A Day Trip: Explore Two Abandoned Spots in Bergen County

I think my love of abandoned places goes back to my childhood.  Every day after school my best friend and I would take off on our bikes to some of the last remnants of Old Motor Parkway on Long Island to explore this relic from 1908.  Something about the crumbling highway and surrounding encroaching woods held mystery and magic for us ten-year-old girls.

Fast forward many years, and I still get that adrenaline rush when we are out in the woods and come upon an old foundation covered in moss or a crumbling brick wall surrounded by trees.  Fortunately, New Jersey is a treasure trove of old industrial construction just waiting in our woods to be discovered and enjoyed.  Here are just a few of the beautiful ruins our state has to share with those adventurous enough to pursue.

Cliff Dale House

(Alpine, Bergen County)

You’ll spot a trail marker if you park at the Alpine rest area along the Palisades Parkway and walk to the north end of the lot.  Take the Long Path (Teal Trail) for a little over ½ mile.  You’ll soon see the first remains of the Cliff Dale Mansion.

Built-in 1911 by sugar and flour millionaire George Zabriskie, this once 15-room mansion on 25 acres was bordered by a terraced garden.  Forsythia fields and daffodils remain to give a lucky visitor a sense of the magnitude of these once glorious grounds.

Sold to Rockefeller in 1933, the house was slated for total demolition by the CCC.  The goal was to restore the view of the Palisades for all to enjoy.  Lucky for us, the crew left enough of the bottom two stories to give us a chance to view this once-private sanctuary of the rich.

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Rionda’s Tower / “The Devil’s Tower”

(Alpine, Bergen County)

If you exit Route 9 at The Esplanade in Alpine, you’ll enter a quiet residential neighborhood with large private homes.  In the middle of the street stands the tower.

In 1910 millionaire sugar importer Manuel Rionda built a tower for his wife so she could view the NYC skyline from their home in Alpine.  The tower was connected underground to their estate.  Legend has it that in 1922 his wife saw her husband having an affair from the tower and leapt to her death.  At that point he sealed the tower and filled in the tunnel.  The tower was left for town to decide its fate.

From a grassy circle in the middle of the road, this tower casts a giant shadow over the million-dollar neighborhood of Rio Vista where residents like Beyonce, Jay-Z, Stevie Wonder and Britney Spears have real estate.

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