FOR 135 years, the slate blue Victorian train station at the intersection of Hillsdale Avenue and Broadway has been accommodating travelers to Manhattan. Restored through a 14-year public campaign ended in 1997 that included bake sales, flea markets and volunteer labor, the Hillsdale station, with its white gingerbread trim, mansard roof and generous overhangs to shelter passengers from the elements, is listed on both the National and New Jersey Registers of Historic Places.
Constructed in 1869 as the terminus of the Hackensack & New York Railroad, it is now a stop on New Jersey Transit's Pascack Valley Line, which carries commuters into Secaucus for transfer to Penn Station and into Hoboken for transfer to the PATH train to Lower Manhattan.
The station is the center of the three-square-mile Bergen County borough's early 20th-century downtown of low-slung clapboard and masonry retail buildings, some adorned with intricate terra-cotta cornices. Unlike many other downtowns, Hillsdale's has no vacant stores, even though it is just five miles north of Paramus, which has five major malls and is the most densely packed shopping area in the state.
Of about 3,150 homes in the borough, 20 percent are prewar -- mainly small two- and three-bedroom colonials near the center of town -- and nearly two-thirds of the houses were built before 1970. According to the 2000 United States census, the median housing construction year is 1956.
Many homes on the west side are known locally as 1950's Tandy-Allens, named for developers who constructed hundreds of three- and four-bedroom split-levels and ranches with brick face covering the lower two-thirds of their facades. Updated or expanded four-bedroom, two-bath Tandy-Allens on one-third- to one-half-acre lots. With the borough already more than 97 percent built, according to Mayor Deutsch, there is little new construction. On the western edge, however, there are several small new subdivisions of five or six homes each. Most are nearly 5,000 square feet and sell for more than $1 million, according to Ms. Marklin.
THERE are two condominium complexes: the 42-unit Stony Brook Manor, a vinyl-sided two-story town house complex off Liberty Avenue on the east side of town, and the 60-unit stucco and brick Colonial Village of Hillsdale, off Broadway, just east of the railroad tracks. None of the condos in Stony Brook have come on the market in recent years, and only one unit is for sale at Colonial Village -- a two-bedroom, two-bath single-story unit with a garage.
Many sellers are older residents who moved in when the population began to expand just after World War II. Among those remaining is Beverly B. Rosenstein, who moved into Hillsdale from New York City in 1950, when her eldest child was a year old. ''Now,'' she lamented, ''nearly all of what I call the original settlers have moved away to be near their children.'' Mrs. Rosenstein has watched the population double and traffic increase exponentially along Broadway and Hillsdale Avenue. She maintains, however, that the borough remains ''cohesive, with good services and good summer programs for children.
The town's major attractions include the highly rated school system and broad recreation program. Taxes are regarded at relatively low, partly because the borough is the site of a transfer station, where garbage is trucked in from several other northern New Jersey towns, compacted and hauled to landfills in Pennsylvania.
One widely used recreational facility is the Stony Brook Swim Club, overlooking the Stony Brook Manor condominiums on the east side near the River Vale line. It has an Olympic swimming pool, an intermediate pool, a diving pool, a toddler pool complete with an elephant-shaped fountain and a copper-roofed snack bar and changing area.
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