Henn’s Tavern, Wayne NJ

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The 19th-Century building known as Henn’s Tavern stood on the corner of Jackson Ave and Hamburg Turnpike from the mid-1850s until it was torn down in 1968. The place had been in the Henn family for almost a hundred years.

Henn’s stood at the intersection of Jackson Ave and Hamburg Turnpike. Note the water tower in the background, still there today. The billboard touts Sportland, a large recreational area on Route 3 in the Meadowlands. Click the photo for a larger version.

The locals called it the Coop, the Henn house, or the Half-Way house — it was halfway between Paterson and the Norton House in Pompton Lakes — and they came for Al Henn’s 25-cent whiskey and 10-cent beer chaser … and to pass the time of day. Mabel Henn did the cooking, making both lunch and dinner, which might include game bagged by local hunters.

The name “Half-way House” was well deserved:

More than a hundred years ago, when people journeyed from Paterson to the Hamburg Turnpike and to upcounty areas, it took them at least an hour by horse and carriage to make the uphill journey into Wayne.

Perhaps the reason why the older generation feel winters used to be more severe is because they didn’t have the convenience of heated cars. One shivers at the thought of them riding behind clopping horses, huddled up in their blankets, noses red as cherries.

In those days, there were way stations where travelers could pause, rest their horses, have a hot drink, and warm up before a fire. Henn’s Tavern was one of those early stage coach, stops, and if buildings could speak it would have many stories to tell.

The Morning Call, 12 Dec 1968

The Henns also had a 32-acre farm where they raised pigs. Around what is now Old Homestead Road was a baseball field which the locals called Al Henn’s field. Some area residents recall that dugouts were added at some point, and that P.A.L. baseball was played there. Al Henn field was the only ball field in town besides the Valley High School varsity field with dug outs. 

(I don’t know whether Mr. Henn was responsible for constructing the field. If any readers have some insight, please feel free to leave a comment or send me an email.)

In those days there was a bus stop across Jackson Avenue by Old Homestead Road. As one resident recalls, Mr. Henn walked down to the corner every morning to open up the barn across the street so all the kids on Old Homestead Road had a place to wait for the bus away from the weather.

This 1968 newspaper article noting its passing says that the house was a stagecoach stop in the 1800s, and that it had been in the Henn family “for almost 100 years.”

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Here’s the same location today.

Gone but not forgotten

Unsurprisingly, many deplored the destruction of yet another bit of Wayne’s history. Henn’s ballfield, the site of hundreds of baseball games, was sold in 1974 and became the site of luxury homes. Across the Turnpike, the restaurant called The Gaslight turned into Victoria Station and others before the property was sold for assisted-living condos.