Municipal Government Complex
Historic District, 1925-51
Cedar Lane & Teaneck Road
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The construction of the Municipal
Government Complex in the mid-1920s marked Teaneck's coming of age as a modern
suburban community. Population rose by 300% between 1920 and 1930 (from 4,192 to
16,513), and municipal services expanded to meet the demands of new residents.
Frederick McGuire, chairman of the Township Committee, initiated plans for a new
town hall in 1925 to replace the 1869 schoolhouse then serving the purpose. The
project was plagued by controversy from the first, because residents mistrusted
the motives of local politicians who had raised their taxes and pushed growth.
Opponents protested that the new building would become a "hangout and
roost" for the committee and political cronies.
Perhaps to stem such criticism,
an architectural competition was Staged to pick an architect to design the town
hall. The winning scheme, by the New York firm of Ludlow and Peabody, soothed
residents with its reassuring Georgian-Colonial idiom. Project architects Edward
Tilton and Edward Morris utilized a gabled red brick block and a familiar
pedimented classical portico, crowning the building with a cupola to suggest a
patriotic "colonial" flavor. The building follows the most popular
models for 1920s American public buildings, echoing the work of Colonial Revival
masters such as William Adams Delano, Cameron Clark, William Lawrence Bottomley
and Mott Schmidt. The cornerstone was laid in November 1925 and the building
dedicated on July 4, 1926.
Also distinctive is the unusual
site chosen for the complex. With the death of Mrs. William Walter Phelps in
1920, the estate began to sell its precious acreage for residential development.
The ruins of Phelps's country house, The Grange, which had burned in 1888, stood
at the crossroads of Teaneck Road and Cedar Lane, quite literally at the center
of the township. The township acquired this 7-acre site at a cost of $35,000 and
demolished the ruins to create a park in which to set the government buildings.
A ready-made landscape with mature trees and verdant lawns lent an air of
permanence and stateliness to the buildings, which were placed to take advantage
of picturesque flora and views north and south along Teaneck Road.
The two other buildings in the
complex, a Police Headquarters (now offices) and Public Library, are mainly the
work of local eclecticist George M. Cady. Citizens initiatives resulted in the
construction of the first wing of the library in 1 93 6 to designs of Frederick
T. Warner, but Cady expanded the
building with side wings in 1952 to increase capacity. A more recent addition to
the west side enclosed the building's handsome Georgian facades to create an
interior court. Cady's modest Georgian Police Building completed the ensemble on
the south side in 1951.
Former Police Building