The Brown’s Inn Footbridge

There once was a lovely village called Newfoundland, up West Milford/Jefferson way. A landmark of the area was Brown’s Inn, a lovely four-story hotel renowned all over for its hospitality and unrivalled peace and quiet. It stood on what was then the Paterson-Hamburg Turnpike, which we know today as Route 23 South, just across from Green Pond Road. Gone now, of course; that’s the way of old hotels. But the story of the Inn is for another post.

Behind the Inn was a meadow crossed by the quiet Pequannock River. (There wouldn’t be a “northbound 23” until many years later.) Across the river stood the old Brown homestead, a nice little cottage. To get to it you would traipse across a lovely and well-made footbridge. No one can recall just when it was built — my earliest postcard view is from 1909, and it was likely constructed sometime in the 1800s — but it endured for over a century.

Brown’s homestead footbridge, circa 1909.

Here’s a close-up of the footbridge. Anchored on both sides, the ‘cabin’ was held up by three iron rods anchored to a boulder in the river. If you liked, you could sit in the little cabin and while away some time.

Perhaps the best view of the footbridge.

This is a view from one of the upper stories of Brown’s Inn. It shows a peaceful, tranquil, and unpaved meadow with a path from the homestead to the footbridge.

But as idyllic as it all seemed, Brown’s Inn was “a source of annoyance” to the City of Newark. Since the late 1890s, Newark had been buying land in upper Passaic County, and constructing dams and reservoirs, to supply it with fresh, clean water. Brown’s represented a problem to its campaign to prevent pollution from entering in its water supply.

Negotiations dragged on for a decade before a sale was made. Brown’s Inn was purchased, and then razed, in 1914.

In the early 1960s, Route 23 was “dualized” by the addition of two northbound lanes which came uncomfortably close to the homestead. As part of the project, the riverbed was actually “relocated”, in the state’s terminology, to make way for the new northbound lanes. (It is unlikely that such an action would be as readily granted today.)

And so the footbridge slumbered, unused. The half closest to the highway collapsed decades ago, and even when it was passable, there was nowhere to go except to climb the embankment to the highway.

My own photo, taken with permission from the tenant in 2015. Note that the right side is entirely gone.
My own photo, taken with permission from the tenant. I was not brave enough to risk getting on it!

The end finally came in the fall of 2020.

Rest in pieces, footbridge.

And another bit of history is gone.


A Brief Description of 1905 Newfoundland

Nice escription of 1905 Newfounland

Some of you know that I like to browse the old newspapers, because you never know what you’ll find there. This clipping, from 1905, is from a longer article and includes a nice description of Newfoundland and some interesting details.

Nice escription of 1905 Newfounland

For starters, “Newfoundland is the centre of the sugar bush country“. Who knew that some folks made maple syrup there?

And this tidbit: “There are two white frame churches with green blinds continually challenging each other from adjacent hills and so near alike that a newcomer might easily get mixed as to his doctrine by going to the rival church by mistake.”

I take this as a description of the M.E. church (now the dog-grooming place) and the long-gone Baptist church on Clinton. They were, in fact, almost identical in appearance.

But it’s the sardonic description of Brown’s Hotel that I like the best:

“There is but one tavern with a bar in the place, and there is a bar that a bishop might dedicate without calling forth whereases and therefores from a single protesting body of his laity. It is a saloon in which there are window-boxes filled with oxalis and geraniums and begonias and other plants generally associated with grandmothers. It is one of the improving duties and pastimes of the bartender to water those plants and pick off the dead leave.

” ‘Botany before booze’ might be the motto of the place, but the only sign displayed is ‘Welcome,’ worked in light blue worsted on bristol-board and hung above the bottles. There are no drunkards there.”

The “saloon” the writer describes seems to refer to Brown’s Hotel. Those who have studied the history of Brown’s will recall that at some point in the 1890s, J.P.’s son Theodore decreed that Brown’s would go “dry”, and he no longer sold alcohol there. And the writer was clearly very disappointed!