Federal Hill

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Federal Hill has a very extensive history that goes back all the way to the Revolutionary War. Unfortunately its future is in peril. Located in Bloomingdale near Route 287 it provides an excellent view for miles around, making it a prime target for real estate developers.

MUTINY ON FEDERAL HILL

In January 1781, General Washington was advised by a Commander that a mutiny was being planned. Washington replied that the “army is ruined” if the mutiny succeeds. He ordered the commander to quell the mutiny by asking those in question to surrender, and to execute them if they refuse. At Federal Hill, the potential mutineers were surrounded, the two most vocal leaders executed, and the remaining men were ordered to surrender. “The spirit of mutiny seems to have completely subsided and have given place to a genuine repentance.” Ya think?

The area lay quiet for 150 years until 1917 when an ammo dump was established at the base of Federal Hill for the purpose of storing ammo for use in WWI. Stored in a closet (not much more then a small cave in the hillside), the foundation of the building can still be seen today on the top of the southern hill.

CAMP BERGWALD

Not long after this the area was settled by Germans who started a Bund Camp called Bergwald. (Bund means German society or Federation, I’ve heard it translated to mean both things so I’m not sure which is correct) In NJ during WWII there were over 100,000 German Americans in NJ, making them the largest ethnic group in the state next to Italians. Most did not support the behavior the Nazi’s, but a small following did and in the mid 30’s they establish a Camp at Federal Hill dedicated to the Nazi cause.

Fritz Kuhn was the leader of the Camp, having been picked by Hitler himself, and he secured funding for the camp from Germany. There were several camps in NJ, the largest being in Andover. The camps were a place where Germans could sing German songs, speak German, & discuss German issues without fear of being observed by others. Although the Camps maintained a pro-peace & pro-American attitude their true beliefs were not easily concealed and eventually locals began complaining about the camps.

The Camps toned down their public rhetoric, but still gave fascists salutes and marched around in uniforms with swastikas. Eventually scandals & legal problems began giving the Camps problems as well. Andover lost its liquor license after serving liquor to minors. One leader was accused of rape & molestation. By 1939 Jewish group and even Germans were protesting the presence of the Camps. In 1940 Kuhn was convicted of grand larceny for stealing money from the Bund Treasury.

Eventually the Camp was on the verge of collapse so they did what any modern day corporation would do: they tried a merger. They invited the KKK to join them for a rally, hoping to unite with their fellow racists against the mongrels they both hated. This so incensed the locals that they attacked the camp, causing the camp leaders to call the police for protection. Things began getting really ugly when terrorist attacks began, including an explosion at the Hercules Powder Company which killed almost 50 people. By 1941 we were fully participating in WWII and Nazi’s were officially enemies of the state. The IRS had been going after the Camp for tax evasion, but once we joined the war, the camp was doomed to die. The Camp at Nordland (Andover) now stand within Hillside Park.

RUMORS AND ARTIFACTS

There are rumors of lost artifacts and hidden things to this day. The Iron Door and the remnants of the Ammo Building & Bund Camp buildings are an easy find. But a surveying party allegedly found a brass cannon. How old it was is unknown but most likely it would date back to the revolutionary times. The surveyors left it there intending to return and retrieve it but were unable to locate it again.

There also is an odd carving, which appears to be a grave marker (possibly) as it looks to have been cut professionally into the rock face, it lists several names & dates, but it doesn’t say why the inscription was carved. Many artifacts have been found here including bullets and weapons dating back to revolutionary days, as well as remnants of the Bergwald Camp. When I explored, I found the remains of a rusted bunk bed.

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35 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Kim on May 19, 2015 at 5:32 PM

    I would love to know how to get here! Directions?!

    Reply

  2. […] little remains of these camps, although I came across a local New Jersey blog which claims remnants of Bergwald Camp in Hillside Park, Andover are an easy find. When the camp […]

    Reply

  3. […] little remains of these camps, although I came across a local New Jersey blog which claims remnants of Bergwald Camp in Hillside Park, Andover are an easy find. When the camp […]

    Reply

  4. Posted by Pamela Reising on April 19, 2014 at 11:09 AM

    My grandfather, who was unable to server in WWII due to scoliosis, told stories of the Bloomingdale Fire Department (which he was a member) standing guard for fear the Nazi supporters would come down the hill in an attack. When things calmed down members of the fire department visited the camp. My family still has a Nazi stein which was found in the camp by my grandfather. Save this piece of history not in support of what those who occupied the camp believed in but rather because of the history. Let us never forget – we need to avoid the same mistakes.

    Reply

  5. Posted by John K. on July 25, 2012 at 11:12 AM

    Ryan S. You should get your facts straight about Mr. Riley, the teacher at the Bergen School. You are just repeating rumors that have been spread when he was transferred out of eighth grade. I had Mr.Riley two years in a row and he was the best history teacher I ever had. My father and sister had him too. He would teach us about local history like Federal Hill and other stuff you don’t find in textbooks. He would also stick up for kids when no one else would and wasn’t afraid to speak up to the principal or anybody else. Students and parents filled Bd. of Ed. meetings twice to support him and kids walked out and refused to go to class to try and get him back. His transfer to the Day school had nothing to do with students at all. The superintendent of schools and principal wanted him out because he had too much support in the town and wouldn’t kiss up to them. They transferred him to third grade as punishment where he taught about ten more years. My cousin had him in third and said he was her favorite teacher. I guess you didn’t know when those administrators left, they offered to bring him back to the Bergen school, but he decided he was having too much fun with the third graders. You should know what you are talking about before you put down one of the best teacher Bloomingdale ever had. Sure, he would straighten you out if you were out of line. Makes me wonder what you did to get him in your face?

    Reply

  6. I am younger than most posting on this site but I have fond memories of federal hill. I always used the entrance on van damm ave. I recall the mica mines, the nazi bunker and the cacti. I think it’s illegal to go up there now, it’s considered trespassing and you could be fined. I remember camping up there and I always had an eerie feeling I was being watched…

    Reply

  7. Posted by Gina on January 1, 2012 at 1:12 PM

    Oh The Memories of Federal Hill! I used to live on Van Dam Avenue…Growing up we had it all! Sleigh riding down federal hill slope…swimming in Hankees lake…Exploring the mica Mines…Our private fort way up on the hill. In fact I have old medicine bottles that I dug up on the hill! Thanks for reminding me of what A great childhood it was!

    Reply

  8. Posted by kim on April 30, 2011 at 4:09 PM

    i really wanna go here!! ive been talking to my friends n boyfriend bout going here. can i get some type of directions and tips to getting here?!

    thank you.

    kim.

    Reply

  9. Posted by kim on April 30, 2011 at 4:08 PM

    i reallyereallyreally want to go here!! can someone please give me some type of directions and tips to getting here?!

    thank you

    kim

    Reply

  10. Posted by Chris C. on January 13, 2011 at 1:12 AM

    I lived for most of my childhood in Pompton Lakes and for a year I lived right behind federal hill. Like most mountains and high places in the area I needed to check out the top of this Federal Hill. I fished the river right there, played paintball in the football sized course between the road and river and I hiked up the mountain a few times a week for excercise and exploration and to give me something else to do. The iron door was something I had just stumbled upon the first and only time I found it. I heard rumors about it in school but never thought I’d find it considering the mountain is fairly big and covered with thick brush. But along side it is actually a small hiking trail (we didnt use, we bushwacked straight up the mountain from hamburg tnpk and ran right into it haha) and I believe its on the mountainside facing 287. My friend and I wanted to go inside thinking there may be some nazi “stuff” but suprisingly a hiker showed up out of nowhere who knew some of the history and explained that it had been emptied out. I do remember all the cactus, very weird seeing it in nj. It’s an awesome place for a teenager or couple or history enthusiast to go explore, living in the suburbs can be kind of boring so seeing the view, and the foundations and the door for the first time was exciting. I hope it doesn’t get taken over by apartments because I’de like to one day take my kids exploring in this area…

    Reply

    • Posted by Bob Mayers on January 13, 2011 at 7:06 PM

      Hi Cris C. See my note on this Blog its the one before this. Have you ever heard of the graves of the mutineers buried on Federal hill in 1781? They were marked by rows of stones and were there in 1923. That’s along time back but there still could be evidence of them.
      Do you know any real savy local historian that I could contact on this question. Maybe someone from your town. Thanks, Bob Mayers

      Reply

    • i grew up there also been in flofida 53 yearrs my email is aearnest8@cfl.rr.com my name then was ruth alice till it is now ruth alice earnest i lived at the base of the moutain by the train tracks on federal hill road

      Reply

  11. Posted by Bob Mayers on November 8, 2010 at 12:47 PM

    Hi, I am a writer and historian and am reseaching Federal Hill. Nelson’ History of Paterson written before 1923, reports that two rough piles of weather beaten field stonesare on the summit of a rocky knob overlooking the station of the Susquehamnna and Western Railroad .These mark the graves of the two NJ mutineers who were executed ther in1781. Has any one seen these in recent years? Also in Nelson, grave mounds or hut foundations were found a mile or two away in the New Jersey Camp. Have anyone seen thes places in recent years?

    Reply

  12. Posted by Chris on September 29, 2009 at 10:46 PM

    Haha joe your right about mr riley, boy he was a great teacher. He still teaches just now at the Samuel r donald. I had him as a 3rd grade history teacher. I would love to visit him to sit down with him to talk about going on some sort of hike. I remember in third grade he told us about the mutiny and the kkk and Nazis. Boy memories man, I had a friend kevin who lived on morris lakes road and we’d explore federal hill on that side and there was slot of stuff. We built an awsome tree house to, boy those were the days.

    Reply

    • Posted by arielle on February 12, 2012 at 11:17 AM

      I had Mr. Riley as well. I had him when he taught middle school at Walter T. I was there the year they fired him, that’s when he went to Martha B Day to teach. I grew up on Main st. so I went to Samuel R. I never understood the need for 2 elementary schools…But, I remember Mr. Riley as being a quirky guy with an odd sense of humor. He was a great teacher though. I had him for geography.

      Reply

      • Posted by Ryan S. on July 9, 2012 at 1:17 AM

        Mr Riley was fired because he attacked kids on 3 separate occasions. Most didn’t know this, but he had a terrible temper if challenged and would sometimes fly off the handle. I watched him grab a kid’s shirt and scream in his face so loud the principal came running to and had to pull Mr Riley off the kid. So the fired him and shuffled him around from school to school rather than permanently get rid of him. Reminds me of what the church does with priests accused of bad stuff.

        Anyway, Federal Hill is a great place. Anyone ever walk on just over the Bloomingdale border coming from Wanaque before you get to Morse Lakes Road? If you go behind the houses across from the Horse Farm… You will find some 100-200 year old structures made of stone in a gorge. A homeless man used to live in side them about 10 years ago but I haven’t seen him in a long time. Definitely worth checking out!!! I hope this treasured place never gets developed.

        Reply

        • Posted by John K. on July 25, 2012 at 11:18 AM

          Ryan S. Please see my reply to your comments about Mr. Riley dated 7/25/2012
          Thanks

          Reply

        • Posted by Eric D on July 25, 2012 at 7:49 PM

          John k is right. All that bad stuff about Mr. Riley is bull. I’ll never forget the great times we had with him. Its true he wasn’t like other teachers, he knew how to have fun!! Ryan S above is the only person I ever heard say anything bad about him. He knew everything about Bloomingdale history and had a way of teaching it that made it interesting. We had a great time with him and Mr. Luchese on the Washington Trip and he was always a riot at the student-faculty game dressing up like a clown. He took us hiking to Norvin Green as part of his mini course and even took us backpacking on the Appalacian Trail for four days in the summer. He ran that school and that’s the real reason they transferred him out of 8th grade. The principal was new and the kids and even other teachers followed Mr. Riley. My mother and I went to the Bd. of Ed. meeting to stick up for him. So many people showed up to support him they had to move the meeting to the lunch room to fit everybody in.

          Reply

        • Posted by thomas g m on March 7, 2015 at 5:30 PM

          dear ryan s thanks for the mention of those old buildings near the horse farm

          Reply

    • Posted by Sherry on July 6, 2013 at 5:21 PM

      Hi All,

      Your Mr. Riley sounds like our former history teacher at Sussex Co Vo-Tech, Mr. Ruth. Made history a class not to be missed. He’d regale us with the extracurricular activities of people and events, which 2 of the hottest seniors actually warned us underclassmen don’t act up in his classroom, cuz they stated they finally found a subject that really interested them.

      Mr. Ruth, bec of his popularity, was also a departure with 6-7 other popular teachers. The students protested with an all day sit out, 1st of its kind, 1970-71 era. I was a sophomore, pretty passionate against injustice, which we all felt was a crucial issue to address with the admin. Came to naught, we lost our bid to correct a grievous wrong BUT we learned, participated in a united gesture without anger or violence. Don’t know what happened to any of those engaging teachers.

      Reply

  13. Posted by Ty on August 23, 2009 at 9:25 PM

    I have literally been trying for numerous days to find directions to the Iron door. I am an avid hiking enthusiast and would love to make a day hike out of this wonderful historic site for my girlfriend, myself, and maybe my two dogs.

    anyone have any tips?

    thanks!

    Reply

    • Posted by lostinjersey on October 18, 2009 at 6:28 PM

      are you at all familiar with the sport of geocaching? There’s a geocache hidden right there and it has gps coordinates. I can tell you it’s a strenuous rock scramble and not for the faint of heart. it’s a solid 40-50 mins of scrambling over giant boulders and bushwhacking thru sticker bushes… it’s not fun.

      Reply

      • Posted by Bryanne on June 5, 2012 at 3:13 PM

        I looked for the coordinates of this cache, but couldn’t find it… Any chance of guidance? I would love to see the place.

        Reply

  14. Posted by R.R. Aldrich on April 11, 2009 at 12:26 AM

    I grew up on hennion place just off union ave. I hunted, hiked, rode dirt bikes and 4 wheel drove on federal hill, My father grew up on van dam ave. He told me when he was a kid he used to sneak up to german lake to watch the girls swim and sunbathe. He also said the germans used to goosestep down main st, wearing uniforms with nazi emblems. I used to enter from the corner of van dam ave by the riverdale bloominedale line and go past the sewage plant , I’m going to start as a young kid. I remember approximatey 10 cabins up there. The older kids used to talk about blowing up or burning them down. My father worked for E.I. DuPont on cannonball rd. in pompton lakes (klugtown) not sure of the spelling. it was a big employer in the area so who knows, maybe they really had some explosives. By the time I explored the hill there were only floors or partial walls left The only colors I remember were red and green novalty type clapboard I’m not sure if that was the siding but my knowledge in construction in the 80’s makes me think it was. Just a note: In the late 50’s there used to be a pack of wild dogs up there. I never saw them but i sure as hell remember hearing them. My sister told my uncle about them when we heard them so he walked up the hill and looked over and came running down saying run. I was about 6 or 7 and I dont think my feet hit the ground twice.(my uncle and my sister had both my arms). We entered federal hill from van dam ave. It was probably after some holiday dinner. There were a few paths up from van dam ave. There was a house with a hugh track of land bordering the hill. The owners were the Tices. I dont know what they did but they held the note on my parents house. I can remember driving over there in our Studerbaker to pay the morg. The car was bought at Andy Cooks located next to Thom Hoffs Hardware at the corner of main st and reeves ave? By the sweet shop next to the Big Leader (shop Rite) O.K. back to the hill. When I was older I used to ride up the pipe line or rock line from either half way up up or at the bottom across from Sam Brayns (sp) quarry. I’m guessing thats 287. At the top of the hill there was a radio shack. It was small, tan in color,it had wire mesh on the window and door. The shack could be locked and i remember there was antenna or pole and wires around. It was stucco in finish. I used to be able to 4 wheel from the pequan. river up over the line and come out at w.t. grants , pizza town, and the plymouyh dealer (casler motors) One more item about the hill. On the main st. side, entering from the sewage facility my father used to warn us to stay away from the mica mine. Of all the data I read about federal hill no one mentions it. It isnt big but it was always half full of water so we used to use our pocket knives to scrape pieces off the side walls. This is pretty much what I can remember about the Hamberg turnpike side . Ihey’ve hiked the other side but I dont remember to much. I know theres another pond or swamp I was hunting when I ended out on the union ave van dam intersection by the old Holly Inn. I am 55 years old and I hope I have given you some lost informtion about federal hill because Bloomingdale was one of those towns that people left the urban areas to raise their kids. I cant think of to many people who have parents that were born in Porktown. (my father told me that Bloomingdale used to be called porktown because of the farms located where Al’s diner and tintles esso were located. Did you know that bowling balls and ace combs were made in Bloomingdale ,butler area. How about those acid pits… see ya.

    Reply

    • Posted by Tom Lawrence on April 4, 2010 at 2:07 PM

      Was on Federal hill, in 1957, live at Stiles Ct., everything still there. Later vandalized by punks. i never knew complete story.Give it back to the Germans, they paid taxes and Bloomingdale is not the owners.

      Reply

    • Posted by Steven Walmsley on January 23, 2011 at 12:47 PM

      It was really great to read your story about Federal hill. I am 48 years old and spent many days up in the hill. I grew up we called it the hills on Knolls road. the area by Tice’s land VanDamm ave we called the flats. we used to drive old cars and vw bugs all through federal hill. I remember one hot day swimming at German lake an old friend of mine Tom Qugliey was getting out of the warer my the dam and a large snapping turtel had latched on to his back. Boy that was insane. You talk of the entrance by what we called the piss wheel. That brought back manny cool memories of my youth and i thank you for that. We used to drive down the river behind th powder horn mill with 4wd trucks to see how far up the big sand/ rock hill we could muster. I also remember th mica mines snd all the fun I had growing up in Bloomingdale,NJ. Thank you for the reading Steven.

      Reply

    • Posted by Gina on January 1, 2012 at 1:15 PM

      What a SMALL world! I grew up on Walnut Street! Say hi to Tom for me!

      Reply

    • Posted by M. Wood on October 23, 2012 at 7:51 PM

      Hey Rick, this is your cousin Marilyn from Van Dam Ave., your father was my mother’s brother, Uncle Dick. We always were up on Federal Hill, ice skating on Hankees, sleigh riding, or just hiking. My mom, your Aunt Lill, told me the KKK used to burn crosses on the hill when they were young. We always heard there were spirits of the dead soldiers up there, never saw one. Do you remember the Hooker man stories of the train tracks?

      Reply

      • Posted by David on October 22, 2013 at 1:59 PM

        We saw one of the spirits, over thirty years ago, between a rock ledge we camped on that overlooked Van Damm and the path heading east from the Lake. We could see from the resevoir to meadtown SC from the ledge.

        I never found the mica mine, but I have a jar of mica we collected on our way up the path up Tices Ln.

        We entered from there or from the dirt road entrance by the fire break.

        Is Tom Q. Eileen’s brother?

        Reply

  15. Posted by joe on April 7, 2009 at 11:17 AM

    well i heard the backyard defenders failed and the project is to start this summer, but i would assume good old mr riley would know some information

    Reply

    • Posted by lostinjersey on April 7, 2009 at 11:31 AM

      thanks for the tip. I’ve read about the pending project and think it’s a terrible idea.

      Reply

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  17. Posted by Sue on March 20, 2009 at 11:15 AM

    I wanted to update you on the issue of development of preserving Federal Hill. John Capozucca and Sue Smith led the fight against development on federal hill and the Planningboard has voted down the application. So far, there will not be any building on this precious site!

    Reply

  18. Posted by Anthony on March 20, 2009 at 11:09 AM

    Hello. I live in Bloomingdale. Although for only a few years, I haven’t had a chance to explore Federal Hill yet. I am trying to prevent builders from turning it into townhouses. (it may very well happen) Anyway, there is another entrance. If you go into Bloomingdale and turn right on Van Dam Ave. go about a half mile and look on your right there is a small vacant lot with a dirt path. This leads into Federal Hill. I stumbled on your website by viewing the guest book on The Book Of The Dead at Totowa.com. (I grew up in Totowa and still consider it a big part of my life)

    Reply

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