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Rockleigh Borough, N.J.
Settled c. 1740, Incorporated 1923

 In 1685 this land was granted by New Jersey Province to George Lockhart and confirmed in 1687 by New York when that province governed this area. It remained under New York jurisdiction until 1769 when the boundary dispute was resolved. In the 1700's, farmers settled this land then known as Rockland Neighborhood. Declared "Rockleigh Historic District" on July 2, 1976, because it retrained much 18th and 19th century cultural and architectural  characteristics.

BCHS Marker

 Historic Site No. 33 

          By 1681, a track wound up the Palisades from a small landing area Landing on the Hudson and proceeded in a southwesterly direction descending the gentle western slope of the Palisades into a fertile valley in the area known as Closter in the northeastern corner of the Province of New Jersey. English, Dutch and Huguenots from New Amsterdam, hearing of the area, obtained Patents of about 3000 acres for the purpose of settlement.  Rockleigh was to lie in a patent of some thirty-eight hundred acres granted by the proprietors of the Province of the East New Jersey to Dr George Lockhart on February 7, 1685. The neighboring Province of New York, however, assumed control of the land in the following year and Lockhart received a confirmatory patent from that government on June 27, 1687. The colonial history of Rockleigh became the history of Tappan New York until 1769 when the boundary line with New Jersey was settled after bitter dispute. Ever today there are conflicting markers in the vicinity of the border along Rockleigh and Horne Tooke roads.

           The steep track across the palisades provided direct access to the Tappan and Lockhart Patents, settled early on by the Dutch. The track extended south to Closter Village. By 1687, the Province of New York had claimed most of Closter and the Sneden family had settled at the landing. From the river, this road was known as the Closter Road; from the valley it was known as Snedens Landing Road. Land was cleared and the Jersey Dutch laid the foundations for stone farmhouses. In 1758, Snedens Landing Road and Closter Publick Road were improved by the County of Orange in the Province of New York.

         Gradually the countryside became dotted with homesteads, mills and inns. A small farming village developed on the gentle western slope of the palisades along Snedens Landing Road, and in the valley southward along Closter Publick Road (Lower Piermont Road). This portion of Tappan, destined to become Rockleigh, was located approximately equidistant between Snedens Landing (the center of activity and trade), Tappan  (the center of religion and government)  and Closter Village. 

         In 1769 the bitter boundary dispute between the Provinces of New Jersey and  New York was in the process of being settled.  New York claimed the lands as far south as Closter; New Jersey initially claimed lands as far north as Haverstraw, but later only as far north as the mouth of the Sparkill that included Tappan and extended northwest. The compromise resulted in the boundary line that placed Snedens Landing and Tappan Village in the Province of New York and the Rockland Neighborhood with former Tappan lands and Closter Village in the Province of New Jersey. Once again, the farmlands that were to become Rockleigh lay in the Closter area of the Province of New Jersey.

          Because this area had been part of Tappan, the farmers were left without a formal government. In 1774, when residents of the area petitioned the Province of New Jersey for a new township,  Harington Township became a reality. Over the next century, villages within Harington Township incorporated as boroughs. In 1916  the last unincorporated portion of Harington Township incorporated as the Borough of Northvale and Harington Township ceased to exist. The portion of Northvale that lay in the former Lockhart Patent was known then as East Northvale. East Northvale was physically separated from Northvale by "Ludlow's Ditch" and the swamps of the Sparkill and Dwarskill. The once "Rockland Neighborhood" seceded from Northvale in 1923 by incorporating as Rockleigh Borough.


Bergen County Historic Sites Survey, Borough of Rockleigh. 1981-1982.
Bergen County Office of Cultural and Historic Affairs, Hackensack, NJ

Written and compiled by E. W. April, 2002