update on Coytesville cemetery

This information came in an update from Weird NJ

Did you know that before a single frame of celluloid was ever shot in Hollywood, Fort Lee was the film making capital of the world? That’s right, as far back as the early days of Thomas Edison’s movies, Fort Lee was the place to go if you wanted to make a motion picture. Even the term “cliff-hanger,” which is used to describe a suspenseful scene, was first coined in Fort Lee during the making of the silent “Perils of Pauline” films, which were shot at the precipice of the NJ Palisades.

Say Goodbye to Hollywood…er, I Mean Coytesville

Most of the early western films were shot in the northern part of Fort Lee known as Coytesville. The area at the time actually looked very much like an old west town, with its unpaved roads, clapboard buildings and even a roadhouse saloon called Rambo’s. Silver screen stars of the day such as Douglas Fairbanks, Mary Pickford, Lionel and Ethel Barrymore, and Lillian Gish all worked regularly in the tiny community. Today not much remains of Coytesville’s golden age of film making. The last remnants of the Coytesville studios were destroyed during construction of the entryway to the George Washington Bridge. These days most New Jerseyans have never even heard of the town of Coytesville, but ask any Fort Lee old-timer and they’re sure to remember.

From the Bergen Record, March 1, 1999:

Most of Coytesville’s wide-open spaces have since disappeared, save for a few pocket parks. Taken together with all the new construction of the past 15 years, it can be easy to overlook the neighborhood’s rich history. But hidden behind fences, sandwiched between new homes, and tucked into memories, is the story of days gone by. The earliest piece of the puzzle sits, fittingly, on a dead-end street where Coytesville’s early boundaries overlap Fort Lee’s border with Englewood Cliffs. There, out of sight behind a stockade fence, is a tiny cemetery. On most days, the only witnesses to history are a few crows and squirrels. But the writing on most of the headstones is still clear, including that on a large black granite obelisk over the grave of Benjamin Coyte, “native of Devonshire, England. Founder of Coytesville, N.J.”

When Coyte died in 1887, Coytesville was a village in its own right. The settlement gave up its independence only when Fort Lee was incorporated in 1904. But the neighborhood stayed on the map as a capital of the nation’s fledgling film industry. When they weren’t in front of the cameras, the film stars gathered at neighborhood watering holes, such as the Rambo Hotel and Schmidt’s Corner. The latter has been gone for years. But the Rambo, once run by Limone’s grandfather, with its old oaken bar and bentwood chairs, was perfectly preserved until a fire gutted the place last summer. Limone and her husband still live in the rear portion of the building, which was untouched by the blaze.

The neighborhood is dotted with other relics, such as the house on Hammett Street garbed in tarpaper siding. It was once a summer cottage for the acting Barrymores. Nearby, on Westview Street — which drops down toward Route 4 like a bobsled run — smaller wooden homes with bits of stained glass and turned wood banisters are tucked in between the proliferating duplexes. Many of the older homes have vanished gradually over the past 15 years, often sold to developers as the neighborhood’s oldest residents have died…Coytesville maintained a strong sense of its own identity up until the 1960s, when it still had its own post office. Even today, Verizon lists some residents’ phone numbers as being in “Coytville.” But the name means little, if anything, to newer arrivals (who are predominantly of Asian descent).

“If you ask people who have lived here all their lives, they know it as Coytesville,” says John Caputo, the principal at School No. 3, whose wife is a native of the neighborhood. “But to the new people, if you say, ‘Oh, you live in Coytesville,’ they just stare at you. They wouldn’t know what you’re talking about.”

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14 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by colleen branigan on March 13, 2015 at 5:41 PM

    My dad’s family came from “c”ville – Brannigans!! Robert, William, Marie, rita. Would love to talk to someone that knew them!!
    Colleen

    Reply

    • Knew Rory Branigan as a kid in Holy Trinity Parochial School on 3rd St. in Coytesville and Rory lived with his family in the old Brannigan house on Third between Washington and Myrtle Avenues back in the 1970s.

      Reply

  2. Posted by Peter Abbott Kerwien on February 15, 2013 at 10:07 PM

    This is why I am confused check this page:

    http://boards.ancestry.com/surnames.coyte/4.2.2/mb.ashx

    Thanks.

    Reply

  3. Posted by Peter Abbott Kerwien on February 15, 2013 at 10:04 PM

    You mention Benjamin Coyte as founder, my records show a Joseph Coyte (1812-1889)
    Would appreciate your comments. Thanks.

    Reply

    • Posted by Joe Coyte on June 16, 2015 at 1:24 AM

      Hi your right I’m Joseph Coyte born Boston 1947, living in NY, Long Island I think all should be mentioned

      Reply

    • Posted by Kathy Herity on July 12, 2016 at 11:31 PM

      Benjamin and Joseph were brothers who married sisters they met on board the ship they traveled to America on. I descend from Joseph.

      Reply

  4. Posted by greg s on September 18, 2012 at 6:28 PM

    I lived directly across for school #3 even played on the old fire escapes , My parents Carl and Ann still live in the same old house that my farther moved to from Brooklyn when he was only 3 ( Now 92 ) played with the neighbor hood kids, in the old school yard, We all us to go up to the old cemetery and play among the tomb stones , Used to be an old horse stable on Irving avenue, Oh i can go on and on but like all good things eventually become memories only to be kept alive by us old timers telling the stories to our children and their children. For all those who remember my name is
    Greg

    Reply

  5. Hey Ken,

    Though I was born in 1961 I recall many of the names / people you mention. I too grew up in Coytesville and my mom still lives in our house up there on Fifth Street. We run a twice a year historic jitney tour via the Fort Lee Film Commission that tours through Coytesville and hits such spots as Gus Becker’s (Rambo’s Saloon) and the Woodland Cemetery up off Irving Avenue near McFadden’s Pond. Look us up if you ever get back to Fort Le as we have a great museum, the Fort Lee Museum, at 1588 Palisade Avenue with many artifacts from Old Coytesville including one of the stools from Gus Beckers saloon.

    Reply

  6. Posted by KEN HART on January 5, 2011 at 4:14 PM

    I grew up on 3rd. st.(born 1947)and I remember the Henry’s, Stengles, Beckers, Ticolas, Ginnetts, Brannigans, Bernards,Quinns and dozens of others. We used to play at the old film studio by Holy Angels until in burned down around 1959…played stickball in the schoolyard until they built the extension (1964?)….brings back a lot of memories…anybody remember Frank and Jimmy at the candy store by the El Rancho?

    Reply

    • Posted by Ken on April 8, 2014 at 10:02 AM

      I do remember the candy store — we called it “Jim’s”. My dad used to take us there after little league games. It was an old fashioned soda shop. I remember how sad it was when it burned. The El Rancho was a very spooky place for us young kids. Very few of us ever got up the nerve to get close enough to the building to try to get a look inside.

      Reply

  7. the film industry is of course a multi billion dollar industry that employs a lot of people :”‘

    Reply

  8. Posted by Chris Post on July 30, 2010 at 3:38 AM

    My grandmothers family owned and operated the Rambo Hotel. Her name was Helen Rambo and Married Henry Hesse. Growing up in the 60’s I lived directly across from School #3 and just doors down from Gus Beckers tavern which occupied the old Rambo Hotel then. Many fond memories growing up with names like the Limones, Gordy’s, The Woods, the McGuirles,. Mr. Metzler who resides at the corner of First street and Myrtle is still alive and is in his 90’s. I remember him fertilizing his plants with Liverwurst juice in the spring and boy did it stink. The Minutolis, Cirones all were names that I can remember. I went to church at the First Reformed Church of the Palisades and visited it this month. It was like I was reliving my childhood. Coytesville was a great place to grow up.

    Reply

  9. The Fort Lee FIlm Commission, formed in 2000 in part by two Coytesville boys, is part of the Borough of Fort Lee and has done much to educate the population in Fort Lee and outside Fort Lee about the importance of Coytesville and Fort Lee as the first American film town. The oldest standing studio building in the world still stands in Coytesville on a dead end 5th street and has been a printing plant for decades. Here in 1910 it was constructed as Fort Lee’s first studio and in 1912 it became part of and the first part of Universal Studio. Universal founder Carl Laemmle, prior to his founding of that studio in 1912, made his first film “Hiawatha” in 1909 in Coytesville.

    This is just the tip of the iceberg. We have worked with Fort Lee Film Commission member and Rutgers University professor of film Richard Koszarski and he has written the only book to date that centers on FOrt Lee’s role as a pioneer film town – it is called “Fort Lee The FIlm Town”. We have also published and Aracdia book titled “Fort Lee; Birthplace of the American Film Industry.”

    The Fort Lee FIlm Commission runs free jitney tours of the old studio sites several times a year. We also received a grant from the County of Bergen to work with 5 and 6th grade students in fort Lee Public Schools tochave them create a 30 minute documentary on the history of Fort Lee.

    Much is going on including the placement of historic markers at film sites throughout town and the marking of streets (See Theda Bara Way on Linwood and Main) to highlight this history. Visit the Fort Lee Museum at 1588 Palisade Avenue where we have a room of the museum dedicated to our film history. Visit our web site http://www.fortleefilm.org.

    Reply

  10. Posted by Ron on March 19, 2009 at 7:40 PM

    Found this site while browsing for Coytesville. I was born on Sixth St. in 1928 and my mother taught school in Englewood Cliffs. Moved around quite a bit, but never forgot Coytesville. I remember the postmaster as Ruben Coyt.

    Reply

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