Narrative Statement of Significance

The Van Riper House, located at 491 River Road, Nutley, New Jersey, is historically significant as an example of the architectural building type: The early Dutch Stone House of New Jersey are well documented in Bergen County and examples are found in Essex, Hudson, Passaic and Morris counties in northeast New Jersey.

In April 1663, Juriaen Thomasse (Uriah, son of Thomas) Van Riper sailed from the port of New Amsterdam on a vessel named “T Bonta Koe”, “The Spotted Cow”, for the New Netherlands.  He was also known on board as John (from Ripen), which was the origin of the name Van Riper.

With thirteen others, he received a grant patent on March 16, 1684, for a tract of land extending from the Third River up the Passaic to the Falls, thence Garret Rock, along the fact of the steep rocks, southwesterly to the present county line, thence to the mouth of the Third River.

This grant was called “Haquequenunck”, a name which until recently was preserved in the title of the former Township of Acquackanonk.  There is mention of all of them in a tattered document, yellow with its centuries of age, called: Schedules of lands in New Ark and Surveys of lands and to whom conveyed”.  It shows that before the Revolution, Nutley’s Passaic River front had been divided among five proprietors: Van Riper, Vreeland, Speer, Joralemon and King.

Juriaen Thomasse Van Riper, a native of the city of Ripen, married Reyke Harmsse four years after his arrival.  Among the grandchildren of Juriaen and Reyke was Abraham, born January 25, 1716.  He would later marry Elisabeth Bradbury on November 28, 1747.

In the 1690’s John Bradbury and his wife Elizabeth came to this country from England with their four children.  Their son, Richard, married Maria Merrill but no date of marriage can be found; daughter Susanna married Jan Ludlow on June 11, 1732; daughter Elizabeth as stated above married John Bradbury and daughter Mary married Jan Berry on November 12, 1709.

In 1696, Bradbury purchased land from Juriaen Thomasse Van Riper and erected a Grist Mill, which was located just below the dam of the pond of the Third River along the River Road from Newark to Acquackanonk.  His first house was erected close by the mill where his family resided for 12 years.  Thereafter, he has considerable mills on the Third River and altogether was a man of importance in the community.  He then built a stone house on a knoll south of Kingsland’s Lane.  This house is what we know today as the Van Riper House.

Bradbury lived in the stone house until he died in 1740.  In accordance with his Last Will and Testament, he left the following to his heirs: To his wife Elizabeth he left the use of the dwelling (the Van Riper House) the best wagon, fire wood, the furniture and the use of two servants to wait upon her.

To his son Richard he left his house, land and mills with the express condition that he should pay his mother Elizabeth the sum of twenty pounds current money yearly and every year during her natural life.  Richard was also to pay his sisters, Susanna and Elizabeth the sum of one hundred thirty three pounds, six shillings and eight pence to them and their heirs for four years after John Bradbury’s death.

Since John Bradbury’s daughter, Mary Berry, had predeceased him, he left sixty six pounds, thirteen shillings and four pence to his granddaughter Mary to be paid by his son Richard for four years after his death and the same sum to his grandson William to be paid to him when he reached the age of 21.

John Bradbury’s will stipulated that in the event his son Richard failed to comply with the terms of his will, that the property would be divided in equal shares between Suzanne, Elizabeth and the children of Mary Berry.

Richard Bradbury failed to comply with the conditions of his father’s estate and the entire estate was descended to Susanne Ludlow, Elizabeth Bradbury and the children of Mary Berry and these heirs mutually release to each other.  The mills went to the Berry children and Elizabeth got the house.

When Elizabeth married Abraham Van Riper in 1747, they continued to live in the house.  Abraham Van Riper was a Patriot during the Revolutionary War.  He attained to a great age.  It is documented in the “Book of Records of Newark” that from 1760 to 1765 Abraham Van Riper worked as an Overseer of the Poor.

Then, from 1766 through 1769 he worked as an Overseer of the Highways.  The exact date of his death cannot be established but it is believed to be about 1835.  Their son, John Abraham Van Riper was born on February 12, 1753 and he married Leah Winnie in 1776.  They enlarged the house in 1788.  A tablet made from original sandstone is inscribed  “I.L.V.R.P. May 1, 1788”, the initials of John and Leah Van Riper.  The tablet is still there today.

Abraham and Elizabeth had 3 children.  The only record found on their children is that of John Abraham Van Riper.  He was a soldier in the War of the Revolution.  John and Leah had eight children among who was Abraham Van Riper born September 15, 1782.  He married Maria Speer in 1804.  He represented his district in the Assembly during 1848 and 1849 and for many years served as a freeholder and Justice of the Peace.  He died in March 1866.

In 1883, the entire estate of Abraham Van Riper was subdivided into 24 lots and dived amongst Elizabeth Van Riper, John Van Riper, Margaret Sanford, Sara Van Winkle and Abraham Van Winkle.  In order to satisfy a mortgage of $932.90 a sheriff sale of the estate gave 23 of the lots to Margaret Leah Sanford, and the one remaining lot containing the house to Cornelius Van Houten of Belleville for $350.00.

Van Houten held the property until November 1, 1888 when it was sold to Statia I. Wilson of Brooklyn for $2,250.00.  It was subsequently sold to Alexander Schultz on December 1, 1898.  Another sheriff sale held on March 2, 1933 to satisfy a mortgage of $2,889.00 awarded to property to Clara L. King, holder of the mortgage.

On October 14, 1933, King sold the property Joseph Abel of Montclair, New Jersey for $3,100.00 with the covenant that is was not to be used for business purposes until the mortgage was paid in full.  Abel sold the property to Jean E. Witbeck of Montclair for $6,790.00 on November 22, 1935 who restored features of the house.

On February 5, 1945 Jean and Grace Witbeck sold the property to Federal Telephone and Radio, a division of IT&T.  The house then became the home of Admiral Ellery Stone, an ITT employee.  The house was used as a residence for ITT executives until about 1975 when it was converted into office space.

On August 21, 1999 IT&T sold the property to Town and Country Developers of Nutley, Inc. who are currently in the process of building a housing development called “Cambridge Heights at Nutley”, with the exception of Lot 1, Block 487 known as 491 River Road where the Van Riper House still remains.

In July 2001, The Van Riper House and approximately 0.9 acres of land was transferred from Town and Country Developers of Nutley, Inc. to the Township of Nutley.

In September, 2001 the Board of Commissioners of the Township of Nutley granted the Van Riper House, Inc., a 20-year lease passed by resolution.  The Van Riper House, Inc. is now in the process of restoration and preservation.