Archive for the ‘Essex’ Category

Freak’s Peak

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Freaks Peak is a local name for a section of Mills Reservation which has an incredibly picturesque view of Montclair and even NYC on a clear day. The cliffs have a sheer drop off of 100 feet to the bottom, making for quite a sense of vertigo. There are reports of something strange lurking in the woods and growling. Two issues with this: One, the reports are by teens who admit that this spot was a great “place to party” and who would frequently go there to drink and smoke dope. Second, there are similar reports at Rifle Camp Park & Garrett mountain which are just across Route 46. As a matter of fact the author of an article about Freaks Peaks reference a previous article which was in fact, about the abandoned quarry below Rifle Camp Park. I think these tales are probably all in some HS kids imagination, there is probably nothing freaky in these woods, more then likely someone’s dog who was running off leash (as about 70% of all dogs do in this park it seems).

However… this is still a fantastic place to visit. The trails are mostly flat, mostly wide, and make for easy hiking. Lots of people walk their dogs here, and there are 3 different geocaches here as well. It is incredibly large and is centrally located to several major highways making it easily accessible. The views from Freaks peak are quite good, though not as good as those at Garrett mountain, but it’s still worth a trip.

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This is what is known to some as the sacrificial sundial, an incredibly laughable term, but I can see where it would get it’s name from. More then likely this is just a concrete foundation. But it is kinda creepy looking though…

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Summit Nike Base

You can read more about the Summit Nike base here

Entrance to Nike Road

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Nike Rd was the entrance to the Nike Control Base in Summit just outside the Watchung Reservation. The military buildings are long gone, and only the name of the road remains to remind people of what once was a part of our national defense system. The road is blocked off to vehicular access but foot traffic is permitted. The control base was built in 1958, despite
concerns about being located so close to the woods of the Reservation. Interstingly the base was shut down only 4 years later. The launch control site is located where the Watchung Stables are located now.

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The JFK Church of West Orange

In a church in West Orange is a very unusual stained glass window. Our Lady of Lourdes wanted to honor JFK because he was the first catholic president, so they had a stained glass window created which depicted his swearing in. Pictured with him are his wife, Lyndon Johnson & Dwight Eisenhower.

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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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The Boiardo House

The Boiardo family was one of the biggest crime families in NJ. It began with Ruggerio “Richey the Boot” Boiardo who worked in the beer trade during prohibition, before changing to running numbers after prohibition was repealed. With the housing explosion in NJ, homes are much closer to one another you can look down the long driveway and even approach the rear entrance if you dare. Is this advisable? Probably not. There is one story of a cub scout mom who drove up the Boiardo driveway thinking it was Riker Hill Park which is located a few blocks away. The armed guards outside the home not-so-politely advised the woman and her cub scouts to leave.

The following is a quote from the book, THE BOYS FROM NEW JERSEY, by Robert Rudolph.

In his prime, Boiardo was a bruiser who modeled himself after Al Capone ad who sported a $5,000 diamond belt buckle that earned him the nickname “Diamond Ritchie”.

Richie the Boot had been one of the true celebrities of prohibition-era NJ. Portrayed by the authorities as the reigning patriarch of organized crime in NJ until his death in 1984, Boiardo had risen from immigrant stonemason to become one of the most powerful and feared members of the state’s organized crime power structure.

A familiar figure in Newark politics, who as local ward leader mingled freely with both the prominent and notorious, Boiardo had slipped from public view when the Addonizio case propelled him and his son back into the limelight. In 1969, Hugh Addonizio a former 7 term Congressman who had been touted by those in the know as a potential candidate for governor of NJ, was completing his second term as mayor of the state’s largest city and preparing for a third run for that office. Amid the background of a heated mayoral campaign that as to mark the last hurrah for the old line white power structure in the increasingly black dominated city of Newark, Addonizio and 14 other persons were indicted by a federal grand jury on extortion-conspiracy charges that tied Addonozio to reputed mafia Boss Anthony (Tony boy) Boiardo, the son of the flamboyant gang lord Richie the Boot. Addonozio was subsequently convicted and sentenced to 10 years in a federal prison.

But beyond exposing the corruption of Addonozio and his cohorts, the prosecution of the former Newark mayor had served another purpose. it made something of a household name of Richie the Boot and Tony Boy, and reawakened public awareness of the role of the mafia in NJ.

The public attention was heightened when the press began publicizing stories about Boiardo’s fortress like home and the goings-ons rumored to have taken place there. The estate was featured in a double page spread in life magazine, which described the home, aptly enough, as designed in “Transylvanian traditional.” For along the dark drive leading up to the main house was a bizarre collection of statuary: likenesses of the entire Boiardo family, their busts and name plates arrayed on pillusters surrounding the padrone of the dynasty, a youthful Richie the Boot, outfitted in formal riding wear, sitting astride a prancing white stallion

A less familial but grisly feature of the estate was a private crematorium. It was here, underworld rumor had it, that Boiardo disposed of his enemies, burning them on a huge iron gate after they had been murdered. Oh he just did it to show everybody what a great guy he is, that he had the guts,” one mobster explained. “He’d tell them he’ll take anybody’s problems…” Tony boy had been indicted along with Addonoizio, but was severed from the trial when he suffered a heart attack. Although he subsequently became a familiar figure at his favorite gold courses, he never recovered his health sufficiently to be able to stand trial.

On April 20, 1978 the younger Boiardo, who once adopted a more sedate and business like image then once-boisterous father, and who was reputedly fronting for underworld forays into the world of legitimate business, died at Community hospital in Montclair after lingering for weeks in critical condition since suffering a heart attack on good Friday.

In his declining years, the elder Boiardo had become something of a recluse, rarely venturing from the cloistered confines of his sprawling baronial mansion, which as located just over the crest of the West Orange Mountains in Livingston. Guarded by wrought-iron gates and stone pillars topped with bronze swans, the house was located at the had of a winding drive, hidden from the road by a forest of tall trees and shrubbery. The main house was constructed of imported Italian stone, resembling the dark brooding fortress of a feudal lord.

There, behind the walls of his private property, the once-robust Boiardo had passed his time puttering about in vegetable patch that, in a final glimmer of his once characteristic humor, had been marked with the sign GODFATHER’S GARDEN.

Boiardo outlived his son and heir presumptive by more then six years, passing away at the age of 93, a frail stooped, white hared shadow of his former image as a brawling gun-toting hood who had survived an assassin’s bullet in the early 1930’s.