In a community designed by an apprentice of Frank Lloyd Wright, one would expect an emphasis on craftsmanship, a respect for the existing landscape, and a design aesthetic that is warmly organic, yet innovative and functional. In 1985 at Bears Nest in Park Ridge, architect Eleanore Pettersen, who studied with Wright at Taliesin, created the first phase of a “neo-Tudor” town-home community, an environment-oriented, traditional English village with a modern sensibility.
The 46 acres of Bears Nest maintain the wooded feeling of this former Girl Scout camp. Eventually, 201 units were built among the undulating hills, large stones, and 100-year-old trees. In the immediate area are the Tice’s Corner Mall, Woodcliff Lake, Montvale and Saddle River.
Bears Nest provides a “luxury resort living environment all year round.” The community fills a number of needs. It’s for people who are still working, for empty-nesters, and for those who want to have a lifestyle similar to what they enjoyed at their previous large homes, but still, want to be near family and friends and no longer want to be concerned with home maintenance.
Easily the most impressive aspect of Bears Nest is its village atmosphere. Buildings of usually two or three homes are situated according to the contour of the land, up hills, along curved roads, and near old-fashioned lampposts. The seven different models lend themselves to a variety of appearances due
to extensive landscaping along with differences in walkways, railings, and decks, depending on the unit’s elevation and relation to the land.
The all-brick exteriors are of Autumn Smoke, architect Pettersen’s patented design that won Bears Nest an award for the innovative use of masonry. Also adding to the English-village ambiance are the copper lanterns at the unit entrances, the corbelled chimneys, the copper overhangs, and the mesmerizing stone ram’s-head sculptures that top many of the doorways. These are real townhouses, attested to by the four stories, many connected by a private elevator. There’s lots of recessed lighting, fireplaces in the living rooms, whirlpools in the master baths, cathedral ceilings and skylights, European-design cabinetry, and breakfast nooks with bay windows. Peaked “Gothic” windows fill the walls and the vaulted ceiling’s numerous angles converge from all corners into the center of the room. Included are mirrored wet bars, living room and master bedroom fireplaces, marble flooring and countertops in bathrooms and kitchens, built-in bookcases, and, to add to an English townhouse touch, brick-walled courtyards.
This same spirit is prominent in the community’s centerpiece, the Club House. Residents of Bears nest can enjoy all the amenities of their own country club in a luxurious and superbly designed structure that perfectly exemplifies gracious living in this community gathering place. The popular dining room with its two stone fireplaces, along with the adjoining bar and great room, host a variety of social events throughout the year. Upstairs are playroom retreats, such as ping pong, the billiard room, library, and card room. Outside are the courtyard, patio, pool and hot tub, and the Village Green park, featuring a putting green as well as facilities to enjoy bocce and occasional entertainment at the pergola. Completing the uniqueness of Bears Nest are two Har-Tru tennis courts, a fully equipped fitness center, a secluded meadow, and a stream-fed pond.
All this makes Bears Nest a beguiling community, close to numerous public golf courses and private clubs, major shopping centers, New York City, the Garden State Parkway and the New York State Thruway. It is, nevertheless, a country retreat that provides modern luxury while invoking the village spirit of a by-gone era.