Archive for March 12th, 2009

The Smallest House in NJ?

If this isn’t the smallest house in NJ, it’s still the smallest 4 room house I’ve ever seen. Located in Bloomfield, this tiny house measures approximately 10 ft by 16 feet, and yet has four rooms. It is situated on a slight incline and has a basement, and both floors have two rooms each. The fireplace and chimney is a nice touch.

The house is located 10 yards from a railroad and when I visited and spoke with the owner, they told me that speculation was that it may have at one time been a home for a crossing guard who operated the gates at the railroad crossing.

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Jim Gary’s Dinosaurs

Self taught artist Jim Gary has been designing dinosaurs (and many other things) from automobile parts for many years now. He recently took them on a world wide tour called 20th Century Dinosaurs. The dinosaurs in these photos are on display in his front and side yard (when they’re not on tour), and sell for as much as $150,000. Gary also designed the Colts Neck 9/11 Memorial.

UPDATE: I stopped by his home in 2005, and he was there but had no time to talk. He graciously gave me and a friend permission to walk around his property and take photos. It was my intent to followup and interview him, but sadly he passed away in January of 2006 before I had a chance to return. Learn more about Jim Gary at his website which goes in much greater detail of his life and his art.

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The following is an excerpt from a NY Times article that ran upon his death.

This is from a NY Times article which was published after his death in January 2006.

Jim Gary, an internationally noted sculptor in metal whose best-known work transformed the skeletons of derelict cars into the hulking, playful and surprisingly graceful skeletons of dinosaurs, died on Saturday in Freehold, N.J. He was 66 and lived in Farmingdale, N.J. The cause was complications of a cerebral hemorrhage he suffered last month, said Arlene Berg, a longtime friend and Mr. Gary’s former business manager.

For the last three decades, Mr. Gary made his art from the detritus of postwar American consumer culture. Entirely self-taught, he haunted junkyards, where he dug up the bones of familiar bygone species – the gas-guzzling behemoths that roamed the earth in the 1950s, 60s and 70s – to reassemble them into far more exotic ones. Old Chryslers, he often said, made the finest dinosaurs. Welded by hand and painted in vivid colors, Mr. Gary’s sculptures were almost life-size, as much as 60 feet long and 20 feet high. Each comprised hundreds of car parts – it could take 10 automobiles to build a single dinosaur – and took up to a year to complete. His largest pieces sold for close to $100,000, Ms. Berg said.

Featured frequently in the news, Mr. Gary’s art has been exhibited at museums throughout the country, among them the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History and the Boston Children’s Museum. A traveling exhibition of his work, “20th-Century Dinosaurs,” has toured worldwide since the late 1970s. In Mr. Gary’s surgically precise anatomy, a brake shoe became a foot, an oil pan a jaw, an axle a femur. He turned leaf springs into rib cages and generator fans into huge lash-ringed eyes. For the spinal plates of a stegosaurus, he used part of a garbage truck’s compactor. For its tail spikes, he used Chevrolet shock absorbers. He also built smaller pieces, among them humpbacked turtles that began life as Volkswagen Beetles.

Mr. Gary’s other work included furniture, stained glass and a widely exhibited sculpture, “Universal Woman,” a sinuous female torso made of welded-together metal washers. The recipient of many commissions for art in public spaces, he designed the Sept. 11 memorial for Colts Neck, N.J., unveiled in 2002.

James Gary was born in Sebastian, Fla., on March 17, 1939, and grew up in Colts Neck. He was the second of 11 children of Charles Gary, a farmer and mason, and the former Lula Belle Beale, a domestic worker. An inveterate tinkerer even as a youth, Jim built a bicycle and – long before he was old enough to drive – several automobiles from spare parts. Educated in New Jersey public schools, Mr. Gary did a stint in the Navy, where he trained as an aviation mechanic. He later taught welding and gymnastics for the Job Corps before making his first sculptures in the early 1970s. Mr. Gary is survived by a sister, Maudine Weston of Fairfield, Calif.; and by four brothers: Charles, of Nashville; Robert, of Asbury Park, N.J.; Arthur, of Pinole, Calif.; and Carl, of Loxahatchee, Fla.

Because of the scale of his pieces, Mr. Gary had to build special equipment to assemble and move them. Much of this, too, was made from salvaged auto parts. To transport his work from one city to the next he used an enormous flatbed trailer. Curious drivers often followed the dinosaurs down the road for miles

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The Elks Lamb

In front of the Elks Lodge in Hoboken is a giant lamb. My first thought is “They’re Elks, so what’s with the lamb?” Secondly… is it me or does this thing look like the Golden Calf out of the Bible? I’m expecting Hittites to come out and start worshiping Baal or something…

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Them!

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The Monk Parrots of Edgewater

At the base of Route 5 in Edgewater is a small park which has become overrun with parrots. The parrots are a rare breed which can survive the winters of the tri-state area. Where did they come from? The prevailing theory is that they escaped from a residence or pet shop thru an open window or door.

The small green and yellow parrots have established several large nests in the park and the surrounding streets. Some neighbors are unhappy with the parrots, but despite attempts to destroy the nests, the parrots build new ones very quickly. Other locals are thrilled to have them here. Whatever their origin, they have survived here for over 2 decades and are unlikely to go anywhere, any time soon.

According to the Bergen Record, the Edgewater parrots’ nests are a fire threat and need to be removed. I found this key passage :

In 1998, a nest atop a utility pole on Hilliard Avenue caught fire and knocked out power to 150 customers for more than an hour. Authorities said a spark from a lower line set the nest on fire. Six baby parakeets that were trapped in the nest died. Connell noted that a power outage during the winter would be considerably more disruptive, causing some people to lose their heat. Apparently, where the monk parrots are common, so are electrical fires from their nests. The monks have been in NJ since the 70’s in many areas of the state, but the EPA actively tried to eradicate them in southern NJ because of the threat to local agriculture.

So perhaps the theory that they were an escaped pet from a local homehowner is wrong?

Are there other colonies of monk parrots in NJ that we don’t know about?

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Lad, A Dog: Albert Payson Terhune

Albert Payson Terhune was a children’s storybook writer, as well as a breeder of Collies. Eventually he combined his two interests and wrote a children’s book “Lad, a Dog” based a real Collie of his. The book proved quite popular and he went on to write a whole series of “Lad” books.

Terhune lived in Pompton Lakes on the shores of the Lake for which the town is named. He buried Lad and all his other Collies right there on the property. The Wayne Police also bury their K-9 dogs here. Lad’s grave is right off the parking area. You can read more about Terhune and his dogs here

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Elsie the Cow

One of America’s first commercial spokesanimals was Elsie the cow for the Borden Milk company. At the 1939 NY State Fair, Borden needed something to draw crowds to it’s exhibit of a automated milking machine. They arranged public appearances, press dinners in NY, even got her in movies. In 1941 while en route to an appearance in NYC, the 18 wheeler she traveled in was hit from behind by another truck. She suffered spine & neck injuries and was laid to rest “somewhere behind the barn” on the Gordon Walker farm that was her home.

A headstone was placed near the entrance to the farm (not where she was actually buried) where she was proclaimed to have been “the most celebrated employee of the Gordon Walker farms.” Over the past few years the farmland has been sold off, and now has become town houses. Since no one can be sure exactly where the grave itself is, one can only assume that it’s underneath a foundation, sidewalk or road.

To visit the grave marker, go to the Gordon Walker Farms Housing Development. It’s located in Plainsboro right off Plainsboro Rd. You also can visit the Plainsboro Museum where they keep some Elsie memorabilia. It’s located at 641 Plainsboro Rd, but it’s only open on the 1st & 3rd Sundays of the month from 2-430 PM.

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