A substantial fire has closed the 1920s Palisades Interstate Park New Jersey Park Headquarters building in Alpine, N.J., across the Hudson River from Yonkers. No one was hurt in the blaze, but one Park Commissioner has said some of the Commission’s on-site records have been destroyed. The building was significantly damaged.
“All the historic things in the building are lost forever – the chief’s records and the records are gone,” Palisades Park Commissioner Sophie Haymann said, standing outside the smoldering 100-year old building. The Commission’s archival holdings are a largely untapped Hudson Valley treasure, but most are stored off-site.
The Palisades are the cliffs on Hudson River opposite and north of Manhattan Island. The Palisades Interstate Park Commission was established in 1900 with an interstate compact signed by Theodore Roosevelt, then Governor of New York, and New Jersey Governor Foster M. Voorhees. The Park Commission was a response to the destruction of the Palisades by nineteenth century quarry operators.
The Park New Jersey headquarters was once the estate of New York stockbroker Henry Herbert Oltman. Called Penlyn when it was built in the late 1920s, it was acquired by the Commission in 1939, and became the New Jersey Headquarters in 1956. The park system now includes 19 state parks and nine historic sites on both sides of the river.
It’s unknown the extent to which other important records from the parks or historic sites might have been stored in the headquarters building. Most of the Commission’s records are held in barracks on Iona Island, part of a First World War naval munitions factory, which lacks climate controls. Some records have been digitized before the fire, most had not. The collection includes 100,000 photographs and holds records documenting the creation and development of the nation’s first interstate park, an important resource for historians, environmental advocates, and archaeologists.
Firefighters were called to the scene around noon New Years Day. An office of the Palisades Interstate Parkway Police and the Court of the Palisades Interstate Park were housed on the building’s first floor, with the Commission on the second. Media reports say the 4-alarm fire began in the Parkway Police office, but no official determination has been made.
Photos: Above, by Park Ridge Councilperson Robert Metzeorf; below, Penlyn, the Palisade Interstate Park Commission New Jersey Headquarters building as a residence.