Final approval of a master plan for the Steuben House, located within the Historic New Bridge Landing Park was announced by park officials at their monthly April meeting.
Under the plan, administration of the Steuben House will be transferred from the state Division of Parks and Forestry to the nine-member park commission.
According to information from a press release issued by the commission April 7, conditional approval of the master plan for the house was given by state Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) Commissioner Bob Martin on June 17, 2010.
Under terms that were passed by the state legislature in 2009, “approval of a master plan reallocates any state funds appropriated to the DEP or the Division of Parks and Forestry for, or related to the administration of the Steuben House or Historic New Bridge Landing Park to the Historic New Bridge Landing Park Commission.
“We are very happy after the long planning process to have the master plan approved,” Historic New Bridge Landing Park Commission Chairman Michael Trepicchio said.
“This allows us to move forward with developing the park in a way that will remove modern intrusions and bring the park that has been planned for generations to reality.”
In fact wording in the conclusion of the master plan, approved by the commission on Nov. 30, 2010, addresses removing modern intrusions among other issues.
The Steuben House should be restored, “as an artifact of its period of significance to comply with the overall goal and philosophy of removing modern intrusions from the historic core of New Bridge and push back visual evidence of the 19th, 20th and 21st centuries so as to enhance the visitor experience (to gain) an appreciation of this important fragment of the Jersey Dutch countryside.”
The conclusion of the report also states that restoration of the house, which dates back to 1752, “should incorporate and interpretive element and be open to the public as much as possible.”
A New Bridge Battle Monument and visitor center to be located at the Hackensack Avenue gateway to the park are also envisioned.
The Steuben House has been described as an outstanding example of Jersey Dutch sandstone architecture. The house and lands surrounding it served as a fort, a military headquarters and battleground throughout the American Revolution.
On November 20, 1776 General George Washington and the Continental Army, in retreat from Fort Lee after New York City fell to the British, crossed the Hackensack River in view of the house.
Although that “Bridge That Saved a Nation” is no longer in existence, the historic crossing by Washington and his army is immortalized in Thomas Paine’s essay, The American Crisis.
“Our first object was to secure the bridge over the Hackensack, which laid up the river between the enemy and us,” Paine wrote.
Washington would return to New Bridge in September of 1780 and use the house, once owned by Jan Zabriskie, a British loyalist, as his headquarters.
In December of 1783 the State of New Jersey presented the Zabriskie’s confiscated home to Major General Friedrich Baron Von Steuben.
The Historic New Bridge Landing Park Commission was established in 1995, “to coordinate and implement all governmental and private development polices at Historic New Bridge Landing.”
Information on the Master Plan is available at the Bergen County Historical Society's message board.