EAGLE ROCK RESERVATION
West Orange, Essex County, NJ
408 acres


Directions:

South of Route 506 and east of Route 577 (Prospect Avenue) west of Montclair.

0 Hastings-on-Hudson, NY
23 NJ Tpk toll
28 exit 15w of  NJ Tpk; Route 280
29.9 exit 16; Harrison
31.0 exit 15A; cathedral and draw bridge; Rt 21
31.5 exit 14; Clifton Avenue
32.1 exit 13; Orange Street
32.9 Garden State Parkway
34.5  exit 11B Day Street; Essex Avenue
35.4  exit 10; Route 508; Edison Memorial
36.0  ascend hill
----- exit for Prospect Avenue north
37.1 exit 8b Route 577; Montclair Art Museum; Prospect Avenue
37.7 sign for Eagle Rock
39.3 right onto Sunset Avenue
----- right onto Glen Road
----- left onto Gordon Pl.
----- right onto Afterglow Avenue
39.8 park and pick up the yellow trail


Geology:

The Peckman River starts here.  The waters flow westward at first but then turn north, widens into Verona Lake (in Essex County Park), goes through the grounds of Overbrook Hospital, through Community Park to enter Passaic County and eventually into the Passaic River.

Eagle Rock sits at 660 feet elevation.


History:

1666 --  first settlers in Newark.  Shortly after the first surveying station was established at Eagle Rock. 

c. 1780  --  during the Revolutionary War, Washington and his troops used Eagle Rock as one of a chain of observation posts. 

1853 --  Llewellyn Haskell  buys the old farmhouse belonging to Henry Walker.

1854  --  Haskell begins building his house, the Eyrie (meaning the nest of a bird of prey), on the foundation of Henry Walker's old farmhouse.  The house was designed by famous architect Alexander Jackson Davis.  Haskell founded nearby Llewellyn Park, America's first planned community. He had wanted Eagle Rock to be part of Llewellyn Park, but that did not come to pass. 

1860  --  the New York Illustrated News published a wood engraving of Eagle Rock, the earliest depiction of the rock.

1860  --  the gate house at the main entrance to Llewellyn Park designed to look like the Eyrie.

1872  -- death of Llewellyn Haskell.

1873  --  D. Appleton & Company publishes a wood engraving of Eagle Rock. 

as early as 1878  --  today's open field known as the Highlawn was once home to six buildings, including a cafe, hotel, cottage and an inn.  The cottage was a two-story Victorian house. 

by 1890 or earlier  -- there was a zoo in the park.  

1894  --  the trolley line to the foot of Eagle Rock Avenue had been placed in operation. This line was an extension of the Washington Street end of the Orange Crosstown and ran via Washington Street to its own right-of-way along what are now Watchung Avenue, Chestnut Street, Oxford Place, and Cherry Street to Harrison Avenue and via that street to its intersection with Eagle Rock Avenue. The idea behind the construction of the Eagle Rock line was to provide cheap transportation to Eagle Rock, which had become a Mecca for Sunday picnickers because of its high elevation and magnificent view of the growing metropolitan area. The promoters of the Eagle Rock line realized the impracticality of running a trolley to the top of the ridge because of the excessive grade. Instead, they counted upon their patrons' climbing the last hundred feet up a zigzag path constructed along the side of the cliff.

1894  --  it is thought that at this time, British-born middleweight boxing champion of the world Robert Fitzsimmons trained at Eagle Rock.   

1894  --  a trolley line to the foot of Eagle Rock put in operation.  The trolley line terminated at the City View Hotel (at present-day corner of Mountain Avenue and Murray Street).  Visitors could then walk across the road and then take the wooden zigzag staircase, known as the 100 Steps, to the top of Eagle Rock.

1895  --  formation of the Essex County Park Commission.  The first president was Cyrus Peck and the first vice president was Frederick M. Shepard.

1895  --  the first purchase of land took place.

1897  --  Cardelia A. Graham purchased the Eyrie.

1898  --  the Eyrie was purchased by the Essex County Park Commission. 

1898  -- the 25-second film Hockey Match on the Ice filmed at Crystal Lake not far from Eagle Rock.

c. 1890 advertisement  -- advertisement for the Eagle Rock Hotel Company.

1899 postcard  -- shows one of the many rustic shelters in the park, this one with a water pump.

1901  --  Robert F. Ballantine was appointed to the Essex County Park Commission.  He was elected to finish the term of Franklin Murphy who was elected as New Jersey Governor.

1901  --  the New Jersey Automobile Club sponsored what became an annual race to the top of Eagle Rock  via dirt Eagle Rock Avenue. 

1903 --  Eagle Rock was not used by Thomas Alva Edison to film part of the first motion picture "The Great Train Robbery." (Parts were filmed on the Delaware and Lackawanna Railroad line near Dover, New Jersey.)

1904  --  the Eyrie began deteriorating. 

1907  --  the entire tract was finally assembled. Frederick Law Olmsted created a preliminary design for the reservation which was further developed by the Olmsted Firm in the early 1900's.

1907 map  --  the old 1878 buildings last appeared on this map.

1909  --  construction of the Casino (on the site of the old refreshment stand) and the 450 concrete wall at Eagle Rock.

1909  --  to access the Casino, the Essex County Park Commission constructed Crest Drive from Undercliff Road to the summit.  The Gates Avenue entrance was also added.

c. 1910  -- the old cafe demolished.  (It had also served as a beer garden and an ice-cream pavilion.)

1911-1920  --  ex-governor Franklin Murphy served as president of the Essex County Park Commission.

1911  --  An historic old casino that sat on the crest was built. This was an open masonry shelter with a series of arches. It has since been transformed into the Highlawn Pavilion restaurant. This saved the structure, which had been subject to vandalism and slated for demolition. (The term "casino" refers to an Italian style county dwelling or summer house.)

The park was a famous spot where week-enders congregated. Visitors would travel by trolley from New York, transfer in Newark, take another trolley via the Orange line to Harrison Avenue where passengers either walked up the mountain to the top or transferred to the Eagle Rock line.

Automobile enthusiasts of that period held races up the cobblestone roadway of Eagle Rock Avenue terminating in Eagle Rock Park. Even today antique car buffs race their vintage cars up the steep grade.

1912  --  the Casino opened. (No gambling.)

1914  -- the Casino was already in disrepair. 

1917  --  the Casino turned over to the federal government for research purposes.

during World War I  --  at Eagle Rock, Thomas Edison (with his laboratories in East Orange) conducted 103 secret experiments for the U.S. Navy.

1924  --  Llewellyn Haskell's Eyrie house was torn down. 

1924 (April 19) --  last day of operation for the Eagle Rock Trolley.  The 100 Steps fell into disrepair and they gradually disappeared.

late 1920s  --  the trolley tracks torn up. 

by early 1960s  --  the Casino building closed.

1985  --  the Knowles family, which ran a restaurant in West Orange, agreed to establish a restaurant in the Casino.  It is now the Highlawn Pavilion. 


Sources:

http://www.co.essex.nj.us/eagle.htm

Joseph Fagan.  2002.  Images of America: Eagle Rock Reservation. Charleston, SC: Arcadia Press.


Facilities:

The "Old Casino" located at the edge of the cliff, now converted into the Highlawn Pavilion restaurant, noted for its excellent cuisine and spectacular view.
Bridle paths / horseback riding.
Hiking trails.
Picnic area.
Softball diamond.


Habitats:

Predominantly a red oak forest, with a unique red maple wetland in the northern section of the tract.


Hiking:

Eagle Rock Reservation is a 408.33-acre tract of wooded land located in the central section of Essex County on the crest of Watchung's First Mountain. The mountain got its name in the early 19th century, when bald eagles were said to nest in the rocky cliffs on the eastern edge. The reservation is primarily undeveloped, and is laced with bridle paths and hiking trails. Lookout Point provides visitors with a spectacular view of the New York skyline.

3.5 miles of foot trails.

Walked southeast on the yellow trail.  In a short distance you climb onto the top of the Watchungs and get a view of  the Empire State Building and the Twin Towers.  

Took the yellow trail south (passing the red trail) to the highway where there are a few places to park for cars.  Walked west for a short distance and picked up an unmarked trail  Off this trail you can pick up the red trail.  Followed the red trail north but never found the yellow trail.  Had to retrace my steps, then figured the smartest thing to do was to take a side trail to the top of the Watchungs -- picked up the yellow trail there.   

One possible 10 mile hike is on the proposed Liberty Water Gap Trail with a pleasant section of the Lenape Trail through Verona Park and the Eagle Rock Reservation followed by a not so pleasant route along overgrown power line right-of-ways to West Essex Park. (Interstate Hiking Club, Mike Selender)

Dan Hurley and others hiked the 34 mile Lenape Trail in one day.  Their itinerary: beginning on James Street in Newark heading west; Lotitoís in Nutley; Keilís Pharmacy in Montclair; past Mills Reservation; cross over Route 23 on the train trestle that once served the Caldwell Branch of the Erie Railroad in a straight three mile section toward Verona; Bloomfield Avenue near Verona Park; the new 9/11 memorial at Eagle Rock Reservation; five miles following the power lines that parallel Route 280; trailís end in Roseland.
(Source: Dan Hurley, "Hikers Traverse 34 Miles Of Lenape Trail" November 06, 2002, The Montclair Times. http://tanzania.northjersey.com/publications/montclairtimes/page.php? page=4003)


PLANT LIST

Dr. Patrick Louis Cooney


Trees:
Acer rubrum (red maple)
Acer saccharinum (silver maple)
Achillea millefolium (yarrow)
Ailanthus altissima (tree-of-heaven)
Aralia spinosa (Hercules' club)
Betula lenta (black birch)
Carya ovata (shagbark hickory)
Carya glabra (pignut hickory)
Carya tomentosa (mockernut hickory)
Castanea dentata (American chestnut)
Fagus grandifolia (American beech)
Fraxinus americana (white ash)
Liquidambar styraciflua (sweetgum)
Liriodendron tulipifera (tulip tree)
Paulownia tomentosa (empress tree)
Prunus serotina (black cherry)
Pyrus malus (apple)
Quercus alba (white oak)
Quercus palustris (pin oak)
Quercus prinus (chestnut oak)
Quercus rubra (red oak)
Quercus velutina (black oak)
Rhus glabra (smooth sumac)
Sassafras albidum (sassafras)
Tilia americana (American linden)

Shrubs:
Berberis thunbergii (Japanese barberry)
Celtis occidentalis (northern hackberry)
Clethra alnifolia (sweet pepperbush)
Corylus americana (American hazel-nut)
Euonymus alatus (winged euonymus)
Gaylussacia baccata (black huckleberry)
Hamamelis virginiana (witch-hazel)
Lindera benzoin (spicebush)
Mitchella repens (partridgeberry)
Rhododendron periclymenoides (pinkster flower)
Rosa multiflora (multiflora rose)
Rubus occidentalis (black raspberry)
Rubus phoenicolasius (wineberry raspberry)
Vaccinium corymbosum (highbush blueberry)
Vaccinium pallidum (hillside blueberry)
Vaccinium stamineum (deerberry)
Viburnum acerifolium (maple-leaf viburnum)
Viburnum dentatum (arrowwood viburnum)
Viburnum prunifolium (blackhaw viburnum)

Vines:
Celastrus orbiculatus (Asian bittersweet)
Hedera helix (English ivy)
Parthenocissus quinquefolia (Virginia creeper)
Smilax glauca (sawbrier greenbrier)
Smilax rotundifolia (round-leaved greenbrier)
Toxicodendron radicans (poison ivy)
Vitis sp. (grape)
Wisteria frutescens (wisteria)

Herbs:
Alliaria petiolata (garlic mustard)
Ambrosia artemisiifolia (common ragweed) 9/17/98
Aralia nudicaulis (wild sarsaparilla)
Aronia x prunifolia (purple chokeberry)
Artemisia vulgaris (common mugwort)
Aster divaricatus (white wood aster) 9/17/98
Commelina communis (Asiatic dayflower) 9/17/98
Erechtites hieraciifolia (pileweed)
Eupatorium rugosum (white snake root) 9/17/98
Hieracium paniculatum (panicled hawkweed)
Impatiens capensis (jewelweed) 9/17/98
Lysimachia quadrifolia (smooth or whorled loosestrife)
Oxalis stricta (yellow wood sorrel) 9/17/98
Phytolacca americana (pokeweed) 9/17/98
Pilea pumila (clearweed)
Polygonum aviculare (knotweed) 9/17/98
Polygonum cespitosum (cespitose knotweed) 9/17/98
Polygonum sagittatum (arrow-leaved tearthumb) 9/17/98
Polygonum virginianum (Virginia knotweed)
Rumex obtusifolius (broad-leaved dock)
Silene stellata (star campion) 9/17/98
Solidago bicolor (silverrod goldenrod) 9/17/98
Solidago caesia (blue-stemmed goldenrod) 9/17/98
Solidago odora (sweet goldenrod)
Taraxacum officinale (dandelion) 9/17/98
Verbascum thapsus (common mullein)
Xanthium strumarium (common clotbur)

Rushes and Sedges:
Juncus tenuis (path rush)
Scirpus atrovirens (dark-green bulrush)

Grasses:
Cinna arundinacea (wood reedgrass)
Digitaria ischaemum (smooth crabgrass)
Echinochloa crus-galli (barnyard grass)
Elymus hystrix (bottle-brush grass)
Microstegium vimineum (Japanese stilt grass)
Panicum clandestinum (deer-tongue panic grass)
Panicum dichotomiflorum (fall panic grass)
Poa compressa (Canada bluegrass)
Setaria faberi (Faber's or nodding foxtail)

Ferns and Fern Allies:
Dennstaedtia punctilobula (hay-scented fern)
Onoclea sensibilis (sensitive fern)
Osmunda cinnamomea (cinnamon fern)
Pteridium aquilinum (bracken fern)
Thelypteris noveboracensis (New York beech fern)