The Ho-Ho-Kus Inn

The Ho-Ho-Kus Inn

The Ho-Ho-Kus Inn

Ho-Ho-Kus, New Jersey, U.S.A.

The Ho-Ho-Kus Inn is a landmark in the town where I grew up.

The Inn is located at the intersection of Sheridan Avenue, Franklin Turnpike, and Maple Avenue.

Anyone who grew up in Ho-Ho-Kus would have driven (or been driven) by the Ho-Ho-Kus Inn thousands of times.

The Inn’s official website says the name Ho-Ho-Kus comes from a Delaware Native American term meaning ‘red cedar’. I was taught it was a name from the local Lenni Lenape tribe. Like everyone else from here, I’ve spent a lifetime spelling and explaining it to people who can’t believe there’s really a place named Ho-Ho-Kus.

The Ho-Ho-Kus Inn’s major claim to fame is that George Washington slept there during the Revolutionary War, a common claim for historic buildings in this area. We didn’t have any class visits to it, though, as it was never open as an historic site. I didn’t set foot inside the Inn until I was an adult and it had become a French restaurant.

During that time, the Inn was Claude’s Ho-Ho-Kus Inn. My mother and her friends were amused by the name change. It seemed incongruous to have a fancy restaurant called Claude’s in little old downtown Ho-Ho-Kus. The restaurant did well with Monsieur Claude at the helm but since then has changed hands several times.

When my mother turned seventy, I organised a luncheon with her many long-time friends in one of the Inn’s upstairs dining rooms. Her ladies’ bridge clubs sometimes had their annual fund-raising events at the Inn.

I always found the Ho-Ho-Kus Inn a bit too pretentious and formal for my taste. My mother liked to go there once in a while for special occasions.

In 2006, the year Clive and I travelled to the U.S. and England to meet each other’s family and friends, Mom marked the occasion by taking us to dinner at the Ho-Ho-Kus Inn. It was a wonderful evening, three years after the death of my husband. Mom said she was happy to see me smiling. Clive was his usual charming self. I felt that sense of peace and gratitude you get when you’re spending time with people you love and feeling life is good.

The Ho-Ho-Kus Inn

The Ho-Ho-Kus Inn

According to the Inn’s website, it’s currently closed for renovations until Spring 2009. Today it’s surrounded by cars instead of horse-drawn carriages, but the building itself still looks much the same as I imagine it did when George Washington slept there.

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7 Responses

  1. Thanks for clearing up the mystery about Ho-Ho-Kus!

  2. Being from the West, I always loved the East coast. It seemed to have so much more history and I love the look and architecture. there.

  3. Hi Carol,

    The Borough of Ho-Ho-Kus has a very nice web site and you can get a detailed history which suggests several possible meanings for Ho-Ho-Kus. I believe that the Lenni Lenape were a branch of the Delaware Indians, so the Ho-Ho-Kus Inn’s web site probably isn’t that far off.

    I remember the first day I was a freshman at Penn State and I went to dinner with all the girls who lived in the vicinity of the room I was assigned to. Not surprisingly, the girls were from someplace in Pennsylvania, mostly around Pittsburgh or Philadelphia. When I said Ho-Ho-Kus , NJ, I still have a vivid memory of one girl choking on her milk and droplets being sprayed all over the table. I’m quite sure they believed I was making up such a place, but I convinced them that I was not.

    My family moved to the Atlanta, GA area after I was a sophomore, and although that was interesting because it was so far away from Penn State, it was not nearly as unusual as being from Ho-Ho-Kus!

  4. How is it pronounced?

    Interesting place!

  5. Anne, glad mystery is solved! 🙂 Linda, I love the western vistas, so different from suburbia. Eleanor, yes we’ve had similar reactions to our town’s name (the site is indeed good – I saved it for my ‘Downtown’ post which I’m sure will also bring back some memories for you.).

    Kim, it’s pronounced with accent on 2nd syllable: Ho Ho’ Kus. Sooooo many people tease us and say, “Ho Ho Ho Kus” – I”ve lost count of the number of times in my life people have done that . Thanks for asking! 🙂

  6. Hi Carol,
    I came across your site while looking for photos of HoHoKus Elementary where I attended kindergarten in 1956! I still remember my classroom with giant building blocks! It looks like the charming town has not changed much. We lived at 101 Arbor Drive (don’t ask me how I remember that) – or the hill we used to sled down in front of our street! I guess good memories always stay with you.
    We even have an old video (brownie camera) of my parents coming out of the Ho-Ho-Kus Inn (hats and all)!

    Penne Stafford (now living in Dallas, Texas)

  7. Penne, hello and thanks for your comment!

    Love your memories of Arbor Drive (I had friends on that street :)) — and sledding — agree good memories stay with us. How great you have a video of your parents coming out of the Ho-Ho-Kus Inn. It’s still a major local landmark.

    We may have crossed paths at the school as I think I was a year or so behind you. Mrs Madsen was my kindergarten teacher. Those rooms (and toys, books, etc! not to mention the ‘nap rugs’ (?)) were really special.

    Cheers and thanks again for your comment.

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