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Ho-Ho-Kus Pocus

Downtown Ho-Ho-Kus is getting a $532,596 streetscape makeover.

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It's generally not newsworthy per se to mention a certain city is undergoing streetscape enhancements to the downtown business district, unless it is a particularly large project or notable for some other reason.

It did, however, catch our attention when the imminent conclusion of a streetscape project to add new curbs, sidewalks, decorative lighting and tree plantings in the business district of Ho-Ho-Kus was announced. Ho-Ho-Kus? Huh?

Ho-Ho-Kus, turns out, is a borough in Bergen County, New Jersey in the northeast corner of the Garden State. Not surprisingly, there are several theories behind the name.

The borough's website postulates a number of possibilities:

  1. An adulteration of the Lenni Lenape (Delaware Indians) term ''Mah-Ho-Ho-Kus,'' meaning ''red cedar.''
  2. An Indian word for running water.
  3. An Indian word for cleft in the rock or under the rock or hollow rock.
  4. From Hohokes, an Indians name signifying the whistle of the wind against the bark of trees
  5. Named for the Chihohokies Indians.
  6. From the Dutch ''Hoog Akers'' (high acorns) or ''Hoge Aukers'' (high oaks)/
  7. ''Ho'' meaning joy or spirit and hohokes meaning a tree bark.
  8. Derived from Indian word ''hocus,'' meaning gray fox.

It's also plausible that it has something to do with the exclamations of a certain jolly fat man who may have passed through the area bestowing presents, which left an indelible impression.

Whatever the derivation, the redesign is for the Sheridan Avenue area and includes Victorian-era lighting with arms to hang celebratory decorations, plus brick enhancements to the street.

The $532,596 streetscape project was partially funded by a $325,000 grant from the N.J. DOT, which is good news in any language.

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June 17, 2019, 8:43 am PDT

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