History on the Cliffs: The Palisades Past

A trip to Palisades Interstate Park can include stops at several historic sites. Explore them on your own, or take a free guided hike.

For the Birds: Hawk watchers flock each fall to State Line Lookout as part of a national program to track raptor migration.
Photo by Marc Steiner

Fort Lee Historic Park
The southern trailheads of the Long Path and the Shore Trail meet at Fort Lee Historic Park, a 33-acre bluff from which George Washington watched the fall of Fort Washington across the Hudson. The site features a reconstructed Revolutionary War encampment and a visitor center.

The Kearney House
The 19th-century tavern and homestead where British General Cornwallis may have stayed in 1776 now serves as a living-history museum. Located at the Alpine Picnic Area, it is open weekends, noon to 5 pm, May through October. Admission is free.

Women’s Federation Monument
On the cliff top in Alpine sits the trailside Women’s Federation Monument, dedicated in 1929 to honor the role of the New Jersey State Federation of Women’s Clubs in preserving the Palisades.

Armstrong Tower
Tucked in the woods west of Route 9W in Alpine is the 425-foot Armstrong Tower, the world’s first FM radio tower, built in 1938. The tower was turned off in 1954 but was reactivated on September 11, 2001, to carry TV signals after local news stations lost their transmitters.

The Lookout Inn
Atop the highest point on the New Jersey Palisades is Lookout Inn, built in 1937 by the Works Progress Administration, one of the New Deal agencies during the Great Depression. Back then, the refreshment-stand menu included Italian spaghetti and meat sauce for 35 cents and spring lamb for 50 cents. Today, the Inn features a modern lunch menu and souvenirs.

Skunk Hollow
West of the Lookout Inn are remnants of Skunk Hollow, a settlement of free black families that lived atop the mountain beginning in 1806.

Tonetti Garden
At the base of the Peanut Leap Cascade lie ruins from an early 20th century garden built by sculptor Mary Lawrence–Tonetti, whose family owned a nearby estate.

Hollywood on the Hudson
The Palisades are part of New Jersey’s history as the birthplace of the film industry. Key scenes for the popular 1914 film serial The Perils of Pauline were shot here, with the damsel in distress (played by actress Pearl White) dangling from the edge of the cliffs. These scenes popularized the term “cliff-hanger.” Every March, park historian Eric Nelsen leads a hike to Cliffhanger Point, followed by a film screening in conjunction with the Fort Lee Film Commission at Fort Lee Historic Park.

Click here to read more about the Palisades.

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