Paramus was not always the land of enormous malls and shopping centers that has made it one of the top retail zip codes in the U.S. When it was incorporated as a borough in 1922 it was a rural area of celery farms and dirt roads.
The native Lenni Lenape Indians gave Paramus its name. It comes from the Lenape word “peramsepuss” sometimes translated as “land of the wild turkeys” or “fertile fields where turkeys are found.” A large metal statue of a wild turkey can be found today at the Paramus Park Mall.
The earliest recorded pioneers in Paramus included Jacob Epke Banta who patented land in 1686, Isaac Van Saun whose patent was dated back to 1695, and Albert Zabriskie whose land was deeded to him by Indians in 1702.
Paramus Road was once an Indian trail even before the arrival of the first settlers. During the colonial years it was a main artery of travel for both the British and American armies during the American Revolution. General George Washington was a frequent traveler through Paramus during this time. The Library of Congress exhibits thirty letters George Washington wrote headed “Headquarters Paramus.” Spring Valley Road first appeared on maps as early as 1780.
The first known school house was a democratic place, a rough stone building built in 1726 where black and white children studied together. The school was on a bend in Dunkerhook Road near the Zabriskie farms slave cabins. Schools were important to the Paramus farmers. A second was built in the Arcola region and a third one room school- house built in 1876 still stands today on Midland Avenue. The building once served as the borough hall and police station and now serves at the Charles E Reid Branch Library. The original school bell is on display at the Reid Library.
Although Paramus was primarily a farming community, it had at least two mills of record before 1945. One was the Red Mill which still stands today.
Following the opening of the George Washington Bridge in 1931 and the development boom that followed World War II, Paramus was transformed into a shopping mecca. NJ.’s first shopping centers, the Garden State Plaza and the Bergen Mall (known today as the Bergen Town Center) opened in 1957 and 1958. The borough now contains four major shopping malls and three corporate parks which lie astride Routes 4, 17 and the Garden State Parkway.
Paramus is home to Bergen Community College, the Bergen Museum of Art and Science, the New Jersey Children’s Museum and four golf courses: Arcola Country Club, Paramus Golf and Country Club, Ridgewood Country Club and Orchard Hills County Golf Course. Ridgewood Country Club has served as the site of the Barclays FedEx Cup, a major golf tournament.
For additional history and facts, visit the Fritz Behnke Historical Museum at 330 Paramus Road and the Paramus Main Library. The library’s local history collection includes Paramus a Chronicle of Four Centuries by Frederick W Bogert, Paramus: The Way We Were 1922-1960 by Fritz Behnke. and the Borough of Paramus 50th Anniversary Commemorative Journal, 1922 to 1972.
Bibliography of Source
- Paramus A Chronicle of Four Centuries by Frederick W. Bogert
- Borough of Paramus 50th Anniversary Commemorative Journal, 1922 to 1972
- Paramus: The Way We Were 1922-1960 by Fritz Behnke
- The Encyclopedia of New Jersey, edited by Maxine M. Lurie and Marc Mappen, C2004
- New Jersey Municipal Data Book, 2009 edition