Watchung Reservation

The area was originally settled by the Wilcocks family, who ran a grist and lumber mill. A small cemetery plot with four gravestones dating to the 1700s is the only evidence of the earliest settlers. It is believed that it became abandoned at some point before again becoming occupied in the 1800’s. David Felt rebuilt mills and began a book and paper processing center, which furnished products to the New York stationery business.

It is presumed that in these 11 houses that were built, 4 families lived in each house. There was one building that served as a general store, school, and church for the residents of this village. In the 1860’s Felt sold the village, and it was sold several times over in the next 20 years. It eventually ended up in the hands of a man named Ackerman who renamed it Glenside Park. He tore down most of the buildings and built new ones more suited to farming and raising cattle. The old mill was used as a stable until it become structurally unsound and was torn down in the 1930’s. The barn was built in 1882 to house horses and carriages which would transport business men to the train station.Glenside park flourished until 1916.

In the 1920’s, the Union County Parks Commission purchased the property. The houses in the village were rented out to families until the 1960’s. The village was listed on the State and National Registers of Historic Places in 1980. The barn is now home to the Union County’s own Operation Archeology.

Watching Reservation is home the bunny bridge and also was home to a Nike base

There is a large water tower nearby, and although there was only one confirmed suicide, it has been nicknamed “Suicide Tower”.

guide to hiking in watchung reservation

another hiking guide


11 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Lonerider on August 7, 2016 at 9:52 PM

    I went to that school, it is gov. livingston high school in Berkeley Hts. Back then (the 90s) there was still some old concrete stuff behind the school ball fields or tennis courts. I used to walk back there and imagine what the place wouldn’t been like.

    The actual launchers were if I recall across in the res, at what became the new watchung stables.
    The base was designated NY-73 and the Nike was designed in part by nearby bell labs, to shoot down russian nuke bombers back in the day (the theory was after wwii with jets emerging that artillery alone would be insufficient…thus, missiles emerged as a solution. Thank god we never had to use them.)

    An interesting thing is so called nike rd, an overpass going over 78 and up to the back of the high school. It’s gated against cars but you can get by on foot or a bicycle. The road snakes up the hillside behind the school but then dead ends at a fence, or did in like ’05 or so last I was there. Whats interesting about this (aside from the view from up there) is that 78 didn’t exist when the base was in operation so why build an overpass? Local history is unclear.

    Re: the copper mine: I went hiking down the gorge on rocks in the streambed, but all I got was wet, hafta get better info, even if there is nothing to see I’m interested in seeing for myself.


  2. […] right at that point. There was also some sort of historic cemetery (some information about it hereĀ if you’re […]


  3. […] Lostinjersey Blog. (2009). “Watchung Reservation.” {Comments here also used.} Share this:FacebookTwitterRedditDiggEmailLike this:LikeBe the first to […]


  4. Posted by kim on June 29, 2011 at 5:18 PM

    the deserted village was a cool site to see. me n my friends went and the first time failed cause we got lost in the reservation and then ended up having an hour walk back to my car but the 2nd time i went i found it.

    i noticed suicide tower is mentioned in this article. is there any directions i can get to the abandoned water “suicide” tower?!



  5. I grew up on oak ridge rd in Summit, NJ which borders the reservation. My friends and I, as kids, would go down into the reservation behind our houses to build forts in the woods. one day we “found” the deserted village. We had no idea it was there and at teh time the place was completely deserted (i guess the “super” wasn’t home-one of the buildings seemed lived in as i recall). It was a creepy place then, i haven;t been there in 15 or 20 years so i don;t know hows it changed. My friends and I scared each other with stories of children snatching bums, devil worshippers, and evil spirts. of course we laughed but had nightmares when we went to bed-if I looked out my window i could look at the reservation and the thought of something coming out of those woods caused a lot of sleepless nights as a kid.

    I think i’ll have to visit it again. it sparked our imaginations then for sure.

    as I mentioned we use to build forts. Well aparently the superintendent of the place found one of our forts and dismantled it. We had dug into the side of the hill usng our fathers tools and laid a tarp over it. It was bad-ass.

    Another time, maybe months later, we went back to the deserted village and we found our dads tools! We tried to take them back but were scolded and sent away by the super. My dads pick-ax might still be there today.


  6. Went on what ended up being an 11-miler through the Reservation today in search of the copper mine. Wish I had known beforehand there was nothing to see!


  7. Posted by Edmund Seeley on April 20, 2009 at 9:21 PM

    The Westfield Historical society has a large group of photos of “Potluck”, the Persall castle.
    Also some family history.

    Next time you are there, walk upstream from the “Hermits” little pond til just below the old church and graveyard. Look at the dirt piles on each side of the stream. This is the remains of the original mill dam. Imagine the lake that existed above the dam in the 1860s. For extra credit, find the 1740’s dam that is still visable further upstream. For real detective work, look for the secret gunpowder mill floor made of the red stone from the quarry there. Washington kept the mill hidden for good reason.


  8. Posted by dan on April 7, 2009 at 9:03 AM

    friend and I went over to the Reservation to find the abandoned village yesterday. I took some pictures along the way feel they’re loaded here (there are some pictures from my 3 minute trip to devils factory but those are not relevant) To be honest it was pretty dissapointing since there are only maybe 6 houses that are abandoned and they are pretty well protected from people snooping around. The only way in would involve breaking and that is a horrible thing to do to any historic structure. There was one house(number 8 i believe) with a hole in the rear wall that led in to the cellar of the building however I didn’t go inside because all the wood all over the building was mush.

    Coordinates near the abandoned village are: N40.6794 W74.388766

    In fact the village is pretty easy to get to, just find Cataract Hollow Rd which is off Glenside Avenue(its in Berkley Heights according to Mappoint). The street is off-limits to cars but there is parking at the top and if you follow the road down in to the reservation it will take you right in to the center of the abandoned village. We didn’t do our research so we hiked through the whole reservation to find the place. The rest of the park is not particularly interesting (a water fall and some old bridges)

    If if wasnt for your site i would of never realized that I looked at the Mary Murray many times when I used to visit a friend who lived back there. Apparently around that area are a few barges that suffered a similar fate my grandfather told me that he got on one of the barges and took a trophy nut off the boat. Keep updating the site if you can its a great resource.


  9. Posted by charles on April 7, 2009 at 9:02 AM

    eing the fourth generation of my family to live in the area I’ve learned a little bit about the Watchung Reservation over the years. First off it is not a state park but is a Union County park. The Superintendent lives with his family in one of the buildings of The Deserted Village. He is a really friendly and interesting person who likes talking about his own explorations of the area. The graveyard you mention is actually just a collection of tombstones. Over the decades the markers have been stolen and recovered so many times that the location of the original graves has been lost. The County finally just set them in concrete along a convenient path to prevent them from being stolen again. Interestingly, it was the Civil War which probably led to the downfall of Feltville. The market for David Felt’s fancy stationary was mainly in the south. There is no longer anything to see at the Copper Mine. There was never much to see to begin with.

    The mine consisted of just a hole in the side of a ravine. Sometime in the recent past, in the 70s perhaps, the hole caved in and covered up the exposed copper ore. The ore is a green colored shale which was of poor quality anyway. The local lore is that the mine was never really productive but was just used to keep Hessian POWs busy during the Revolution. The Feltville mill site was the site of a gunpowder mill during the Revolution but little is recorded about it. The present water tower replaced a wooden observation tower. The original tower was built by J. Ackerman Coles, one of the leading citizens of days gone by. If I recall properly the water tower replaced the observation tower in the 1960s. One thing that I am curious about is the Old Pearsell (sp?) castle which was situated to the west of the tower across the roadway. My father remembers visiting the ruins of the castle with his mother when he was a boy–probably in the 1920s. My explorations of the area have failed to turn up much. There is one vaulted building which could be a remnant or just a maintenance structure. There are mounds of stone and some outlines in the terrain but these may very well be just natural and not indicative of any structures.


  10. Posted by don on April 7, 2009 at 9:02 AM

    There is a tiny cemetery in the Deserted Village, so I began looking the place up on the internet to see what, if anything, had been written about it. Fact is, I’ve got a book right here in my office that is dedicated solely to the Deserted Village, but I’m always curious to see what else might be “new” about a place that stopped “being” a long time ago. Wandering through that place conjures up mental images of how life was there when it was first established. Walking down to the stream where a mill once stood… or to the fresh water pool that was created, I would assume, as the source of the community’s household water (it’s fed from a sheltered spring where mountain water comes up from the ground). See? This is what surfing the internet does to my head; I’m wandering again!

    The cemetery is tucked back behind (I believe) the first building (all the buildings are on the same side of the street) and by now I guess there is a path leading up to it. Last time I went, there was no path and if you didn’t know the cemetery was there, you’d never see it. It felt a little creepy walking through someone’s yard to get to it… especially since the building on that piece of property sat in a non-descript manner… meaning that I didn’t really know if someone lived there or if the building was empty… and I wasn’t up to peering through the windows at that time. Since there seems to be a path to it now, I guess that’s no longer an issue.

    Please DO take the time to walk all the way to the end of the road and beyond into the woods. You should find a bridle trail there. I can’t tell you how far to walk, but it’s not very… maybe just a couple hundred feet… then go downward from there. You should find yourself somewhere near the fresh water spring, which will resemble a little fish pond on someone’s estate. This, to me, is a more exciting way to find it. I mean there are old roads that go down from the main one towards the brook, but I personally think it’s cooler to wander down to the spring, then follow that tiny stream down to the brook, then walk along the brook on a return course. You will then find yourself at a point at which you can walk back up an old road. What I like about this road is how it is lined with stacked shale. Like those stone walls you see out in the woods in so many places, I have to think about the labor that went into doing stuff like this. I know it’s not the pyramids or the Great Wall of China, but it’s still someone’s work that was done for a purpose and is still there to be seen.

    There are other places to explore up in the Watchung Mountains, but this one is the best. I told you how my dad and I “found” Feltville when I was 10 years old or younger. I can remember there being a NIKE base up on the hill across the road from that area. Of course, there was no Rt 78 back then. The NIKE base eventually became the grounds for a school. When looking at the site I just sent you, the last photo is of a water tower that used to have an observation deck on top of it. I’m guessing the deck is still up there, but the stairs leading up to it are not. When I was in high school, I used to frequent that place because the view was so cool.


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