“Remember the Maine!”

The intersection of the Paterson-Hamburg Turnpike and Wanaque Avenue, in Pompton Lakes, has featured several noteworthy structures. Here’s one of them.

During the Revolutionary War, a house known as the Yellow Tavern stood close by the intersection where the present-day Federal Square memorial now stands, on a triangle of land. The tavern welcomed visitors on their journeys throughout north NJ, including General George Washington and his officers and men. It was razed about 1890 “to permit the changing [widening] of the roads,” as an old manuscript put it. (The house that replaced it, much later known as the Ramapo Valley House, survived… but that’s another post.)

The Yellow Tavern, from an 18th Century drawing.

A memorial consisting of a cannon (Civil War, perhaps?), a stack of cannonballs, and a “liberty pole” topped by an American flag, stood upon the triangle of land at the historic intersection until 1914, when a town memorial was dedicated on the site, on Labor Day, to honor several Pompton Lakes residents who lost their lives when the U.S.S. Maine exploded in Cuba’s Havana Harbor on February 15, 1898. This tragedy cost 260 American lives and later led to the Spanish-American War of 1898.

The site was used as a war memorial for many years before the Maine memorial was erected. Click for full-sized image.

Consisting of a raised round platform and a fieldstone-and-concrete tower, the monument on the triangle — also known, for some reason, as Federal Square — “contains a copper ventilator from the Maine battleship. The ventilator was transported to Pompton Lakes by Harry Hershfield, a Pompton Lakes Mayor who went on to become a state Senator.” As you can see in the photo below, the existing memorial was incorporated into the design, and a chain was draped around the raised platform.

This photo was taken about 1918. Click for full-sized image.
The plaque on the memorial, in honor of the local members of the Council of the Jr. Order of the United American Mechanics. Click for full-sized image.

Since then, many cosmetic changes have been made to the memorial site, which now features nice greenery and a historic marker denoting the site of “Washington’s Headquarters”. The origin the cannon was forgotten long ago, and the pile of cannonballs disappeared at some point. Two memorial stones honor the dead of World War I, World War II, and the Korean War. A flagpole flies the American flag and, below, a POW/MIA flag in memory of those who served in the Vietnam War.

The Pompton Lakes Liberty Bell was presented to the borough in 1957 by the Pompton Lakes Elks Club. Click for full-sized image.

And so the Maine monument at Federal Square has remained, nearly untouched, although time is taking a toll.


The copper ventilator, unprotected from the elements, has been slowly disappearing over the past century. Click for full-sized image.

Why is this article titled “Remember the Maine!” ? The actual cause of the explosion will likely never be known, but the theory that a Spanish mine in the harbor was the reason she sank (never mind that she was riding at anchor) caught fire with the press:

[P]opular opinion in the U.S., fanned by inflammatory articles printed in the “yellow press” by William Randolph Hearst and Joseph Pulitzer, blamed Spain. The phrase, “Remember the Maine! To hell with Spain!”, became a rallying cry for action, which came with the Spanish–American War later that year. While the sinking of Maine was not a direct cause for action, it served as a catalyst, accelerating the approach to a diplomatic impasse between the U.S. and Spain.

Wikipedia

Later investigations would plausibly suggest that the explosion was more likely caused by a magazine explosion within the vessel, possibly caused by a coal fire.

F.B. Whittle Hardware, Butler NJ

Once upon an era, every town and village had a hardware store. In many instances, it was also the general store, post office, and community center where men would discuss the matters of the day.

F.B. Whittle Hardware building
Whittle Hardware, shortly after closing in 2001

Frank B. Whittle was born in England in 1860, and (presumably with his family) came to America in 1870. He lived in Sussex, where he had a position with the Lawrence Hardware Company. He met and married Harriet Beemer and had a daughter, Edith, in 1886.

Apparently an upstanding citizen, Whittle was at various times the Borough Clerk, the Registrar, and chief of the fire department.

In 1905, the company incorporated, with S.F. Quince and Frank Whittle, “former employees of the firm”, as the incorporators.

According to a trade magazine’s report, “The company is intending to open a branch Hardware and plumbing establishment at Butler, N.J.”

Frank and his family moved to Butler, where he opened the branch store downstairs from the Butler Opera House. A fire in December 1906 destroyed the Opera House and several nearby structures. He was fortunate that a sturdy three-story brick building had been recently finished at 208 Main Street. This became the new home of The Lawrence Hardware Company, which sold plumbing, hardware and heating supplies. He ran this store until 1915, when he moved to Pompton Lakes to open another branch store.

Still interested in local affairs, he was at some point elected mayor. In 1921, he bought the store and ran it under his own name.

Correspondence with Lamson & Goodnow, a Massachusetts cutlery company.

He remained in Pompton Lakes until 1923 when he sold the business and, the following year, organized (and was president of) the F.B. Whittle Hardware Company. Soon after, he purchased the Butler store. It was operated under his name until the store closed in 2001.

Whittle Hardware as most of us remember it.

Frank B. Whittle died in 1928, but the store stayed in the family. Edith Whittle had married Irvin Shorter in 1905, and their son, Donald, took over the store. It was run by the Shorter family until the late 1990s. The store was sold, but closed permanently in 2001.

From Scherer’s Inn to the Riverdale Lodge, Riverdale NJ

The history of this place begins with Joseph Slater, who around 1861 bought Ford’s Mill, located on Paterson-Hamburg Turnpike near the intersection of Newark-Pompton Turnpike. That mill became Slater’s Mill, which processed felt for hats.  A relative (brother?) named Otis built a house across the intersection on the southeast corner.

I don’t know the full history of this busy corner, but at some point the house was transformed into a tavern, and later added rooms to let, making it Riverdale’s first (and likely only) hotel.  This very busy place was apparently known as (not necessarily in this order):
  • Old Maple Inn (unconfirmed)
  • Scherer’s Inn (Joseph Scherer, proprietor) – 1920s
  • Riverdale Hotel and Restaurant  – 1930s
  • Old Heidelberg Tavern (Herman & Anna Zerr, proprietors) – 1930s
  • German Inn (unconfirmed)
  • Hunter’s Inn (Bert Lamb, proprietor) – early 1940s
  • Bert Lamb’s Riverdale Lodge (Bert Lamb, proprietor) – 1942-1946
    (Lamb sold it in 1946 but it was still in operation in 1948)

I don’t know the full history of this busy corner, but at some point in the 1920s the house was purchased by a German immigrant named Joseph Scherer. He might have turned the place into a restaurant/guest house (or perhaps it already was) and named  it” Scherer’s Inn”. Scherer and his family — a wife, four (or five) children, and some others — lived there as well as ran it.

Scherer's Inn, Riverdale (1929)
Scherer’s Inn, Riverdale (1929)

At some point in the 1930s, it became the Old Heidelberg Tavern and was operated by Herman Zerr and his wife, and likely his two daughters as well. Apparently they kept it up until Herman’s death in 1937.

Old Heidelberg Tavern, Riverdale
Old Heidelberg Tavern, Riverdale

There was probably another owner and another name, maybe more than one, before Bert Lamb bought it. Lamb, a New York entrepreneur, ran the place as a diner/tavern in the early 1940s which he called the Hunter’s Inn. Evidently he upgraded it to “Bert N. Lamb’s Riverdale Lodge” in 1942, and held a glorious grand opening on May 20, 1942 from 2 p.m. “until closing”. Guests enjoyed a buffet lunch and barbecue to the sounds of Harold G. Hoffman’s band.

Riverdale Lodge grand opening invitation (1942)
Riverdale Lodge grand opening invitation (1942)

A 1946 newspaper article notes that Lamb sold it to Joseph Sudyka of Bloomfield for $40,000. An article from 1948 revealed that it was still a going concern.

It’s worth noting the telephone number, from Scherer (at least) through Lamb, never changed: POmpton Lakes 540.

A classified ad offered the place for sale in 1963, noting the property contained “152 foot road frontage on Paterson-Hamburg Turnpike” and was “357 feet deep”.

At some point — perhaps the 1960s — the decision was made to widen that portion of Hamburg Turnpike. That spelled the end for the venerable old house. Today, the site is occupied by a gas station.

Businesses on Main Street, Butler NJ, early 1900s

If you could somehow pluck a citizen of Butler, NJ, off Main Street a century (or more) ago, and plop him down in the same place today, he’d immediately recognize his surroundings. Butler is one of those towns which hasn’t changed substantially over that time. (Compare with any photo of, say, downtown Manhattan, where very little remains from the past.)

Not only is this really cool to a history buff, it also makes it easier to pair the businesses of then to the businesses of now. Here’s what I know:

Judging by the car, this is early 1900s.

The large gold sign on the store reads “Goldstein Bros” … currently there is no third & fourth story, due to a fire. This is the large building formerly occupied by Levine Bros clothiers.

Main Street, Butler NJ, early 20th Century
Main Street, Business Section, Butler NJ in the early 1900s. Click for full-sized version.

The store next door, closer to the photographer, has no large sign, but you can read “Soda” at the bottom of the window. This is the building currently occupied by Butler News & Candy Shop (150 Main St) — largely unmodified since this postcard!

The building closest to us is at 144 Main Street, currently occupied by Alvino’s Barber Shop.

The building to the left of Goldstein’s would then be the WCTU building (156-158 Main St), currently occupied by Mizuki restaurant. It appears the roof was rebuilt and is, today, higher than in this photo. Indeed, it appears that the WCTU sign is there, hung above the second-story porch.

The next building beyond, a house, at 160 Main Street is currently Vanderhoof & Sons Custom Heating.

And note you can see the RR station at left, down the block.

A Church is Reborn

October 24, 1937 was a bleak day for Pequannock Township. In a matter of hours, the First Dutch Reformed Church, first constructed in 1771, was entirely gutted by an early-morning fire. It took the combined efforts of 70 firemen from six other communities, in addition to Pequannock, to bring it under control.

There’s some fascinating video footage of the fire here, filmed by resident and local historian Carl Edwards. If you watch closely, the camera sometimes pans around to show the surrounding area.

 

 

It took the congregation less than a year and a half to completely rebuild the church from “ashes to splendor.” There’s video of the rebuilding process at this link, again courtesy of Mr. Edwards. The church is still in use today, known as the First Reformed Church of Pompton Plains.

(Click on the images for a full-sized version.)

Jones store robbed!

No, not that Jones store. This happened in August, 1881:

Newspaper article about the 1881 robbery of William Jones’ store

Exchanging Shots with Burglars

Paterson, Aug. 10. – Word has just been received here of an encounter with the Storms gang of burglars at Pompton Plains on Sunday night. …

A year ago they robbed the store of Mr. William Jones, at Pompton Plains. On Sunday night last, sometime between midnight and 2 A.M., Mr. Jones heard a noise in the house. Going into the basement, he heard footsteps in the store. He immediately went up stairs, got his revolver, and went outside, where he found that a window shutter had been removed.

Peering in, he could see a man rummaging among the goods, and immediately fired at him. The burglar gave a shriek of pain. The light inside was extinguished and four shots were fired at Mr. Jones and his wife, who had followed him.

As they were standing in the bright moonlight, they retreated, and the robbers decamped. Mr. Jones recognized the man he shot as Jake Storms. He is thought to be wounded.

(Click on the image for a full-sized version.)

No idea where William Jones’ store was, or for that matter, who he was. I asked Rob Jones, but he didn’t recognize the name as part of his family tree. His grandfather took over an existing hardware store in April 1929, but that’s all I know, except that at one point, the place was a general store (and likely a post office) run by the Berry family.

I haven’t had any luck, so far, tracing the elusive Jake Storms further in history. Did he survive? Did his gang return to burgle again? Wouldn’t I like to know.

 

The Route 23/46 Interchange, Wayne NJ (1964)

Today, the area where Route 23, Route 46, and Interstate 80 meet is a veritable ‘spaghetti bowl’ of highways, ramps, and overpasses. Decades ago, though, there was just Newark-Pompton Turnpike (Route 23) and Route 6 (today’s Route 46, but it’s been renumbered a lot).

In the 1960s, before I-80 came through, this was what the interchange looked like. This photo shows us looking east. Route 23 is at left and at right. Some remember there being traffic lights on the traffic circle.

Aerial view, Route 23 & 46 (1964)

(Click on the image to view it full size.)

If you look at the buildings near bottom right — just to the left of the ad “winter supplies” — you’ll see where Orange Trailer was. This trailer-rental company was owned & operated by the Heslin family of Pequannock. (If you have similar memories, let me know in the comments.)

 

 

More about the ‘Ghost Bridge’ of Oak Ridge Reservoir

(This is a continuation of the original post that you can find here.)

I found this line drawing in an 1891 journal titled Engineering Record, in an article titled CONSTRUCTION OF THE EAST JERSEY WATER COMPANY’S AQUEDUCT AND RESERVOIRS. It’s a lengthy piece about the massive undertaking of building five reservoirs in north Jersey for the benefit of Newark. (Another of my interests. You may yawn, if you like.)

So this line drawing is described thus: “Figure 3 is a view of the three-arch bridge carrying the new highway across an arm of the Oak Ridge reservoir. At full stages of the water these arches will be completely submerged.”  

Which, of course, they are, as per this blog post. If you’re lucky to be there during a drought, you too can see it… even walk on it, if you dare.

Ghost Bridge illustration (1891)
Ghost Bridge illustration (1891)

The “new highway” wasn’t all that new; it was the Paterson-Hamburg Turnpike. At the time the Oak Ridge reservoir was under construction, the roadway ran along the shore of the river. But clearly, the roadway would have to be moved to higher ground, which it was, reportedly around 1927.

Looking north on the east shore of the Oak Ridge Reservoir, late 1890s. On the right is the railroad. (Click image for full-sized view.)

In this photo we see the original route of the Paterson-Hamburg Turnpike (Route 8) which followed the eastern shore of the reservoir. The ridge supporting the railroad is visible on the right, well above the roadway.

And if you examine the photo closely (or click on it to open it up full size), at lower left is the old bridge that led to the village of Oak Ridge.

Where the original roadway was not far above the water line, today’s highway is elevated several yards higher — almost level with those railroad tracks — to prevent any flooding issues. The highway was also straightened, such that it proceeds nearly north (to the left) of the roadway here, and very close to the bridge. Today, if you park on Route 23 South near the bridge, you look down on it, over a very steep incline, and from a much closer vantage than shown here.

Vintage ad: Farm for sale

October 1851:

FARM FOR SALE – The farm belonging to Sam’l Berry, dec’d, on Pompton Plains, is offered for sale, in parts or whole, to suit the purchaser, situated on the main road from Newark to Pompton, also on the road leading to Paterson, and within ten minutes walk of the Church and Academy. For particulars enquire of PETER S. BERRY 157 Charles st, N.Y. or HUGH HEATH, 6 Columbia st Newark, or on the premises.

The “main road from Newark to Pompton” was, in fact, the Newark-Pompton Turnpike. “Within ten minutes walk of the Church and the [Union] Academy” tells us it wasn’t far from the First Reformed Church of Pompton Plains.  That’s all I know; perhaps some Berry descendant can add more in the Comments.

 

Ad - Berry farm for sale (1851)
Ad – Berry farm for sale (1851)

Greetings from Pequannock, N.J.

Your typical “greetings from” postcard shows a generic illustration of fields, a country road, a lake, or whatever. This one, at least, does appear to have been taken in Pequannock. It shows a lovely view of the river… with Newark’s four-foot water pipeline crossing it.

Postcard sent in 1922

An idyllic scene, ostensibly from Pompton Plains. It’s probably a generic card, as witness the blocky font with the town’s name. “Greetings from YOUR TOWN HERE”.

 

Postcard sent in 1928