Sunday, February 24, 2008
Visiting Main Street with Guru Rod
First stop--Fort Lee
Fort Lee, once a center of the movie business, is a bustling urban center and the NJ terminus of the George Washington Bridge. Towering Miami Beach-type condos dot its riverfront skyline. Main Street, however, reminds of us an earlier time. The old wooden building that houses the hardware store stands out against the backdrop of highrises. The welcoming post office anchors the comings and goings of local residents. Like other Main Streets it has found uses in providing banks, restaurants, and clothing stores. It proudly boasts a major bookstore, Border's, carefully set along the sidewalk to fill the urban tissue. It is an active center, invigorating a city bisected by major highways.
After a quick walk up and down the street, we got back in the car and headed out towards Hackensack. Main Street changes its name as it travels through different cities. Along the way, we crossed of Grand Avenue, which serves as Main Street, Leonia. This is a reminder of Joe Getz' point -- Main Street is found at the intersection of Main and Main.
Main Street runs north and west from Fort Lee, mostly through residential areas. It becomes Main Street again in Bogota, a small city with a one block locus of commercial activity that boasts a post office and an excellent candy store. We walked one block off Main to see the civic center -- city hall, library, senior center, with the police and fire stations nearby. On our walk we saw a stately Victorian house. We appreciated the homeowners' sense of whimsy expressed in a sculpture made of old lawnmowers. "That's the house I thought I'd live in when I grew up," noted Rod. He left the suburbs, however, for the city and apartment life.
Third stop-- Hackensack
We drove just 5 more minutes to get to Main Street, Hackensack. Like Grand Avenue, Main Street, Hackensack runs perpendicular to the road we were on. Somewhat like a movie set, Hackensack respected the buildings that fronted Main Street, but scooped those behind. One would guess, given the history in what remains, that many historic structures were demolished and made into parking. We stationed our car in this vacant area and found our way onto Main Street by passing through an aromatic Asian grocery store. By this time, the crew was ready for coffee. A coffee shop next door to the library had good java and eats for us. Afterwards, we took a minute to visit the library, a spectacular building erected a hundred years ago and recently expanded.
Whether it was the old slate sidewalk in Bogota or the statue of a Native American in the library in Hackensack, our trip along Bergen county Main Streets revealed layers of history. Rod commented, "It's important to know this history because it is also the future of the city."