Archive for the ‘Sussex’ Category

The Vass Homestead

Located alongside White Lake in Hardwick is the old Vass Homestead. Born Johann Wass, he emigrated to America in 1764 and changed his name to Vass. One of the first settlers in the area he ran a successful farm, and his sons established a business selling ice taken from White Lake, and mining the shells from the bottom of the lake and crushing them for use inf fertilizer and cement.

The farm house has been preserved, the other buildings on the property, not so good a shape. You can read more about the man and the property at this website.

More pictures

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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Sussex County Farm

One of many abandoned farms in Sussex County. Located on a main road it was an easy find.

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Abandoned Camp in Sussex County

Located in between two active camps in the heart of Sussex County, lie two abandoned camps. There are the remains of a road which leads to one of the camps, and there’s evidence of recent vehicular traffic, but this camp has not seen use for at least 2-3 decades if not more. I’m still researching it’s name and history, so for now, I can only provide photographs. You can see all of them here on Flickr but below are a few teaser shots.

We hiked from the other camp (the one which doesn’t have road access, and followed a trail, but went the wrong way at the fork. Then the trail disappeared and we couldn’t find any more blazes. We knew it was at the base of a ridge so we followed the base of the ridge, mainly following deer trails. We encountered a snake, several tree frogs, but luckily no bears. We found bear scat and even owl vomit along the way before finally hitting the camp itself. At that very moment, the batteries on my camera died, and I did not have any spares as the camera gave me no warning at all. Luckily the boy scout leader who was leading the way gave me his batteries (since he didn’t have a memory card in his camera rendering it useless anyway) We had hiked (bushwhacked really) nearly 2 hours, and over the course of the day covered 7-8 miles.

Enjoy the pics…

Luna Parc

When one enters the gates of Luna Parc, you are welcomed by colorful signs, whimsical mailboxes and a sidewalk covered entirely in various colored tiles. In fact it seems almost everything is covered in beautiful tile work, and not those 4×4 inch tiles you find in the bathroom. I mean intricately designed, hand laid pieces of tile. There is also a sense of whimsy to the designs, almost Dr Seuss like in the way pieces curve and move, and how different elements are married together, such as this mailbox.

There were plates of every color all arranged neatly, same with a half dozen plastic colanders hanging from the ceiling. There is all sorts of art work and carvings all thruout the house, and various collections, such as a collection of dice, numerous lava lamps, and even a gigantic fishbowl full of the plastic snap on pieces that close off a loaf of bread….

By far the coolest room was the bathroom. First of all this as the biggest bathroom I’ve ever been in, easily 20 feet wide. More importantly it was  a circle, and everything was against a wall with an overhead shower in the middle of the room. As expected the entire room was covered with beautiful tile work, and color flowed (literally) thru a series of differently colored gravy boats. I won’t even talk about the bidet….

Ricky grew up in Morris County, and in the mid 80’s had started looking for a place of his own. The building was in major need of repair, but Ricky immediately was able to envision it the way he wanted, and has spent 15 years working on his art, and working on the property which is still a work in progress.  He often asks for help with supplies whenever he needs a large quantity of a certain materials (such as large quantities of   Mrs Butterworth bottles), to the point where sometimes the yard looks like a junkyard. The 5 acre property has art everywhere, from the enjoy bench to the tiled covered table to the Eiffel tower made from bowling trophies. Then there are small little houses (huts might be a better word) that remind me of little displays you’d find at those winter wonderland sections you find at stores that sells gardening supplies.

One of the huts will be a Christmas themed hut, which will either be Santa’s workshop, or more likely a place where kids meet Santa. Another hut was based on a story told to him by his father. While in Italy, a big whig in the Catholic church, possibly the Pope, but I believe more likely to be a bishop, visited this small poor town. A boy on crutches ambled by and the bishop declared the boy healed, and voila! so he was. The boy threw away his crutches and walked normally from then on. The hut is dedicated to religious icons, miracles and faith, complete with a half dozen discarded crutches outside.

In Ricky’s workshop was displayed all of his jewelry, which, I must say was absolutely gorgeous. he had small and large pieces, intricate and simple pieces, pieces for the bookshelf, and pieces to be work. He really is very talented as a jewelry maker, and one piece caught my eye, pictured below. I believe it went for $300.

Although you can not visit his home except by invitation, you can see his work at craft shows and fairts in the tri-state area, visit his webpage for details on where and when he’ll be on display.

The pumpkin House

I found the pumpkin house several years ago, but was never able to contact the owner. I did evnetually get his info but I have yet to contact them.