parents ever knew … well .. you know.

      And I remember some of tjhe colorfull local characters. Frank Salvado, John Brehm (Alpine’s “Fonz”) , Bob Van Valen, George King, George Riley, the Cox family, Mike (of course), Mike Berkery, Carol Bailey (whoaa !!) , the Cacace clan and that Alpine Mafia. Phil Gianuzzi, Al Capul. That Miles street mob.

      And yes.. the one store was Miller’s (two sons). I always loved those Memorial Day festivities. I wrote a letter to my local paper in Ridgefield, CT this past May about that. And, looking back, I get a kick out of remembering that annual Memorial Day softball game — Glen Goin against the Volunteer Fire Dept (mostly Miles Street and Mafia). Sort of .. Preppies vs. “Greasers”. , as I recall. Interesting dynamic going n there.

      And the two gas sations were Al Capul’s and Phil Gianuzzi’s, further down Closter Dock toward Closter.

      Clare, I’ve been flogging my feeble brain to recall anyone named Clare that lived in that “double house” by the courts. I vividly remember each inch of Glen Goin; and, pick any house.. and I can tell you the name of at least one family that lived there. But don’t ask me what I had for dinner last night. What’s your family’s name ?

      I remember chasing many an errant tennis ball that sailed over the fence and landed in the yards of those two places.

      I suspect you’re a bit younger than me. We lived close by. If you walked up that path from your house to the “mailbox” and kept going past it, you’d end up in our yard. Our garage was on the right just before you hit the property.

      Anyway, like both of you, I suspect, I have absolutely wonderful memories of Glen Goin. I hardly know where to begin … really. Some day, maybe I’ll write a book.

      I cannot imagine a better place to be kid .. and I mean that. A safe, secure, cloistered sort of environment — with supportive, friendly parents — with “community jurisdiction” to enforce discipline and look our for the safety of all of us. Lots of kids around. Pool, tennis/paddle courts. Woods. Ballfield. Great “roads” for go-carts.

      My parents tried to encourage me to go to summer camp. Why would I want to do THAT ? Rousted out of bed at dawn to make a belt ? Swim across a freezing cold lake ? Seach for snakes ? Screw that. I had what I wanted.

      You both have probably seen what Glen Goin has become .. Alpine too. Sad beyond words. I happened to drive through for a look at the time that the stone structure at the pool was being dozed and dumped into the pool. Alot great memories there. The better ones, though, involved night swims in high school with rum and .. I’ll stop there.

      Anyway …. can’t say enough about how much I loved it.

      Thanks for you remembrances.

      .

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      • Posted by Jay Prosser on August 6, 2012 at 7:09 AM

        Buck, you are spot on re my family. I remember, the Marsh’s, the Teagues, the Halstead’s, the Smyth’s (Sandy), the Seahoff’s. It was a great place to grow up and perhaps a bit confining. I attended a two room school in Alpine and then went to Tenafly for 7th and 8th grade and on to THS. I was somewhat in awe of Tenafly at first. However it did not long to discover up state NY and NYC!!! Enough said.

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        • Posted by Buck Kidder on August 6, 2012 at 8:09 AM

          Jay, I still see Ned and Sandy Smyth from time to time. Craig died a few years ago. Barbara is now 94, I think. See Tuck Nolan from time to time too in NH … . and Marcy (FL). Was on the Howdy Doody show with the Seahoff kids for their birthday party in the early 50’s. I think Diane Seahoff walked me to school on my first day. Loved living in Alpine. Truly great people.

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          • Posted by Jay Prosser on July 8, 2013 at 7:34 PM

            Buck, do you have any idea as to the location of Diane Seahoff? I was a teller in a bank in Norwalk, CT while I was going to college. She came in on several occasions and I think she was nurse. I am going back to 1967 or 68. For some reason I did not think she was very happy.

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        • I use to hang with Tina? Marsh in the mid 60’s.I grew up in Cresskill in the 50’s and 60’s and Riondas was the place to hang out as a kid and drink until the local police put a stop to us,good times!

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    • Posted by Claremont on June 26, 2013 at 3:51 PM

      Uh do you mean Mrs. Rionda as in Immanuel Rionda’s wife? If so, she died in 1922 and even Immanuel too dies before the 50s and 60 in 1943…

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  8. Posted by Pat Lipman on March 9, 2012 at 10:24 PM

    I am facinated by all these posts. I grew up in Alpine & lived in Glen Goin til about age 5 when my parents along with a few other Glen Goin families built their own houses about a mile down Hillside Ave. in Beechwood Farms. My parents lived there about 12 – 15 years I think. The Riondas had converted some of the smaller buildings on the estate plus had built several others to rent to young couples ( the “yuppies” of their day). The construction wasn’t alwasy the best – my mom told me some were insulated with old newspapers. There was a swimming pool, tennis courts & squash courts. I remember ice skating on the pond in Rio Vista and Easter egg hunts at the manor house. Mail was delivered to a small shack where one of the residents would sort it. I started my babysiting career by putting up a flier there as there were still lots of young families there. BTW one of my classmates lived above the garage with the rotating platform. We all thought that was so cool! Would love to share more memories with anyone who’s interested or remembers those days.

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    • Posted by CHRIS KLECKNER on April 23, 2012 at 10:05 AM

      I’m sure if Glen Goin is still there Pat, because I have not been able to find it since I was last up that way and saw a lot of new construction..
      It was a very interesting place, with all the old stone houses in the woods not all that far from “civilization”.
      A bunch of my friends got together to rent the big manor house in the summer of ’74. Although we all had nice batchelor pads in Edgewater at the time, we were young and dumb but with good jobs.
      In October, we passed around flyers at the Bicycle Club in Englewood Cliffs to advertise our Halloween Party and had about a thousand people show up.
      What crazy times…HAHAHA

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      • Posted by CHRIS KLECKNER on April 23, 2012 at 10:12 AM

        Ooops…above should read “NOT sure” but I see now that it is indeed gone . What a terrible loss.

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      • Chris I lived in the main house with Mike Elting & Ronnie Burke – this is Bob Scheurer who rented the second floor bedroom on the corner – yes I had that 1964 Aston Martin DB 5 in the garage! Got married in 1982 moved up to Goshen N.Y. and built a custom passive solar house – now retired and own a Ferrari – my son lived in Wash. D.C. and works for the government conducting classified research. Now divorced…travelling all over the world…the main house is still there – I photographed it yesterday for my Facebook story. Ronnie passed away several years ago too…

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  9. Posted by c berrian on August 31, 2011 at 10:49 PM

    I was just sorta surfing/researching Ellen Goin Rionda, Apparently she was quite a remarkable woman. I base this on stories my grandmother told me. She was a private nurse of Mrs. Rionda. My grandmother would often tell us stories about her and the amazing Rionda estate. My family, back then, lived in Paterson, then Glen Rock. Little by little, all the stories I have heard in the past from my grandma are given new life and made more factual by all your stories. I too often would go hiking up that way and have visited the tower several times. Now, to me it’s a big puzzle, as to a more detailed family history. Apparently, Ellen was affiliated with the Smithsonian and, as a collector of many pieces of fine art, supposedly she had donated a great deal of her collection to them. Also, i recall my grandma telling me of the people she had living on the estate. One story I recall was of a very talented man who was supposedly very handy at building/restoring . As the story goes, he made a lot of the furnishings and garden features of the home. My grandma knew him, but I cannot remember his name. I wonder if he had any hand in the clock tower. Like I said, this is all speculation based on piecing together stories I heard. I’d love to hear more, though, if anyone knows the family history, or is a family member. There is so much history going on there. I used to go to woodlawn cemetery in the bronx and study all the great people who were buried there. Some fascinating success stories. I suppose that is what makes Manuel Rionda and his “empire” so interesting. And of course, behind every great man is an even greater woman. lol. Financial success is one thing, but even more interesting is what the success allowed later in life, philanthropically speaking, From the stories I heard, Ellen Rionda did a lot of good for a lot of people and my grandma adored her. I would love to hear anyone’s stories about the family, more personally. Like I said, I only have pieces of a puzzle, but if not just for intrigue, it seems like a more accurate, detailed account of the rionda estate and the family would be a great contribution to NJ’s great history, which tends to get lost fairly quickly in the wake of modernization. thanks all. loved reading what was here so far.

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    • Posted by Michael Mellin on January 7, 2012 at 8:44 PM

      I used to hike in these woods when I was a kid growing up in Tenafly. Wasn’t one of the houses off 9W called Glen Goin? I always wondered about the name. Was it related to your mother?

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    • Posted by Claire on July 11, 2012 at 2:18 PM

      My mother, Claire Gallagher, 92, just told me that Mrs. Rionda told her that she had sat at her father’s knee, learning his business. She said that during the time my family lived in a building at Glen Goin in the 1950’s, she and Mrs. Rionda visited and got along very well. My family lived in a building that faced the two tennis courts. She said that there was also a paddle tennis court near the other tennis courts and that the courts were used a great deal. Our house was a “double house” and the two houses faced away from each other, ours with a large screened porch on the side and a second floor: two bedrooms on the first floor, and one on the second along with a bathroom and a big storeroom.

      Joe Collacha (sp?) was the Mrs. Rionda’s chauffeur and right-hand-man and he and his wife lived in the other half of the building. My mother said that Joe didn’t drive Mrs. Rionda much, she had a woman who drove her more frequently.

      My mother said Mrs. Rionda ran Glen Goin with an iron hand. She wore a cape and on a winter day you’d often see her out straightening up someone’s woodpile or neatening something up.

      My mother told the story of her brother painting the interior of our house as a wedding present to my mom and dad; she wanted it painted blue. Mrs. Rionda came to see it and didn’t immediately approve; she had a standard tannish color she used in all the interiors. After visiting my mother, Mrs. Rionda said she actually liked the blue color and things went back to normal.

      When they widened 9W, Mrs. Rionda’s house on the point in the Hudson was cut off and she had to move, so she built a house on the opposite side of 9W where her other houses were in Glen Goin. She took my mom through the new house and showed her the wine cellar that had a door from an old Spanish church, and the floors that had been taken from another church. It must have been beautiful.

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  10. Mrs. E. G. Rionda commissioned Frazier Peters to desgin and build houses for her estate. He may have designed the towner or mansion as well. FF Peters is being celebrated with anexhibition at the Westport Historical Society in Connecticut for the legacy of beautiful stone houses there. He moved to Warwick in 19136 sometime after this he connected with the Rionda’s. Any information would be helpful please contact me at ffp@petershousesofstone.us.

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    • In 1972 I had the privilege of renting with my friends this main house of the former 200-acre Rio Vista estate which was built by sugar baron Manuel Rionda and it exemplified the turn-of-the-century Gilded Age excess. The tower contains a library and chapel wing designed by New York architect Charles Rollinson Lamb and the approximately 24 stone cottages on the estate were built for World War 2 widows who lived there rent free – compliments of Helen Rionda! Robert J. Scheurer

      Reply

  11. Posted by Anne on July 30, 2011 at 3:51 PM

    Manuel Rionda was Spanish, not Cuban.

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    • Posted by Michael Mellin on January 7, 2012 at 8:46 PM

      He was a very cosmopolitan man. John Paul Rathbone, who seems to know what he’s writing about describes him as “a patrician Spaniard” in The Sugar King of Havana (London: 2010, Penguin). He certainly made a lot of money and became famous selling Cuban sugar.

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  12. Posted by Brian on July 23, 2011 at 9:45 AM

    I too used to explore all these old buildings. The old garage building next to the upper lake had a large metal turntable, so that when the car was pulled into the garage..it would rotate the car around so it would be facing outside for easy exit. Pretty high tech for the early 1900’s and still fairly unique by today’s standards.

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  13. Posted by lostinjersey on August 28, 2010 at 9:40 PM

    Bill Ervolino, Bergen record columnist, recently went searching for the devil’s tower

    Reply

  14. Posted by Steve on August 21, 2010 at 6:17 PM

    Hi, I grew up in Bergenfield & spent ALOT of time exploring the Rionda Tower & the surrounding area in the early 80’s. Back in the day we just called it The Tower & it was on our list as one of the places we could go to have a few beers without being bothered & if we were it was easy to get away through the woods. We would climb through one of the small windows of the winged section then work our way up these 2×12’s to the first section & hang out there for hours. We would be able to see headlights coming up the road through the big window of the main tower & would stay quiet in one of the corners untill they were gone. On several occasions my friends & I climbed all the way to the top to enjoy the beautiful view. Does anyone remember the tree growing on top of the tower? From what I remember of the 2 buildings on either side of the tower was 1 of them was a church & the other was a small house where the nuns stayed (At least thats what I was told). Back then there was talk about sacrifices being held in the church. One time when my friends & I went in the church we found a large slab of marble on the floor with what appeared to be blood on top of it with what looked to be chicken bones scattered around & drawings on the wall like you would associate with satanic rituals. A few years later I was working as an electrician & the company I worked for was contracted to do all the new electrical work on all the new mansions they were building that are there today including the original stone mansion once owned by Manuel Rionda. The inside of the mansion is as beautiful inside as it is outside. I remember the old candle chandeliers (Which alot of them we left) & the huge stone fireplaces very well. The man who now owned the property (The developer of the the mansions) & his family were living in the original mansion. There were about 8 smaller stone cottages on the property that were torn down to build the house that stand there today. Its a shame because they were equaly as beautiful as everything else on the property. The cottages had 1 big room on the first floor with a fireplace & a second floor loft (They were beautiful). They were being rented at that time but the renters were getting ready to move out because of the construction. The new owner found out that if he tore the entire cottage down he would have to apply for a NEW construction permit but if he left 1 wall of the cottage he could apply for a RENOVATION permit & save himself alot of money. If you look at some of the mansions that are there today you will see that 1 exterior wall is the original stone wall from the old cottage. They usually left the wall that had the old stone fireplace. Doing elecrical work on the old stone mansion was a nightmare because of the 2 foot thick exterior stone walls. The property was sectioned off & the section with the stone mansion & cottages was renamed Glenn Goin (I wish I could remember the name of the developer). I never did any work on the tower or the stone structures next to the tower. I spent about 3 years doing the electrical work on the new houses & the stone mansion before leaving the company. Within that time our company also did alot of electrical work at Eddie Murphys house. Eddie Murphy’s house is in Englewood not Englewood Cliffs & is not part of the Rionda property. Eddie Murphy’s house is also a very old home the was totally renovated. The last thing I did at Eddie Murphy’s house was to wire a 2 lane bowling alley & raquet ball court addition he had done. Because of doing work at Eddie Murphy’s house, my company was lucky enough to get the contract to wire Whitney Houston’s house in Mendham N.J. which is unbelievably beautiful but thats a story for another day. Thank you for the great pic of the tower & for reminding me of the fun I had back in my younger years.

    Reply

    • Posted by Celine on February 23, 2011 at 5:03 PM

      Hi, responding to an old post, the developer of Glen Goin was Malasardi, I think his fist name was Bob.

      Reply

      • Posted by Barbara Litinski on April 9, 2013 at 11:01 PM

        That’s a scary thought for me, because when I was in Glen Goin my little poodle disappeard and was never found. I lived in the converted chicken coop and shared the building with the ice where Joe Piscopo rented. When he left, the new renter had a fireind who visited from Atlanta and we have been married for 32 years!

        Reply

    • Posted by Jon Buchak on March 22, 2011 at 6:47 PM

      This information is 100% accurate. I am the owner of the electrical company, Northern Valley Electric Co. and also grew up in Cresskill. I rode my mini-bike throughout the estate in my teen years and knew every inch of the property. Sad to see it gone, but I made a lot of money on those new homes, and rewiring the existing cottages. And yes, the builder’s name is Bob Maleserdi. J.B.

      Reply

    • Posted by Michael Mellin on January 7, 2012 at 8:51 PM

      About the sacrifices? Around 1976 I saw a pair of Guinea Hens running along the Palisades Parkway. I grew up in Tenafly and never saw the like in years of hiking in Palisades Park and on the former Rionda estate. I stopped at the Palisades Parkway Police Headquarters and reported the birds. The officer on duty told me that they were escapees from Santeria sacrifices being performed in the park by cuban immigrants. By the way, I have no idea if that’s true; I’m just telling you what the trooper told me.

      Reply

      • Posted by Michael Mellin on January 7, 2012 at 9:04 PM

        Actually, as I think about it, the date was more likely in the early 80s.

        Reply

      • Posted by lostinjersey on January 7, 2012 at 9:15 PM

        I posted about evidence of satanic rituals that I encountered off 9W a few years back. It didn’t seem genuine. it smelled fake. That said, satanic rituals and santeria aren’t the same thing, and I have heard about santeria being performed in the woods. I also found hard evidence of white magic being performed in the woods as well, maybe 10 years ago.

        Reply

        • Posted by richard jewett on April 9, 2013 at 9:19 PM

          I have seen a homemade alter with many burned out candles in the two floor ruins on the other side of the palisades PKW. I called the parkway police . They said rituals were common there.

          Reply

          • Posted by Barbara Litinski on June 29, 2013 at 10:01 AM

            I Iived in Glen Goin from 1977-1982 and the only rituals were removinh snow from my car and trying to get the oil burner working in the winter!!

            Reply

    • In 1972 I had the privilege of renting with my friends this main house of the former 200-acre Rio Vista estate which was built by sugar baron Manuel Rionda and it exemplified the turn-of-the-century Gilded Age excess. The living room with its 24’ x 24’ had a 6’ marble fireplace with an ornamental mantel flanked by winged Griffiths, 17th century stained glass from Europe, medieval candelabras or candle chandeliers were located on all four corners of the room, etc. Exactly above that room on the second floor was an identical room with another 6’ fireplace – the ballroom or entertainment center and it even had a dumbwaiter down to the kitchen for food service from the staff. The developer of Glen Goin was Malasardi and he bought the main house after we left!

      Built in 1904 by Spanish immigrant-turned sugar baron, Manuel Rionda (“a patrician Spaniard” in The Sugar King of Havana)- the estate included a man-made lake, tennis courts, a swimming pool and a 100-foot-high water tower. The tower contains a library and chapel wing designed by New York architect Charles Rollinson Lamb. And yes we had parties there too…about 250 people for a Halloween party with costumes and a New Years eve party for 300 people that included 2 bands – one upstairs and one downstairs too! In fact Gary Wright from the band Spooky Tooth ( Song Dream Weaver) came to our party and played – since he also lived on the estate which included about 24 stone cottages that were built for World War 2 widows who lived there rent free – compliments of Harriet Rionda! Robert J. Scheurer

      Reply

  15. Greetings,

    Like some others on this page, I too remember Rionda’s as a kid growing up in Cresskill in the 50’s, 60’s and 70’s. A number of us – pals and my brothers would go exploring the vast acreage and get into the vacant building plus the mausoleum. Inside this was a entrance room, them the “grand chamber” with two crypts. The interior was all marble panels with ornate tiling all around appointing the ceilings and various areas in the rooms. There was a room in the back where the electical equipment was housed. It was quite spectacular even in the run down state at the time.

    We also climbed the “wing” rooms of the tower by chimneying up the three foot vertical shaft to the roof, then inside through the door opening, and climbing up the dilappidated wooden staircase. In “the Day” the tower housed huge water tanks on each floor for the estate provisions. On the east and west face it housed a large clock and the windows were all leaded-stained glass. Once on the top floor the view was spectacular as the tower sat on the top of the west slope rising to the Palisades and therefore was the tallest and highest building anywhere. You could look in all fours directions – as it was faced East/Wesat/North & South for the most expansive view possible at that time – remember this was before the WTC…

    The grounds were spectacular as well. Rionda was quite the visionary with craftsman like qualities and he had a great deal of detailed appointments from the storm drains with granite curbs and gutters to the small ponds with fountains and row boats. The grounds also had great amounts of rhodidendrens that flowered ping & white in the spring and summer. The larger lake down below is where we swam, all the time keeping an eye for the care taker with the shot gun and buckshot. As well the rumor was that if the “cops gotcha” they would take you straight to Bergen Pines Hospital and Mental Ward…

    My sixth grade teacher Mrs. wright grew up on the estate as the daughter of th egardner – or so she said, but we believed her as she has some great stories and details.

    The last time I was there, the “McMansion” crowd took over and the likes of Eddie Murphy and Chris Rock either live in Rio Vista, or near in another private estate that I am sure is on the old 200 acres.

    It sure was agreat place to explore as a kid growing up in a more innocent and safe age, and wonderful to go back to revisit those fond memories. I only wish that my kids could have a good a time exploring as my pals and I did when we were young…But that is another story for another time.

    Reply

    • Posted by Mary Ann on July 14, 2010 at 4:52 PM

      I grew up in Cresskill as well and my brother and I spent our summer days playing all over the woods and around the tower.

      I had Ms. Wright for 6th Grade as well, and had no idea that she was the gardener’s daughter.
      Thank you for sharing that.

      Reply

      • Posted by k.d. on June 3, 2011 at 2:35 PM

        Wow – I was just speaking with someone about Rionda’s estate and googled it…

        Mrs. Wright – my older sister also had her as a 6th grade teacher in her final years ~1961 – they broke the class up somehow so she didn’t have her the full day, I guess she had what we would call today a rather fast onset of Alzheimer’s. In my days Merrit went to 4th and 5th and 6th were @ Bryan School.

        The bridge mentioned was part of the estate – I don’t recall mention of the swimming pool.

        Reply

      • I also had Mrs. Wright in Cresskill – graduated Cresskill High in 1966 too! Ready for this…Gary Wright from the band Spooky Tooth (Song Dream Weaver) also lived on the Glen Goin Estate and I went to school with his sister Lorna Wright too!

        In 1972 I had the privilege of renting with my friends this main house of the former 200-acre Rio Vista estate which was built by sugar baron Manuel Rionda and it exemplified the turn-of-the-century Gilded Age excess. The living room with its 24’ x 24’ had a 6’ marble fireplace with an ornamental mantel flanked by winged Griffiths, 17th century stained glass from Europe, medieval candelabras or candle chandeliers were located on all four corners of the room, etc. Exactly above that room on the second floor was an identical room with another 6’ fireplace – the ballroom or entertainment center and it even had a dumbwaiter down to the kitchen for food service from the staff. The developer of Glen Goin was Malasardi and he bought the main house after we left!

        Built in 1904 by Spanish immigrant-turned sugar baron, Manuel Rionda (“a patrician Spaniard” in The Sugar King of Havana)- the estate included a man-made lake, tennis courts, a swimming pool and a 100-foot-high water tower. The tower contains a library and chapel wing designed by New York architect Charles Rollinson Lamb. And yes we had parties there too…about 250 people for a Halloween party with costumes and a New Years eve party for 300 people that included 2 bands – one upstairs and one downstairs too! In fact Gary Wright from the band Spooky Tooth ( Song Dream Weaver) came to our party and played – since he also lived on the estate which included about 24 stone cottages that were built for World War 2 widows who lived there rent free – compliments of Harriet Rionda! Robert Scheurer

        Reply

  16. Posted by Drew on July 20, 2009 at 10:20 PM

    To Fred and Marie,

    Where are these nuisance of Korean groceries you speak of? And if there are ‘so many’ of them, I doubt anyone complains. And also, if anything, Edgewater is dominated by a sizable Japanese population. So watch what you say before complaining about a certain group of people- would you be complaining if Italian grocers suddenly came in?

    Reply

  17. Posted by anonymous on March 18, 2009 at 12:25 PM

    Thank you for the wonderful picture of Rionda’s. Eons ago, as a kid growing up in Creskill, my friends and I used to sneak in there on lazy summer days, lie in the grass with the snakes and other critters (it was pretty wild, overgrown, and in disrepair), and daydream. It was glorious. I’ve annoyed my husband and kids for years with stories about that beloved place, and to see it in its present condition was a treat (restored, and a road!)

    Reply

  18. Posted by Marie on March 18, 2009 at 12:15 PM

    I discovered Rio Vista tower in 1985 and have been fascinated by any stories about it ever since. Please try to find an show more on your site. I grew up in Ridgefield, so I completely agree with your “rant” on Edgewater’s changes with all the rip-off new condo cookie cut out places and Korean grocery stores! Keep up the great web site! I love the Palisades!

    Reply

  19. Posted by Spellmaster on March 18, 2009 at 12:05 PM

    Anyone have any pics inside of Devils tower? Btw, for anyone intyerested in seeing it; cops are crawling around the place like a madhouse recently

    Reply

  20. Posted by Barry on March 18, 2009 at 11:35 AM

    ust visited your website for a bit of research information on Rio Vista and was impressed with your cache. Thanks for your website. It’s a great help. I’m filming a documentary in October or November about the ruins of the Palisades. Thanks again.

    Reply

  21. Posted by Bill on March 18, 2009 at 9:27 AM

    I just found the page on Rionda’s clock tower in Alpine and it brought back alot of great memories. Back in 1976 my buddies and I would climb into the tower and up to the top through the empty elevator shaft. We would flip people out by shinging our lights from the top windows. Getting down in the dark was always an adventure and I am glad its now sealed up. Thanks for the photo and story.

    Reply

  22. Posted by Leonel on March 18, 2009 at 9:13 AM

    i got some strange footage of devil’s tower. if ur intersetd email me. the footage has some weird noises in it one has a distant scream comin within the noise.

    Reply

  23. Posted by Ann on March 7, 2009 at 4:23 PM

    Growing up in Cresskill in the 1960s my friends and I would often hike up to the tower. There was also a building they called the chapel. Supposedly that was where Mrs. Rionda was buried. We would look through the key hole and get a really creepy feeling. That archway is defenitely from the Rionda estate. People camped
    out there. We used to swim in the pool. Often there were people horseback riding and dogs roaming around. There were also a couple of
    cornfields.

    Reply

    • Posted by Murf on January 4, 2010 at 5:33 PM

      Remember the Rionda’s site well. It is in better shape now and does anyone remember the caretaker with the shotgun full of rock salt. I also had visited the Chaple and did get inside – very creepy. Spent time in the corn fields along the road.

      Reply

  24. Posted by Fred on March 7, 2009 at 4:14 PM

    I was absolutely thrilled to see your update on Rio Vista’s clock Tower/Manual Rionda! I made it the background wall paper at home and at work! I discovered Rio Vista tower in 1985 and have been fascinated by any stories about it ever since. Please try to find and show more on your site. By the way, I grew up in Ridgefield, so I completely agree with your “rant” on Edgewater’s changes with all the rip-off new condo cookie cut out places and Korean grocery stores! Keep up the great web site! I love the Palisades! I am a little older, but one idea for a story might be to solicit information on the former Palisades Amusement Park where Winston Towers on the Palisades now sits.

    Reply

  25. Posted by Mario on March 7, 2009 at 4:13 PM

    Hi, my name is Mario, and I’m from Bayonne, New Jersey, and I just wanna tell you Weird NJ is the best site to find weird things and histories. At first I thought your histories were false, but when me and my cousins were to see the devils tower and the miniature castle, we couldn’t believe what we were seeing. We saw people inside the devils tower, lights, and when we started to run back our car, it was filled with some kind of smoke, and we decided to leave, but when we were in the road, a bus with the lights off started to follow us, and my cousin stopped the car and the bus left. But after the bus had left, a very unpleasant smell was inside the car and it disappeared until we arrived to Bayonne. We still don’t know what happened that day, but we’re sure that something really weird happened. I hope you write more stories and like before, we gonna be there. Thank you and let me tell you are doing a nice job.

    Reply

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