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Showing posts with label Morris County.
Showing posts with label Morris County.

Friday, October 28, 2016

The Statue of Liberty in Butler: the story evolves

Longtime readers may recall our surprising discovery of the Statue of Liberty on the balcony of the Butler Police station. To sum up, this eight foot-high replica - which looks pretty accurate at a distance - stands proudly in a prominent part of town, with no apparent connection to the community besides a general air of patriotism. A street in town is named for the statue's sculptor, Frederic Bartholdi, whom we later discovered was a friend of Richard Butler, the community's namesake whose rubber factory was once the largest employer in town. However, there's no prominent signage to describe the link to curious passers-by.

A bit more digging led us to discover that Mr. Butler had his own connection to Liberty Enlightening the World, as the statue is more officially known. The rubber magnate was the Lee Iacocca of his time, playing a major role in raising funds for the construction of the Statue's pedestal. As secretary of the American Committee for the Statue of Liberty, he donated the services of his rubber factory to ship miniature Statues to contributors. In recognition of his service, the French government named him a Chevalier of the Legion of Honor.

That solved one mystery, but we were still left to wonder about the origin of the police station Liberty. We figured she probably wasn't actually manufactured in Butler, since the statuettes the rubber company shipped were made by the Newton Bottle Stopper 七乐彩彩票app下载 of New York. Still, she looks too accurate to have been crafted by a well-meaning fan.

It took us a while, but we got the answer during a visit to the Butler Museum during Morris County's recent Pathways to History weekend. According to the Butler Historical Society folks, their Liberty was one of several that were used as decoration on Liberty Island for the Statue's rededication celebration in 1986. How it got from the celebration to Butler is another question for another day; our friends at the Historical Society invited us to come back to review their substantial collection of Statue-related documents, ephemera and artifacts.

We kind of like this mystery and where it's taken us. Sometimes uncovering the story in pieces is even more fun than getting to the bottom of it in one swipe.



Thursday, April 2, 2015

Mendham: George Washington perked here

I have to admit to being a bit confused when I discovered that George Washington lived in Mendham. 

I stumbled on this fact during yet another aimless drive through Morris County, accompanied by the WPA Guide to 1930s New Jersey. Finding myself in Mendham I flipped through a few pages of the manual to discover that somewhere along County Road 510, the Old Route 24, "An overgrowth of tall trees and thickets... hides from the road the Estate of George Washington, coffee manufacturer." Or at least it did in 1938.

That certainly got me curious. Thing is, the connection between the Father of our Country, coffee and Mendham wasn't that clear to me. While wintering in Morristown, did General Washington have a little hideaway, just a few miles distant, where he discovered the secrets of a good cuppa joe in his spare time? The Ford Mansion may have been the Pentagon of the Revolution, but I'd never heard Mendham referred to as the Coffee Pot of the Revolution.

Okay, I'm having a bit of fun, but there indeed was a George Washington who lived in New Jersey in the 20th century and ran an eponymous coffee company in Morris Plains.

The java-loving Washington was an Anglo-Belgian chemist who immigrated to the United States with his wife in the 1890s. An unsuccessful businessman -- he tried selling kerosene lamp mantles and cameras for a time -- he eventually attempted cattle ranching in Guatemala. It was there that inspiration struck.

As the story goes, one day as he was waiting for his coffee to brew, he noticed a residue forming on the spout of the pot. Curious about the substance, he began experimenting and eventually found a way to make a form of soluble coffee that could be brewed instantly. 

Other inventors had already developed similar products, but Washington's work was the first to lead to a commercial venture. The G. Washington Coffee Refining 七乐彩彩票app下载 was formed in 1910, with production facilities in Brooklyn. 

By the start of World War I, Washington was ready to meet the demand for a coffee that could be made quickly in the field to keep troops awake and alert. The taste of the instant variety was far inferior to the traditionally brewed coffee, but it could be manufactured double-strength and even be drunk cold, perfect for the trenches. Used first by the Canadian Expeditionary Forces at the start of the war, it was adopted by the American military once the U.S. entered the conflict in 1917. Some say that at a point during the war, the U.S. Army requisitioned Washington's entire coffee output to ensure that doughboys would always be able to count on a cup of George.

Washington relocated the company from Brooklyn to Morris Plains in 1927, also purchasing a 七乐彩彩票app下载 for his wife and himself, a 200 acre Mendham estate which once belonged to Governor Franklin Murphy. The grounds were soon filled with a menagerie of exotic animals the coffee magnate had assembled while living on Long Island; reportedly he eventually expanded his collection to include zebras, llamas and deer in addition to many rare birds.

George Washington retired from the coffee business in 1943, at the age of 75, selling the company to American 七乐彩彩票平台 Products. He died three years later. While the coffee line was terminated in 1961, a spin-off brand of seasonings and broth developed in 1938 continues to this day. 



Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Chatham: where the press was as mighty as the musket

If you grew up in Union County or are a New Jersey news media junkie, you might remember the Elizabeth Daily Journal. Before finally succumbing in the early 1990s, the Journal proudly proclaimed its status as New Jersey's longest-printed newspaper, founded in 1779. What many of us didn't know was that wasn't always printed in Elizabeth, one of the state's oldest cities. Rather, it was born in the much smaller community of Chatham.

The other day I headed to this tidy Morris County town to check out what I thought was the site of the Journal's first printing press, marked by this sign on Main Street.


The timing of the paper's founding during the depths of the Revolutionary War, combined with the longevity of its existence, would lead you to believe that the Journal had started its life as a pro-independence broadsheet. With Washington's encampment just a few miles away in Morristown, it wouldn't seem logical or probable that a Tory or Loyalist newspaper would survive after the war ended. But still, I wondered about printer Shepard Kollock, noted on the historical marker as a former soldier. Why had he left the military? Had an injury sidelined him? Was he needed at 七乐彩彩票app下载 yet still eager to support the cause with his profession?

Back at Hidden New Jersey headquarters, we discovered this was another case of the information that wasn't included on the marker being just as interesting as what is. The short answer, courtesy of The WPA Guide to 1930s New Jersey, was that Kollock, "an ink-stained Revolutionist," resigned from the Continental Army "for the more vital task of combating the Tory press of New York City." True, but that's not the complete story.

Look further, and you'll discover that while Lieutenant Kollock may have left the army, it was with more than the blessing of his superiors. It was with their direct support and encouragement, born from an acute need. No newspapers were published in New Jersey at the start of the war, leaving state residents to rely on the highly-slanted and misleading Tory propaganda sheets from New York. Though a Patriot-friendly New Jersey Gazette was published in Burlington, its circulation area fell far short of northern and eastern New Jersey, leaving residents with no news source critical of Great Britain. Continental Army leadership realized that if the battle for hearts and minds was to be won, they'd have to get someone to publish a newspaper that promoted the cause of freedom and boosted troop morale.

Who to do it? Alexander Hamilton, stationed in Morristown with General George Washington at the time, suggested Kollock, whom he knew had been a printer in the West Indies. Washington and General Henry Knox agreed, either allowing Kollock to resign or giving him an honorable discharge, depending on which source you cite. The influence of his press, it seemed, was worth far more than whatever he would contribute militarily. The Continental Army gained an ardent and exceptionally loyal mouthpiece eager to publish news provided directly by Washington's Morristown headquarters.

That's not to say that Kollock had an easy life as writer and publisher of the Journal. Though the army supported him, fed him information and ensured he had sufficient paper stock to publish, his safety was another issue altogether. He had to move his press several times, as he was constantly under threat of being captured by the British. In fact, it's not entirely clear to me when he published at the exact location of the historic marker I visited. Other sources say that at some point he printed from a back room in a building that once stood somewhere on the current location of the Mall at Short Hills. His other covert locations? They may be marked with plaques on rocks around town, but I haven't found them yet.

Both publisher and newspaper survived the war well; Kollock even moved to New York once the British evacuated to start a paper there. After returning to New Jersey, he founded another newspaper in New Brunswick before moving the Journal to its final 七乐彩彩票app下载town of Elizabeth in 1786, operating at 39 Broad Street. He sold the paper in 1818 after being appointed the city's postmaster.

Today Kollock is remembered in his onetime 七乐彩彩票app下载town of Chatham with a ballfield named in his honor, hopefully reminding kids that the power of the press is mighty and potent.



Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Spring for a visit to Schooley's Mountain

I'll admit it: Morris County confuses me sometimes. Having grown up to the east, my primary reference point to the county was its very historic seat, Morristown, and I rarely had an occasion to go much farther beyond. If I had to go anywhere beyond, I'd usually take the quick route on Route 80 or, on occasion, a county road. Thus, despite four years of Hidden New Jersey barnstorming, I still get a bit disoriented on solo trips in the region.

This all came to a head over the weekend, when I endeavored to track down a few mills said to be in Warren County. I set myself to take Route 57 west from its terminus in Hackettstown, maybe stop in one or two of the old canal port towns if I got that far. Usually it's a matter of taking Route 46 to Hackettstown and keeping an eye out for signs leading to 57. Usually. This time, as the great philosopher Springsteen once sang, I took a wrong turn and I just kept going.

More accurately, I didn't take a turn when I was supposed to. Things didn't feel quite right from the start, but I persisted as the road brought me further away from 57 altogether. A street sign at an intersection told me I was on Schooley's Mountain Road. Okay... this is different, I thought as the road started climbing in elevation.

Still doubtful, I was somewhat reassured when I passed the Washington Township Police Department building. There are no fewer than four communities in New Jersey named for our first president. Could it be this was part of Washington, Warren County, the community along Route 57? Could two of them be within mere miles of each other?

As it turns out, yes, and Schooley's Mountain takes up a good part of the Morris County version. At about 1200 feet high, it's a commanding elevation, and its namesake road twists a bit as it descends into Long Valley. The chances of me getting to the mills within my time frame were waning with every mile of country七乐彩彩票登录 road I took forward. A quick look at the map revealed that it was quite a distance to the next major highway. Schooley's Mountain Road, a.k.a. County Road 517, was once the Washington Turnpike or Morristown-Easton Turnpike, leading to CR 513, which leads to, well, more country七乐彩彩票登录side before it gets you to a more modern highway. I'd be lucky to find a gas station for miles.

Fuel for me was a little easier to find: the Schooley's Mountain General Store puts together a decent fresh mozzarella and roasted pepper sandwich with pesto. As I lunched, I perused the WPA Guide to 1930s New Jersey to determine whether I was close to tripping on a good story. I discovered that the mountain was named for the family that once owned farmland there, but that's just incidental to its true claim to fame as New Jersey's first resort, perhaps the nation's as well.

Morris County is well known to historians as an iron-rich region, once hosting colonial-era mines that earned it reknown as the arsenal of the Revolution. It wasn't the ore that drew thousands of people to Schooley's Mountain, however. It was the waters. Known alternately as chalybeate or ferruginous waters, or salts of iron, the mineral content of the Schooley's Mountain springs were acclaimed for their healing powers, first by the Lenape and then by European settlers.

Visitors seeking the waters' restorative powers first stayed on the site in tents. The history is somewhat cloudy, but from what I can tell, Joseph Heath was the first to capitalize on this natural phenomenon, opening accommodations on the mountain in 1801. He later built a larger facility called Heath House, which then drew competitors as well as regular visitors. By 1815 the springs were well known to be the purest of their kind in the nation, drawing health-minded devotees from all over.

Depending on the source, two or three more inns were built and by the late 19th century, accommodations for a few hundred were available to people who wanted to sample the spring or just get back to nature, away from the chaos of America's burgeoning cities. Schooley's Mountain reportedly attracted a wide range of celebrities, some even taking a break from their vacations to spend a few days. President Grant and his daughter stayed at the mountain's Belmont Hotel when they wanted a change from their summer visits in Long Branch. Rosters of the notables who are said to have taken to the waters include all the usual suspects: the Vanderbilts, Roosevelts and Thomas Edison, as well as several governors and former governors.

It was all gone, however, by the 1930s, apparently for the reason so many other New Jersey vacation spots suffered: improved transportation made it easier for visitors to go farther afield to other resorts. Detonation for a road construction project had reportedly ruined the spring site; some stories also note that the spring house itself was dismantled by highway workers. According to Henry Charlton Beck in The Roads of 七乐彩彩票平台: Lanes and Legends of New Jersey, the Heath House may have been taken down and moved to Brooklyn.

When I hear stories of natural resources made inaccessible, it leads me to wonder whether they've simply been taken out of public view. Today, there's a Heath Village on the Hackettstown end of Schooley's Mountain Road, a seniors facility that offers a range of options from independent living to nursing care. A conspiracy theorist might wonder if the 七乐彩彩票app下载's operators have hit upon something: could the waters extend life? Do the locals guard a still-existent spring from the outside world, sheltering it from future exploitation?

What it all says to me is that there's room for much more Hidden New Jersey exploration on Schooley's Mountain. And I wouldn't mind grabbing another sandwich at the general store.



Saturday, December 20, 2014

The silken past of Stirling

Paterson may be nationally known as Silk City, but if you wander around New Jersey long enough, you'll find other places with legacies of weaving the lustrous fabric. A historic marker on Route 206 noting a silk truck hijacking and resulting murder led us to the story of Newton's silken past, and now another informative plaque further proves that the Great Falls area didn't have an exclusive on mills.

A few weeks ago I was meeting a friend for lunch in the Long Hill community of Stirling when I came upon this description of the village.


Given the placid, sometimes rural charm of much of Morris County, it was a bit of a surprise to discover that Stirling had been an industrial town. Looking around, I saw only a small business area surrounded by suburban houses. We've been to plenty of factory towns, and Stirling doesn't look like one. If there was a story to be told, I'd have to do some digging.

As it turns out, the hamlet of Stirling owes its existence to the foresight of an insurance company and a railroad. Shortly after the Mutual Life Insurance 七乐彩彩票app下载 of New York announced interest in investing in Morris County land in the late 1860s, the Passaic Valley and Peapack Railroad purchased land in present day Stirling for the construction of a railroad station and right of way. Trains started running in 1872, and the line would eventually extend to the Delaware River, raising the prospect of Pennsylvania coal being shipped through the new community. Organizers named the community for William Alexander, Lord Stirling, the Revolutionary War notable who'd once owned land in the area.

Reliable transportation made it easy to bring in raw materials and labor, and ship out finished product, but first a town needed to be built. Bit by bit, the village came together, starting with eight houses and a railroad depot, followed by a Presbyterian church. The first factory was built on Railroad Avenue to make buttons; it eventually employed 125 people. By 1885 the plant was silenced, victim of an economic downturn, and the entire village, houses and all, was put on the market.

The Stirling silk mill
Silk came to Stirling in 1886 when Jersey City mill owner Claude Chaffanjon bought the factory and surrounding buildings and 七乐彩彩票app下载s. Having immigrated to the United States years earlier, he brought skilled Italian and French weavers to work in the mill; as was the custom in Europe, many others came with looms of their own and weaved in their 七乐彩彩票app下载s. The boon in population and industrial output brought growth in the community, too: Chaffanjon donated land for a new Catholic church, and an additional public 七乐彩彩票平台 was built.

Chaffanjon's stay in Stirling was brief; within a year he'd sold the factory to Julius Schlachter, who brought German and Swiss weavers to town. In 1896 the mill burned down, replaced a year later by a new building. Within 25 years of the opening of the original mill, Stirling's population had become a veritable map of Europe, with Armenians, Germans, Italians, French, Hungarians and Russians mixed with the local born population. Their children generally attended 七乐彩彩票平台 up to the eighth grade, foregoing high 七乐彩彩票平台 to follow their parents' path into the mills. When Stirling Silk went bankrupt in 1908, it was bought by the Swiss company Schwartzenbach-Huber.

Though 30 miles away from the state's silk hub, the mill at Stirling wasn't immune to the labor unrest that struck Paterson. A June 1915 New York Times article notes that months of unrest followed management's decision to enact a new wage scale, and that several looms were being sent to other Schwartzenbach-Huber locations in Bayonne and Pennsylvania, presumably where labor was more compliant.

Nor was the Stirling plant protected from a wave of silk thefts that swept the region in the early 1920s. The fabric was a hot commodity - foreign suppliers were still recovering from the ravages of World War II, making U.S.-manufactured silk that much more desirable on the open market. A few months after thieves hijacked a silk mill truck on present-day Route 206 in Sussex County, thieves struck Schwartzenbach-Huber. On November 24, 1924 three masked and armed bandits broke into the factory and beat a 60 year old night watchman unconscious when he confronted them. After restraining him with cloth, they pulled a getaway truck up to the shipping dock and loaded it with 50 cases of silk worth a total of $35,000.

Stirling's silk days have been over for the better part of a century. Schwartzenbach-Huber had sold the mill and housing in 1928, but the weaving trades continued in much smaller companies around the village up to about 1940. As for the old silk mill itself, it burned to the ground in 1974 in its incarnation as a polyurethane foam factory.



Sunday, November 23, 2014

Discovering more of the Morris Canal at Montville

Since we visited the Jim and Mary Lee Museum of the Morris Canal in Stewartsville back in April, I've been wondering where other, more hidden remnants of the canal's unique technology might be hiding. We may have found at least a little of it.

If you're not a frequent Hidden New Jersey reader or a canal enthusiast, the prospect of finding indications of century-old transportation infrastructure might not seem all that exciting, but bear with me, or take a quick read of the original story. We're talking about an important part of a system that helped drive northern New Jersey's economy in the late 19th century, left to rot until the curiosity of one man revealed it decades later.

In a nutshell, the canal's 23 inclined planes were ingenious machinery that used the power of the canal's own water to lift boats onto cable carts that drew them up or down sizeable hills where ordinary canal locks wouldn't have been practical or maybe even possible. This technology allowed planners to build the canal across some of the hilliest parts of the state, rising and falling more than 1600 feet over a 102 mile route. Coal and other products could then be shipped economically along the canal from Phillipsburg to Jersey City and the New York markets beyond.

Little of the Morris Canal is visible today, but for the occasional brown historic signs that mark its path through Warren, Morris and Passaic Counties. Once the canal went bust in 1924, the State of New Jersey filled in much of the waterway that wasn't appropriated for other purposes like the Newark City Subway. The flumes and towers built to power the plane mechanisms were demolished, their remains tossed into the shafts and tunnels (tailrace and penstock) that once directed water through turbines. Decades later, Lee excavated the plane near Stewartsville, eventually building a fascinating museum and allowing visitors an up-close look at the tunnels where the power was generated.

After learning about the plane technology from Jim Lee's descendents, we've taken note of a few of the locations where brown roadside markers note the former presence of the planes. One of the locations is now marked by a welcome sign to the Morris Canal Greenway in Montville. The site hasn't been excavated, nor is there a canal museum nearby. However, it's a heck of a lot more accessible to the average person, just a short drive from Route 287 on U.S. 202.

Ivan recently drove past and noticed that the sign had been put up at the start of a narrow road that juts off of 202 near a couple of curves in the meandering highway. In that part of the state, 202 winds quite a bit, and at that particular juncture, enough older buildings are clustered to lead you to believe that it had been a town center of sorts many years ago. We parked in a lot next to a small office building and walked up the street to view the plane.

Our lessons from the Stewartsville visit served us well: we quickly recognized the boundaries of the inclined plane, well marked with broad and thick paving stones at the edges. Though sturdy trees now grow where cradle carts once drew canal boats up the hill, we could easily envision how the whole thing worked. I was tempted to kick up some topsoil to see if any of the thick wire cables remained around the property, but there appeared to be no metal remains of the machinery left around. As I learned once we got back to Hidden New Jersey headquarters, members of the Montville Historical Society, the town's Department of Public Works and the Canal Society of New Jersey had worked for two years to clear the area of trash and illegal dumping before the park was dedicated last year. Eagle Scout candidates followed up by constructing a welcome sign and mulching the path to allow visitors to enjoy the park.

For visitors less familiar with the canal and its workings, informative historic markers at the bottom and top of the plane, explain the technology and the impact on the Montville community. Photos on one of them show a built-up commercial area where the undulating terrain forced the canal to cross the path of 202 not once but twice in about a tenth of a mile. The plane we'd discovered, it turns out, was one of two that were built in town to accommodate the canal's hilly path there. This one alone elevated canal boats more than 70 feet in altitude in just a matter of yards.

The Montville Canal Park doesn't have obvious borders or parking, and several houses are nearby, so if you stop by to visit, be sure not to wander too far afield. That said, I couldn't help but wonder whether any of the neighbors have considered taking Jim Lee's lead. To my knowledge, nobody's tried to excavate the powerhouse shaft or the tailrace tunnel that once let water back out to the lower canal. What an adventure that would be!


Friday, November 7, 2014

The proof is in the pudding(stone)

Virtually since we started exploring, Ivan's been extolling the virtues of a a certain type of stone that's rarely found anywhere but a small part of Northern New Jersey. Here's his account of this remarkable, rustically-beautiful rock.

When we think of hidden New Jersey, we have come to consider the historic buildings, the out-of-the-way natural areas or long departed personalities that graced, or still grace the Garden State. However, perhaps the most hidden aspect of the state is the bedrock that sits many yards below our feet as we explore the “surface” Jersey. Geologic history has literally shaped our state with much of the area north of the Raritan Bay made up of rock that dates back to a time that predated the dinosaurs, while the southern part of the state consists of sediments that were deposited long afterward.

Green Pond conglomerate in place on Green Pond Road in Rockaway
Occasionally some “buried treasure,” in the form of distinctive rock formations, finds its way to the surface as a result of erosion or modern day construction. Glaciers have also exposed some of the state’s foundation or have transported rocks from one location to another.

A famous example of these out of place rocks (known as glacial erratics) is Tripod Rock in Morris County. A frequently found glacial erratic in the Montville and Boonton area is a distictively attractive rock known as Green Pond conglomerate. It's part of a larger rock formation that stretches from the New York State Thruway southwestward all the way down to Route 80 in Morris County. Alternately, it's known as Schunemunk puddingstone after another of its locations, on New York's Schunemunk Mountain. The United States Geologic Survey website has a page dedicated to Green Pond Conglomerate so I have no problem claiming this rock formation in the name of New Jersey.

A conglomerate is a rock that consists of a matrix that has pieces or fragments of other rock (known as “clasts”) mixed in. “Puddingstone” is a more colloquial expression that refers to this uneven mixture of rocks. In the case of Green Pond Conglomerate, the matrix is a reddish purple siltstone with white quartz fragments as its clasts. What I had found out however, is that these erratics are not far from 七乐彩彩票app下载. They originated as a formation in Green Pond, a section of Rockaway Township. The matrix consisted of a reddish silt or clay that eventually hardened into rock during the Silurian period about 420 million to 445 million years ago. There the rock sat minding its own business until about 50,000 years ago when the Wisconsin Glacier slid across what is now New Jersey to slice off chunks of our hero to deposit the fragments across northern Morris County.

Over the years, Green Pond Conglomerate has been prized for its decorative qualities and has been used to construct stone walls and other landscaping and construction features on many residential and commercial properties. However attractive it looks as part of these structures, I recently had an interest in finding it where it originated so Sue and I took a ride to Green Pond to find the mother lode. Turning off Route 23 in Newfoundland onto (what else?) Green Pond Road, we could easily see the imposing ridge of Bearfort Mountain to our west. The ridge paralleled Green Pond Road, as we traveled south, so whenever we saw a side road to our right we turned in hopes of getting closer to the ridge that must have been the source of the conglomerate. We soon found ourselves in the Green Pond, a lake community that sits on the shore of… you guessed it: Green Pond.

Luckily, we found a small dirt parking lot that serves a trailhead. A friendly 七乐彩彩票app下载owner was seeing to her flower garden and was happy to let us know that the conglomerate could be found in the area. Unfortunately, we weren’t dressed for hiking so we passed on a trip along the trail but we could see a characteristic color to the ridge in that area. Even better, however was when we continued south on Green Pond Road and found a large outcropping of the conglomerate evident as a result of the cut that was made to construct the road, itself. We had found the origin of the rock formation that bears the name of one of New Jersey’s own communities. It was certainly worth the drive.



Friday, August 22, 2014

French, botany and a debate on socialism: Just another week at Miss Dana's School for Young Ladies

Today it's the site of a wine store, but back in the day, 163 South Street in Morristown hosted one of the nation's most progressive educational institutions for young women. No historical markers commemorate the site, but Miss Dana's School for Young Ladies deserves note as an incubator for independent thought for women of the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

I wish I could say I discovered Miss Dana's totally on my own, but getting there was more like a scavenger hunt than a field trip. Our friend Joe Bilby, co-author of 350 Years of New Jersey History, From Stuyvesant to Sandy, mentioned Dorothy Parker's birthday as one of the historical nuggets he regularly posts on the National Guard Militia Museum of New Jersey . Research on the Algonquin Round Table wit led to Miss Dana, but more on that connection later.

As we learned when we stumbled on the site of the Bordentown Female College七乐彩彩票平台, women's education in 19th century America generally took one of two routes. Some of the institutes, seminaries or colleges founded exclusively for girls focused on the type of higher education that we're familiar with today. Others were basically finishing 七乐彩彩票平台s that prepared daughters of wealthy parents for their entry into polite society, teaching manners, literature and the culinary arts so they could have a decent conversation with their future husbands and neighbors.

Despite the impression you might get from its innocent-sounding name, Miss Dana's School was a serious educational institution. The property on South Street was originally 七乐彩彩票app下载 to the more studious-sounding Morris Female Institute but became Miss Dana's when Elizabeth Dana leased it in 1877 after leaving her English and French Boarding School in Dobbs Ferry, NY. What happened to the Female Institute isn't clear, but if the scathing assessment by Rutgers Professor G.W. Atherton is any indication, it didn't live up to its scholarly name. (Either that, or Atherton made a hobby of exposing self-professed educators who consistently employed bad grammar and paltry vocabulary.)

Miss Dana's proved popular with prominent families, both in New Jersey and around the country七乐彩彩票登录. Classes were small, limited to 15 girls taught in seminar style to assure personal attention. Students learned the classics -- Greek, Latin, literature, history and the Bible -- in addition to mathematics and hard sciences like chemistry and physics. Botany, psychology, studio art, music, logic and other electives were also available to round out the students' education. Noted scholars visited the 七乐彩彩票平台 to lecture on current events and politics; in fact, Reverend William Griffis, one of the first Americans to travel extensively to Japan, came to the 七乐彩彩票平台 to share his impressions of the East. (You might recall we "met" Rev. Griffis through our research on the Japanese graves in New Brunswick's Willow Grove Cemetery.)

Parents could send their daughters to Miss Dana's with the assurance that if the girls took to their studies, they'd be assured a path to further success at one of the nation's top women's colleges. Graduating from her 七乐彩彩票平台 meant an automatic acceptance to Vassar College七乐彩彩票平台, with no other entrance requirements necessary.

Unlike her predecessors at the Morris Female Institute, Miss Dana had a penchant for excellence that transcended the classroom. As one indication, in 1893 the 七乐彩彩票平台 became the first in the state to hire a resident nurse. Marietta Burtis Squire was at the top of her field; at other points in her career she was the first president of the State Board of Examiners for Nurses and Superintendent of the Orange Memorial Hospital.

Elizabeth Dana died in April 1908, having prepared a few hundred women for higher education and productive lives. The 七乐彩彩票平台 closed four years later, but her legacy lives on. Just after her death, students and alumnae endowed a reading prize in her name at Vassar, which the college continues to award to the student who undertakes and completes the best independent reading project over their summer break.

So what's the connection to Dorothy Parker, poet, author and satirist? Born in Long Branch as Dorothy Rothschild, she lived with her family in Manhattan but boarded at Miss Dana's after a stint at a Catholic 七乐彩彩票平台 in the city. (She joked that she was encouraged to leave after characterizing the immaculate conception as "spontaneous combustion.") She graduated in 1911 as part of the 七乐彩彩票平台's last class. Her biographer, Arthur F. Kinney, suggests that the education Parker got in the Morristown 七乐彩彩票平台 may have influenced her worldview and political interests. As he notes, the weekly current events discussions during her senior year "focused on such themes as exploitation in the slums, reports of muckrakers, and the growth of the Socialist party." The final issue of the 七乐彩彩票平台 paper before her graduation included articles on child labor in American sweatshops and U.S. expansion in the Pacific region.

One has to wonder how many other girls' 七乐彩彩票平台s in that day were encouraging that kind of discussion. While finishing 七乐彩彩票平台s taught young women how to conduct a pleasant conversation, Miss Dana encouraged her students to think for themselves. She was well ahead of her time.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

A variety store of history: the King 七乐彩彩票平台stead in Ledgewood

Our visit to Ledgewood's historic King Store opened our eyes to the retail world of a small community along the Morris Canal in the 19th-early 20th century timeframe. A walk next door to Theodore King's Queen Anne/vernacular style 七乐彩彩票app下载stead led us to an experience which, if it were a shopping destination, would be a mall with surprisingly varied stores. I expected it would give us a view into the merchant class, much as the store had represented the community and transient customers, but the mix of exhibits led me to think about a lot more than that.

This view of the King family 七乐彩彩票app下载 shows the front porch
to the right, side porch to the left, with Mr. King's office at center,
probably added on after the house was built.
One of the things I love about local house museums is the stories they tell through the hodgepodge of artifacts they display, and the King 七乐彩彩票app下载stead is no exception. The buildings themselves are sometimes the only place where small historical societies can show their diverse collections or share what's remarkable about the community. From their perspective, I'd gather the arrangement is often a blessing because they don't have the resources or sufficient artifacts to interpret an entire house for one given era. In my eyes, museums like these are one-stop wonders where I can learn what local residents find most remarkable about their own communities.

The King 七乐彩彩票app下载stead is kind of like that. Built in the mid 1880s with the proceeds of the entrepreneur's many businesses, it now serves two purposes. Walk up across the broad, inviting porch and into the house, and you can turn to the left to learn about the King family and their life there, or check out the rooms on the right for a view into the history of the Roxbury area. Or both.

Heading to the left, we were greeted by Roxbury Historic Trust President Miriam Morris, who led us through the house, narrating its history and the Trust's efforts to bring it back to its former glory. The Roxbury Rotary stabilized the 七乐彩彩票app下载 after they finished work on the King Store, upgrading utilities and fixing the chimney before turning the property over to the Trust. As you walk around, you see places where more work needs to be done, but the overall impression is of visiting a very much lived-in older relative's 七乐彩彩票app下载, complete with vintage and antique furniture.

Theodore King's small office stands just off a corner of the parlor, ready to receive business, but the 七乐彩彩票app下载 feels more like the dominion of his daughter Emma Louise, the last of the family to live there. There's even a collection of Depression glass laid out on the dining room table, a temporary exhibit that underscores another facet of life in the community over the years.

The dining room offers a pleasant surprise: a wrap-around mural of a pastoral scene, with lovely trees and some grazing cattle. Painted by British artist James W. Marland in 1935, it may include elements of the scenery that once surrounded the house, though it's more reminiscent of English country七乐彩彩票登录side. Not much is known about the artist, who first arrived in the United States in the early 1900s and seems to have settled in Morristown and Budd Lake several years later, returning to England just before his death in 1972. As part of its research on Marland, the Trust is looking for additional surviving examples of his work in the area. Miriam mentioned that he'd done some additional work in the bathroom and had stencilled the upper walls of one of the upstairs bedrooms.

Heading to the other side of the house, we got another surprise. A full room contains an exhibit inspired by the Minisink Trail, the Lenape thoroughfare that predates Main Street, the road on which the house and store now stand. As one of the signatories of the 2010 with the Lenape Nation of Pennsylvania, the Trust is committed to sharing the tribe's history and relationship with the region. In particular, the room's exhibit covers the forced departure of much of the Lenape population from New Jersey and the re-emergence of the community despite the common belief that no natives live here.

Closer to the front of the house, the rest of the Ledgewood/Roxbury area gets its due through the "Heels, Wheels and Keels" room. Drawn on the walls is a representation of the transportation routes through the area: the Minisink Trail, early 19th century turnpikes, the Morris Canal and current-day highways. Reflecting the "innovation" portion of the theme for New Jersey's 350th anniversary, a temporary exhibit highlights the inventions and technology developed in the area and by local residents, a good part of it from AT&T and Bell Labs.

Like the King Store, the 七乐彩彩票app下载stead is open only once a month, on the second Sunday afternoon of the month from April through December. It's well worth a visit, not just as a symbol of how New Jerseyans lived and worked, but as a great example of the classic community museum. Stop by and tell them Hidden New Jersey sent you!


Friday, August 15, 2014

Morris County's old Ledgewood Circle is no more, but if you follow a couple of small brown directional signs to the Drakesville Historic District, you'll find one of the earliest remnants of what made this crossroads the focus of a rural community from the heyday of the Morris Canal until the early 1900s.

Just off the intersection of Routes 10 and 46, the Roxbury Historic Trust is in the process of restoring the King Store and 七乐彩彩票平台stead. Hidden New Jersey friend Kelly Palazzi suggested we check it out, but it wasn't easy: the property is open only on the second Sunday of the month and is closed entirely from January through March.

It's easy to imagine a few neighbors trading news
on the porch of the old King Store.
Our welcome to the King Store was probably a lot like the one a canal boat crew would have gotten in the 1800s: the proprietors were standing in the doorway of the stone building and called out a greeting as we pulled up. Walking onto the porch and into the store was like stepping back in time: the interior was lined with wooden shelves, groceries and sundries of a previous age stocked here and there. A cast-iron stove stands in the center of the room, just in front of a large scale, and a tall set of cubby holes near the door sufficed as the community's post office. In the back room, the wooden doors of a large icebox are open to help visitors imagine how milk and other perishables were kept fresh in the days before refrigeration.

Our friendly guides explained that the store was built around 1826 on what was then the Essex-Morris-Sussex Turnpike, one of the first roads chartered by the New Jersey Legislature at the start of the 19th century. The original owners, the Woodruff family, operated the store until 1835 before closing it for unknown reasons. Two years later, canal boat owner Albert Riggs bought the property and reopened it to serve the local community and the increasing traffic through the nearby Morris Canal lock and two planes. Riggs transferred ownership and operation of the store to his son-in-law Theodore King in 1873, and the new storekeeper and his wife Emma moved into the living quarters above the mercantile.

Brands of the past find their 七乐彩彩票app下载s on the King Store shelves.
Though competition from the railroads was already digging into the canal's business, King was on his way to prosperity. Besides the popular general store, he got into the mining business and bought significant tracts of land, some of which he sold at a handsome profit while retaining the rest as vacation rental space. He also operated hotels and a steamboat company to cater to the tourist trade at nearby Lake Hopatcong. The proceeds from all of these businesses enabled him to build a comfortable Victorian 七乐彩彩票app下载 on the lot next to the store, where he could keep an eye on business while enjoying time with his wife and their daughter, Emma Louise.

King died in 1926, and with him the store. His daughter simply locked the door, leaving the goods sitting on the shelves. Dwindling traffic on Canal had ended with its termination a few years before. According to our guide, family members would come in from time to time to take items they fancied, but for the most part, the building was a de facto time capsule. Louise King divided her time between New Jersey and Florida until her death in 1975.

Fresh milk, anyone?
A few years later, the Roxbury Rotary Club took on the store as a civic project, clearing the overgrown, weeded lot and acquiring state Green Acres funding to buy the property for the township. Now the responsibility of the Roxbury Historic Trust, the King Store is slowly being restored; a new slate roof is the latest improvement, along with a refurbished scale sitting next to the porch.

While work clearly needs to be done to stabilize the structure to prevent further decay, there's much to be said for keeping a good part of the current look. Too much paint and varnish would take away the character of a classic general store. As it stands, it doesn't take much to imagine a local farmer or canal mule tender at the counter, ordering supplies and settling his bill.

The next stop on our visit to historic Drakestown was the King house, just next door... but that's a story for our next installment.


Tuesday, June 17, 2014

One if by land... the Revolutionary Watchung Mountain signal beacons

No matter how much we think we know about New Jersey's role in the American Revolution, no matter how many relevant sites we've unearthed in our explorations, there always seems to be a new one around the corner.

Or, in this case, at the corner, as Ivan discovered on a ridge of the Watchung Mountains in Long Hill. Sitting rather innocuously near the intersection of Long Hill Road and Pleasant Plains Road was this plaque on a rock:


So, what's the story?

The Watchungs were strategically crucial during the Revolution, as General George Washington chose the protection of the triple-ridged mountain chain for part or all of four winters during the conflict. Whether he was encamped at Middlebrook in Somerset County or in Morristown, the altitude and safety of the mountains allowed him to keep an eye on the British troop movements across the eastern New Jersey lowlands while guarding the local area and protecting himself from potential kidnap raids.

Ivan points out the fine view of the first ridge
of the Watchungs, to the east of Long Hill.
Once the British were spotted, the news needed to be transmitted to the local militias and to the Continental troops camped in the area. The old Paul Revere* "The British are coming!" method wouldn't quite work with so much ground to cover, leading General William Alexander (Lord Stirling) to a better idea. Capitalizing on the Watchungs' roughly 400 foot altitude, he ordered 23 beacons to be erected at strategic points along the ridge during the spring of 1779. Each was to be constructed as a wooden pyramid with a 14 foot base, using Alexander's precise directions for height and type of logs used. Uniformity was key: if they were to be reliable signals, they had to burn equally as well and put out an adequate volume of smoke to be visible for long distances during the day.

The beacons were used several times to call out the militia to ward off the British, including the June 1780 battles of Connecticut Farms and Springfield. They served their purpose: while the Redcoats made several raids in the eastern lowlands, they were never able to reach the Watchungs or Washington.

After the war, the signals were mostly forgotten, only a few commemorated with markers, leaving us to wonder exactly where they were located. Papers belonging to Governor William Livingston identified the men responsible for lighting some of the Somerset County beacons, leading historians to wonder if those signals were located on or near those patriots' 七乐彩彩票app下载s. If that theory holds true, the Long Hill beacon may have been the responsibility of Morris County Militia Colonel Cornelius Ludlow, who lived in the 七乐彩彩票app下载 just across Pleasant Plains Road from the marker Ivan found.

In any case, we've got a new quest on our hands: finding 22 New Jersey beacon sites. Have you seen them, and if so, where?



* Or, for true Revolutionary War trivia lovers, Sybil Ludington.

Friday, June 13, 2014

If Batman had a subway, it would be in Rockaway

We've visited our share of old mine sites over the past few years. We've also stumbled on some lesser-known aspects of New Jersey's rich railroad history. We've even focused on railroads that overcame major obstacles to create a shorter path from mine to market.

But bats in a mine? Okay, that makes sense. I'm cool with bats and the great work they do in keeping the insect population down. If they're happy hanging out in an old mine, more power to 'em.

Bats in what could be considered New Jersey's first subway? Now we're talking!

Calling the Hibernia hibernaculum a subway might be stretching it a little, but not by much. I first caught wind of the Hibernia Underground Railroad when I was researching another story on Morris County's mining industry. Just on the name alone, one could be distracted into wondering it might have something to do with the abolitionist movement of the 18th and 19th centuries, but this was, literally a railroad that operated underground.

The history of mining in Morris County, of course, dates back to colonial times, with the area's iron-rich hills prompting New Jersey's status as the arsenal of the Revolution. Starting in 1722, a series of independent mines operating off the same rich iron source became known collectively as the Hibernia mines. It appears that there was enough ore for everyone to profit, and that the owners of the mines pretty much worked in harmony.

As technology improved, mining practices evolved, making it a no-brainer for companies to take advantage of steam-driven transportation to shuttle ore from the mine to the smelter and perhaps beyond. Some of the mine owners banded together in 1864 to incorporate the Hibernia Mine Railroad to transport ore from the source to the Morris Canal. We'd found evidence of this railroad in Somerset County, of all places, where its former trestle bridge was relocated first to Hillsborough and now to Raritan, where it's a footbridge in a county park.

Other mine owners at Hibernia took the idea further in 1873, digging an adit (or horizontal tunnel) through the mountainous terrain to connect all of the mines with a railroad. The new Hibernia Underground Railroad shuttled ore from about 300 feet below the peak the mountain itself, with tracks that stretched about a mile from mine to the mouth of the adit. From there, the Mine Railroad took over, making the transfer to the canal or, in later years, farther to other railroads.

By the early 1900s, some of the mines were exhausted, while iron magnate Joseph Wharton consolidated the rest under his own holdings, connecting his own railroad and effectively putting the Hibernia Mine Railroad out of business. The Underground Railroad continued to operate until about 1907, when it lost its connection to the canal. In reality, its years were numbered anyway, as the last ore was mined from Hibernia in 1916.

Disused or abandoned mines tend to be magnets for adventure seekers of all kinds, and Hibernia was no exception. Probably from the moment the mine went belly-up, locals started poking around the adit and mine shafts, eager to search the bowels of the earth or maybe just to get away from naggy parents.

Thing was, though: people weren't the only ones to satisfy their fascination with these holes in the ground. Perhaps due to human disturbance in the caves they'd normally seek out, bats found Hibernia mine, particularly the horizontal path of the railroad, to be irresistible. It's not known exactly when they started staking the tunnel out, but the first report of bat habitation was filed in 1939, with several thousand little brown bats and a smattering of eastern long-eared bats observed. In subsequent decades, researchers observed as many as 20,000 bats, leading many to declare the underground railroad tunnel and the mine as one of the largest bat hibernacula (or hibernation spot) in the nation. A bat enthusiast named John Hall studied the mine and tunnel extensively in the '60s and '70s, banding several and maintaining population counts.

Trouble was, vandals and mischief makers continued to invade the mine, despite landowners' efforts to block the entrance with haphazard barriers. For many years, advocates suggested installing a grate-style gate which would allow bats to travel freely while deterring humans, but to little effect. The land above the mine was slated for development, with large 七乐彩彩票app下载s and a golf course planned, and the mine was seen as a huge liability. In 1989 the landowner installed an impenetrable foot-thick concrete wall at the mouth of the adit.

The Hibernia Underground Railroad: all aboard for bats,
not so much for humans. Courtesy NJ DEP.
Their usual entry point blocked, the Hibernia bats were essentially buried alive, with just a few very small openings to the outside world. Local human friends of the bats reached out to Bat Conservation International and the New Jersey Division of Fish Game and Wildlife for help, ultimately negotiating with the property owner to create a mine opening sufficient for the bats' easy transit. Through a long and winding process that persisted through successive owners and a few years, advocates finally succeeded in getting the much needed gate installed.

Even after this monumental success, the future for the Hibernia bats is uncertain. The 2010 mine census indicated that, fewer than 2000 bats hibernated there, due to the white-nose syndrome fungus that has decimated the population in several states around the country七乐彩彩票登录. Two years later, the wintering bat population was down to 537. Subsequent counts show somewhat of a leveling-off of the decline statewide, so perhaps there's hope that the worst of it is over. Scientists are still working to better understand the fungus, its causes and impact on bat reproduction, with hope that positive human intervention can help.

Here's hoping that the bats' prospects turn around soon. How cool would it be to watch hundreds - thousands - of bats emerging from this old mine train tunnel in the spring?



Friday, March 14, 2014

Footloose in Motown: Monsieur Louis Sansay's dance 七乐彩彩票平台

Who knew that six degrees of Kevin Bacon would bring us to Morristown? We certainly weren't thinking in that direction when we stopped to read the historic marker posted in front of the house at 17 Dehart Street.

According to the sign, the story is simple enough:

Monsieur Louis Sansay, 
French dancing 七乐彩彩票平台 here. 
House was site of ball honoring
Lafayette in 1825. Later 七乐彩彩票app下载
of General Joseph Revere.

It's not until you do a little research that you come to see some parallels to the story of a young man who brings dance to a town where it was forbidden. Well, parallels through a mirror, because the whole thing happens in reverse.

There's little to be found about the life of Monsieur Louis Sansay before his arrival in Morristown in the early 1800s. Some digging revealed a Louis Sansay who was married to Leonora Sansay, author and confidante of Aaron Burr, but all evidence points to that Louis being another person altogether. (A shame, because that story is a classic Burr entanglement.) The dancing Sansay might have been a French nobleman who escaped his 七乐彩彩票app下载 country七乐彩彩票登录 during its revolution, or perhaps he'd come to the New World to aid the Americans against the British. Others opine that he may have arrived here from Saint-Domingue, seeking refuge from the Haitian revolution. Or maybe he was, like so many before him and since, looking for new adventure in a new land. We don't know.

What we do know is that his dancing 七乐彩彩票平台 was very popular among the well-to-do locals, who were more than happy to send their children to him to learn the graceful steps of the time. In time, he became the best known dance master in New Jersey, with a loyal following and monthly recitals performed by the young ladies and gentlemen under his instruction.

Sansay's renown seems to have made his 七乐彩彩票app下载 the logical choice to host the dance ball to honor the Marquis de Lafayette during his July 1825 visit to Morristown. Touring the United States as the "nation's guest" at the invitation of President James Madison, Lafayette was revered for his contributions to the fight for American independence, and the opportunity to entertain the hero said much about Sansay's standing in the community.

The Lafayette fete, however, seems to have been the apex of Sansay's career in Morristown. A growing temperance movement, fueled by the fiery sermons of Presbyterian minister Rev. Albert Barnes, led to dwindling enrollment in dance classes. Gentle minuets and waltzes were characterized as earthly pleasures luring young students away from faith and worship; God-fearing parents would not allow their children be led astray. Deprived of his livelihood, Sansay closed the 七乐彩彩票平台 and departed town, leaving Morristown less than footloose.

What became of Sansay is as much a mystery as his life before Morristown. Some say he moved to Elizabeth, but I've found no evidence of that. One does wonder, however, about the survival of his legacy among his students. Did they continue to dance together despite the minister's admonitions? Perhaps they found a barn outside of town where they could share their love of movement away from disapproving eyes.


Monday, February 3, 2014

O, Wilderness: Untrammeled nature 26 miles from Times Square

The words "American wilderness" conjure thoughts of Davy Crockett, mountain lions and buffalo. Broad expanses of prairie grass waving in the wind. Deep forests inhabited by rugged outdoors people who've built their own roughly-hewn log cabins.

However, the first officially designated National Wilderness Area in the United States is located in the Morris County hamlet of New Vernon. That would be the eastern half of , comprising about 3660 acres of marsh, shrub and wetlands forest.

七乐彩彩票app下载Great Swamp NWR, Hidden New JerseyHaving traveled the Great Swamp's roads and trails many times over the years, I was recently startled to find a sign announcing as much at a trailhead at the end of Woodland Road. Ivan and I were there to find Rusty blackbirds and had, as is typical only in New Jersey, driven past several houses to get there. Beyond the sign was forest and marsh untouched by humans, but for a small footbridge and blaze markers.

On its face, it seems odd that the first official National Wilderness should be here in New Jersey, rather than in the great untouched spaces of Alaska, Colorado or Arizona. Those states and their neighbors do dominate the roster of more than 750 designated areas, but when you understand the intent of the original Wilderness Act, the rationale for the Great Swamp's vanguard status becomes clear.

Enacted in 1964, when the fight for clean air and water was gaining traction, the statute was intended to protect areas "where the earth and its community of life are untrammeled by man... land retaining its primeval character and influence." Federally-owned land is eligible for wilderness status if human impact is minimal, the land offers opportunities for solitude or primitive recreation, is large enough to be preserved in an unimpaired condition, and contains ecological or geological value. Naturally, wilderness lands are protected from future development.

If there's any place that could use a good wilderness, it's New Jersey, where rampant population and commercial growth place enormous development pressure on the remaining open spaces. The Great Swamp, which represents remnants of the ancient, glacial Lake Passaic, is a case in point. For many years, it was sparsely developed, its few farms dedicated to the production of salt hay. Many of the surrounding communities were 七乐彩彩票app下载 to large estates, but for the most part, the soft, murky ground of the swamp discouraged any further development within its informal boundaries.

Enter the Port Authority of New York, which apparently never met a wetlands it felt it couldn't tame. In late 1959 the development-minded agency announced plans for the construction, within the marshes of the Great Swamp, of an jetport twice the size of Idlewild Airport (now John F. Kennedy International) to support the existing Newark Airport. The community was aghast. Some feared it would wreak havoc on property values and forever change the area's quality of life, while others were driven by the prospect of losing an irreplaceable natural space that had been left largely untouched since the glaciers receded eons ago. On the other side, pro-jetport forces predicted economic ruin for the region if the project were not completed.

Jetport opponents tackled the project from two angles, confronting the state Legislature and Port Authority on one side while pursuing an environmental preservation approach on the other. As the government-facing faction challenged officials in hearings, meetings and the press, conservationists worked behind the scenes to raise funds to secure ownership of wide swaths of land within the region. Their goal: amass the minimum 3000 acres required to persuade the Department of the Interior to declare the Great Swamp a National Wildlife Refuge.

It's a long, involved story (told nicely on the New Jersey Conservation Federation ) with several heroes, but in brief, the Great Swamp National Wildlife Refuge was ultimately dedicated on May 29, 1964, the same year the National Wilderness Preservation System was created. Designation as a National Natural Landmark came two years later, and the landmark recognition as a National Wilderness in 1968. A  of the refuge portrays the wilderness area, specifically, as essentially undeveloped, without even a paved road within. Score one for the forces of nature, clean air and clean water.

For the past 50 years, a broad range of mammals, reptiles, insects and more than 240 species of birds have continued to enjoy their 七乐彩彩票app下载s or breeding spots in the swamp, while the dire predictions for the economy have yet to come true. The surrounding communities remain mostly bucolic in type, though some larger houses have been built on sizable plots of land. It's difficult to imagine what the region would have looked like had the jetport been built: runways and terminals replacing wetlands, two lane roads superseded by multi-lane access highways.

As for the Rusty blackbirds that brought us to the wilderness in the first place: they declined the opportunity to come out for us on our visit. Perhaps they'd retreated far beyond the trail, seeking that solitude the site has been preserved to protect.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

The Spirit of 1776, penned in Parsippany.

Independence Day has always been one of my favorite holidays. No matter how you choose to enjoy it - a barbecue, a trip down the shore, fireworks or hearing a public reading of the Declaration of Independence - July 4 is a day to celebrate being free. What could be better than that?

Personally, I get myself in the celebratory mood a day or so in advance by watching the musical 1776 on DVD. A dramatic recounting of the months leading up to the signing of the Declaration, the movie (and the Broadway play before it) manages to do two very difficult things. First, it makes Congressional debate both interesting and entertaining, and second, it draws plausible suspense around an event we all know came to pass. Would the Continental Congress come to agreement on independence?

Given New Jersey's critical role in the American Revolution, I wasn't all that surprised to learn that 1776 was written in the state. The show's creator and songwriter, Sherman Edwards, lived in Parsippany, a few hundred yards from a road Continental soldiers trod in the midst of the war.

If anyone was going to make John Adams and Thomas Jefferson musical stars, Edwards seems to have been just the man to do it. Remember that teacher in high 七乐彩彩票平台 who moonlighted doing something cool? Edwards was one of those guys. With a bachelor's degree in history from New York University, he taught for many years in the New York City 七乐彩彩票平台 system, but he also had strong musical chops. By the age of 16 he was playing piano at jazz clubs, starting a professional career that led him to songwriting for stars of the day like Johnny Mathis and Patti Page. Extending to film, he wrote the score for five Elvis Presley movies.

It was 1776, however, that brought him to Broadway. He'd been researching the story and writing the songs for more than ten years when Peter Stone joined him in collaboration on the book. Together, they sought to provide a more or less accurate account of the work of the Continental Congress in the few months leading to the signing of the Declaration of Independence.

As Stone later told the New York Times, Edwards' characterizations and research were so meticulous that he (Stone) was able to use the songs to guide the dialogue, a reversal of the usual writing process for musicals. They modified events slightly for dramatic effect, and vastly reduced the number of congressional delegates for practical reasons. Nonetheless, the finished product adeptly conveys the challenges these very human men faced as they made history in an uncertain environment. Independence, the viewer senses, was not fait accompli. Rather, the declaration was a bold move by very human men with varying convictions, faults and doubts.

An ardent student of history, Edwards spent a great deal of time researching the Founding Fathers at the Morristown Joint Free Library. He cited the availability of source material that couldn't be found anywhere else, including letters from Abigail to John Adams, as one of the prime reasons why he depended on the local collection to inform his work. As for the music, neighbors at the time fondly recall hearing Edwards playing the piano as he composed.

The show premiered on Broadway in 1969 to critical praise, winning the Tony Award for best musical of the season. After a two year theatrical run, it was made into a movie starring many of the same performers from the Broadway run. Even now, more than 30 years after Edwards' death, 1776 is a popular choice for amateur and small local theater productions.

I guess you could say he's probably the most successful American history teacher ever. He made a historical event so interesting that students keep coming back for more!


A big thank you to Beth of Poor Henry's in Montville for letting us know about the Edwards/Parsippany connection! 




Sunday, June 30, 2013

Star power on Lake Hopatcong: the inimitable Lotta Crabtree

Nestled among the more modest vacation bungalows along Lake Hoptacong are the remaining grand summer cottages of millionaires and captains of industry. Among them is Attol Tryst, the 18-room Queen Anne/Swiss chalet style lakefront estate of one of the 19th century's most popular American entertainers, Lotta Crabtree.

Born Charlotte Mignon Crabtree in New York in 1847, Lotta took a somewhat serendipitous path toward stardom, influenced, in part, by her parents' separate ambitions. Her English immigrant father John left for California in 1851, hoping to strike it rich in the gold rush. Lotta and her mother Mary Ann arrived a year later, as planned, only to find that John was not waiting for them in the appointed place. Deciding to make the best of the situation, mother and child soon befriended a group of entertainers, which led to Lotta enrolling in dance lessons.

John caught up with his family in 1853, having not struck gold but flush with another means of making a living. He'd realized that possibly the next best thing to mining a claim was to rent lodging to those who were still trying to. Mother and daughter joined him at a rooming house in Grass Valley, California where he set up business. Coincidentally, one of their neighbors was the famous actress and courtesan Lola Montez, who saw the talent within young Lotta and allowed the young girl to dress up in her costumes. Though Montez clearly loved Lotta and apparently saw her as a protege, the Crabtrees left Grass Valley for another boarding house 40 miles away. Some contend that the actress wanted to take the child on the road with her, and moving away was the best way to discourage her.

Regardless of the reason for the move, Montez's admiration of Lotta must have made a big impression on Mary Ann, because the youngster was soon enrolled in more dancing and singing lessons. Lotta made her professional debut at a local tavern, then took the show to mining camps in the area.

Not long after, the Crabtrees moved to San Francisco, where Lotta performed between tours of Sacramento and the San Joaquin Valley. By the age of 12, she was a highly-in-demand performer in the city, and her mother/manager saw a sterling opportunity. Mary Ann booked Lotta on an extensive tour, with performances in Chicago, Boston, New York and several other locations along the way. By the time she was 17, Lotta was taking on stage roles in plays including Uncle Tom's Cabin and Little Nell. 

Mary Ann made sure that Lotta's talents were well rewarded. In the days when they were touring mining camps, she insisted on being paid in gold, and Lotta often kept watches the miners tossed on stage in admiration. When the gold got too heavy to travel with, the pair began investing in real estate, bonds and race horses.

Coming into her own as an adult, Lotta took on more vaudeville and comic roles and was described as “mischievous, unpredictable, impulsive, rattlebrained, teasing, piquant, rollicking, cheerful and devilish.” While child actors are well known for engaging in questionable behavior in adulthood, though, the worst thing Lotta seems to have picked up was an affinity for cigars. Mary Ann continued to exert strong influence, managing Lotta's professional affairs and discouraging the many interested men who attempted to court her. In a strategy that predates the machinations of movie studio publicists, the mother/manager believed that a marriage would ruin the public's ability to believe Lotta's portrayal of youngsters. (You'd think the cigars would have been an issue, too, but apparently not.)

There seems to be a fair amount of conjecture on Lotta's love life. Surely, her busy touring and performance schedule left her little time to develop long-term relationships, but she's said to have had several affairs.

One man, nonetheless, played an influential role in bringing her to New Jersey. Sometime in the 1880s, the Crabtrees' New York neighbor, Robert Dunlap, told Mary Ann about Breslin Park, a new resort community being built along Lake Hopatcong for the city's elite. Seeing the area as a wonderful summer retreat from the steamy city when the theaters were closed, she bought a choice lakefront lot as a surprise for her daughter. They moved into their custom-built 七乐彩彩票app下载 in 1886, reversing the letters of Lotta's first name to create the cottage's unusual name. (As an aside, one of their neighbors was the Woodbury patent medicine mogul G.G. Green.)

Lotta spent more than 20 summers as the lake's most famous resident, sailing, painting and entertaining friends. Some say that the eccentric, decidedly single entertainer found it dull, living amid her wealthy and married neighbors, but her mother enjoyed hobnobbing with millionaires. After suffering an accident in 1891, Lotta retired from the stage and subsequently left New York to spend her winters in Boston. From what I've been able to determine, she continued to summer at the lake until her mother's death in 1905. She sold Attol Tryst in 1909 and died in 1922, arguably the wealthiest woman in entertainment.

While Lotta Crabtree is no longer a household name, the entertainer continues to make an impact through her considerable wealth. Her estate, valued in the neighborhood of $5 million, was allotted to several trusts to fund, among others, care for injured World War I veterans and their families, hospital care for the poor, animal welfare, and theatrical performers in need. Interestingly, she also established a fund to provide loans to graduates of the University of Massachusetts who planned to enter the agriculture field. While UMass historians haven't been able to find any link between the actress and the 七乐彩彩票平台, there's a rumor she might have been romantically involved with a faculty member. In any case, her generosity lives on through the fund and a womens' dormitory named in her honor in 1953.


Thursday, May 23, 2013

Aviation history on a short runway: Lincoln Park's Ed Gorski

Hidden New Jersey has taken real or virtual visits to a lot of New Jersey airfields and historical aviation sites like Hadley Field in South Plainfield, Doolittle’s Landing in Boonton, Greenwood Lake and even the old passenger terminal at Newark Liberty International Airport. Through those visits and subsequent research, we’ve learned just how common airfields once were in New Jersey communities, and how many we’ve lost to time and real estate development pressures.

Granted, with the increase in commercial air flight, the skies are a lot more crowded than they were in the heyday of these small airstrips, but some aviation fields are still thriving. Some of the key smaller airports, like Teterboro, Morristown, Princeton and Caldwell/Essex County have evolved to handle corporate jets and the like. They’re an alternative to the major airports, especially for bigwigs who can afford to rent a private jet or own a propeller plane of their own.

Then there are the general aviation fields like Lincoln Park, which have remained largely middle-class in demeanor, with no fancy aircraft or equipment around. Those are the places that really hark back to the days when all a fixed-base operator (FBO) really needed was a wind sock, a level field and someplace to gas up the plane. Standing on the grounds, you can easily imagine that the next plane to land might be piloted by Charles Lindbergh or Wiley Post, returning from a leisurely flight over the Jersey country七乐彩彩票登录side.

Back in the day, one could never know who just might be running the place. She might be an accomplished military pilot like Marjorie Gray, or, in the case of Lincoln Park, Amelia Earhart's mechanic Ed Gorski.

Ed Gorski with Amelia Earhart and mechanic
Bernt Balchen
(photo credit performancedatamanagement.com )
Actually, to simply say that Gorski worked with Earhart is ignoring his much more eventful career, in which he had a hand in the construction or maintenance of several airplanes that would later make history. He was among the first mechanics to work at what would become Teterboro Airport, helping famed aviator Clarence Chamberlin construct surplus World War I airplanes. Later, while working for Atlantic Aircraft Corp., he worked on the plane Commander Byrd flew over the North Pole, and the Fokker Friendship in which Amelia Earhart flew as the first woman to cross the Atlantic by air. He was also on the crew that built the first airplane to fly from an aircraft deck in what was envisioned as ship-to-shore airmail.

Gorski reconnected with Earhart in 1932, as she prepared to become the first woman to pilot an airplane across the Atlantic. Working with another mechanic, he reinforced Earhart's Lockheed Vega to withstand the rigors of the extended flight time and added weight of the extra fuel the craft would be required to carry. To test their handiwork, Gorski and the other mechanic logged several consecutive hours of flight time over the Meadowlands, loading the Vega with sandbags to simulate the weight of the fuel it would require for the crossing. When they were ready to return to the airport, they'd drop the sandbags where Giants Stadium now stands, leading a few observers to believe the marsh was being bombed. Gorski also accompanied Earhart to her departure site in Newfoundland to make any last minute adjustments before her historic flight.

Following his stint with Earhart's Vega, Gorski opened an FBO operation at Teterboro with his new wife Julia. Together they made a living during the depths of the Depression, providing flight lessons, running sight-seeing flights to Hackensack and back, selling airplanes and operating an aerial photography business, among other ventures. After the United States entered World War II, they moved the business to Warwick, NY and continued training pilots until Ed joined the Air Corps. Julia kept the business going as Ed flew in the Pacific theater, though wartime shortages eventually forced her to close up shop.

The Gorskis returned to New Jersey after the war, purchasing the Lincoln Park Airport in 1946. He might not have continued to make aviation history, but in many respects, Ed did much more. From all accounts, he and Julia ran a tight operation with little tolerance for cutting corners or bending the rules. In my research, I found fond remembrances from several former employees and people who'd flown in and out of Lincoln Park, recounting the lessons Ed taught them, and how he made them better, more disciplined pilots. Many mentioned his unassuming nature and their own amazement that this down-to-earth man had worked with so many aviation greats.

Both Ed and Julia were named to the New Jersey Aviation Hall of Fame in the 1970s; Ed as part of the inaugural class which included Lindbergh, Earhart and Chamberlin. While the Gorskis retired in 1979, Lincoln Park Airport continues to attract regular traffic and appears well maintained. Unlike so many of New Jersey's other historic airfields, it seems that Ed Gorski's old field will continue to welcome flyers for quite some time.



Friday, April 19, 2013

A real hot potato: the Morristown community fireplace

Sometimes stuff looks a lot older than it really is. In some cases, it's because it's weathered and ramshackle. Other times, it is old, but not quite as old as the structures in the immediate vicinity. A road-tripper can be enticed to check out a curious ruin, only to find out that it's not a ruin, after all.

That's what happened to me recently, as I was travelling down 202 in Morristown. I was about to pass Historic Speedwell when I noticed some stone ruins in a park near the waterway across the road from the museums.

One bit was, indeed historic: the crumbling walls of the Speedwell Iron Works that once operated there. A quick look in the WPA guide revealed that in 1819, the Iron Works produced the drive shaft for the first ship to make a transatlantic crossing using steam power as a backup to sails. Across the street, of course, Alfred Vail and Samuel Morse developed the magnetic telegraph, but that's a story for another day.

My question was about the large hearth and chimney that dominated what looked like a stone house in ruins nearby. It could have been the remains of an early settler's sturdy cabin, or perhaps the 七乐彩彩票app下载 of the iron works' superintendent. A plaque on the front of the fireplace looked as if it might offer some clues. Could this be a remnant of the earliest settlement of Morristown, here on a pastoral pond?

Well, no. Here's what I found:


Not nearly as interesting as I'd have liked, but it's still nice. Turns out that in the late nineteen-teens, the leader of the local Camp Fire Girls approached Morristown officials with the idea of creating a central place where her troop and others could have their baked potato and toasted bacon parties. Contemporary newspaper accounts observed that the fireplace would be constructed in a 'new' park, and the Boy Scouts and other local residents could use it as long as they made reservations for it.

The WPA later improved the adjacent pond with picturesque spillways and brickwork, presumably making it a lovely place to enjoy a cool evening, or maybe even some ice skating if the pond was frozen solid. A roaring fire, some marshmallows (and potatoes) would be a nice respite from the chill.

From the looks of it (and the orange temporary fencing nearby) the fireplace hasn't been used for quite some time. There's nothing on the Morristown website specifically outlining the rules for building a fire there, nor is there anything posted prominently on site, but I'd venture a guess they'd be a bit wary of someone just stopping by to use it without prior notice.

Still, though: those Camp Fire Girl baked potatoes sound pretty good. Any chance we could get some cheese to go with the bacon?

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Victory Gardens: a tiny town with an interesting past

Our tour of tiny enclaves continues with Victory Gardens, which is not only the smallest and most densely populated, but the youngest municipality in Morris County. Created by an act of the state legislature in 1951, the borough also has the distinction of being perhaps the only New Jersey community whose electorate voted against seceding from its host municipality, but got cut adrift, nonetheless.

How did this confusing turn of events happen to be?

As you might have guessed from the name, Victory Gardens was born during World War II as housing for workers who were employed at nearby Picatinny Arsenal and other private defense contractors manufacturing war goods. It was built quickly: the Federal government determined the need shortly after the bombing of Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, and within six months, it had constructed 300 housing units, streets and supporting infrastructure on about 90 acres of land in Randolph. The community was named for the victory gardens that loyal Americans were planting on their own property to free up farmers' crops for the war effort.

The influx of new people in Randolph seems to have caused some discomfort among longtime residents, which was allayed somewhat by the Federal subsidies that came to the town in exchange for the new construction. However, the climate changed after the government payments ended along with the war. A great many Victory Gardens residents were Democrats in what was otherwise a very Republican area, which made some Randolphers uneasy. Looking toward separating the newer community from its host, Randolph officials held a referendum in September 1951, and voters narrowly agreed that Victory Gardens should be spun off.

This has to be the most cost- and space-efficient
war memorial out there. 
Only problem was, the folks in Victory Gardens overwhelmingly wanted their neighborhood to remain in Randolph. Out of 513 votes cast in Victory Gardens, just 30 approved of the secession plan. Cast from their municipal 七乐彩彩票app下载, the community approached neighboring Dover with the idea of affiliating there, only to be turned down. Thus, they were on their own.

Victory Gardens continues, looking a lot like a housing development off of South Salem Street, not far from Route 10. Its compact 七乐彩彩票app下载s are clustered on streets named after a few presidents, most of whom are predictable (Washington, Roosevelt) and a few that aren't (Polk, Garfield). A condo complex was added to the town in the late 80's, but the community remains small, at around 1500 residents.

In researching, I found three other defense-related communities in New Jersey -- Audubon Park and Bellmawr Park in Camden County, and Winfield Park in Union County. They differ from Victory Gardens in that they were created by the Mutual Ownership Defense Housing Division of the Federal Works Agency. All still exist today. We'll be taking a look at Winfield, specifically, in a future Hidden New Jersey report.