UPDATE: The following came in a weekly email from WNJ
Did you know that before a single frame of celluloid was ever shot in
Hollywood, Fort Lee was the film making capital of the world? That's right, as far back as
the early days of Thomas Edison's movies, Fort Lee was the place to go if you wanted to
make a motion picture. Even the term "cliff-hanger," which is used to describe a
suspenseful scene, was first coined in Fort Lee during the making of the silent
"Perils of Pauline" films, which were shot at the precipice of the NJ Palisades.
Say Goodbye to Hollywood...er, I Mean Coytesville
Most of the early western films were shot in the northern part of Fort Lee
known as Coytesville. The area at the time actually looked very much like an old west
town, with its unpaved roads, clapboard buildings and even a roadhouse saloon called
Rambo's. Silver screen stars of the day such as Douglas Fairbanks, Mary Pickford, Lionel
and Ethel Barrymore, and Lillian Gish all worked regularly in the tiny community. Today
not much remains of Coytesville's golden age of film making. The last remnants of the
Coytesville studios were destroyed during construction of the entryway to the George
Washington Bridge. These days most New Jerseyans have never even heard of the town of
Coytesville, but ask any Fort Lee old-timer and they're sure to remember.
From the Bergen Record of March 1, 1999:
Most of Coytesville's wide-open spaces have since disappeared, save for a
few pocket parks. Taken together with all the new construction of the past 15 years, it
can be easy to overlook the neighborhood's rich history. But hidden behind fences,
sandwiched between new homes, and tucked into memories, is the story of days gone by.
The earliest piece of the puzzle sits, fittingly, on a dead-end street where Coytesville's
early boundaries overlap Fort Lee's border with Englewood Cliffs. There, out of
sight behind a stockade fence, is a tiny cemetery. On most days, the only witnesses to
history are a few crows and squirrels. But the writing on most of the headstones is still
clear, including that on a large black granite obelisk over the grave of Benjamin Coyte,
"native of Devonshire, England. Founder of Coytesville, N.J."
When Coyte died in 1887, Coytesville was a village in its own right. The settlement gave
up its independence only when Fort Lee was incorporated in 1904. But the neighborhood
stayed on the map as a capital of the nation's fledgling film industry. When they weren't
in front of the cameras, the film stars gathered at neighborhood watering holes, such as
the Rambo Hotel and Schmidt's Corner. The latter has been gone for years. But the Rambo,
once run by Limone's grandfather, with its old oaken bar and bentwood chairs, was
perfectly preserved until a fire gutted the place last summer. Limone and her husband
still live in the rear portion of the building, which was untouched by the blaze.
The neighborhood is dotted with other relics, such as the house on Hammett Street garbed
in tarpaper siding. It was once a summer cottage for the acting Barrymores. Nearby, on
Westview Street -- which drops down toward Route 4 like a bobsled run -- smaller wooden
homes with bits of stained glass and turned wood banisters are tucked in between the
Many of the older homes have vanished gradually over the past 15 years, often sold to
developers as the neighborhood's oldest residents have died...Coytesville maintained a
strong sense of its own identity up until the 1960s, when it still had its own post
office. Even today, Verizon lists some residents' phone numbers as being in
"Coytville." But the name means little, if anything, to newer arrivals (who are
predominantly of Asian descent).
"If you ask people who have lived here all their lives, they know it as
Coytesville," says John Caputo, the principal at School No. 3, whose wife is a native
of the neighborhood. "But to the new people, if you say, 'Oh, you live in
Coytesville,' they just stare at you. They wouldn't know what you're talking about."