Home Essex County Verona Park: A Historical Gem in Essex County

Verona Park: A Historical Gem in Essex County

by Olivia Fisher
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Essex County is home to the oldest county park system in the nation and Verona Park, located in downtown Verona, is one of its gems. Once an old swamp turned grist mill, Verona Lake and its surroundings eventually became a weekend oasis and throughout the next century, it flourished into the park we know today. Read on to learn all about Verona Park’s history and what it has to offer.

verona park nj


Verona Park was once an old swamp and was probably used by the Lenape who lived in the area. By 1814, Doctor Bohn dammed up the Peckman River for a grist mill, creating a 13-acre lake.

By the 1890s, the lake, with its weeping willow trees and winding paths had become an ideal location for family activities. Verona residents and others in the area flocked to the lake using the Bloomfield Avenue trolley, by horse, and by foot to bathe, picnic, and leisurely activities. The idea of creating a park along the shores of Verona Lake can be attributed to Hiram Cook. Hiram was a Civil War Veteran who owned most of the land along the eastern shoreline. His gorgeous home, named Idle Wood, was located at 14 Manor Road. Hiram named this Picnic and Pleasure Grounds, Eden Wild, after his daughter Edie. This name might still seem familiar today as it is the namesake for Eden Wild Children’s Garden at the park.

verona park history essex county new jersey verona

By 1900, lakefront properties were sold to the Slayback and Williams families who purchased additional land and made improvements. By 1907, when Verona was incorporated, Verona Park, then referred to as Verona Lake Park, had been functioning as a year-round destination spot for leisure. In the winter, visitors skated on the lake and sled on the hills. In warmer seasons, picnics like the annual “Granger’s” and “Farmer’s” were held.

Read More: Eagle Rock Reservation: The Essex County Park With Historic Roots

The land acquisitions for Verona Park were made between 1919 and 1925. A portion of the land was owned by the Erie Railroad Company and an agreement was reached that would allow the railroad the right-of-way across the park. However, this portion of the railway never came to be. Around 1927, Essex County selected the Olmsted Brothers Landscape firm to design the public space. Actual development did not start until several years after acquisition due to court proceedings concerning the condemnation of some of the land. After the initial development of the park in the 1920s, the next two decades saw the completion of tennis courts, tree planting, and access paths to residential neighborhoods.

In 1995, the Verona Park Conservancy was formed. The group works with the Essex County Parks Department to maintain and restore the park. In 1997, an agreement was reached between the two organizations allowing the Conservancy to propose, assist and if needed, implement its projects for the betterment of the park.

Park Features

Open year-round, this 54.32-acre park has got it all. Visitors can enjoy spacious walking paths along the lake. The bridge near the waterfall and by the boat house make for excellent vantage points, allowing one to take in all the surroundings. There is also a playground for the kids as well as tennis courts and bocce courts. Although ice skating has not taken place on the lake for a while now, sledding is still a winter favorite. Visitors flock to the hills at the eastmost corner of Bloomfield Avenue and Verona Park with their sleds and race downward toward the Peckman River.



In the summer, it’s all about the boathouse, which has a snack bar and boat rentals to boot. Rentals start on April 16th and run through September 18th. Per the Essex County Parks website, it’s $20 per half hour and $25 per hour for paddle boat and row boat rentals.

verona park paddle boat

The boathouse includes three sections: a large meeting room, a central meeting room, and a kitchen area. Those interested in renting the boathouse for a special event such as a wedding, birthday party, or club meeting can contact the Essex County Parks and Recreation Department at 973-268-3500.

Wildlife to Expect

Those walking, running, and hanging out in the park can expect to see a variety of wildlife and nature in their midst. The Verona Park Conservancy identifies birds, insects, and other animals one might see at the park, on its website. This includes the White-Tailed Deer, something you’ll see all over Essex County, especially Cedar Grove. Muskrat, red-winged blackbirds, monarch butterflies, bees, and northern water snakes are popular here as well, but nothing tops Verona Park’s most common guests, the Mallard Duck and Canadian Geese.

Living Near the Park

For those looking to call Verona home and desiring close access to Verona Park, house or apartment hunting in the Brookdale Section is ideal. Brookdale Section streets like Park Avenue, Wayland Drive, Sutton Place, and Valhalla Way offer short and easy walks to the park. Those with their eyes on Verona should also check out Verona Place, Sunset Avenue, Lakeview Place, Balston Drive, Park Place, Montrose Avenue, Whitney Terrace, Lakeside Avenue, and Peters Lane if they want a home close to the park. Verona Place and Verona Park Gardens are two apartment communities near the park.

See More: Stevens Park: The Little Hoboken Park with a Big History

Where to Eat Nearby

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^ Hot dogs from Chris’ Red Hots

Verona Park’s location in downtown provides the perfect proximity to Bloomfield Avenue and all its eateries. Mad Taco Express located at the Bloomfield Avenue entrance of the park is great for tacos. Hot dog lovers should check out Chris’ Red Hots, sandwich lovers must head over to Lakeside Deli, and for a cup of coffee and a pastry, we recommend Dolce Marie.

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