Weehawken was formed as a township by an act of the New Jersey Legislature, on March 15, 1859, from portions of Hoboken and North Bergen. A portion of the township was ceded to Hoboken in 1874. Additional territory was annexed in 1879 from West Hoboken.
The township's written history began in 1609, when Henry Hudson, on his third voyage to the New World, sailed down what was later named the North River on the Half Moon and weighed anchor in Weehawken Cove. At the time it was the territory of the Hackensack and Tappan, of the Turtle Clan, or Unami, a branch of the Lenni Lenape. They were displaced by immigrants to the province of New Netherland, who had begun to settle the west bank of the Hudson at Pavonia in 1630. On May 11, 1647, Maryn Adriansen received a patent for a plantation (of 169 acres) at Awiehaken. In 1658, Director-General of New Netherland Peter Stuyvesant negotiated a deal with the Lenape to purchase all the land from "the great rock above Wiehacken", west to Sikakes (Secaucus) and south to Konstapels Hoeck (Constable Hook). In 1661, Weehawken become part of Bergen when it (and most of northeastern New Jersey) came under the jurisdiction of the court at Bergen Square.
In 1674, New Netherland was ceded to the British, and the town became part of the Province of East Jersey. John Luby, in 1677, acquired several parcels comprising 35 acres (140,000 m2) along the Hudson. Most habitation was along the top of the cliffs since the low-lying areas were mostly marshland. Descriptions from the period speak of the dense foliage and forests and excellent land for growing vegetables and orchard fruits. As early as 1700 there was regular, if sporadic ferry service from Weehawken. In 1752, King George II made the first official grant for ferry service, the ferry house north of Hoboken primarily used for farm produce, and likely was sold at the Greenwich Village landing that became Weehawken Street.
During the American Revolutionary War, Weehawken was used as a lookout for the patriots to check on the British, who were situated in New York and controlled the surrounding waterways. In fact, in July 1778, Lord Stirling asked Aaron Burr, in a letter written on behalf of General George Washington, to employ several persons to "go to Bergen Heights, Weehawk, Hoebuck, or any other heights thereabout to observe the motions of the enemy's shipping" and to gather any other possible intelligence. Early documented inhabitants included a Captain James Deas, whose stately residence at Deas' Point was located atop a knoll along the river. Lafayette had used the mansion as his headquarters and later Washington Irving came to gaze at Manhattan.
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