Tag: Small Museums of New Jersey

Hancock House State Historic Site                           3 Front Street                                               Hancocks Bridge, NJ 08038

Hancock House State Historic Site 3 Front Street Hancocks Bridge, NJ 08038

Hancock House State Historic Site

3 Front Street

Hancocks Bridge, NJ 08038

(856) 935-4373

https://nj.gov/dep/parksandforests/historic/hancockhouse.html

https://www.facebook.com/FOHHNJ/

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hancock_House_(Lower_Alloways_Creek_Township,_New_Jersey)

Open: Sunday 1:00pm-4:00pm/Monday-Tuesday Closed/Wednesday-Saturday 10:00am-12:00pm/1:00pm-4:00pm

Admission: Free but donation suggested

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Attraction_Review-g46491-d14113448-Reviews-Hancock_House-Hancocks_Bridge_New_Jersey.html

The Hancock House

I took an extensive tour one weekend of historical sites of southern New Jersey to see how the lower part of the state was inpacted by the Revolutionary War and one of the most important sites was the Hancock House. The family was extremely prominent not just in Salem, NJ but in New Jersey politics as well.

The house once stood on an very busy road between Salem and Bridgeton and where most commerce passed by. When I was taking the tour, you could see that the house was built in two parts. When I was listening to the lecture I found that the side of the house that faced the road had once been a leased space for a tavern. This commercial enterprise brought in income for the family. Later on when the Hancock family sold the house in the early 1800’s, they sold it to the tavern keeper. After he and his family sold the house, it went on to various owners before the State of New Jersey bought it in the 1930’s.

There are no family heirlooms in the house and while some of the rooms have period pieces and are decorated to show how the family might have lived at the time as well as how the tavern functioned, many rooms in the house needed some direction on what they wanted to say about living at the time. There needed to be more artifacts to complete the look of the room.

The downstairs at the Hancock House

The upstairs bedrooms were an example of that. One of the rooms was fully furnished to look like a period bedroom while the other had a mish-mosh of decorations and furniture. There needed to be more to capture the time period of the house.

Still, the house was steeped in history and it was fascinating to hear what the tour guide said about the goings on during the war years to the family.

Many of the rooms also could have used a good plastering and painting to bring them back to life.

History of The Hancock House:

(from The Hancock House Pamphlet)

The story of the Hancock House begins in 1675 when John Fenwick, a lawyer and Quaker from England, arrived in West Jersey (now Salem Country), With land purchased two years earlier, he established the first permanent English Settlement here, called “Fenwick’s Colony,” and founded the town of Salem. Eager to populate the area with skilled, industrious individuals, he advertised the area’s assets by stating, “if there be any terrestrial “Canaan” ’tis surely here, where the Land floweth with Milk and Honey.”

The Hancock House sits on property that was purchased from John Fenwick in 1675 by William Hancock, an English showmaker. Upon his death, the property passed to his wife and then to his nephew, John Hancock.

John’s inheritance of approximately 500 acres made him a major landholder in Fenwick’s Colony. he contributed to the development of the area by building a bridge across Alloways Creek in 1708. Now known as “Hancocks Bridge,” it permitted passage on an important highway between Salem and Greenwich and gave the settlement its name.

When John Hancock died in 1709, he left his property to his son William. William became a Justice of the Peace for Salem County and served in the Colonial Assembky for 20 years.

In 1734, William and his wife, Sarah built the Hancock House. Their initials (WHS) and the construction date (1734) can be seen in the brickwork on the house’s west elevation.

Upon his death in 1762, William left his house to his son, William who succeeded him in the Assembly and became His Majesty’s Judge of the County Court for the County of Salem. It was this William who figured in the massacre of March 1778.

The Hancock House remained in the family until 1931, although the extent to which the house was used as a private residence and the property farmed is uncertain. There is evidence to suggest a section of the house was leased for a tavern during the 18th & 19th centuries. The State of New Jersey acquired the Hancock House for $4,000 in 1931 and opened it as a museum in 1932.

Historic Marker at the Hancock House

The Architectural Significance:

The Hancock House earned a place in history on the fateful day in March 1778. Yet the story of its architecture also is important. With its distinctive patterned and wall brickwork, simple lines and little ornamentation, it reflects the building traditions of the Quaker’s English Homeland.

The brick work of the Hancock House

Other elements of this architectural style include Flemish bond brickwork; a pent-roof that wraps around the front and back of the house; simple entrance steps; interior paneling and the use of such local materials as Wistarburg glass.

Whippany Railway Museum                                    1 Railroad Plaza                                         Whippany, NJ 07981

Whippany Railway Museum 1 Railroad Plaza Whippany, NJ 07981

Whippany Railway Museum

1 Railroad Plaza

Whippany, NJ 07981

(973) 887-8177

http://www.whippanyrailwaymuseum.net/

https://www.facebook.com/WhippanyRailwayMuseum/

Open: Sunday 12:00pm-4:00pm/Monday-Saturday Closed/Seasonal

Admission: Please check the website for seasonality

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Attraction_Review-g46925-d3395271-Reviews-Whippany_Railway_Museum-Whippany_Morris_County_New_Jersey.html

Video on the Whippany Railway Museum

I have to say that I was very impressed by the Whippany Railway Museum. It was not one of those usual train museums with bric-a-brac and posters and a uniform here and there. The museum building itself is a highly organized history of the rail system not just in New Jersey but all over the country. It showcases how New Jersey played a big role in the growth of the rail system and how transportation has changed over the last 100 years.

The museum displays were highly organized and well documented with all sorts of equipment of how a train functions, lighting equipment for the outdoors, and indoor dining, menus and manners for a time when rail was a form of luxury travel. It shows the progression from just transportation for the movement of product to a sleek way to travel from destination to destination.

The Whippany Railway Museum at 1 Railroad Plaza

There are all sorts of everyday items that show how maintenance of the trains have changed over the years and the modernization of the railcars. They have a display on lighting that has changed over the years and the way that communication was done between the trains and the staff. Even the uniforms have not really changed too much over the years.

Race is touched on with the advancement of Blacks in the Pullman coaches as porters and later supervisors. There was even a discussion on the strikes for better pay and working conditions. I thought it was interesting about the discussion of being called a “George”, which was a term for George Pullman, the owner and developer of the luxury cars. It might have been meant as a compliment but came off as a slur. It showed a progression in the field that in some ways has not changed.

The museum also showed that rail life could be lonely and not the best in working conditions for anyone which is why the unions became so powerful in later years. It also showed the ingenuity of how the rails conquered the West and opened the country up for development. With each stop, towns developed, and populations have changed. You see how this has been affected even today as rail is not as popular as it once was, and these small towns are dying off.

Where the museum really shines and where I saw the most pride is in the rail cars that have come to the yard over the years and have been carefully restored. The Southern Railway No. 385 built in 1907 for faster freight service, the Texaco Fireless Cooker No. 7240 built in 1937 for industrial switching duty and one of the newest steam locomotives still surviving, the U.S. Army No. 4039 built in 1942 for WWII service are just some of the cars on display (Whippany Railway Museum pamphlet).

The Lackawanna Railroad Subscription Club Car No. 2454

The railcar that most impressed me was the Lackawanna Railroad Subscription Club Car No. 2454 that was once known as the “Millionaires Express” (Whippany Railway Museum). The mahogany paneled car carried businessmen from New York City through towns in the middle of New Jersey. What I thought was interesting was the people who rode it (Christie Todd Whitman’s father was a member) and the fact that you had to ‘buy’ the seat, which meant that no one could ever sit in ‘your chair’ if you were not there. This car ran for 72 years finally retiring out in 1984 (probably due to the recession and changing times).

I ended up spending about three hours at the museum due to a very detailed tour by one of the volunteers named Mike. He gave the most interesting hour-long tour of each car and how they were renovating it and carefully restoring each one to its historical integrity. He was so detailed and when the other volunteers chimed in with their stories as well, made it a fascinating tour of the whole yard.

When you are visiting the museum, allow time to take this every intensive and detailed tour of the museum grounds and just don’t concentrate on what’s inside the building. The museum spreads out all over the yards and take the time to explore each car and learn its history. It is an educating and fascinating way to spend the afternoon.

The museum modernizes:

The Whippany Museum under new directions

The History of the Whippany Museum:

(From the museum website)

The story of the Whippany Railway Museum began many years ago when the Morris County Central Railroad (MCC) first opened to the public on May 9th, 1965, at Whippany, NJ. On that exciting day a half-century ago, former Southern Railway steam locomotive No. 385 departed Whippany for Morristown, NJ with the MCC’s first trainload of over 400 passengers. At the end of the day over 1,500 people had traveled on a nostalgic trip into railroading’s colorful past. For the next 15 years until it ceased operations in 1980, the MCC would carry on this excellent tradition, leaving memories for untold hundreds of thousands of visitors that would last a lifetime.

The Morris County Central was founded by a New Jersey aerospace technician, the late Earle H. Gil, Sr. of Parsippany. His idea of running steam excursion trains was formed in the late 1950’s when conventional steam railroad operations were fading fast. Gil hoped that a financially successful heritage railroad would justify the great expense involved in keeping one of these magnificent machines alive.

Having acquired No. 385 in 1963 from the 16-mile-long Virginia Blue Ridge Railway (VBR) in rural Piney River, VA, the MCC ran an outstanding operation through the woodlands of suburban New Jersey. In 1966, Gil acquired another VBR steam locomotive, No. 4039 a former US Army 0-6-0 switcher that was soon added to the MCC’s roster of vintage steam-era equipment.

Threatened by development of the property alongside the Whippany Station, the Morris County Central RR saved the Whippany Freight House from demolition in June 1967 by having it moved across four sets of tracks to a site opposite the station building. Originally used by our predecessor organization, Morris County Central Railroad Museum, this classic railroad freight house is now the headquarters of the Whippany Railway Museum.

The Morris County Central was a fine example of what a conscientious group was able to accomplish, with moderate resources and good taste in the preservation of operating steam. It proved that trains, steam locomotives and haunting whistles continue to linger in the minds of the American public.

Fifty years on, the Whippany Railway Museum continues the tradition and proves that it is indeed possible to have a quality operation through much hard work by its dedicated group of volunteers and the tremendous support of the visiting public.

(From the Museum Pamphlet):

Here you can visit the restored, 1904 freight house with its outstanding collection of rail and transportation artifacts and memorabilia. There are dozens of historic railcars and exhibits on view. We are proud to feature the largest collection of American-built standard gauge steam locomotives displayed in New Jersey.

Marvel at one of the oldest steam locomotives in America, the Southern Railway No. 385 built in 1907 for fast freight service, Texaco Fireless Cooker No. 7240, built in 1937 for industrial switching duty and one of the newest stream locomotives still surviving, the U.S. Army No. 4039, built in 1942 for World War II service.

Union Schoolhouse & Union Church and Burial Ground/Washington Township Historical Society 6 Fairview Avenue                                              Long Valley, NJ 07853

Union Schoolhouse & Union Church and Burial Ground/Washington Township Historical Society 6 Fairview Avenue Long Valley, NJ 07853

Union Schoolhouse & Union Church and Burial Ground/

Washington Township Historical Society

6 Fairview Avenue

Long Valley, NJ 07853

(908) 876-9696

https://www.wthsnj.org/

https://br-fr.facebook.com/wthsnj

http://www.pathwaysofhistorynj.net/19.html

Open: Sunday 2:00pm-4:00pm/Monday-Saturday Closed

Admission: please call site

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Attraction_Review-g46583-d24075223-Reviews-Union_Schoolhouse_Union_Church_And_Burial_Ground-Long_Valley_Morris_County_New_Je.html

A Video on the Washington Township Historical Society

I came to the Washington Township Historical Site as part of Morris County’s “Pathways of History” tour and visited the Union Schoolhouse Museum and then the Union Church and Burial Ground that is located right next door on the same property. This sleepy little town was once a bustling manufacturing site with the sawmill and Ghrist around the corner and the Welsh Farms Ice Cream factory up the street from the site.

The Union Schoolhouse Museum at 6 Fairview Avenue

The museum, which was once the town’s schoolhouse, is an engaging site that showcases how the town developed over the last two hundred years. On the bottom floor, the society has Native American artifacts, period furniture and clothing and in the back of the museum is a full display of the original Welsh Farms Ice Cream factory. The Welsh’s were a very prominent family from the area.

The Welsh Farms Ice Cream Factory display

Some of the old bottles and equipment from the factory

The second floor of the museum has a display of town memorabilia from different businesses, farming equipment from the area’s agricultural past and pictures of businesspeople and prominent citizens of the town. It shows how the commercial past of the community kept evolving.

Display of the town memorabilia

To the side of the second floor is a display of a period schoolroom from the time that the building served as a school of the local population. You can see that not much has changed over the years.

School rooms of the past are not too different from today

The one thing that creeped me out was a picture of a local businessman from the 1800’s who looked exactly like the actor, Blake Ritson, who plays “Oscar Van Rijin” in the TV show “The Gilded Age”. These men are almost 100 years apart and he looks like the actor from that exact time period.

The picture is of local businessman Ernest Paul Hunger

This picture is of actor Blake Ritson who plays “Oscar Van Rijin” in “The Gilded Age”

I had to take this picture because everyone says you have a twin from the past and I can tell that these two men look exactly alike in the same clothing. What is really interesting is that they are the same age at the same time period. Like that picture of the gentleman from the 1880’s that looks exactly like actor Nicolas Cage, I think there is some weird time travel here. It is almost like the film “Time after Time”.

After touring the whole museum, I went next door to visit the church and the cemetery for a tour. When I exited the museum, I had not really noticed the beauty of the gardens that surrounded the museum. The local garden club had done a great job in landscaping and planting the walled garden around the museum. In the early Spring, it was a colorful display of flowers.

The walled garden was so colorful in the early spring

The cemetery walk was intriguing in that you got to walk through the ruins of the old church and get to see how it was once constructed. It gave me insight of how big these churches were at one time and building construction was in early colonial New Jersey.

The ruins of the old Union Church

The Union Church surrounded by the cemetery

When we visited each family’s plot, there was a discussion about what contributions that everyone made to the town and their place in society. What was interesting was that the volunteers were cleaning the tombstones with tombstone cleaner, and I had wondered when we were taking the tour why they looked so new. There is a lot of care of the people of this cemetery.

The Welsh Farm Family plot at the Union Church was just cleaned

The whole site is an interesting look into the community’s past by a group of volunteers who give it their all to make the site interesting, historical, visually engaging to the visitor and offer a surprise or two into history that you may not know of New Jersey. One the warm, sunny day that we visited the site, it made it even nicer to walk around and have the time to soak it all in.

When you visit the Union Schoolhouse and Union Church and Burial Ground take the time out to take the formal tour of the site. It is very informative to a past that is not so different from today. It offers a lot of insight of people’s lives of this community.

The history of the Union Church and Cemetery Site:

(From the Washington Township Historical Society pamphlet)

Mission: To bring together people interested in the history of Washington Township, Morris County, NJ and promote a better appreciation of our American heritage.

The history of the site:

European settlement had begun in Long Valley by 1730. The early settlers, primarily from Germany and Holland, came fleeing religious persecution, an oppressive tax burden and hoping for a better life in America.

In 1749, a joint log meeting house had been built near the site of the Stone Church by the Zion Lutherans and Dutch Reformed Congregations. During these early times the congregations were served either by preachers from these churches or by laymen. One of the ministers of the time was Henry M. Muhlenberg, who has been called the Father of the Lutheran Church in America. His son, John Peter also ministered to the Raritan Valley before 1772. In 1776, John left his church in Virginia to raise and lead a regiment in the American Revolution, serving with distinction and retiring as a brevet major general.

On February 4th, 1774, the Dutch Reformed and German Lutheran congregations drew up articles and agreements that provided for the building of a joint meetinghouse. “Whereas we the members of the Evangelical Reformed Congregation and we, the members of the Evangelical Lutheran Congregation are willing to build a meeting house jointly, “Acted the 4th day of February 1774, which is testified to by: Henry Muhlenberg Jr., deputy director of Zion’s Welsch; Diedric Strubel; Conrad Rorick; Casper Eick; Anthon Waldorf; Adam Lorenz; Philip Weis; Christopher Karn; Leonard Neighbour; Roulof Roulofsen; John Schwackhammer; Andrew Flock.”

Let the Building Begin:

According to local tradition, the stone used to construct the building of the meetinghouse, the people of the two congregations turned out in a body to cart the stone. It had been a previous agreement, that whoever on the day appointed, should bring the first load, should receive the honor of having his horse decorated with flags and ribbons. The story goes that Judge David Welsch, then 17, secretly loaded his wagon and hid it that night. The next day, wagons came like thunder from all parts of the valley. Although David Welsch was confident of winning, he was almost beaten. Before he could unload his wagon, all of German Valley was on the ground.”

A Stately and well built structure:

A description of the Stone Church was given during a sermon by Reverend Alfred Hiller in July 1876. He said, “it was a heavy gallery on the one side and across each end; the entrance on one side (south), under the gallery and on the opposite side (north) was the pulpit, one of the Jack in the Pulpit style, with sounding board suspended above. There is no chimney on the church, in the center of the church, a space about eight feet square was made with a dirt floor and on the square a great mass of charcoal was burned, the congregation getting for their share at least the smell of the fire.”

The Old Stone Church today

Historic photographs indicate the building had a clipped-gable or jerkin-head roof with roof ridge parallel to the longer north and south walls. The two-story church, three bays wide and two bays deep, featured a wide and two bays deep, featured a wide central entry surmounted by a segmental arch, as were the windows. The walls were of coursed rubble stone construction, pointed with a white lime-rich mortar, except on the south or front elevation which was stuccoed and “penciled” with white pointing to replicate regular ashlar stone. However, this may have been a later 19th century embellishment.

Decline:

In 1832, both congregations decided to separate houses of worship. Since that time the Old Stone Church has stood abandoned and surrounded by the graves of the early congregants. Despite efforts at stabilization between the 1960’s and the 1980’s, the deterioration continued until recent efforts spearheaded by the members of the Washington Township Historical Society with permission of The Zion Lutheran and Long Valley Presbyterian Churches have improved this.

The Old Stone Church with the cemetery surrounding it

King Victorian Home & King Canal Store/Roxbury Historic Trust                               209 & 211 Main Street                           Ledgewood, NJ 07852

King Victorian Home & King Canal Store/Roxbury Historic Trust 209 & 211 Main Street Ledgewood, NJ 07852

King Victorian Home & King Canal Store/Roxbury Historic Trust

209 & 211 Main Street

Ledgewood, NJ 07852

(973) 927-7603/(973) 584-7903

http://www.roxburynewjersey.com/trust-home.htm

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/King_Store_and_Homestead

Open: Check their website/Seasonal

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Attraction_Review-g46563-d15096918-Reviews-King_House_And_Stores_Museum-Ledgewood_Morris_County_New_Jersey.html

The King Canal Store Museum at 209 Main Street

I visited the King Canal Store Museum and the King Homestead during the Morris County “Pathways to History” tour in May of 2022. This interesting store was still intact with its merchandise lining the shelves with a pot belly stove in the center of the store which was the center of action when the store was open to the community. All sorts of grocery items and notion items still line the walls.

The inside of the King Canal Store Museum shows the center of the community

The guide explained that upon the death of the owner wanted to store closed and sealed. His daughter only opened it in the 1930’s in the depth of the Depression so that residents could buy items at a reasonable price.

The King Canal Store Museum still has items still lining the walls

The King Store and the King Homestead are historic buildings located in the Ledgewood section of Roxbury Township. The Roxbury Historic Trust acts as curator for these county owned buildings. These buildings represent significance in New Jersey commerce from 1815-1928 and were added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1994 (Wiki).

The homestead was closed that afternoon that I went but I was able to walk on the porch and around the grounds. It was a beautiful property, and it was well maintained. The family lived in the house until 1975.

History of the King Canal Store:

(From the Museum website)

The King Canal Store is a unique, 2 1/2 story building constructed of stone in 1815 by Woodruff and Hopkins. At the ground floor its walls are three feet thick. The Woodruff family operated the store until 1835. It was abandoned for two years and in 1837 Albert Riggs (Son of Silas Riggs, a tanner by trade and owner of several canal boats) acquired the building and reopened it as a general store serving the community and the Morris Canal trade as it was located 150 feet from the Morris Canal basin (Wiki/Museum website).

Theodore King was the son in law of Albert Riggs, took over the store in 1873. He lived on the second floor of the building with his wife, Emma Louise and daughter also named Emma Louise. In 1881, Mr. King built a new residence on adjacent property and then began a renovation of the store, changing the decor to Greek Revival and the color scheme to cream with brown trim. In the process, the exterior was given a smooth coat of stucco which was scored to resemble large blocks. The interior of the store was given an Italianate design with a cream and maroon color scheme (Wiki).

Mr. King died in 1928 and his daughter closed the building, its contents remaining just as they were with a few occasional openings in the 1930’s to help the locals in the depths of the Depression. Emma Louise King maintained the closed-up store and lived in the well cared for home until her death at 92 in 1975. From 1989, the Roxbury Rotary Club has worked with the Roxbury Historic Trust to restore the exterior and the first-floor shop and create the King Store Museum (Museum website/Historic Ledgewood Guide).

The King Canal Store Museum has grocery items lining the walls

The Theodore F. King Homestead:

The King Family Homestead at 211 Main Street was in the family until 1975

The King Homestead, a vernacular frame house to start had several additions with Italianate and Queen Anne influenced detailing. It is possible that the original house may just have consisted of the current parlor, the two exhibition rooms and one or both of the staircases to the second floor. There were two front bedrooms and a smaller bedroom in the rear of the home.

The King Family Homestead at 211 Main Street

The stairs to the basement contained the kitchen (which was a common practice during Victorian times) with a dumbwaiter added to the dining room so that the food could be brought up from the kitchen. Another addition to the home was the first-floor front office used by both Mr. King and his daughter. The mural in the first-floor dining room was by artist James William Marland in 1936 (Wiki).