Archive for the ‘Jersey History’ Category

The Boat Yard Cemetery of Lower Bank

There aren’t many companies whose employees pass the burial site of the founder but Cavalier Boatworks is one such company. The plaque by the headstone tells the story.

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Two of NJ’s oldest and largest psychiatric facilities slated for demolition

A few weeks ago the state announced that it was seeking bids to demolish the main Kirkbride building that was the primary building at Greystone. A number of old buildings have already been torn down and now the state intends to finish the job. This week similar plans were announced for Marlboro. Marlboros demise was actually announced 2 years ago but numerous studies had to be done before any actual demolition could take place. The facility opened in 1931 and closed in 1998 though alcohol rehab treatment is still done in a handful of buildings if I recall correctly. Now abandoned for 15 years the buildings have deteriorated and natural decay mainly from weather and water damage has let asbestos contaminate the halls. I visited there myself about 7 years ago but I would likely not visit today if given the chance. Though the buildings may structurally be sound, certain areas have weak floors and that, coupled with the asbestos would far outweigh any benefits of exploration. It is estimated that it will cost 75M to demolish the buildings safely, but I wouldn’t be surprised if the cost were closer to 100M. I say that because the state estimates restoring the Kirkbridge building at Greystone would cost well in excess of $100M. The The question then becomes what to do with the sprawling estate, and a park seems a likely choice given the emphasis on Green Acres preservation. Anything would be better than to sell it off and make more subdivisions.

Picatinny Arsenal hunts for live shells buried on neighboring property

Neighboring properties to be searched. It’s only been 84 years…., I mean, no time like the present right?

Waterloo Village

Waterloo Village is situated alongside the Morris Canal, in Byram Township. It was once a 70-acre rural farm community. More recently it functioned as a historical society, teaching visitors about the history of the area, the early European settlers and Native Americans, and the Morris Canal. Over the winter, 2013 I drove by Waterloo Village, not knowing for sure if it was open or if it was abandoned. I knew that for years it had been closed and had read somewhere that it had reopened, but there were conflicting reports. At the time of my visit, there was no one there except for a few people walking their dogs. We took some pictures and left as it seemed obvious that the Village was not abandoned but was closed for the winter. Upon coming home I researched the Village for this blog entry.

All my pictures from Waterloo Village can be found here.

The retreat of glaciers from northwestern NJ 15,000 years ago left a fertile landscape, which combined with an abundance of wildlife and rich natural resources to make a desirable living area for early humans. The area was first inhabited by Paleo Indians around 8,000 BC, followed by the (Munsee) Lenape and Delaware Indian tribes. European fur traders arrived in the 1600’s with colonization to soon follow. The colonists would start mining iron and soon many forges were creating metal goods which were transported on waterways. One such waterway was the Morris Canal, opened in 1831 and running from Phillipsburg to Jersey City. Barges carrying numerous goods were towed by mules on paths alongside the canal. To accommodate changes in elevation, loches and inclined planes were incorporated into the canal.

After the Civil War, in the late 1860s, a significant amount of transportation business shifted from the waterways to the railroads. Traffic declined noticably along the Morris Canal and so did the population of Waterloo Village. By 1900, sometimes only one boat would use it in an entire year. The canal closed down in 1924, its utility eclipsed by the modern railroad. By the time of the Great Depression the Village was totally abandoned.

Due to its close proximity to local rail stops, hobos found the town a good place to stay and they protected it from vandalism through the 1930’s and 40’s. In the 1960’s, Percival H.E. Leach and Lou Gualandi spearheaded an effort to preserve the village. Slowly the village was restored and it would eventually become incorporated into Allamuchy Mountain State Park.

A non-profit organization, The Waterloo Foundation for the Arts, was established and enabled the two men to raise the funds necessary to not only restore the village, but also to offer classical and pop concerts that brought in additional revenue. By the mid-1980s, Waterloo had become a popular destination for performing artists and there were hopes that an amphitheater would be built and would become the summer home of New York’s Metropolitan Opera.

Waterloo Village was at its peak of popularity when Lou Gualandi died in 1988. Following his death came numerous questionable moves by Percy which would eventually lead to his ouster as head of the non-profit. The size of the crowds drawn by the concerts overwhelmed local roads and strained relations with local towns. A land swap deal which allowed the construction of BASF headquarters created a furor among historians and those dedicated to preserving the area. New management brought in during the 1990’s downsized the concerts, and by the 2000’s the state had grown even more leery of how the site was being managed. The non-profit received in excess of a million dollars in funding from the state of NJ from 2000-2005, but by 2007 the state funding was cut entirely and the village remained closed after the 2006 season. Control of the Village was turned over to the NJ DEP Dept of Parks and Forests. The only part to remain open to the public was the 150 year old, independently operated Waterloo United Methodist Church.

Historic Waterloo Village partially reopens after 2006 shutdown, citizens group to fundraise for park’s future nj.com article

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    Waterloo Village today

PROGRAMS AND TOURS:

Winakung at Waterloo Heritage Program is a collection of different educational interpretive tours that incorporates elements of the Lenape Village Program and Waterloo Canal Town Program. The Lenape Village program re-creates an old Native American village named “Winakung”. Visitors learn about Native American life before and after European colonization. The village includes a wigwam and a longhouse as well as activities including crafts, games, interactive activities, and storytelling. Every Thursday, the Village is open to visitors for a tour. The tour visits the blacksmith and gristmill where visitors learn about the importance each played in the history of the Morris Canal. Visitors can shop in the store and learn about items commonly bought by 19th century shoppers. Additional hands-on activities allow both adults and children to learn about rural farm life on the Morris Canal.

Canal Town Program

Popular Waterloo Village Events

Waterloo Canal Day – Held annually in late June early July – for information call 973-875-2068. A two-day music festival featuring as many as 15 different bands on two stages, comprising of country, country rock and bluegrass. Proceeds go towards restoration efforts at Waterloo Village.

Canal Heritage Days – Second and fourth Saturdays July-October. Admission free. Guided tours are provided of the village, the canal, the blacksmith shop, gristmill as well as NJ Canal Museum. In addition boat rides on the canal are offered.

Highlands Festival at Waterloo, September. An environmental festival featuring local food and music, with a focus on the arts, history, cultural and natural resources of New Jersey.

You can learn more about Waterloo Village and the Morris Canal at the Friends of Waterloo Village webpage.

The 1925 Rockport train crash

20 yards from a non-descript railroad crossing in Rockport, NJ is a memorial to one of the worst train crashes in NJ history. On the evening of June 15 and thoughout the next morning, the Hackettstown area was hit by a ferocious thunderstorm. At approximately 10 p.m., lightning struck a lumber yard in Hackettstown. The ensuing fire consumed the entire lumber yard. Shortly after midnight, heavy rain sent debris down a steep hill where the rock dirt and tree branches accumulated in the Rockport Crossing, where the road crossed the Lackawanna’s Phillipsburg Branch.

At 2:24 AM a train full of German passengers traveling from Chicago, Illinois to Hoboken, New Jersey came down the rail line. This was an annual trip organized for German Americans, who would travel to Hoboken and board a steamship for Europe. The train stopped at Niagara Falls, then Binghamton, NY and Scranton, PA before heading thru the Poconos, crossing the Delaware headed for Hoboken. The engine hit the clogged flangeways at the crossing and derailed the trucks to the right. The engine continued down the track for 198 feet before it derailed entirely. the cars behind it detatched from each other and the passenger car came to rest on top of the boiler. The steam fittings ripped open and superheated steam sprayed into the windows of the passenger cars above and beside. Many passengers were burned to death by the steam.

Despite the fire that was raging across town, emergency personnel soon arrived on the horrible scene. Many of those who had survived the wreck either died from the fire and steam or died soon afterwards. The injured were taken via rescue trains to hospitals Easton, Pennsylvania; Phillipsburg, New Jersey; Dover, New Jersey; and Morristown, New Jersey, as Hackettstown did not as yet have a hospital. Many passengers en route to the hospital or in the days afterwards. A more horrific accident was prevented when watchman a watchman in hackettstown heard the whistle blow at the Hazen road crossing (where the accident happened) but did not hear a whistle at what would have been the next crossing. Fearing the worst he held up a westbound freight train that was about to pass thru the area.

A joint investigation by the Interstate Commerce Commission (ICC) and the New Jersey Board of Public Utility Commissioners found that there was no blame to be apportioned and that the accident had been caused by an Act of God. It is unclear exactly how many passengers died in the accident. It is estimated that between 47-50 people died as a result of the accident. 100 survivors boarded the steamship for Germany the following morning.

A small garden and a brass plaque, laid on the 70th anniversary of the wreck, commemorates the crash site.

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Hinchcliffe Stadium

Located just behind the Great Falls in Paterson, Hinchcliffe Stadium was used for football and baseball as well other athletics activities for 5 decades before falling into disrepair and disuse. It now sits abandoned right behind one of Paterson’s many public schools. Hinchcliffe stadium opened on July 8, 1932, and was named for the mayor of Paterson, John Hinchcliffe. It immediately hosted Negro league baseball games and was the site of the Colored Championship of the Nation, the Negro League equivalent of the World Series. The stadium was the home of the NY Black Yankees until 1945., when they moved to Rochchester, NY. The stadium was home to boxing matches, auto racing, as well as professional football.

The stadium was owned by the city until 1963 when it was turned over to the public school system. many repairs and upgrades were made. Over the next 20 years, the stadium would host antique car shows, concerts and the Great Falls Festival on labor Day. Further upgrades were made in 1983 with the addition of handicap access among other things. In 1988 the stadium became home to the NJ Eagles of the American Soccer League. Eventually though, funding problems prevented necesary repairs from being made and by 1997 the stadium was closed for safety reasons. By 2002 a non profit group called Friends of Hinchliffe Stadium announced plans to try to revive the stadium. In 2004 the stadium was placed on the State and National Registers of Historic Places. Little has been done in the past 6-8 years, however. In 2005 a local ballot endorsed the idea of restoring the stadium. A similar ballot initiative passed in 2009 and provided for over 10M to restore the site. The creation of a National Park out of the Great Falls may further spark the restoration process. The National park will incoporate the land on which sits the former ATP ruins. It would seem natural to include Hinchliffe in such renovations as part of a historical look at Paterson’s past.

All of my pictures of Hinchcliffe can be found here

excellent post about the ruins of Cliffdale Manor in the NJ Palisades

I’ve done a fair amount of research on the NJ Palisades and I’ve visted all the ruins but I never knew much about the largest of the ruins in the park. This website not only runs down the history but has some awesome old pictures that show what it was like when it was in use. Well worth checking out.