Tenafly History

In 1872, Tenafly joined with six neighboring villages to form Palisades Township. Tenafly was incorporated as an independent borough by a vote of 137 to 130 on January 24, 1894. The population was 1,532. The first borough election followed promptly and the first council meeting a week later.

Tenafly evolved from grants of land to David desMarets (Demarest) in 1677, to Jacobus Van Cortlandt in 1688, and to Roelof Westervelt in 1695. Westervelt repaid the Indians in 1705 for his portion thus establishing more harmonious relations.

Revolutionary History

During the Revolution, British and American troops marched through the Village. A militia headquarters was on Tenafly Road. After the war, Sir James Jay, a brother of patriot John Jay, moved here. Farming remained the main activity through the middle of the 19th century.

Dutch Farming

Dutch farms became choice properties with the coming of the railroad in 1859. The mid-1860’s set the scene for the arrival in Tenafly of New York architect Daniel Topping Atwood, who purchased land from Peter Huyler with the intention of designing and building homes near the Northern Railroad. Atwood is best known for the Borough’s architectural icon, the Railroad Station between 1872 and 1874.

Eventually, at least seven residences were completed in Atwood’s Highwood Park District, which includes portions of Huyler and Westervelt Avenues, Serpentine Road, Valley Place, Linden and Engle Streets. Atwood’s Country and Suburban Homes, 1871, brought the architect a national reputation. Atwood’s "Design One," labeled "Picturesque Stone Cottage," is a striking gothic structure on Serpentine Road which was the architect’s home and showcase. Another Atwood design along Serpentine Road, which features a "polygonal projecting second story central bay with high roof," was the home of the first mayor, Henry B. Palmer.

Notable Residents

Elizabeth Cady Stanton, feminist, and Richard Morris Hunt, architect, are other national notables associated with late 19th century Tenafly. Artists Harvey Dunn and George Inness also practiced in Tenafly. Stanton lived here between 1868-1887 and later wrote: "I laugh...at the memory of all the frolics we had on the blue hills of Jersey." Hunt, one of the organizers of the American Institute of Architects, was a leading practitioner of eclecticism. Known for his pedestal of the Statue of Liberty and Breakers in Newport, Rhode Island, the Everett-Dunn House, in Swiss Chalet style, is attributed to Hunt as an early work. Also boasting distinguished architecture are Tenafly’s earlier 20th century schools which incorporate the finest materials of the day in classic form.


Municipal improvements continued including founding of the Tenafly Library Society in 1895, water main installation in 1899 and the formation of the Volunteer Fire Association in 1891 In World War I, the northwest corner of the town became part of Camp Merritt. In World War II, Tenafly’s fallen heroes included bandleader Glenn Miller whose plane disappeared after leaving England for France. Miller had come to the Borough in 1938 maintaining an apartment in Cotswold.

Parks & Open Spaces

The Huyler, MacKay, Rockefeller and Johnson families and the Green Acres Program have been major benefactors of Tenafly’s parks and open space.

In 1776, Tenafly was surrounded by forests, with just four homes, a militia headquarters and a schoolhouse. Today, Tenafly takes up 5.2 square miles with a population of 14,882. It is predominately a residential community with a total of 4,944 housing units. Tenafly’s street plan and overall development were largely determined by its hills, its valleys and its tall trees, which have given the borough its special charm.


Since it became a Borough, Tenafly has been governed by a Mayor and Council who are chosen through partisan elections. The Mayor is the chief executive officer and the six Council members handle legislative functions. The Municipal Center located at 100 Riveredge Road is the seat of Tenafly’s government. Tenafly, NJ - Wikipedia

The Board of Education is the policy-making body of the school district. The Superintendent of Schools is the Board’s chief executive officer responsible for administering the entire school system. Schools include Tenafly High School, the Middle School, and four elementary schools: Malcolm S Mackay School, Ralph S Maugham School, J. Spencer Smith School and Walter Stillman School.

Fine schools, quality housing, recreational facilities, parks and woodlands, good cultural programs, diverse houses of worship, and quality library and borough services all help to attract newcomers to and keep older residents in this historic town.