Pearl River is a hamlet in the town of Orangetown in Rockland County. It is located east of Chestnut Ridge, south of Nanuet, west of Blauvelt, and north of Montvale and Old Tappan, New Jersey. Pearl River is 20 miles north of midtown Manhattan. It is the first (traveling north) of three New York stops on New Jersey Transit’s Pascack Valley Line. In 2011, CNN Money ranked Pearl River 78th on its annual “100 Best Places to Live” list
In 1696, Pearl River was originally part of a larger portion of land known as the Kakiat Patent that was granted to Daniel Honan and Michael Hawdon. In 1713, the land was split into north and south plots. After the Revolutionary War, the land was further divided and sold. Pearl River was a portion of land made up of woods and swamps originally called Muddy Creek. In the early 1870s, the town was divided into five different parts: Middletown, Sickletown, Pascack, Muddy Brook, and Naurashaun.
There are conflicting accounts on how Muddy Creek came to be named Pearl River. According to some historians, a town resident named Dr. Ves Bogert found small pearls in mussels that thrived in Muddy Brook and, upon hearing this, Mrs. John Demarest, the wife of the president of the New Jersey and New York Railroad, suggested the name “Pearl River” to her husband.
Another account was that the name change was made to make the station stop sound more appealing on the railroad passenger schedules. The third account was that Julius E. Braunsdorf wanted to enhance the hamlet’s business image by renaming it Pearl River. In any event, there is no body of water near the village called “Pearl River”, the most significant stream is “Muddy Brook.” Muddy Creek was purchased by industrialist Julius E. Braunsdorf, a German immigrant, in 1870. He donated a long strip of land right through the center of his property to the New Jersey and New York Railroad to enable them to bring an extension of the line from Hillsdale, New Jersey north to Nanuet.
Braunsdorf was the “Father of Pearl River” and established Aetna Sewing Machine Company to produce his patented home sewing machine in 1872. Later that year the first post office was established in the hamlet and from then on it was known as Pearl River. Braunsdorf invented and manufactured the carbon-arc light bulb in 1873, 6 years prior to Thomas Edison’s carbonized filament version. They were installed and used on ships in New York harbor for loading and unloading operations. He also designed generators, one of which powered the first incandescent electric lights, which he also invented, in the nation’s Capital.
When Braunsdorf designed the street layout, the only existing streets were Pearl Street and Washington Avenue. He drew a wide main street through the middle of town and called it Central Avenue. Parallel to Central Avenue he drew Franklin, after his hero, Benjamin Franklin. To connect Washington, Central, and Franklin he drew three streets and named them William, John and Henry after his three sons.
- 1872 – The Aetna Sewing Machine Company, the largest factory in Pearl River, and ceded land to the railroad company so workers from New York City could get to his factory.
- 1872 – The Pearl River Post Office and became the first Postmaster.
- 1873 – Two brick train stations (Passenger/Freight) still in use today.
- The Pearl River Hotel
- Low-cost housing for the factory employees that he attracted from Germany and Scandinavia.
In 1894, Talbot C. Dexter moved his Dexter Folder Company to Pearl River. On August 25, 1885, Dexter filed a patent for an automatic folding machine that changed the way newspapers, books, and magazines were folded and assembled. Between 1885 and 1913, Talbot C. Dexter filed many patents, some still in use today.
Dr. Ernest Lederle established the Lederle Antitoxin Laboratories in 1906. In 1930, it became Lederle Laboratories, a division of American Cyanamid, and during World War II, Lederle was a major supplier of blood plasma. In 1931, Gottfried (Fred) Schmidt – Invented the automatic pinsetter. Brunswick was not interested in an automatic at that time.