Known as "The Children's Town" Hamburg New Jersey is home to the Gingerbread Castle, a former children's amusement park based on a fairy tale castle since the 1930's. Passing through town one would notice the streets have fairy tale names such as Cinderella, King Cole, prince and Wishing Well Road. These are not the original names, the town renamed several streets in the mid 1950’s to honor its history.
About 1725-1730, the area was marked "Vallins" after the settlement of the Walling brothers, where Joseph Walling kept an inn.
In 1753 when the county was formed, Hamburg was part of New Town; in 1762 it became part of the newly established Hardyston Township. In 1792 when Vernon Township was formed from Hardyston, Hamburg was included within the boundaries of Vernon. In 1852 the boundary line was changed so that Hamburg was again in Hardyston Township, where it remained until its incorporation in 1920.
The Wallkill River, a tributary of the Hudson runs through the town. The Wallkill is said to have drawn its name from some families of Walloons who settled by it. Walloons were a French-speaking people who resided in Belgium.
Numerous communities developed around the early mining industry in Sussex County and Hamburg was one of them. The lands surrounding Hamburg contain rich deposits of iron and zinc ore. By the end of the 18th century, Iron works , lime kilns,mining and the iron industry had become important local industries.
The Hamburg Iron Works, which was located on the Wallkill River was first operated by Jesse Potts in 1792. The name comes from Hamburg, Germany. This is where the name of the town originates from.
When the Sharpe family came to town they also became active in the iron-mining industry. Joseph Sharp erected the Sharp Iron Works forge and furnace in 1768 on the Wallkill River. Sharp abandoned the property in 1774. Stephen Ford used it to secretly produce cannonballs for the British during the American Revolution. After reclaiming the property, Joseph Sharp Jr. built the stone grist mill in 1808. Sharp's mill provided the flour for the American troops of the War of 1812. The mill continued to serve the needs of the agricultural community of Sussex County.
Route 94, which is a state highway in the northwestern part of the New Jersey passes through Hamburg. It was once called King's Highway and was used by George Washington to move his troops through Hamburg. In 1804, the Hamburg Paterson Turnpike was built from Paterson to Hamburg. Route 23 follows this historic turnpike.
One of the most prosperous industries in Hamburg's history, a paper mill sits in ruins along the Wallkill River. It was erected in 1873, on the site of an old blast furnace by Samuel and Edward Sparks Its dam was raised 8 feet to create more water power.
Once Upon a Time there was …
F.H. Bennett entered the scene in the early 1900’s. He was the owner of F.H. Bennett Biscuit Company in New York City and bought the New Jersey property in 1921 to expand his operations and open the Wheatsworth Mills. F.H Bennett was the inventor of Milk Bone Dog Biscuits. In 1928 Joseph Urban designed and built the famous Gingerbread Castle. The Gingerbread Castle was originally the centerpiece of an amusement park built adjacent to Wheatsworth Mill.The site originally contained a number of fairy tale character statues, as well as a train that brought visitors around the park. Visitors were led by Hansel and Gretel through the Gingerbread castle while they recited the fairy tales connected with each display.The attraction remained in continuous operation for 50 years and was a hit, closing initially in 1978. In 1989 the castle re-opened, but lasted only a few years before once again closing down.
He was inspired to build the castle by viewing in Manhattan a production of Engelbert Humperdink's opera Hansel and Gretel .
In the early 1870s the National Hotel was built on the southwest corner of Wallkill Avenue and Orchard Street located not far from the railroad station.
The colorful Victorian home On route 23 was built in 1874 is now The Merry Go Round & Calico Rose Cafe.
Near the Merry Go Round is the Pellet House, the home of two former Hamburg physicians, Dr. Jackson Brainard Pellett and his son, Dr. Thomas Lawrence Pellett.
High up on a hill is the Hamburg Baptist Church and Cemetery.
The view on top of the hill in the cemetery is amazing.
"Old King Cole" is a British nursery rhyme and is the inspiration for the street "King Cole Road".
This interesting building housed Felix the Cat, unsure if it still does.
Entering onto the Main Street Area.
Felix The Cat
Located on New Jersey's Lawrence Brook is the small-town of Milltown, which is the only municipality in Middlesex County to see a population drop from 1980 to 2014.
The history of Milltown is so named for it being a “mill town” for as long as we can go back in its history. The earliest written documentation of a mill in Milltown is in 1769, when Fulcard Van Nordstrand advertises for sale a gristmill with 2 pair of grist stones, a fulling mill and a press house standing on a constant stream with 2 dwelling houses on 112 acres of land, 3 miles from New Brunswick, on the northwest bank of the Lawrence Brook.
First owned by Fulcard Van Nordstrand, then Ferdinand Schuurman, ownership changes many times before finally falling into the possession of Jacob Bergen in 1811. The town is soon named “Bergens Mill“ but is advertised in a local paper as “Milltown”. After the death of Jacob Bergen, the mill ceases operation, apparently due to a fire. This is when Christopher Meyer acquires the property and its fame as a town for manufacturing rubber is put in history with the formation of The Meyer Rubber Company. The name “Milltown” is used hereafter.
A fire, yet again, damages the mill and a John R Ford comes forward with his own finances and puts the mill back into motion. This is where Ford street gets its name from; after Ford & Co. . German immigrants soon arrive in Milltown from New York City after suffering from poverty and general hardship. After experiencing the opportunities of the mill some workers return to Germany to bring friends and family back putting German Phillip Kuhlthau as leader and role model of the German population of the town.
By 1852, the factory suffers another fire is rebuilt as The Ford Rubber Co. Before changing back to the Meyer Rubber Company, then India Rubber Company followed by international Rubber Co. and finally in 1907 the the Michelin Tire Company comes from France.
J. Habette-Michelin, of New Brunswick, was given the job of resident vice-president, and R. B. Meyers, industrial manager. New buildings were soon erected.
In 1919, Michelin built 53 bungalows in town, which would later increase to 200, to house their employees. Michelin was so successful it would eventually employ more than 2000 men and women. When the depression rolled around Michelin was forced to cease operations and move back to France.
Many of the company homes can still be seen. One such street is Riva Avenue.
In an Issue of American Builder we can see the streets of the original homes.
The seventeen-foot Victorian-style street clock placed at the intersection of Main Street and Washington Avenue was funded by private sponsorships and was dedicated at a ceremony on July 2 in 2010.
The large Italianate Industrial building on Washington Avenue has housed many businesses, one including the Russell Playing Card Co. which was opened in 1906 by Willis W. Russell. In 1936, Russell Playing Card Co. moved to Ohio after acquisition by the United States Playing Card Co. It was constructed in 1899 as the Milltown India Rubber Company factory. It is now “The Mill” Condominiums.
Across the street is Milltown Ice Cream Depot.
Milltown Freight Station is the only surviving station of the Raritan River Railroad with its first passenger train reaching Milltown in 1891. After the Great Depression, ridership decreased dramatically finally forcing the Raritan River Railroad to stop passenger service altogether in 1938 between South Amboy and New Brunswick. The Milltown Station would no longer service passengers.
After passenger service ended, the station building was moved slightly down the tracks and the platform height was raised so that the building could be utilized for freight service. Eventually even the express freight would not pass through the station.
As of June 2016, Tom Reynolds, the president, and Kenneth Durrua, the vice president, of the Raritan River Chapter of the National Railway Historical Society working with the Milltown Historical Society have raised enough money to restore the Raritan River Freight Station to its former glory and hope to complete it by 2017.
On the corner of J F Kennedy Drive and Washington is a Bell AH-1F Cobra, which is a two-blade, single engine attack helicopter manufactured by Bell Helicopter. In an effort to honor its war veterans, the Joyce Kilmer American Legion Post 25 put it on display.
The Golden Lion (structure in left of picture) was once Hotel Marguerite which was built in 1905. It was also Findon's Tavern through the 1940's and 1950's.
Main Street has numerous shops and places to eat.
The Milltown Lodge No. 294, Free and Accepted Masons, is over 50 years old.
Revilla Grooves and Gear which is owned and operated by Darren Revilla who got his start selling records online via Ebay.
In the center of town is the Mill Pond.
And this post wouldn't be complete without talking about the fate of the Milltown Michelin Site which was in the process of being demolished the day I went to take my final pictures.
They were hoping to save water tower and smokestack but the Environmental Protection Agency wanted them to come down. Several businesses used the factory after Michelin left including Chicopee of J&J, Heidingsfeld Printing Co., Algro Knitting Mills and Alphaduct Wire.
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.
The paper clip is probably something you don't give much thought about, but nearly a century ago they were a great invention. According to Wikipedia, a paper clip is a flat or nearly flat piece of metal that slides over an edge of a set of papers and holds the papers together without being bent or pinched by the user and without piercing the papers. It is often characterized by the almost two full loops made by the wire. Over the years, many different inventors have been credited with the invention of the paper clip.
In 1899 in Waterbury, Connecticut, William D. Middlebrook invents and patents paper clips who sells the patent to Cushman & Denison. Cushman & Denison trademark the name GEM for their product. The Gem paper clip is the most common type of wire paper clip still in use. He not only invented the paper clip but he also invented a machine to produce the paper clip.
Then there is Johan Vaaler, who is often identified with the invention of the common paper clip, although he applied for a German patent on November 12 of 1899 which was granted on June 6, 1901. Vaaler's alleged invention of the paper clip became known in Norway after World War II and found its way into some encyclopedias, although others had been patented before him.
‘Events of that war contributed greatly to the mythical status of the paper clip as a national symbol. During the resistance to the German occupation during World War II, after pins or badges bearing national symbols or the initials of exiled King Haakon VII were banned, Norwegians began to wear paper clips in their lapels as a symbol of resistance to the occupiers and local Nazi authorities. The clips were meant to denote solidarity and unity ("we are bound together"). Their symbolism was even more obvious because paper clips are called "binders" in Norwegian. Their presumed Norwegian origin was not generally known at that time, but when that widely believed story was added to the war-time experience of many patriots, it strengthened their status as national symbols.’ -wikipedia
Despite how little we think of the paperclip or its origins, you should know that in Sandvika,Norway there is a giant seven-meter high paper clip in honor of Johan Vaaler, although it shows the Gem, not the one patented by Vaaler.
But before all of them was Samuel B. Fay of the United States, who received the first patent for a bent wire paper clip in 1867, although its design was not intended primarily for papers but for attaching tickets to fabric. Paper clips sold came in so many different designs with one being the “Eureka Clip” which was invented by George P. Farmer and manufactured by the Consolidated Safety Pin Co., of Bloomfield, NJ.
Bloomfield was once one of the most flourishing manufacturing towns in New Jersey. In 1890, the Consolidated Safety Pin Company moved to Bloomfield and situated its factory along Tony’s brook and the Lackawanna Railroad on Farrand Street. As the business grew more buildings were added to the site. By 1901, it employed 170 workers. George P. Farmer became president of the firm.
In 1917, the company broke taboos and added blind workers to its team in carding, boxing and heading safety pins. The workers were paid fourteen cents an hour while learning, up to 8.00 a week after training and proved to be a valuable commodity to those returning from the war blinded in battle. The company had at one time 6 blind workers. By 1921, The Consolidated Safety Pin Company worked its way up to making safety pins on a large scale.
Sometime during the course of history, the Safety Pin Company was gone, and the Kidde Manufacturing Company, Inc., had taken its place. Although I am unsure of the circumstances that took place, i do know that in 1904 The Consolidated Safety Pin Co.added a Mr. Water Kidde as its engineer. Walter Kidde was the president of the Kidde Company.
Walter Kidde & Company started out as a construction company, but slowly grew into a fire suppression company reaching new heights in the 1930s and the 1940s when the company's products reached markets in Asia, Europe, Africa, and South America. World War II pushed Walter Kidde & Company into unprecedented sales and by 1938, Walter Kidde & Company had sales of $2 million. The business was so profitable that he also opened a separate plant in Belleville
By the time 1943 rolled around, the company was producing over $60 million worth of war equipment and was always behind schedule. Walter Kidde passed away at the age of 65 in 1943 in Montclair and the company was passed down to his son John Kidde.
Both companies are long gone, Solid State now occupies the site. The past is forgotten but Toney's brook still runs by showing us that as somethings change, some things remain the same.
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
It all started in 1847, when a freed black slave named Mrs. Elizabeth Sutliff Dufler purchased 87 acres along the river and began selling clay to the potteries in New Jersey. Dulfer was born a slave, but went on to became a successful businesswoman in Little Ferry after her clay company along the Hackensack River soon became the second-largest in the nation. She passed away at 90 and is buried at Gethsemane Cemetery in Little Ferry.
Little Ferry was formed during the "Boroughitis" phenomenon that swept through Bergen County, during the late 1800’s from portions of Lodi Township and New Barbadoes Township. It began as an important ferry crossing between the region's towns at Bergen and Hackensack and this ferry is what influenced the name of the town, "Little Ferry", "little" being that it was smaller than another ferry which crossed the Hudson from Jersey City and Hoboken to New York City.
But back to my story..
The first brickyards were established by Cole and Shower in 1872, but soon passed into the hands of John Thume before passing into the hands of the Mehrhofs. Little ferry became a hotbed of activity in the brick industry due to its extensive beds of clay which led to hundreds of people being employed in the brickyards. Bricks on barges floating down the Hackensack River were a common sight.
Many more brick companies would find their place in Little Ferry; W. Felter, Charles E. Walsh, Treviranus & Gardner Brick Yards, and James Gillies were just a few. In 1895, the combined output of the four large yards reached 100,000,000 bricks annually, making Little Ferry the second largest producer in the United States.
By 1904, Little Ferry had in total eight brickyards operating, but soon after World War I, the brick industries of Little Ferry began to decline. In 1923, the number was down to four, and finally the Hackensack Brick Company was the last brickyard to go out of business.
At the eastern end of Main Street is the Classic Mable and Tile.
If we went back 100 years , we'd find this to be the location of Treviranus & Gardner.
Treviranus & Gardner was once the scene of a race riot In which the white residents of the town opposed 75 colored men employed in the brick yards of the company.
The Mehrhof’s were a major family in the brick business. Not only did they have the Mehrhof Brick Company at the foot of Mehrhof Road, but also had the the E. N. Mehrhof Company at the foot of Treptow Street. After the finished product was complete, the Mehrhofs loaded up the bricks into the four schooners to make their way to the markets in Paterson, Newark, New York and Providence, Rhode Island. A schooner is a type of sailing vessel with fore-and-aft sails on two or more masts, the foremast being shorter than the main and no taller than the mizzen if there is one. The Mehrhof firm owned one of the fastest river schooners in the country which was under the command of Capt. "Joe" Kinzley, who retired in 1915. The schooners were later replaced by barges. Horse-drawn vehicles were used for over-land transportation.
The Mehrhofs were originally from Hesse Darmstadt, Germany until 1841, when the father of the family, Philip, left for America and soon found himself in Croton Point where he worked as an architect. He moved to Oneida where he lived out the rest of his life until 1869. The brothers started in the brick industry almost immediately upon coming to America, when they found themselves working for the A. Underhill Company.
The middle child, Peter Mehrhof, was the first to come to the town of Little Ferry where he purchased 120 acres of land and set up shop. He was sooned joined by his brothers.
I visited the Losen Slote Creek Park which has a trail that encircles Mehrhof Pond, which was formerly a clay pit for a brick manufacturing company that occupied the property until the 1940’s. The park is named for the Losen Slote (Dutch for “winding creek”), a Hackensack River tidal tributary. This was once the location of some of the Mehrhof Enterprise.
After visiting the park, I headed up to Washington and Pickens to see Willow Lake. In 1884 it was the site of the Felter brickyard.
Heading further north in Little Ferry, I make my way to Lakeview Field, which is situated around Indian Lake.
The pond was once a clay pit for the brick industry as well.
The clay pits of Mr. Gardner were once the scene of a horrible tragedy when his daughter, just one month shy of her wedding, accidentally fell and slipped into the clay pit and drowned.
Today the brickyards are gone, but one can go and see what is left, the three lakes of Little Ferry; Willow, Indian and the pond at the end of Mehrhof Road. After the brick yards stopped operating, the pumps were left idle which let the ponds fill in.
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.
Blairsden is a historic 62,000 square foot, 38-room mansion built by Clinton Ledyard Blair in 1897. It is located in Somerset County, New Jersey.
The original main entrance gate was at the base of Ravine Lake although the one that can be seen today is in Peapack on a main road.
Clinton Ledyard Blair was a prominent American investment banker and the grandson of one of the wealthiest men of the 19th century,John Insley Blair.
In addition to the massive estate in New Jersey, he also had an estate in Newport, Rhode Islandand Bermuda.
In the Wortendyke section of Midland Park is the former railroad station of the New York, Susquehanna and Western line. Passengers service was discontinued in 1966 and now is strictly freight.
The Wortendyke station now houses a pottery studio and gallery while an adjacent Pullman car is used as restaurant and catering hall and caboose has been transformed into a hot dog stand.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Laura Gonzalez is a photographer, blogger and historian currently residing in Newark, New Jersey.