In 1857, David De Peyster Acker bought a sizable farm fronting on Small Lots Road (Fair Lawn Avenue) and Slaughterdam Road (River Road). Where the Senior Center is now, he had local carpenter John G. Hopper build him a large home at the top of the hill which sloped down to Small Lots Road. An early stone house in the Dutch style stood near the road (where the Library is today) and housed some of the farmhands. There was also a schoolhouse on the property.
About 1864, Acker moved his family to the new home. Following the latest fashion in landscaping, Mr. Acker had created a broad “lawn”, sweeping down the hill from his house to the road. Sheep grazed the lawn to keep it closely cropped. A long carriage drive led up to the house on each side of the lawn. David Acker was evidently so proud of his expanse of green that he named his estate “Fair Lawn”.
When the rail road came through town, Mr. Acker had a shelter erected next to the tracks on Small Lots Road. Here his guests from the city could wait for his carriage to take them to his home. On the shelter he put a sign, “Fair Lawn”. Later, the railroad built a station house at this location and called it the Fair Lawn station to distinguish it from the Warren Point station. Eventually, Small Lots Road became known as Fair Lawn Avenue and the Small Lots area was called the Fair Lawn section of Saddle River Township.
When the people of what is now our borough decided to separate from Saddle River Township, they chose “Fair Lawn” for their town’s name. Because of a clerical error in the legislation creating the borough in 1924, the name was legally “Fairlawn” for a short time. The Borough fathers quickly petitioned the Legislature to correct the error, and our town is Fair Lawn today.
A few years after the Borough’s creation, the Mayor and Council voted to buy the Acker homestead for use as the municipal building and for many decades Fair Lawn’s government was housed in the home for which it was named.
For more info on David Acker and his house, see my book "Fair Lawn, NJ: Historic Tales from Settlement to Suburb". I will post photos of the house in a later post.
Jane Lyle Diepeveen