With a population of 4,094, the Borough of Ho-Ho-Kus is 1.7 sq. miles located 20 miles from New York City in New Jersey’s 5th Congressional, and 40th Legislative Districts. Established in 1698, Ho-Ho-Kus is rich in history, its name derived from its proud Native American origins.

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Spillway on the HHK Brook at the site of the former Zabriskie Dam (Photo Credit: Mike Reade)

The indigenous people who inhabited the land that became Ho-Ho-Kus were the Lenni-Lenape American Indian Tribe who lived here, walked the paths, fished the streams, hunted the forests and toiled the land. Translated, Lenni-Lenape means "Original People". The Lenape consisted of three sub-tribe dialect clans, the Minsi, or Munsee (meaning “Wolf” and “People of the Stoney Country”) that took their name from Minisink in the upper Delaware Valley and settled in the Northern New Jersey area. Wearimus Road is named in honor of Chief Wearimus who lived east of the Saddle River with his tribal community. Ho-Ho-Kus embraces, with pride and deep respect, its enduring connection to the generations of Native American people who dwelt here before us. You may learn more about the history of the Lenape Tribal Community at the Smithsonian Institute’s permanent display at the National Museum of the American Indian in Washington D.C.

There are as many as 16 definitions given for the meaning of Ho-Ho-Kus. Some historians believed our American Indian name meant running water, cleft in the rock, under the rock, or hollow rock; or, that “hohokes” meant whistle of the wind against the bark of trees. Also, “hocus” meaning fox, “woakus” or gray fox; or, "ho" for joy or spirit, and “hohokes” for bark of a tree. In addition, Hochaos, a name given our brook; Choghaxes, or “Hoge Aukers”—Dutch, for high oaks. Or, that it is a name given by the Chihohokies Indians whose Chief lived here. The most accepted, however, is that Ho-Ho-Kus is a contraction of “Mehokhokus” or “Mah-Ho-Ho-Kus”, a Delaware Indian term meaning "The Red Cedar" (many original Native American words beginning in "me" or "mah" often lost their first syllables with time).

Ho-Ho-Kus has also been known as Hoppertown, New Prospect, Undercliff, and Orvil. Hoppertown was the small settlement near the present center of town where several Hopper families lived. The area of New Prospect was north of the town near the mills. Undercliff was the name given by the Erie Railroad to the second railroad station; Orvil Township, named after historical biographer, Orville J. Victor (who resided in Ho-Ho-Kus), embodied a number of towns before they incorporated as boroughs.

One of the earliest written notices that specifically mentions Ho-Ho-Kus is a 1698 Van Emburgh deed. It records the purchase, for thirty-two pounds ten shillings, of half a 500-acre patent of land by David Provoast and Johannes Van Emburgh from Isaac Kingsland. A transcription from the original document states: "Hoghakas (Ho-Ho-Kus) in ye Provinse of East and New Jargy ye 2d of may ano Dom 1698.”

Originally, Ho-Ho-Kus was part of East Jersey. In 1684, the colony spilt into two provinces, East and West Jersey. In 1682, East Jersey divided into four counties, Bergen, Essex, Middlesex and Monmouth. In 1772, Bergen County divided into four townships, Saddle River, New Barbadoes, Harrington and Franklin. Ho-Ho-Kus was in Franklin.  In 1849, the Township of Ho-Ho-Kus split from Franklin. In 1885, Ho-Ho-Kus became part of the newly formed Orvil Township that consisted of Saddle River, Upper Saddle River, Allendale, Waldwick and Ho-Ho-Kus. In 1893 Saddle River, Upper Saddle River and Allendale broke away from Orvil Township leaving Ho-Ho-Kus and Waldwick. In 1905, Ho-Ho-Kus and Waldwick split and Ho-Ho-Kus became the Borough of Orvil.  In 1908, the name of the borough was changed to Ho-Ho-Kus, 3 capitals and 2 hyphens, and has remained such ever since.

Ho-Ho-Kus’ first immigrant homesteaders were the Zaborowsky, Ackerman, Hopper, Bogert and Terhune families. History tells us that Albert Zaborowsky and David Ackerman arrived in New Amsterdam (NYC) on the same ship from Holland in 1662. Albert was the first pioneer to own property in Ho-Ho-Kus. Over the years, this family name evolved to Zabriskie, a name forever connected with the Ho-Ho-Kus Inn and Tavern, the Hopper Zabriskie-Tolles Mansion (that stood along Franklin Turnpike west of Sheridan Avenue), Zabriskie Cotton Mill, Zabriskie Dam and today, Zabriskie Park. The Hopper-Zabriskie Family Cemetery is located on First Street, adjacent to the commuter parking lot. Established in 1790, it is of historic importance because it provides information about the early settlement of Ho-Ho-Kus. The Ackerman family cemetery, established in 1838, is located on the northwest corner of Normandy Court.

With the establishment of the colonial community, homes arose around the present business district area at Franklin Turnpike and Sheridan Avenue (originally called Hoppertown Road). The present day Ho-Ho-Kus Inn & Tavern was at first a private residence built in 1796 by Andrew Zabriskie for his son, Jake. Over the years, with many names, the splendid 225 year-old “Zabriskie House” evolved into a parsonage, hotel, tavern and restaurant. It consists of seven rooms named Chateau, Hermitage, Library, Tavern, Washington, Wine and Zabriskie. During the period of World War II, the building fell into disrepair prompting the Borough to save it through purchase. Today, residents Gordon and Laurie Hamm operate the fully restored Ho-Ho-Kus Inn and Tavern following a $1.5 million renovation. The Inn is a top spot for local and farm-fresh dining and is one of the best NJ private dining event venues. The Ho-Ho-Kus Inn and Tavern is a national landmark, listed in the New Jersey (1980) and U.S. National Register of Historic Places (1983). 

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The Ho-Ho-Kus Inn & Tavern (Photo Credit: Jeffrey Steccato)

During the Revolutionary War, Franklin Turnpike which passed through Hoppertown (Ho-Ho-Kus) was one of the best stagecoach routes for travel from New York City to Albany. On this favored route stood “The Hermitage”, a home owned by Theodosia Bartow Prevost and her husband, James Marcus Prevost, an officer in the British Army. In July 1778, while her husband was on active duty, Theodosia invited George Washington and his officers to visit for a number of days following their victory at Battle at Monmouth. Many distinguished guests stayed at the Hermitage over the years, including Alexander Hamilton, Marquis de La Fayette, Benedict Arnold, James Monroe and Aaron Burr.  In July 1782, after her husband died in the war, Theodosia married Aaron Burr at the Hermitage.

Elijah Rosencrantz purchased the Hermitage in 1807. In 1847, Elijah renovated the house to its present English Gothic Revival architectural style featuring wood-shingled roofs and pointed gables. Mary Elizabeth, granddaughter of Elijah, lived in the Hermitage until her death in 1970. In her later years, Mary Elizabeth experienced economic hardship but she was passionate about the historical significance of the Hermitage and to preserve it she willed the house and land to the State of New Jersey. Today, the Hermitage is a museum, open to the public, financed and operated by The Friends of the Hermitage, Inc., and is a designated U.S. National Historic Landmark. It is listed in the U.S. and NJ National Register of Historic Places.

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The Hermitage (Photo Credit: Jeffrey Steccato)

In the early days, Franklin Turnpike attracted developing industry due to the swift running water of the Ho-Ho-Kus Brook and Saddle River. There were grist and cotton mills, carriage, paint and blacksmith shops and on East Saddle River Road, a saw and gristmill, and a cotton and wool mill flourished. The site of the Rosencrantz Mill, later expanding to become known as the Ho-Ho-Kus Bleachery, was at the end of Hollywood Avenue. Presently, with those buildings still in existence, it is now Dalebrook Park, a complex of offices, shops and warehouses. The Zabriskie Mill was located at the present site of the Ho-Ho-Kus railroad station lower level parking lot. 

Today, Ho-Ho-Kus' vibrant business district is supported by the Ho-Ho-Kus Chamber of Commerce formed in 1929 and reorganized in 1990. This volunteer organization comprises local business men and women who are intent on promoting the economic, civic, commercial, industrial and professional welfare of the Borough. The Chamber has of over 70 retail, industrial, professional, and nonprofit members. Each June, the organization hosts “A Taste of Ho-Ho-Kus”. This event raises money to donate to Ho-Ho-Kus volunteer organizations, support the Chamber’s college scholarship, and holiday decor.

The National Guard of Ho-Ho-Kus formed during the Civil War. Members of the Guard drilled faithfully under Captain Abraham Van Emburgh. The majority of the men from Bergen County were in Companies B and D of the 22nd Regiment with twenty-eight men from Ho-Ho-Kus. To our knowledge, all returned safely to their families and farms. Today, the Veterans of Foreign Wars Washington Elm Post #192 is located on Cliff Street. The Ho-Ho-Kus War Memorial, dedicated to those from Ho-Ho-Kus who served their country in the cause of all freedoms, is located at East Franklin Turnpike. Special commemorative remembrance ceremonies are held at this precious location.

Train service came to Ho-Ho-Kus in 1848 when the Ramapo and Paterson Railroad laid a single track. The first Ho-Ho-Kus train station was a small one-room brick building erected by the railroad in 1850. The New York and Erie Railroad Company built a new two-room station house in 1860, and in 1887, they built a new station that they labeled “Undercliff”. When that station burned down, they fitted a railroad car as a station house, also called “Undercliff” (both “Undercliff” and “Ho-Ho-Kus” were listed in the Erie Timetable of 1889). Ho-Ho-Kus resident John McGee built the present day one-story Richardson Boulder style building, with a pitched hip roof, in 1908. The Warren Avenue Bridge (circa 1890), that accesses the Borough owned train station from Franklin Turnpike, is the oldest of three existing truss bridges in Bergen County. The Ho-Ho-Kus Train Station and the Warren Avenue Bridge, are each listed in the NJ State Plan as a Critical Environmental and Historic Sites.

In 1902, Erie expanded to four tracks in Ho-Ho-Kus when Elijah Rosencrantz sold a parcel of land to the railroad. This also required the expansion of the Ho-Ho-Kus viaduct, a stone railroad bridge which rises 70 feet over the Ho-Ho-Kus Brook. Each of the viaduct native Palisade cut stones weigh about a ton or more. Today, the Ho-Ho-Kus viaduct carries NJ Transit Service to New York City. The NJ State Plan lists this 172-year-old viaduct as a Critical and Environmental and Historic Site.

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Railroad Viaduct (Photo Credit: Jeffrey Steccato)

Ho-Ho-Kus was a special tourist destination due to the attraction of Sylvan Lake, a 50-acre man-made lake created in 1862 by John Zabriskie to power his cotton mill. Many out-of-town visitors came to Ho-Ho-Kus to enjoy swimming, boating, fishing and ice-skating at the grand lake. On its western shoreline was the Sylvan Lake Hotel and dance pavilion; on the eastern shore was Knollwood Park running along Franklin Turnpike. The stone dam at the end of the lake, built 60 feet high and 200 across, in the form of cascading steps, burst in a major storm on September 24,1882. The breaking of the dam was a calamity for Ho-Ho-Kus. The water destroyed surrounding buildings, bridges, roads, farmland and livestock; it ended the Zabriskie Cotton Mill and destroyed Sylvan Lake. The brown stone remains of the dam are still evident today across from the Post Office. Tragically, John “Jake” Zabriskie slipped and drowned in the lake after returning on the train from NYC one evening in 1876.

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Ruins of the Zabriskie Dam which once held back Sylvan Lake (Photo Credit: Mike Reade)

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Zabriskie Park (Photo Credit: Mike Reade)

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Ho-Ho-Kus Brook (Photo Credit: Mike Reade)

Another form of great recreation in Ho-Ho-Kus was the Racetrack established in the 1870’s. People traveled from afar to attend the livestock and horse shows, races, parades and country fairs held on this 23-acre tract of land. There was a grandstand and a clubhouse for the Ho-Ho-Kus Riding and Driving Clubs. Between 1895 and 1914, trotting races were favored; however, automobile racing eventually outmoded the horses by 1933. Many high ranked drivers drove at the Ho-Ho-Kus Race track, two of them winning at Indianapolis. The racing tragically ended on July 4, 1938 when a serious accident occurred killing a child and injuring dozens. The landmark recreation area was sold to a developer for new housing in 1950. Today, the road known as Racetrack Road offers homage to the grand old days of the track.

As early as 1730, Ho-Ho-Kus children traveled over country roads to a school building near Paramus Church on Glen Avenue (Ridgewood). The first Ho-Ho-Kus schoolhouse was built in the early 1800’s, and was sold in 1856 to fund a new 20x30 foot schoolhouse on Franklin Turnpike, financed from donations and a tax levy. In 1906, Ho-Ho-Kus constructed a two-story modern brick schoolhouse on Sheridan and Warren Ave at the site of the present firehouse. The building cost $15,000 financed by a borough bond. In 1934, a vote passed to authorize a new school building on Lloyd Road. Situated on 7 acres, the Ho-Ho-Kus Public School project cost $219,275. The cornerstone was laid on June 27, 1936, and on March 1, 1937, the children marched from the old school to the new, each carrying their books. Today, the top rated PK, K-8 Ho-Ho-Kus Public School is highly ranked A+ Teachers, A+ Academics, and A+ Overall (NICHE 2021) and is at the heart of our community.

The Ho-Ho-Kus Police Department officially formed in 1920. Prior to this, police protection in 1905 consisted of a part-time marshal hired when needed and paid only hours worked. In 1908, the Borough hired its first full time police officer. Today, the Ho-Ho-Kus Police Department comprises sixteen police officers and is an accredited law enforcement agency by the NJSACOP, whose professionalism, respect, integrity, duty, sacrifice and teamwork is second-to-none. We are fortunate and proud to have one of the most educated and well-trained police forces that is engaged with the community and is committed to providing a safe and secure environment for the residents of Ho-Ho-Kus.

The Borough’s Office of Emergency Management (OEM) is comprised of the Local Emergency Management Council (LEMC) consisting of a team of fifteen key local emergency representatives (community wide) including Borough Council, Police, Fire, EMS, School, DPW, Health, Church, and the private sector. This team meets monthly to review topics associated with emergency planning preparedness (including lock down drill, evacuation drills, contagion response, hurricane preparedness, etc.). Plans are routinely updated in its Emergency Operations Plan (EOP), which is comprised of fifteen sections, one for each of the leads.

On November 23, 1911, the Ho-Ho-Kus Fire Department held its first meeting at Borough Hall. The spirit and commitment that established this organization from a small department with hand-pulled equipment to its present-day highly trained and accredited public safety organization is due to its volunteer service, the cornerstone of our community. The Department membership comprises 70 highly motivated individuals who donate their personal time to protect life and property. The Department members are residents from Ho-Ho-Kus, or a contiguous town, many of whom are local business owners, borough employees, business professionals commuting to nearby NYC, and students who share the common goal of providing our residents and neighbors with well-trained fire protection and rescue service. 

 The Ho-Ho-Kus Ambulance Corps formed in 1956 under the sponsorship of the Veteran of Foreign Wars, reorganizing in 1962 with its own officers.  Today, the Ho-Ho-Kus Ambulance Corps volunteers faithfully respond to 911 calls 24/7 and provide EMS support to the police and fire departments. In the advent of advanced training and equipment, the Corps consists of an exceptional group of dedicated and committed volunteers.

In 1924, the Ho-Ho-Kus Woman’s Club established the first Ho-Ho-Kus Library located in a jail cell previously used by female prisoners. Three years later, the Borough approved the purchase of real estate on East Franklin Turnpike for the new Ho-Ho-Kus Library. In 1988, the Library relocated to its present home at the corner of North Franklin Turnpike and Warren Avenue and was renamed the Worth-Pinkham Memorial Public Library.

The first post office bearing Ho-Ho-Kus’ name was established in 1858.  Prior to this time, it was located in numerous places including New Prospect, Joel Miller’s general store on Franklin Turnpike, and in a wing of John Zabriskie’s home when he served as postmaster from 1864 to his death in 1876, whose land included the site of the present post office.

Route 17 (originally Route 2) was constructed in the early 1930’s. Fortunately, the Borough Planning Board, established in 1930, had the foresight to establish zoning provisions (the first Zoning Ordinance was adopted in 1934) to prevent strip commercial development along Route 17 and, thus, to preserve an attractive cohesive residential character for the Borough.

The first Ho-Ho-Kus Borough Hall was located on East Franklin Turnpike, formerly the first Ho-Ho-Kus schoolhouse. The present Municipal Complex was constructed in 1992 to house the Borough Hall, Police Department, Fire House and Ambulance Corps. Our municipal government is made up of elected and appointed volunteers, the Mayor and Council, the Planning Board, the Zoning Board and other civic groups –and paid officials such as the Police Department, the Department of Public Works and the Borough Administrator’s office. The many people who serve as part of the borough government devote countless hours of service and equally immeasurable talent to meet the challenges of changing times and make Ho-Ho-Kus the best it can be. Since its beginning as a borough, Ho-Ho-Kus has adhered to the tradition of the town meeting, which is so distinctly a heritage of small town America. Over the years, special concerns and issues affecting borough citizens have been resolved through this time-honored mechanism.

Under the current leadership, our municipality is among the lowest tax rates in Bergen County and the highest bond rating for a community our size. In addition to important policy-making legislation, the Mayor and Council consider top priority its management of water quality levels, police training and accreditation, maintaining and improving public works, and land-use planning and regulation. We are passionate about our business community working in collaboration with the Chamber of Commerce to promote economic growth. Together, we focus on keeping our beautiful hamlet of Ho-Ho-Kus a stable, safe and special place to live. We are proud that NJ Monthly has twice named Ho-Ho-Kus “The Best Place to Live in New Jersey”.

Ho-Ho-Kus is many things to many people. However, to everyone, it is peaceful, secure and protected. The highest goal of the Mayor and Council is to maintain and enhance the quality of life for all Ho-Ho-Kus residents. We are grateful for each of the numerous organizations and volunteer committees whose outstanding contribution to our community makes Ho-Ho-Kus a treasured community and a great place to live!

Since the first immigrant settlers arriving in 1698, the population of Ho-Ho-Kus increased as follows:  

  • 1698 - 1 family
  • 1712 - 5 families
  • 1770 - 10 families
  • 1887 - 24 families
  • 1900 - 316 people
  • 1910 - 488 people
  • 1920 - 586 people
  • 1930 – 925 people
  • 1940 - 1626 people
  • 1950 - 2254 people
  • 1960 - 3988 people
  • 1970 - 4348 people
  • 1980 - 4129 people
  • 1990 - 3935 people
  • 2000 - 4060 people
  • 2010 - 4078 people
  • 2020 - 4094 people

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Ho-Ho-Kus 300 year mural 1698-1998 (Photo Credit: Jeffrey Steccato)


Anniversary Committee, 50th Anniversary, Ho-Ho-Kus - 1908/1958, A.G. Goll, Chairman.

Anniversary Committee, 75th Anniversary, Ho-Ho-Kus - 1908/1983, Ruth Frost, Chairwoman.

Hudson, Sue F., Background of Ho-Ho-Kus History, Woman's Club of Ho-Ho-Kus, New Jersey, 1953.

Planning Board, Borough of Ho-Ho-Kus Master Plan, 2019.

Thompson, Rusty, Spotlighting Ho-Ho-Kus, Northwest Board of Realtors.  

Randall, Thomas W., Dear Friends and Neighbors, 2020, Mayor.