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BACK IN TIME: The Bergen Building

BACK IN TIME: The Bergen Building
August 22, 2017 Kristin Beuscher Back in Time, Englewood, Northern Valley Press

The Bergen Building, corner of Bergen and Engle streets, Englewood, early 20th century.

ENGLEWOOD, N.J.––This week in local history: Ground is broken on the Bergen Building, corner of Engle and Bergen streets in Englewood, on Aug. 24, 1900.

The Bergen Building was constructed by F.W. Phelps for the Bergen County Gas & Electric company, which occupied the corner store as an office and salesroom. The lower level also held stores, and on the Bergen Street side there were offices for both the local telephone exchange and Public Service sewerage company. It was Englewood’s first modern apartment building, with six apartments located upstairs.

A decade later, on March 10, 1911, the building was damaged by a fire. News outlets reported that the blaze was compounded by low water pressure and high winds. Because the telephone exchange was located in the building, the fire temporarily left the city with no phone service. This was back in an era where a phone call meant speaking with an operator, who would manually connect you via a switchboard with the person you were trying to reach.

“Miss Julia O’Brien and Miss Katherine Zaremba prevented a panic among the 12 telephone operators who remained at the switchboard until well nigh suffocated by the smoke,” The New York Sun reported on March 11, 1911. “The Bergen Building, a three-story brick structure, is owned by Byron G. Van Horne and was valued at $40,000.”

On March 10, 1911, the building was damaged by a fire.

“For two hours the business section of Englewood was threatened because of the poor water service,” The New York Times reported. “Not until Hackensack sent help were the flames subdued.”

An emergency telephone switchboard was placed at a new location and, amazingly, by noon on the day after the fire, 90 percent of Englewood’s telephone subscribers had service restored.

The location as it looks today, 18-22 Engle St.

Today, just as in the past, the present building has commercial space on the bottom and residences on the floors above.
–-Kristin Beuscher

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