A blog about living in Aberdeen, New Jersey.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Park Cleanup in River Gardens (Cliffwood)

River Gardens is a part of the Cliffwood section of Aberdeen Township. It was developed by Laurence Harbor Heights Company in the late 1940s. The neighborhood is situated between Matawan Avenue, Route 35, Matawan Creek and the Matawan border (just north of the Garden State Parkway). West Prospect Avenue is the major route through the neighborhood, running from Route 35 to the Matawan Avenue Middle School (MAMS).

River Gardens is home to a 25-acre undeveloped park located on Riverdale Drive along Matawan Creek. The land was acquired as public open space by Aberdeen Township in 2004. The Bayshore Regional Watershed Council and the NY/NJ Baykeeper organized a recent park cleanup, according to The Matawan-Aberdeen Patch and other sources.

The Township's Environmental Commission is looking into the history of the area's renowned brick companies, which established their works along Matawan Creek and the railroad to facilitate shipment of their goods to market. Remnants of at least one brickyard, most of which were uprooted by the building of the Garden State Parkway in the 1950s, have been found in Riverside Park.

History of the River Gardens Subdivision

According to the 22 Dec 1949 edition of The Matawan Journal, outgoing councilman William Regan complained to the Matawan Township Council that developers were receiving preferential access to the water supply from township officials, while local residents remained on a long waiting list. He asked in particular about deliveries of pipe "at the old Pennsylvania Railroad property in Cliffwood, now in the course of development as River Gardens by Laurence Harbor Heights Co." Regan pointed out that there hadn't been any Council discussion of the River Gardens development since January 1947. Township Chairman John Marz Jr said that the company had agreed to buy its own pipe and the Township would take possession of it after 20 years. One councilman suggested that the Council was working in the dark and should have a copy of the plans.

The 27 Sep 1951 edition of The Matawan Journal featured a complaint to the Township Council from a River Gardens residents group. The developer had installed septic tanks at $250 each, but the State came in and found the septic systems inadequate. The residents wanted Laurence Harbor Heights Co to fund their required deposits on a new sewer system, including a plant, piping and pumps. The estimated cost of the system was $75,000 to $85,000.

The 30 Jan 1958 edition of The Matawan Journal included coverage of a River Gardens residents group that petitioned the school board for a restoration of bus transportation for their high school students. The article identified River Gardens as a section of Cliffwood.

Laurence Harbor Heights Company

I found references to land transfers by Laurence Harbor Heights Company in The Matawan Journal as early as 1935, but no fundamentals about the company itself. I checked the web and found a Google Books record showing that the company advertised in an 18 Oct 1922 "Railway" magazine under Rivers and Harbors as a builder  of bulkheads, boardwalk and gradings. The ad appeared in The Collected Works of Sir Humphrey Daly, by Halbert Powers Gillette. A New Jersey court case titled Villa Corp vs S D Walker, et al (187 F.2d 493), heard in 1950 and decided the following year, said that Laurence Harbor Heights Company was owned as of 1947 by one S D Walker.


  1. Just for the record as a resident of river gardens for over the last 50 years the road that runs along matawan creek is Riverdale Dr not Riverside Dr as for riverside park where is that located somewhere close to the garden state parkway River Gardens residents were told many, many years ago that a park was to be built between Riverdale Dr .and Prospect Ave to help keep the children off the streets that never happened either we need to our information correct and updated people.

    1. Thanks for the correction on the street name. The original Patch article is no longer available, so I couldn't check to see how the names were rendered three years ago when I wrote this piece. But I should have double checked it in local maps. Sorry, but I don't believe my blog is experiencing an epidemic of errors, so your suggestion that we get things right, people, seems a bit harsh. More constructive comments would enlighten us with your knowledge of the River Gardens neighborhood, where you've lived so long. I'd welcome your insights. I've only lived here nearly 40 years, so you surely have greater insights than I.