Dutch traders first settled in Passaic in 1678 with the founding of a fur-trading post. After the river was dammed, industrial growth blossomed. Some of the most successful mills of New Jersey were built in Passaic. Many of them were German worsted mills. The town used to be full of European immigrants, which had come to fill the factories. In the 1970's came deindustrialization, which was pretty much the downfall of many American cities. Passaic would prove no better. The industrial section of the city of Passaic known as the lower Dundee, the east side neighborhood that runs along the bank of the Passaic, is filled with ruins of the cities legacy as an industrial powerhouse. I made my way down to the area to walk the streets where 15,000 woolen mill workers fought for the rights of workers in the Passaic textile Strike of 1926.
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At the intersection of Mount Holly-Juliustown and Pemberton-Arney's Mount Roads in Burlington County is a historic Quaker meeting house, which dates back to 1775, and has been remarkably preserved in the same appearance it had in 1811, despite succumbing to fire twice in its history.
Arneys Mount is an community located within Springfield Township in Burlington County. Its also the name of a hill located next to it.
The building is constructed of iron-stone quarried locally on Arney's Mount.
Engraved in the bricks is the name Samuel Smith, which is the person who built the structure.
The building is still without electricity or plumbing, and a wood stove serves as the only heat source.
Next to the Meeting House is the burial grounds, which are still in use and pre-dates the Meeting House by many years and includes early settlers in the area. The oldest graves are not marked.
In 1870, a wall was erected around the graveyard in sandstone. It encloses only a portion of the grave as some were buried "outside the wall" having lost favor with Meeting or were buried elsewhere on the grounds in unmarked sites before the walls were constructed.
Since 1941, meeting for worship usually has been held twice monthly.
Located in Somerset County of New Jersey is the small rural community of East Millstone. Located along the Delaware and Raritan Canal, the town grew and prospered during the 19th Century. It was originally called Johnsville, but that was later changed to East Millstone. The original manufacturer of famous Fleishman's Yeast was located here.
Built in 1752 by Cornelius Van Liew is the Franklin Inn, also known as the Van Liew Tavern is the oldest structure in East Millstone. It is located on Amwell Road, close to the canal. and was an important stopover for canal workers, boatmen and other travelers who utilized the canal system. It was recently operated as a used book store. Despite flooding due to Hurricanes Floyd in 1999 and Irene in 2011, the building still stands in excellent condition.
The Millstone Township First Aid Squad has been around since 1954.
Sitting beside the Delaware and Raritan Canal since 1834 is the East Millstone Bridge Tender's House which housed workers who opened the swing bridge of the canal. It was renovated and repainted in 2010.
The Millstone and New Brunswick Railroad once ran through town but the tracks have since been removed. The coming of the railroads was the reason the town changed its name.
The Wilson House (pictured above) is an example of High Victorian Eclecticism.
The house was built by Nathanial Wilson, a local entrepreneur who operated a hardware store across Market Street from the canal basin.
There's five churches in this little town, a big surprise when you take into account the town is comprised of just six or seven short streets of houses.
Cedar Hill Cemetery is a small cemetery located off of Wortman Street.
At the far western side of New Jersey is the small community of Brainards, which was once known as Martin's Creek. Martin's Creek takes its name from the stream that empties out just across the Delaware on the Pennsylvania side, that area is also known as Martin's Creek. In New Jersey the railway station was also called Martin's Creek. Martin's Creek was the junction point of the Pennsylvania railroad.
The name Brainards is taken from David and John Brainerd, who had their cabin across the river. The Brainerds were a missionary to the Lene lenape that occupied the area in the 1790s. The area has since changed to Brainards instead of Brainerds. Named after missionaries, one would expect to at least find one church in town, this is not the case in Brainards.
“David Brainerd was born at Haddam, Connecticut, in 1718. He was educated at Yale, licensed to preach in 1742, and was appointed missionary to the Indians within the Forks of the Delaware by the "Society for Propagating Christian Knowledge." He began his mis- sionary labors among the Indians in the Forks of the Delaware early in the summer of 1744. On the 13th of May, 1744, he came to Sakhauwotung (Martin's Creek) within the forks, and was respectfully re- ceived by the Indian king, who permitted him to preach most of the summer at his house.”
Warren County, at one time, had large cement mills in active operation which helped in growing the towns up around them. The mills of the Alpha Cement Company helped to make the small town of Brainards grow by building company housing to attract the many Slavic immigrants arriving to become workers. The workers would then walk to work on the railroad bridge which crossed the Delaware River to Martin's Creek. Before this time the area had been mostly vacant and nothing which resembled a town or village.
Broad Street is Brainard's main thoroughfare. It is lined with former company housing. Alpha would rent the homes to the workers for 9 dollars a month. For single men there were the boarding houses which were run by widows of factory workers who had died. By the time the 1960s rolled around, the cement companies decided operating elsewhere would be more cost effective. They sold the company housing to those who wished to stay for $900 a home or $1200 for a home with plumbing. Company housing is usually recognized when viewing the landscape as a whole in the little variation from house to house and simple architectural styling. I noticed this when i first visited Brainards, before i knew it had been a company town. Some of the Alpha company’s houses are on property formerly a part of the lot of George Depue who lived in a stone house one-eighth of a mile south of the station from 1850 until his death in 1897.
The Bangor & Portland Railway delivered slate from quarries in northern Northampton County, Pennsylvania, to the Delaware, Lackawanna & Western Railroad junction at Portland. In 1885, a branch line was built to connect with the Pennsylvania Railroad at Brainards, New Jersey which at that time was called Martin's creek as well. The name was eventually changed to distinguish it from the Martin's Creek located across the water.
The town also would have its dark times....
On April 29, 1911, disaster struck the the area of Martins Creek when a Utica teacher's excursion train carrying 169 Up-State school teachers and friends were on the way to Washington, New Jersey. The train was hurled down a forty-foot embankment at Martin's Creek, where it crashed and caught fire killing 12 people and injuring 101 others
On March 26, 1942 an explosion at the Lehigh Portland Cement Co. in Easton took 31 lives, many had been residents of Brainards. The cement company gave deceased workers' widows only $11 per month for about six years as compensation for the loss of their husbands.
In 1945, it was the scene of a shooting after a fugitive escaped custody after being apprehended for the brutal slaying of his wife. Ernest Rittenhouse, 30, war plant worker had been a resident of the area and escaped back to his hometown to hideout after he murdered his wife with an ax and disappeared. The officers caught up to him and he somehow managed to wrestle the gun from the officers and shoot them both dead and jumped into the Martin's Creek to escape.
Now that the industry of the area is gone the town of Brainards is awaiting its next step, which is the development of its vacant parcels that line the Delaware River to spark life back into the once prosperous area.
Along the Pequest River and U.S. Route 46 in White Township within Warren County, New Jersey is Buttzville which is frequently listed on lists of odd and unusual place names.
Buttzville was not known as Buttzville until 1839, when Micheal Robert Buttz purchased the land from a miller who had used the property for a gristmill in its past. He soon opened a hotel and his descendants lived and worked in the town. Michael Robert Buttz named this little settlement Buttzville and that is still the name today.
Before Michael Buttz had come to Buttzville, he had a teaching gig near his former residence along the Delaware River before buying property in New Market and opening a saw mill, hotel and apple and rye distillery. He was also a justice of the peace and in the army. He sold it all in 1831 to George and John Troxall. He then took his chances in Politics and was elected on the Democratic ticket but finally gave up due to financial reasons. He next took his chances in Easton but again grew restless and made his final move to the Pequest River where he opened a grist mill, plaster mill and a general store.
By 1854, he sold the mill property to Elisha Kirkhuff. It, then, later passed hands to Linaberry and Anderson and then to Thomas Craig.
Buttzville United Methodist Church in Belvidere just commemorated 175 Years last year
He would die there at the age of 72 and was buried in the M.E. cemetery.
Thomas A. Edison once had a manufacturing plant and quarry in the area. Edison would often stop at Craig's Store in Buttzville. He and Tom Craig(also owned a store in addition the mill) became good friends. The original homes which were built in the last century are located off a street called Mill Street.
No members of the Buttz family live here today, although the name remains and many people still pass through and remark on the odd naming of the town.
One of northwestern New Jersey's oldest communities, is Johnsonburg once known as "Log Gaol" , which means log jail due to it being the location of jail which was erected in 1753. It was once the seat of newly formed Sussex County in the 1750s before joining Warren County. The log jail was the first county building erected for Sussex.County. The town was renamed Johnsonburg after a store owner who had been of the Johnson family.
I found myself driving out to Warren County in New Jersey once again to see the small town which still retains its original general stores, mill and hotel. At one time in the 19th century, it was a place of importance, a place where horse-drawn carriages moved up and down the streets and the tavern became was an important meeting place where court meetings and elections would be held.
Originally a stagecoach stop in which an east-west route carried mail from Dover, New Jersey to Stroudsburg, Pennsylvania, and a north-south route which carried mail from Albany, New York to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the routes crossed through here and the town grew.
But the 19th century saw a new era, the age of canals and trains, which didn't make its way through Johnsonburg. The result was a town which grew little and remained stuck in the past. Many of the buildings were built in the 1800’s.
Upon entering the town I am greeted by the Hardin's Store, which dates to 1871 when is was built by Samuel Hardin, who had ownership of the mill at the time.
The wheelwright shop still stands on Allamuchy Road.
At the end of the road is the Johnsonburg Hotel with a store on its left. I had a nice talk with the man who currently owns the hotel and hes been in the process of renovating it for quite some time.
Next to the hotel is the Old Stone Episcopal Church.
Drake & Mackey store is pictured below, which was built in 1860.
Frelinghuysen Township Hall which is housed in the former Presbyterian Chapel.
On the western edge of town is an old barn.
Below is the Armstrong-Blair house. The home first was owned by William Armstrong and then was was acquired in the 1840s by James Blair. William Armstrong was a principal landowner at the time in the area and had control over the gristmill, tavern and a store. Blair is responsible for the Greek Revival remodeling of the home. The wagon house of the property sits on the site of the old jail.
William Armstrong was known as the village's pioneer merchant.
On Route 661 , I come to the mill which has been a focal point in the town since the 18th century. It ceased operation in 1937. The large mill pond to the north was created by damming Bear Creek and connected to the mill by a short head race while an underground tail race returns water to the creek.
At the end of the town on the western side of Route 661 are the ruins of the Van Horn Farm which sits upon the site of the Petite tavern which was operated by Jonathan Pettit as early as 1753. This was definitely a surprising find after reading a 1874 map of the area. The site was destroyed by a fire.
On Allamuchy Road is the small Johnsonburg Christian Church Cemetery which was established in the mid 19th century, and contains a variety of 19th and early 20th-century grave stones.
Johnsonburg today is a quiet residential neighborhood.
If we go back to the 1950s, western and cowboy culture had completely taken over. By 1959, 26 cowboy themed shows aired during prime-time and eight of the top ten shows were westerns. Howdy Doody was every child’s hero as the merchandise flew off the shelves. Americans were hooked.
In Post war America, tourist culture blossomed and Wild West City stands as testimony to that era. It was once rated by the American Cowboy Magazine as one of the top five “must see” western theme parks in the United States. It is oftened compared to Buffalo Bills’ Wild West Show.
It was around this time that (1956 to be exact) that the American Foundation for the Preservation of the Old West purchased a tract of land in Byram Township, New Jersey. An architect was flown out to Kansas to research actual towns and shortly thereafter construction began on a replica western town.
Operated by Justus Neinaber, the site opened in the spring of 1957 and lasted until 1962. The town was leased unsuccessfully for a season and then closed until 1963. The Stabile, Rospond and Maitalasso families purchased the theme park in the fall of 1963 planning a short term real estate investment. Michael and Mary Stabile of Nutley, New Jersey were the operators of the park and eventually bought out their partners in 1966.
The Stabile’s continued to run the site . Micheal Stabile passed in 1993 and his wife, Mary in 2002. Members of the family still operate the park.
Stepping into the park, children run around with plastic pistols and cowboy hats.
There is a slight creepiness factor looking over the display of a western town with antique dolls.
The tiny shops each house artifacts from the past giving also a educational experience as well as a morbid one.
Of course, I wouldn't be telling this story without a little darkness involved.
In 2006, controversy struck the park when a actor was accidentally shot in the head with a real bullet. During the “Sundance Kid “ skit after the smoke cleared and the applause died down, the actor was still lying on the ground, blood trickling down his face. The happy city of a era long gone turned to scene out of a horror movie as a afternoon of fun turned to memories not to be forgotten.
Coworkers thought he had fallen, and rushed him to the hospital. After he underwent CT scanning that doctors realized he had been shot with a real bullet. Another actor, who fired at Mr. Harris, had inadvertently loaded his gun with .22 caliber bullets instead of blanks. He had been late to work and grabbed a coworkers bullets not realizing he now had a loaded weapon for the show. The actor remains partially paralyzed and has won a 2 million dollar lawsuit against the business.
All their performers must now receive safety training before working at the park.
Located on Hauxhurst Avenue, on a tall cliff overlooking the Lincoln Tunnel Approach and Helix is a German-style castle that dominates the landscape. Completed in 1904 at the cost of $75,000, the mansion has 17 rooms, ornate woodwork, marble, stained glass, and several fireplaces. It was once the home of Wilhelm Joseph Peter, a German immigrant turned successful beer baron.
Now long deceased, Peter was an avid painter, once having an artist studio located within the home. He continued this hobby up until a few weeks before his death.
When the 1930s rolled around, the homes along Boulevard East were acquired by the Port Authority to make way for the construction of the Midtown-Hudson Tunnel. Somehow, the Peter Mansion remained and was given over to the town. It was opened in 1942 as the Weehawken Public Library.
Wilhelm Joseph Peter, also known as William Peter, was born March 16, 1832 in Archen, Germany during the German revolutions of 1848–49. The revolutions were a series of protests and rebellions in the states of the German Confederation, which included the Austrian Empire. He had no choice but to escape for fear of persecution, as he was the son of one of the leaders in the revolution. Starting in boyhood, he had always hoped to be a brewer and this made his parents more than unhappy, but he continued on with his dreams. Eight years after immigrating to the United states, he rented a place for $44 a year, with the option to buy and started a little brewery in West New York, with a kettle capacity of three barrels a day. His business thrived for many years. When his time was up he decided against buying there, and settled on the cheaper properties in Union Hill and was closer to the the summer shows and other entertainment that was taken in by the people of New York.
Not too far from the library on Peters Street is what remains of his business, the The William Peter Brewing Corporation. It is now home to a storage facility. Peters Street was once called Weehawken Street.
Across from the storage facility was a structure I had the pleasure of photographing a few times the past two years.
Sadly, on a recent return trip the structure pictured above had been demolished and was no longer there.
The brewery operation was shut down by Prohibition in 1920. In 1933, the brewery was issued a U-Permit No. NJ-U-329 allowing the resumption of brewing operations.
Trade Names for the brewery at Peter Street between Hudson & Park Aves, Union City, NJ:
William Peter, Palisade Brewery (Hudson Avenue & Weehawken Street) 1859-1889
William Peter Brewing Co. 1889-1920
The William Peter Brewing Corp. (Readdressed to 651/653 Hudson Avenue) 1933-1940
The William Peter Brewing Corp. (Readdressed to 3315/3317 Hudson Avenue) 1940-1949
George Ehret Brewery, Inc. (Readdressed to Peter Street between Hudson & Park Aves) 1949-1950 :http://www.eberhardschneider.com/
In June of 1918, William Peter passed away and now lies in rest at the Flower Hill Cemetery in North Bergen. At the time, it was the largest funeral in New Jersey history and every famous brewer attended.
Flower Hill Cemetery
Early Breweries of New Jersey By Harry B. Weiss and Grace M. Weiss
Drinking In America: A History By Mark Edward Lender, James Kirby Martin
Thomas Edison was born in Ohio and grew up in Michigan. From a newspaper boy to an American inventor and business man, somewhere along the way he found himself in West Orange, New Jersey. It was here that Edison earned a majority of his 1,093 U.S. patents that he accumulated in his lifetime.
The laboratory complex he once worked out of on Honeysuckle Ave in West Orange, New Jersey is maintained by the National Park Service as the Thomas Edison National Historical Park aka Menlo Park. For a few bucks you get access to an a extensive collection of antiques from Edison's time and the archives which contain approximately five million documents. You also get to see the Glenmont Estate, which was the estate of Thomas and Mina Edison, located down the block in Llewellyn Park.
Out of the West Orange laboratories came numerous inventions including the motion picture camera, sound recordings, silent and sound movies and the nickel-iron alkaline electric storage battery. The first major invention to emerge from Menlo Park was the phonograph in 1877.
Many motion pictures were made at the lab, including the first one ever copyrighted. He even built the first motion picture studio, commonly referred to as the “Black Maria,” in 1893. The studio could be rotated on tracks and the roof opened so that the best natural light could be obtained for a given scene. Demolished in 1903 after Edison moved motion picture production to New York, a full-size replica of the “Black Maria” was built at the laboratory site in 1954 which can be viewed today.
Menlo Park is also known as the birth of the modern industrial research organization and many companies followed his lead. The lab acted as a model for later industrial research labs such as Bell Laboratories.
The lab is definitely worth a visit and is one of my all time favorite museums I have been too.
Located on the east side of Avenue F between 24th and 28th Streets is a 3.56 acre stip of green, called the Halecky-IMTT Park, which separates the industrial and residential areas. The park was named after former City Council Member John Halecky and IMTT, an industry located near the park.
Right now the park is in the middle of a scandal where thousands of gallons of oil was missing from an active 16-inch pipeline. After the pipeline was replaced not too long ago, the pipeline was damaged when a contractor removed steel-sheet piling following the replacement which punctured the pipe causing a leak. Since the leak was reported, IMTT has removed contaminated soil from the park, replaced it with clean topsoil, and reseeded the ground.
A trip back in time shows the land was once property of Standard Oil. At the peak of plant operations in 1936, Standard Oil Company owned and operated approximately 650 acres on Constable Hook. Standard Oil combined with Tide Water Oil Company once employed 3000 workers in Bayonne.
Halecky-IMTT Park has reopened following the repair and the area is to be monitored by IMTT for one year.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Laura Gonzalez is a photographer, blogger and historian currently residing in Newark, New Jersey.