Archive for the ‘Essex’ Category

Singing Sam

Singing Sam Stevens is buried in Evergreen Cemetery in Hillside. I don’t really know much more then that, and the fact that this is one of the most ornate graves I’ve ever seen.

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Where are the bodies?

Sometime in the 1970’s a small cemetery with about 50 people buried in it became a frequent hangout for unsavory characters. Vandals knocked over the headstones, there was graffitti, trash and filth and the place wasn’t maintained. There were weeds and bushes out of control. The park dept decided to convert it to a park and after petitioning the courts, got permission to bulldoze the place. the headstones were laid flat and fill was brought in to raise the level of the park. We wouldn’t want a dog walker to dig up a bone now would we? A memorial to the deceased was erected in place of the headstones that were buried, and it is all that remains of the old cemetery which dated back over 100 years…

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$117K can still buy you a house in Montclair

It is a fixer upper of course…

The tiny, circa-1890 frame house on the narrowest of lots — just 18 feet wide — is as modest as a single-family home can get so close to Montclair’s stately Estate section, where a handsome six-bedroom colonial with “old world craftsmanship” is listed at $1.49 million. The mini-house with its small red deck is also less than a mile from the town’s most expensive real-estate listing, the $7.75 million, 30-room mansion that was once home to former Giants star Michael Strahan. But this little old house on Cross Street is on the opposite end of the spectrum. It is, in fact, at just $117,500, believed to be the lowest-priced listing in town.

“I’ve been in business 20 years, and I’ve never had one that cheap. … It needs, hmmm, basically decor,” said Lenore “Lee” Robinson, the listing agent with RE/MAX Village Square. While it has a lot of traffic from potential buyers, it is still on the market, a sign of the real-estate slump. Its price has been slashed from its summer listing of $175,000. “I would have thought it would have sold right away,” she said. “I just think people are so afraid.” Last month, just eight houses went under contract in Montclair, compared with 25 in December 2007 and 21 in the same month a year earlier, said Linda Grotenstein of Coldwell Banker’s Upper Montclair office. About 85 single-family homes are on the market in Montclair — once a hotbed for multiple bids during the market’s more heady days. The number of listings swells to about 150 when condos are counted.

Still, Adriana O’Toole, a Montclair agent who serves with the West Essex Board of Realtors, said that’s about right for this time of year. And regardless, buyers, she said, are taking their time. “They’re very discerning,” she said. So discerning that the 16 single-family homes now under contract have been on the market an average 115 days, slightly ahead of the Essex County average of 107 days. The least expensive house offers a red deck off the first-floor living room and a single second-floor bedroom, with sliding-glass doors. “It looks like a little chalet,” Robinson said in real estate agent speak. “The Hobbit house” is how one interested party described it, Robinson said.

There have been open houses. Prospective buyers walked through the first-floor 9-by-13 living room and the kitchen. They ascended the staircase to the sole shower-only bathroom and single bedroom. They went around back to a stockade-fence enclosed yard, just a few feet deep, to enter the full basement. Just a week ago, RE/MAX agent Roy Castor showed the house to yet another prospective buyer. “He really liked the house. It’s like the perfect size for a single person.”

Little is known about the house’s history. It isn’t included in Montclair’s otherwise exhaustive 1981 historic preservation survey, and it hardly could qualify as a carriage house once capable of holding horses and wagon. But a larger house, just a couple doors away on Cross Street, is described as a place built for “servants of wealthy landowners on nearby Union and Gates avenues.” Ceil Adkins, who remodeled her larger Cross Street home down the block, said some homeowners on the street have connections going back generations. One of her elderly neighbors, she said, told her that her grandparents once lived in what is now being called a chalet, not far from the 2.25-acre Porter Park.

“It’s a very rare block. There is no other block like Cross Street. This is the only street for the servants that is right in the heart of the Porter Park area,” she said. “We’re surrounded by all these big beautiful mansions.” It’s something Robinson can relate to. Her 1897 St. Luke’s Place home, she said, once belonged to a coachman, a man who handled the bridles and such for a gentleman’s or lady’s transportation. One of those nearby mansions near Cross Street was once the home of James J. Fielder, who served as New Jersey’s governor after Woodrow Wilson assumed the presidency in 1913.

The little house’s listing does describe the place as a “fixer-upper,” something potential buyers seem to shy away from nowadays, said Roberta Baldwin, an agent at RE/MAX Village Square in Montclair. But just around the corner, on Orange Road, a 4-bedroom 1880 colonial being marketed at $650,000 “needs TLC,” according to the listing. Besides, someone might like the little “chalet” just the way it is.”Beauty is in the eye of the beholder,” Baldwin said. “A little love nest?”

Catacombs beneath the streets of Newark

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I can’t recall where I read this, but I read somewhere that the only catacombs in the US were located beneath a church in the Portuguese section of Newark, NJ. I made some phone calls and found out this was true and that the church would give a tour if asked. So I asked.

Located at Lafayette & Prospect, the catacombs are beneath the Immaculate Heart of Mary. The church was established in 1927 in what was at the time, a mostly Italian neighborhood. The catacombs were constructed by church members in the late 1950’s, many coming after work to labor in the building. Eventually the neighborhood began to change, and now is primarily Portuguese. According to the woman who gave me the brief tour, there are 3 Italian families who attend the church, even though the service is given in Portuguese and (presumably) they don’t speak the language. I went to the rectory and gave a small contribution in return for the tour. No amount is specifically requested, it’s whatever you feel is appropriate. I gave $20 just because. The entrance to the catacombs are through this door….

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This door is probably the heaviest, most stubborn door I’ve ever encountered. The key would barely turn the lock, and the door as almost rusted into place. We finally got it open (please don’t ask how long it took to subsequently close it) and we entered into… the basement?

When I say catacombs, it probably conjures up images of old monks walking stooped over thru tunnels lined with brick led by dripping torches as rats squeak in the distance. Maybe you think of old bones wrapped carefully and preserved lying in cutouts along the walls of the passageway. Think again. Indiana Jones this wasn’t. It looked much like any other basement in any other building or house. The walls were finished, as were the ceilings and floors, which were as tall and wide as you would expect in any normal basement. Lining the walls were various paintings of saints and other holy things. In short this wasn’t so much a catacombs as a replica of a catacombs. It was interesting, but not at all what I was expecting.

Is it worth the trip? Probably not I’m sad to say.

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Montclair Art Car Parade

Montclair has had an art car parade 3 years running. I managed to grab some snaps before the parade but couldn’t make the parade itself.

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The aloha car was designed by a woman whose daughter has an art car. She said she wanted to do one, she loves the beach, so her daughter suggested the aloha theme….

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This heap tried 8x to park in front of me and his car kept stalling. Almost hit me.

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This guy collected license plates from every state and bolted them to his vehicle.

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yes, the instruments are meant to be played…

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A car of junk. Neat-o. but people tend to rip things off as souvenirs.

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I’m not entirely sure what these red things all bound up with wire are supposed to be. But it’s inventive, I’ll say that.

The Bicycle Lady of Bloomfield

I received the following email from Richard about the bicycle lady.

I was dropping my sons friend off by Brookdale Shop Rite in Bloomfield on Broad Street one night between 10-10:30pm and across the street we saw an old lady riding a banana seat bike on the sidewalk on Broad Street between Mountain Ave and Bellevue and she turned up Bellevue Ave. I have to say she looked really weird and the boys were freaked out. We all had goosebumps. Of course we checked it out another night between 10-10:45pm another night and there she was.. and it was freezing outside below freezing. Of course the kids wanted to yell out to her and I told the boys to be respectful. I am so curious about this woman..she has to be in her mid seventies. The boys swear she is a ghost. I just think that it is a woman who does her exercise nightly on the bike. Check it out and let me know what you think. My only concern about telling anyone about this is that I don’t want a lot of people to go watch her like a freak show or something. But I figured you would wanna check her out. I’m telling you man…it’s strange. I would say she is there every night around the same time. Contact me and tell me what you think…thanks. keep up the good work.

The collapsing mines of N Arlington

In June of 2003, an old problem resurfaced in North Arlington. The town sits over numerous copper mine shafts dating back to the 18th century. In the late 1980’s one backyard was swallowed up on Scuyler Ave and another on Forest Ave. 2.7 million dollars later, over 27 old shafts were filled in. Residents thought that was the end of it, but maybe not. On Morton Place a depression was discovered in a sidewalk, and when it was investigated, engineers found cavities ranging from 5 to 35 feet deep.

The dead end street was closed and the family whose home sat next to the sidewalk depression were evacuated for safety. Federal funds were approved to fix the problem, which further investigation revealed was related to the old Schuyler Copper mines. The $380,000 grant paid for the “voids” to be filled in with material and then the sidewalk to be rebuilt. Officials do not think any homes were in danger, as they were the last time this issue came up.

Town officials believe this to be an isolated incidents. Said Mayor Russ Pitman, “There are whole towns in Pennsylvania above working mines.” Local resident Linda Wicks wasn’t convinced though. “Two more years and I’m outta here.”

In researching the mines I came across this article which states that the first steam engine in America was used to pump water from one of the Schuyler mines in 1754.