History of Bogota

from Bogota Public Library Local History Collection

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South End of Larch Avenue

The Borough of Bogota was formed on November 14, 1894, from portions of Ridgefield Township, based on the results of a referendum held that day. It was a result of the "Boroughitis" phenomenon then sweeping through Bergen County, in which 26 boroughs were formed in the county in 1894 alone.

 

Prior to the founding of the Borough of Bogota, the area was inhabited by members of the Lenape Tribe until the early 1600s when Dutch settlers arrived. The Dutch were replaced by the British in 1664, Following the Civil War, Bogota evolved from a farming area to a suburban and industrial one.

Following his move to Bogota in 1893, Frederick W. Cane led the successful effort for a special election regarding the incorporation of the Borough. The population was about 250 at the time, although only 57 votes were cast. Cane was elected the first mayor in 1895. It can be considered the year when farming began to decline and Bogota started to become a small suburban town with an important industrial element.

In 1898, the electric trolley shattered the then semi-rural nature of Bogota. Most of the new residents were members of the business and professional classes as opposed to the farmers who were there first. There was also a small, local retail and service population that provided such things as coal and lumber, and trades such as carpentry.

 

Economically the Borough was also developing. William N. Smith was busy with his paper mills, but still had time to form the Bogota National Bank on East Fort Lee Road close to the railroad tracks and potential customers coming off the trains. Another institution, the Bogota Savings Bank, was started as the Bogota Savings and Loan in 1893. Judge Peter Bogert, part of the Bogert farming family, was the first president. William N. Smith became president a few years later; he was part of the “commuter” faction that helped form Bogota in opposition to Peter Bogert.

 

By 1939, Bogota was expanding rapidly and had at least ten times the population of 1912. Main Street was a busy commercial street in addition to the shops, banks, bowling alleys, etc. on West and East Fort Lee Road. Big changes in the business district in 1939 effectively ended Fort Lee Road’s role as the most important business street in town. Major construction projects, connected with each other, forever changed the town. The construction of the Main Street overpass, the construction of the Grade Level Crossing over the West Shore railroad tracks, and the extension of Main Street into Hackensack were the last major changes in Bogota’s infrastructure until the opening of Interstate 80 in the 1960s.

The 1960s also saw another change in the character of Bogota: most of the paper mills closed. A great many had been involved in producing materials needed to win World War II. New Jersey was a great manufacturing area then, and Bogota had some impressive capability in its paper mills and the Brewster Construction Company. The last paper mill, the Continental mill, closed in 1970. Almost all of our major industries left town for one reason or another. As a result, families turned to service-oriented occupations.

 

June 1992 saw the closing of the Dewey School due to declining enrollments. Plans to replace the Steen and Bixby Schools were made but they were defeated by the voters in 1993.

 

The Borough celebrated its 125th Anniversary in 2019 with the issuance of a fourth anniversary journal. These volumes can be consulted for more information about the Borough’s past.

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Erie Train Station

Additional information about Bogota's history can be found at the Bogota Public Library, or on the Local History Collection on the Bogota Public Library website