ELIZABETH NJ – A CONCISE HISTORICAL OVERVIEW
[The following articles are products of original research by the Historical Society; Elizabeth NJ Inc. for the city’s 350TH Anniversary celebration. Its officers, Paul H Mattingly and Ken Ward, originally wrote the first essay and worked with former Newark Star-Ledger columnist Bob Braun, adapting the Historical Society’s FORUM 2014 – BROAD STREET COMMERCE AND CULTURE – to construct the second essay. Both appeared in slightly different formats in the Newark Star Ledger Special 350th Anniversary edition (Sept 28, 2014)]
THE FOUNDING OF ELIZABETHTOWN
BROAD STREET MAKES A CITY
becomes a formal settlement, the first permanent English community in
New Jersey. They had benefited from the transfer of power from Dutch
to English with the British capture of New Amsterdam.
Elizabethans, John Ogden, father (1609-1682) and son (1638-1702), constructed
the oldest portion of their home about 1680. Both had been born in Bradley
Plain, Hampshire England, came to the colonies about 1641, first to Connecticut,
then to Long Island, before becoming founding settlers of Elizabeth in
1664. Their house would be developed by several subsequent owners and
eventually be known as the Belcher-Ogden mansion, a beautifully proportioned
example of Georgian architecture and the brick style known as Flemish
1705 Episcopalians formed St. Johns church on land owned by Elizabeth, the wife of the NJ proprietor, Sir George Carteret, who agreed to have the city named after his wife. Her third husband, Richard Townley, donated the land for the church. The church was rebuilt in 1860 in its distinctive Gothic style.
Jonathan Dickinson, a graduate of Yale College (1706), becomes pastor
of old Congregational Church, which he
persuaded to join the Philadelphia Presbyterian synod in
He distinguished himself as author and preachers against Deism and Episcopalianism and in 1739 hosted the famous evangelist George Whitfield in his city.
1763-67 Tapping Reeve, a 1763 graduate of the College of New Jersey (later (Princeton) conducted an academy in Elizabeth. At the same time he tutored the children of Rev. Aaron Burr, who had served as acting president of the college (1747-48). In 1771 Reeve married his student, sixteen-year old Sarah Burr, and moved his own law practice to Litchfield Ct. There he began to tutor aspirant lawyers, with his former Elizabeth NJ student and brother-in-law, Aaron Burr (later Vice-President under Thomas Jefferson) as his first law student. His tutorials expanded exponentially, creating the first law school in the United States and training over 1100 individuals, including John C Calhoun and Horace Mann. Before the school closed in 1833 its graduates included two vice-presidents, 101 US congressmen, 28 US senators, three justices of the US Supreme court and fourteen state governors. Reeve left his Elizabeth academy in 1767 and in 1771 its principal was also a Princeton graduate, Francis Barber, who owned the present day Bonnell House, where the HSE has its offices. The British burned the Elizabeth Academy in 1779. The Law School building Reeve erected next to his Connecticut home probably resembled the Elizabeth NJ Academy that had launched his teaching career.
1771 Francis Barber (1750-1783), a 1767 graduate of Princeton, became schoolmaster of Elizabeth Academy, a Latin grammar school adjacent to the First Presbyterian church on Broad Avenue. On January 26, 1773 Barber married Mary Ogden, sister of prominent Elizabeth residents, Robert and Aaron Ogden, later a Governor of New Jersey.
Barber and his student, Alexander Hamilton, joined the New Jersey militia
in January 1776. During the Revolutionary War the former schoolmaster
rose to the rank of colonel and fought in many engagements, including
Germantown and Brandywine in Pennsylvania, Monmouth and Connecticut Farms
in New Jersey. He fought under General Anthony Wayne at Green Springs
(Va) and with Lafayette at Yorktown. In January 1783 he died from a falling
tree, presumably an accident.
1776 George Washington marches his army of 3500, recently driven from Fort Lee, NJ, through Elizabeth NJ pursued quickly by British General Lord, William Howe, with 6000 British and Hessian troops, who occupied the town in December.
1778 In this year Alexander Hamilton played Master of Ceremonies to a wedding party at the Belcher Ogden Mansion. The bridge was “Caty” Smith, daughter of then owner, William Peartree Smith, a Revolutionary patriot. The groom was Elisha Boudinot, brother of Elias Boudinot, President of the Continental Congress and Smith neighbor at nearby Boxwood Hall. George Washington and the Marquis de Lafayette were guests. The British received sketchy information about the affair but arrived several days after it was over, failing to capture the Revolutionary leaders. They took out their disappointment on the house and sacked the Belcher-Ogden Mansion of many of it goods and furnishings – seen here in an artist’s rendering: “The Sacking of the Belcher-Ogden Mansion” by Davis Gray of the College Watercolor Group, Skillman, New Jersey.
1780 AARON LANE, noted Elizabeth silversmith and clockmaker, flourished in the city in the years 1780-1793. He worked with his brother-in-law, cabinetmaker Ichabod Williams, who furnished the cases. Lane often painted his name across the top of his painted clock faces and "Elizabethtown" across the bottom. His clocks in Liberty Hall, the Livingston/Kean estate, reflect these features. He seems to be no relation to Elizabeth clockmaker, Mark Lane, who thrived in the city during the 1830s. Together however the two Lanes bracket an energetic craftsman culture of the late 18th and early 19th century.
Boudinot (1740-1821), resident of an Elizabeth (East Jersey St.) farmstead,
known as Boxwood Hall, and during the
Revolutionary War commissioner general of prisoners, becomes President
of the Continental Congress. Later he directed the US Mint and was first
president of the American Bible Society. In 1943 his home became a property
of the state, the only state-owned and operated historic site in Union
First regular stagecoach line established between Elizabeth and Princeton;
later in 1787 regular stagecoach lines between Elizabethtown Port and
Dayton (1760-1824) becomes a signer of the US constitution. He was born
in Elizabeth, attended the town academy under headmaster Tapping Reeve
with fellow students, A Hamilton and Francis Barber, and in 1776 joined
the 3d New Jersey Regiment. He had studied in the college at Princeton
and took his degree in 1776. He patrolled the Ohio frontier, checking
the initiatives of Loyalists and Indians, and familiarized himself with
the area. Later he served with George Washington at the battles of Brandywine
and Germantown. In 1781 he served with his old schoolmates, Hamilton and
Barber in the Battle of Yorktown. He was one of the youngest members of
the Constitutional Convention and associated himself with Hamiltons
financial policies. Afterward he served four terms in the US House of
Representative, the final four years (1795-1800) as Speaker of the House.
He then served a term as US Senator from NJ. His western speculations
involved him in the Aaron Burr scandals from which he was exonerated.
Out of his land speculations came a town named for him in Ohio: Dayton.
He died in 1824 and is buried in the St. Johns Episcopal Church
graveyard, Elizabeth NJ.
1789 – The EHS has acquired newspaper clippings from the Litchfield (Ct) Historical Society that appear to be from an early 18th century newspaper, the Christian Scholar and Farmer’s magazine (f. 1789). The clippings seem to have belonged to the Rev. Jeremiah Chapman (1741-1813) who had supported Shepherd Kollock, the newspaper’s first editor and the first editor of the New Jersey Journal. The Chapmans descended from an immigrant family from Hull, England who came to Boston in the early 17th century and settled in Saybrook, Ct. Jedidiah was born in East Haddam, September 24,1741 and died in Geneva, New York. In the 1770s Jedidiah served as minister and missionary in the “Newark Mountains” and was a member of the Presbytery that monitored the Elizabeth area. It was likely that he acquired the newspaper in these years and used clippings for his own edification and probably also as grist for his sermons. Many thanks to Linda Hocking, curator at the Litchfield Historical Society.
1820 The formation of the Second Presbyterian church on East Jersey street by Dr David Magie gave the city (now in 2003) its oldest church structure.
1840 Woodcut of Elizabeth in 1840 from Broad Street bridge.
1845 St. Mary of the Assumption Parish acquired land from the Irish-born Presbyterian minister of First Presbyterian Church, Dr. Nicholas Murray. Services initially were conducted for Irish immigrants working on the railroads and local factories. Parishioners built their present church in 1858, the oldest Roman Catholic church in Union county. Their first pastor was Rev. Isaac F. Howell who served for twenty-two years.
1846 On November 12, 1846, Charles Lawrence Williamson died. Williamson born in 1795, joined the small US Navy in 1811 as Lieutenant and served in several capacities before joining the USS Saratoga under Commander Thomas Macdonough in the Battle of Lake Champlain (1814). Later in 1827 while aboard the USS Delaware he was injured in fighting pirates in the Mediterranean.The injury would plague him for the rest of his life. Nevertheless, he was promoted Master-Commandant of the USS Warren in 1841 and retired from service at that rank in 1844.
He died in (802 Pearl St) Elizabeth, November 12 1846, the hometown of his wife Susan Ten Eyck Williamson. Charles was a nephew to Isaac Halsted Williamson (1768-1844), a native of the town, Elizabeth mayor (1830-33) and NJ Governor and Chancellor (1817-29). Williamson St in Elizabeth NJ was named after this prominent Elizabeth family.
1848 General Winfield Scott (1786-1866), hero of Mexican War and Whig candidate for 1852 presidency, moves into his father-in-laws home on East Jersey and Madison Avenues and resides there until his death in 1866. The house was razed in 1928 and a replica erected on Westminster Avenue in 1931, now occupied by the NJ branch of the American Cancer Society.
David Naar becomes Mayor of Elizabeth, shortly after his return
from the island of St. Thomas where he had served as US Consul. Naar,
a native of Wisconsin (b. Nov. 6 1800) belonged to an old family of Portuguese
Jews who could trace their families lines to the expulsion of Jews from
Spain in 1492. In his early years he operated a merchandising business
with his brothers, specializing in the St. Thomas to New York City trade
until a fire in 1835 destroyed their business. He then practiced farming
in Elizabeth NJ where he became known for his speaking skills. His assistance
with the 1844 campaign of President James Polk in New Jersey led to his
consulship. In 1851-52 he was clerk of the NJ Assembly and state treasurer
in 1865. As a Mason, he worked successfully to secure the Grand Lodges
recognition of blacks members. In 1853 he acquired the "True American"
newspaper in Trenton, making it and him important influences in the state
until his death in Trenton, February 25, 1880.
1857 The first Jewish congregation formed and later became Temple Bnai Israel.
1861 Founding of Pingry School, which thrived until 1953 on its 2.5 acre campus,now the site occupied by School 23 aka Nicholas Murray Butler School, named after Elizabeth native who became president of Columbia University and in 1931 a Nobel laureate.
John Pingry (1818-1893), a native of Haverill, Massachusetts, came to Elizabeth in 1836, the year he graduated from Dartmouth College. For four years, while studying for the ministry, he served as assistant to the Rev. John T Halsey, headmaster of Chilton Seminary on West Jersey Street. Later Pingry married Caroline G Oakley, a sister of Mrs. John T. Halsey. In 1842 Pingry was ordained and ministered to the Fishkill (NY) Presbyterian Church, while conducting a classical school for boys. He later relocated his school to Roseville NJ, a suburb of Newark. In 1860 he became principal of Elizabeths Pearl Cottage Seminary [then 1186 E. Grand St], the successor to Chilton Seminary.
In 1861 Jonathan Townley, principal of another nearby school, enlisted for duty in the Civil War and Pingry took over his school, then located at 445 Westminster Avenue. He served the Pingry School until his death in 1893, the year the institution incorporated with Congressman Charles Fowler its Board President. Pingry School continued as a day school until 1918 when its Headmaster Mitchell Froelicher, converted it to a country day school. The change extended the day and encompassed many shop and club activities ordinarily associated only with boarding schools. In addition, Pingry organized its classes into six lower and six upper forms with the additional innovation of a Student Council.
In 1953 the school moved to North Avenue, a location now serving Kean University as its East campus. In 1983 Pingry School moved once more to a 193 acre site in Martinsville, New Jersey, where it continues today.
1861 In the early morning hours of January 9, 1861 Elizabeth resident and ship captain, John McGowan steered his merchant steamer, Star of the West, toward Fort Sumter to resupply the union troops stationed there. With US flags prominently displayed, McGowan’s ship drew cannon fire from Morris Island and its secessionist cadets from The Citadel. One shot went across its bow and two others struck the ship, but without much damage. The South Carolina resistance prompted McGowan to sail out of Charleston Harbor and return to New York. Historians consider this exchange to be the opening shots of the Civil War, even though war had not been officially declared.
February 21, 1861 Abraham Lincoln travels from New York City and stops briefly in Elizabeth on his way to Trenton and Philadelphia. In Elizabeth Mayor J. J. Chetwood offers him welcome and Lincoln replies from the train platform, very cognizant that New Jersey as a state voted for his Democratic opponent in the 1860 presidential election. In Philadelphia where he stays that night, he learns of a plot to assassinate him on the inaugural journey. He assumes a disguise and a different train from Harrisburg to Baltimore and eventually arrives safely in Washington before its citizens are aware of his presence.
The Hersh family moves to Elizabeth and starts a paper bag business on
First Street. The business later included groceries and other supplies.
In 1932 the family builds the tallest building in the city, the Art Deco
1868 Under the guidance of Rev. T. A. K. Gessler the First Baptist Church of Elizabeth constructed an impressive building on the corner of Union and Prince Sts. in this year. Actually the congregation dated its origins from 1843 with the recognition of a local group by eight Baptist churches. The first pastor, Rev. Charles Cox, accepted the called of the first incorporated Society (1848) and baptized his wife and another congregant in the Elizabeth River nearby.
1870 In the 1870 federal census Franklin Leonard Pope resided at 235 Morris Avenue with his parents, Ebenezer and Electa Pope, both natives of Great Barrington, Mass. Franklin and his brothers Ralph and Henry are all listed in the 1870 census as “telegraph operators” but in fact are inventors. Franklin had worked for many years for the innovative America Telegraph Co and in 1869 worked on the creation and refinement of the stock ticker (with Thomas Alva Edison) in New York. In 1869 and 70 he created the Pope Edison & Company and had Edison reside in his Morris Avenue home. Franklin L Pope went on to many distinguished accomplishments in electricity and publications on the subjects. After many years living in Elizabeth, he returned to Massachusetts where he set up a laboratory in Great Barrington. There, on Oct 13, 1885 he died accidentally from an electric jolt of 3000 volts. Sometime in the mid 1870s Franklin married Sarah Amelia Dickinson of Amherst Massachusetts, a kinswoman of poetess Emily Dickinson of Amherst.
1870 - Monday, May 2 - On this day the New York Times reported that President Ulysses S. Grant attended morning services “yesterday” in Elizabeth NJ at St. Pauls’ Methodist Episcopal Church, on the corner of Jefferson and East Jersey Street. He was accompanied by the family of Abel Rathbone Corbin, his brother-in-law, then an Elizabeth resident. The sermon was delivered by Rev. L. R. Dunn, but the 600 or so attendees at the end of the service cheered the departing President. Grant spent the rest of the day and evening with the Corbin family. The remarkable feature of this event was that less than a year earlier financier Jay Gould had used Corbin as a willing participant in his scheme to corner gold, only to be thwarted by the astute Grant who flooded the market with US gold and prevented its price manipulation. Still, in 1870 Corbin put his net worth at $1 million dollars in the US federal census making it clear that he, like Gould, was not ruined, as were others, by the dynamics of Black Friday (September 24, 1869).
1871 Completion of Trinity Episcopal church (f. 1857/59) designed by Richard Upjohn (1802-78), leading architect of the Gothic Revival style and noted for his Trinity Church in Manhattan and Grace church in Newark NJ. He also produced Italianate residences like Kingscote (1850) in Newport, Rhode Island for William Wetmore Story, who made his fortune in the China trade. Upjohn, born in England and immigrated to the US in 1829, was the author of the influential book, Rural Architecture (1852) and was the founder (1857) and first president of the American Institute of Architects. The Church has merged with several other congregations in the 20th century to become St. Elizabeths Church, Rev. Barton Brown, Rector at North Broad and Chestnut Streets.
1872 The First Baptist church, formed in 1843, built its solid, brick church on Prince and Union Avenues in this year.
I. M. Singer (1811-1875) establishes his sewing machine factory on Newark
Bay, a 32 acre plot on the former site of Cranes Ferry, and builds
a workforce of six thousand, at the time the largest in the world. The
company remained an economic mainstay of Elizabeth until 1982.
1873 – In this year William H Rankin (1843-c1925), a native of Pennsylvania, came to Elizabeth and established his business of making roofing products. Initially he bought land (the block bordered by Front St, Elizabeth Avenue, First Street)adjacent both to the railroad and to the Arthur Kill in order to ship heavy loads anywhere, both nationally and internationally. He resided close by at 214 Elizabeth Avenue according to the 1880s federal census. In the 1900 census he has moved his residence further from his plant to 322 North Broad Avenue and in 1910 to 332 Westminster Avenue. By 1927 the Sanborn Map Company produces a color-coded diagram of his enlarged plant, now a unit of the Barrett Roofing Company, probably a consequence of Rankin’s death in the 1920s. Rankin’s story well illustrates many features of the manufacturing careers in Elizabeth in the late 19th and early 20th century.
His daughter Sarah, an authoress herself, married Wm
J Tenney in St. Michaels Church, Elizabeth in 1873. Tenney,
a graduate of Yale and also a journalist/ editor, had served as collector
of the port of Elizabeth under appointment of President James Buchanan.
He was the longtime editor of Appletons Annual Cyclopedia and served
for a time on Elizabeths Common Council.
masterwork, A History of the Catholic Church in the United States (1886-92), which documented the Catholic contribution to the shaping of the nation. Implicitly Sheas work attempted to check Protestant nativist criticism concerning the putative undemocratic influence of Catholicism in American democracy.
John H Kean (1852-1914), the president of Elizabeth Water
"St. Patricks Church, a Roman Catholic parish since 1858, laid
the cornerstone of its present church in 1887. The imposing twin-spired
structure, designed by William Shickel imitating the Cologne Cathedral,
took thirteen years to complete and used Maine granite. In 1948 the interior,
with its wondrous 44 stained-glass windows, received an uplift and a modernization.
The church, easily seen from the New Jersey Turnpike and for miles around,
served as the spiritual mainstay for many Elizabeth workers, many of whom
were employees of the nearby Singer Sewing Machine Company."
1889 March 5 - On this date Gustav Jacobson founded a small picture framing business that continued the work his parents began earlier. The frame molding quickly became a plain plastering contracting business, then segued into an ornamental and decorative plastering enterprise. Their clients in the early years of the 20th century included important architectural firms, like McKim Meade and White, and leading architects like John Russell Pope and James Gamble Rogers. They participated in many notable projects including the Pompeian Court at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, The Cloisters Museum in Upper Manhattan and the Presidential Palace in Cuba along with contributions to Hearst Castle in San Simeon, California and several of the Newport "cottages." As ornamental work went out of style in the Depression years, Gustav's son, Victor Jacobson took the company into architectural acoustics and ceiling materials. Today the company is recognized as the premier drywall contractor in the Metropolitan New York area. Among their major recent projects Jacobson & Sons contributed to the Trump Tower, the American Express Tower, the Rainbow room renovation and the Carnegie Hall renovation. Its current CEO are partners: Thomas Davidson and John V. Jacobson, the fifth generation of their family to lead the company - Jacobson & Co., Inc., whose main office is in Elizabeth NJ.
1889 Joseph Battin, president of the Elizabethtown Water Company, donates the A. W. Dimock mansion to the city for use as a High School.
this bicycle bar is the logo of the Junior Order of United American Workmen,
a fraternal group of skilled laborers, that sought a national outreach
but organized state by state. Here one member has his picture taken by
Elizabeth photographer J. G. Hall, 915 Elizabeth Avenue.
1893 Charity Organization Society founded as a voluntary effort to distribute coal and food during the severe winter of 1893. This effort was private and afforded an outlet for advantaged women whose work outside the home was often blocked by cultural reservations. Gradually the work of distribution became more activist and reformist, addressing issues of child labor, parental care, truancy etc. Increasingly state institutions like juvenile courts and professional training schools, made the work of charity less voluntary and private and more public and formalized. In Elizabeth the COS merged with the Elizabeth Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children in 1898 and moved its offices from Elizabeth Avenue to the Union County Court House, reflecting the changing nature of the work. As the state expanded its protection, especially to neglected children, Elizabeth’s organization, which became The Family and Children’s Society in 1938, shifted its attention to unmarried parents, temporary foster care, adoption services and family counseling. During the 1960s federal interventions in this area moved charitable work beyond the middle class to issues of the larger community, focusing especially on at risk children. Federal support enabled branches of this work to open in 1969 in Pioneer Homes (Elizabethport) and School #1, serving troubled children. In 1981 the organization changed its name to Family and Children’s Counseling and Testing Center with a professional staff.
In 1990 the organization’s Board of Trustees renamed itself Family and Children’s Services, embracing a range of issues including homeless or delinquent children, child abuse, domestic violence, in-home family counseling and teen parents among others. The current director is William H. Webb and their central office is located at 40 North Avenue, Elizabeth NJ.
Bruce Price (1845-1903), Architect of the Elizabeth Train Station, completed
1893-94. The train station design Price began in the same year he designed
the buildings for Hotchkiss School, Lakeville, CT.
1893- 95 The residence at 546 Jefferson Avenue became the home of Elizabeth resident, Emily Jordan (1858-1936), and her husband, Henry Folger (1857-1930). In these years Henry Folger worked as the director of Standard Oil company’s manufacturing wing . He commuted to the company’s main office at 26 Broadway. In 1908 he became a director and then in 1911 president of the company. Folger and his wife, a graduate of Miss Ranney’s School in Elizabeth, then Vassar College, developed an interest in Shakespeare’s work.
Eventually the couple amassed a library and archives of over 200,000 books, manuscripts and items relating to the poet. In 1932, a year after Henry’s death, the couple’s plans for a Washington D.C. Library were realized with the opening of the Folger Shakespeare Library, a world-class facility for the study of Shakespeare. The full realization of the couple’s dream became the lasting achievement of Elizabeth resident, Emily Jordan Folger.
arches over Broad Avenue built by Pennsylvania RR as part of 1890-1905
modernization of connections from Jersey City to Chicago.
A plan for Greater Newark developed in these years, one which projected
annexation of much of Essex and Hudson counties and parts of Bergen and
Union counties, including the city of Elizabeth. Newark sought to become
the fourth largest city in the United States, ahead of St. Louis in population,
manufacturing, banking and property valuation.
Murray, a student at prestigious Vail-Deane School on Salem Road in Elizabeth,
composed a song which her family thought strange that it was not accepted
by the school
for official use:
In 1908, not long after her graduation, Ms Murray married Joyce Kilmer.
She herself matured into a fine poet and story-teller, publishing Candles
That Burn (1941). She was born in Norfolk, Virginia and probably attended
Vail-Deane because of her stepfather, Henry Mills Alden, the influential
and long time managing editor of Harper and Brothers, publishers. Alden
had been the author of a guidebook for the Central Railroad of New Jersey,
which passed through the city, and likely became acquainted with the school
during that assignment. Ms. Murray, whose mother, Ada Foster Murray, was
also a poet, died in Stillwater, NJ October 1, 1941.
1908 The "Steps of Vail-Deane" represents the building designed by Carrére et al, recovering from a fire in July 2003 and now the property of the Dar Ul-Islam mosque.
Kosbergs business closed in the 1990s after nearly a century of business, at the time the oldest retail establishment in Elizabeth
George Diener was born this year in Elizabeth and resided with his family
at 9 Prospect Street, near the corner of Elizabeth Avenue. At the time
Diener was the third generation to reside in the city where his father,
T. Edward Diener, was the proprietor of a Clothing Store and his grandfather
(res: 629 Elizabeth Avenue in 1880) had worked as a tailor.
1911 JANET MEMORIAL HOME replaced the Elizabeth orphanage (f 1858) on Murray and Cherry Streets. The new building, built at Salem Road and Westminster Avenue, received financing from Mrs. John Stewart Kennedy of New York City, who had the facility named after her mother, Janet Van Eyck Edgar. In 1962 the State of New Jersey closed all orphanages, replacing them with foster care. On February 11, 1952 a commercial airplane crashed just behind the Janet Memorial Home, killing 25 passengers and crew and four residents on the ground. This was the third commercial crash in 58 days and this last event closed the Newark Airport for nearly a year. Subsequently different landings and takeoff routes were developed so that such tragedies would not recur. In 1996 the Janet Memorial Home building was torn down and replaced with a public school, the Westminster Academy, subsequently named Dr Orlando Edreira Academy, after a respected Kean University teacher and co-president of the Historical society; Elizabeth NJ Inc. One of the noted presidents’ of the Janet Memorial Home was John A McManus (1910-2007), who for many years owned and operated Elizabeth’s McManus Brothers Furniture company.
1913 Opera House opens and later becomes Gordons Liberty Theater (HB); Battin High School is built on site of local mansion that first housed the school.
1917 Elizabeth Rotary Club founded (HB)
1918 – On Sept 12, 1918 Anthony W. Dimock died, leaving behind an important legacy for Elizabeth NJ. He was born in Yarmouth, Nova Scotia Aug 27, 1842 and attended Phillips Andover Academy graduating in 1859. He travelled to New York and entered the banking business and had great success in the gold market. His profits enabled him to purchase control of the Bankers and Merchants Telegraph company as well as becoming president of the Atlantic Mail and other steamship companies. Eventually he created his own brokerage firm, A. W. Dimock &Co. Later in 1872 he took a degree from the Columbian University, now George Washington University in Washington DC. By this time he had married Helen Weston of Elizabeth NJ and built a large, stylish home on South Broad St. The Panic of 1873 curtailed his fortune and he sold his residence to Joseph Battin, who later donated the residence to the city for Elizabeth for its high school. At the height of his career he journeyed West to study Indians and ranchers. Upon his return to the East he bought a 100 acre farm on South broad St and proceeded to build hundreds of homes large and small as well as a gymnasium and other structures. Afterward he built a palatial estate on the Hudson Palisades as well as a comfortable home in Happy Valley, Ulster Co, NY where he lived the rest of his life. From his Ulster Co home he travelled regularly to Florida where he enjoyed the fishing and writing a number of books about his experiences: The Book of the Tarpon (1911), Florida Enchantments, Wall St and the Wilds (1915) and Be Prepared or The Boy Scouts in Florida (1912). His first wife died in 1901 and in 1909 he remarried to Leila B. Allen of Elizabeth NJ. His Florida presence is noted in Peter Matthiessen’s 2008 National Book Award winning Shadow Country (p.120)
The New Jersey Dry Dock and Transportation Company workers celebrate the November 11, 1918 Germany’s unconditional surrender. The Company
made and repaired all manner of ships and was located near the mouth of
the Elizabeth River on South Front Street.
1919 Elizabethans – Emily Hiller and Elsa Wallack - initiate efforts to create YWCA and organized supper conference at First Presbyterian Church on November 13, 1919 for 250 attendees. YWCA formally organized in 1920, reaching 1801 charter members and electing Elizabeth W. Renshaw, first president. YWCA purchases building 1129-31 East Jersey in March 1920 and opened it January 25, 1921. The building can board 15 women and includes a gymnasium. The facility offers programs in health education, household arts, clerical training, job placement , recreation, religion, etc. In 1925 they conduct informal programs with Siloam Hope Presbyterian Church to reach out to African-American girls. In 1932 YWCA joins other organizations to form Elizabeth’s Community Chest. In 1933 the YWCA offers shelter services to women homeless because of the Great Depression. In 1941 YWCA helps found a Negro Recreation Center on Pine Street in Elizabethport and in the following year established an Interracial Committee for mutual understanding. In 1944 YWCA joins with the NAACP to form the Urban League of Eastern Union County. In 1946 the national YWCA recommends desegregation to all its constituencies. For further info on YWCA see Nancy M. Robertson, Christian Sisterhood and Race Relations, and the YWCA, 1906-46 (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2007).
A 1921 racing car built by two Elizabeth NJ residents – Frederick S. (1877-1932)and Augustus S. (1879-1955) Duesenberg – won the Lemans Grand prix race (July 25, 1921), the only American car ever to win this event. [Pix of Le Mans win] Their record –breaking speed was 78 miles per hour. The Duesenbergs who were born in Germany, immigrated to the US in 1885 and from early work in bicycle repairs became eminent auto designers and manufacturers.
In 1921, according to the Elizabeth NJ Directory, Augustus and Fred Duesenberg resided on Kilsyth Road in Elizabeth NJ at #909 and #833 respectively. These houses were attractive, relatively new homes in an arts and crafts style and were exactly one block from the Duesenberg auto factory on Newark Avenue.
Shortly before their Le Mans win the factory was sold in 1919 sold to auto manufacturer, John Willys, and later to Billy Durant of Durant Motors who expanded the building to construct an assembly-line for the Durant Star. (see 1922). The brothers Duesenberg moved their auto production to Indianapolis, Indiana and sold their cars to notable individuals like the King of Spain and movie actor, Rudolph Valentino.
1922 Mickey Walker was a product of Elizabeth’s Irish neighborhood, known as Keighry Head, and well represented the scrappy vitality of that community in the early years of the 20th century.
Walker attended Sacred Heart Church and school before dropping out and working in local factories. His family resided at 915 Bond Street in 1910 and 923 Magnolia in 1920.
His first professional fight occurred in Elizabeth in 1919 at age 18. In 1922 he won the world’s welterweight championship in Madison Square Garden.
1930 – On May 10, 1930 an Elizabeth native, Edward Stratemeyer, age 68, a prolific novelist of at least 200 books and a businessman who managed the Stratemeyer Syndicate, died and was buried in Evergreen Cemetery, close by the burial site of Stephen Crane, the author of The Red Badge of Courage.
Stratemeyer was born in Elizabeth, October 4, 1862
and lived with his parents, Henry and Ana Stratemeyer, residents of 24
Palmer St in the German enclave of Peterstown. He worked as a clerk in
the family "segar" business until 1890 when he opened a stationery store
in Newark NJ. The next year he married there and began a family.
In 1915 Stratemeyer created a Syndicate whereby he sketched the themes and contracted with others to flesh out the stories. He produced numerous successful book series for juvenile audiences, including Rover Boys, Bobbsey Twins, the Hardy Boys and in 1930 the very popular Nancy Drew mystery series. Edward Stratemeyer’s Syndicate produced more than 800 novels for adolescents, significantly influencing a young national audience. His 85 Hardy Boys novels, located in "Bayport," drew in part on his early experience with the Bayway and Elizabethport sections of his native city.
1932 First Republican mayor elected (HB)
1930s Newark Airport
1935 – In this year Charles Godfrey Poggi, a noted local NJ architect, promoted his model home (561 Riverside Avenue) for the upscale residential section of Elizabeth, known as Westminster. The attached image was a promotional packet of needles showcasing his model home. Poggi was born in Rutherford, NJ (Aug 10, 1875) and gained his architectural skills under the tutelage of New York architect, John. H. Duncan (1855-1929) (designer of Grant’s tomb, the Soldiers and Sailors Monument in Brooklyn and Trenton’s War Memorial among other notable structures).
Poggi began his own architectural practice in 1898 and worked for the Elizabeth School system on a number of buildings including Battin High School and Grover Cleveland Jr. High School. He also designed PS 12-17 as well as Cranford High School. Early on his office was located at 2 Julian Place and later at 275 Morris Avenue. Among his other buildings were the Tudor style Warinanco Administrative buildings (1926) and in a similar style the chapel of Evergreen Cemetery (1932-33), where he was buried in 1957. Poggi also designed the building for the Elizabeth Daily Journal, the Elizabeth Home for Aged Women, not to mention the original Westminster Presbyterian Church and the Singer Recreational Building. He also was the architect for Pioneer Homes and Mravlag Manor. He served as President of the Elizabeth Rotary Club in 1936 and President of the NJ Branch of the AIA (1943-45). He died in February 14, 1957 in Cranford, NJ.
1936 High-level RR platforms at Broad Avenue station built by Pennsylvania RR
1939 Thomas Mitchell, the distinguished
American film actor, wins an Oscar in this year for his portrayal of Doc
Boone, a boozy physician, in John Ford’s epic STAGECOACH.
Mitchell grew up in Elizabeth, residing in 1900 at 125 First Street and
by 1910 in the family residence at 118 Livingston Street. In 1910 at age
17 he listed his employment as a newspaper reporter (like his father James).
By 1913 he was already acting in the Charles Coburn’s Shakespearean
troupe in New York as well as writing plays, like LITTLE ACCIDENT, written
with Floyd Dell and performed on Broadway. His film career began in earnest
in 1934 and achieved large notoriety with his part in Frank Capra’s
1937 film, LOST HORIZON.
1940s - First Civil Rights protests initiated by Bravell Nesbit, Director of NAACP and funeral home owner, joined by Stephen Sampson (owner of Reed/E. Jersey St. barber shop (Not Just a Barber Shop) and other prominent Afro-American leaders (incl. Wm Brown and Kirkpatrick Marrow, the citys first black police detective). Organized picketing of Howard Johnsons (on present site of Daffy Dans) to protest right to equal service.
1946 - On January
14, 1946 Local 41 of the Electrical, Radio and machinist Workers Union
(UE) went on strike against the Elizabeth NJ based Phelps Dodge Co. The
strike closed the plant for 270 days, one of the largest work stoppages
of the year, larger even than other substantive coal and steel strikes
which usually lasted no more than three months.. The length of the strike,
ostensibly over wages and working conditions, was a function of the ethnic
solidarity of the work forces in the citys neighborhood.
1948-49 Workers strike (5 months) of Elizabeths Singer plant, one of the most notable strikes in NJ history, receives support of celebrated folklore singer, Woody Guthrie
1949 - Meryl Streep (b.1949), the distinguished American actress, had a connection to Elizabeth via her great-great-grandfather, Godfrey Streep, (b 1813 in Prussia) who worked for the Rankin Roofing Company and resided in employee housing. The Rankin plant layout here [pix] shows workers’ row houses along the eastern side of Elizabeth Avenue. Streep’s ancestor lived in # 68 acc to the 1880 manuscript federal census along with his wife Christina 48, his 20 year old son William, a laborer; his 17 year old son Godfrey , an oysterman; his 14 year old daughter Elizabeth; his 12 year old son John; his 7 year old son Charles; his 6 year old daughter Rose; and his 3 year old daughter Annie. Godfrey’s oldest son, Frederic (b. 1857 in NJ) worked as a clerk, then as a driver in nearby Newark, NJ. One of Frederic’s grandsons, Harry William Streep, Jr. became a pharmaceutical executive, and the actress was his daughter born in Summit, N.J . in housing far removed from that of her ancestors. The HSE provided this data to the PBS program, “ Faces in America, “ which aired February 17and 24, 2010.
1951-52 Three crashes of commercial airliners into the city in three-month span of time. (ET)
1953 James P Mitchell, (1900-1964)
An Elizabeth native, become US Secretary of Labor in 1953 and in the Eisenhower
Cabinet he became “the social conscience of the Cabinet.”
Mitchell had worked during World War II in Washington DC for the Army
Service Headquarters and later after the war as business executive in
the personnel offices of R H Macy and later Federated Department Stores.
But perhaps his most effective work was his involvement with multiple
national organizations like the National Catholic Conference on Interracial
Justice, National Civil Service League, National Conference of Christians
and Jews, Anti-Defamation League, National Urban League (for which in
1957 he was awarded the Equal Opportunity Award). After his death in 1964
the central office of Elizabeth Board of Education became the James P
Mitchell Building named in his honor.
1957 St. Elizabeth
(f 1890s) modernizes with early oxygen unit. Directed by Sr. Ellen Patricia
1964 Mayor Thos G Dunn elected mayor and will serve until 1992, 28 years, at the time the longest serving elected mayor in the US.(JR)
1965 Imam Heshaam Jabbar draws attention to Elizabeths Muslim community when he conducts funeral in New York City for assassinated black leader, Malcolm X (IHJ). In 1968 Jabbar opens Elizabeth office of Organization for African Unity.
1960s Creation of Pioneer Homes (SCM)
1967 The Central Railroad of New Jersey
files for bankruptcy, and its stock, operating under the aegis of the
Reading Railroad since 1933, becomes a part of the new (1976) Conrail
Corporation. Most of the current Raritan Valley line runs on the old CNJs
1968 Founding of Elizabeth Education
Association, after law passes permitting teachers to organize (AM)
In the early days of March 1973 Edward J Grassmann passed away, age 86.
He was a quiet but forceful presence in many aspects of Elizabeths
20th century development. He was a graduate of Cooper Union and worked
as a civil engineer, working with the distinctive clay, kaolin, an important
ingredient in ceramics and other industrial products. He worked in Georgia
where the clay was prevalent and eventually became owner (1927) of Georgia
Kaolin and president of American Industrial Clay Company in Sanderville,
Georgia, the largest kaolin operation in the US and the second largest
in the world.
1975 First system-wide Teachers strike begins in September and goes several weeks, creating great esprit and solidarity among Elizabeths teachers (AM)
1970s Occupational Center of Union County opens on E. Jersey Ave. with four patients (MS)
1976 On January 22, 1976 a Time Capsule, complete with articles and distinctive effects from the nations Bicentennial year, became part of a display in the Elizabeth Public Library, to be opened in the year 2026. The Time Capsule Chairman, Peter Runfolo, with the advice of schoolchildren from representative Elizabeth schools, dedicated a cabinet in the library for this purpose. Members of the Bicentennial Committee included Mayor Thomas Dunn, Library Director Hazel Elks, Mrs. John Kean, Capt William Brennan, Charles Aquilina and Sally Essig.
1978– Gil Chapman, an Elizabeth native, was the first African American elected to the Elizabeth City Council. In his six year tenure on this body, he was proudest of his effort to get Martin Luther King honored on the City Plaza. The renaming alone may appear in the 21st century as a small gesture, but in 1978 sentiments for and against Dr. King still were strong. The African-American community felt this commemoration finally produced a public acknowledgement not only of Dr. King’s leadership but of their own contributions to Elizabeth over the years. Chapman relied on his own personal achievement as a star athlete at Thomas Jefferson High School, where he had become one of the leading scorers in the history of New Jersey football. At the University of Michigan he enhanced that record with 18 touchdowns and over 2500 yards, distinguishing himself in kickoff returns. He later played three seasons for the New Orleans Saints before holdings several executive positions in professional sports. In 1986 he became president of Island Ford, a Ford motor dealership on Staten island, New York. In 1999 the Newark Star-Ledger judged Chapman as one of the best offensive players of the 20th century and the City of Elizabeth in 2008 elected him to their Athletic Hall of Fame.
Clark was persuaded to run the company and sold machines for $125 when an average worker made $500. He invented the installment plan for $5 down and $3 per month. So well built, family only bought one, forcing company to think about overseas markets.
Singer fathered 24 children by 4 women, two of whom he married. In 1863 his marital arrangement caused a scandal, and he arranged for a stock liquidation and Clark took over company. Singer retired to Torquay in Dorset, England where he lived until he died.
Clark managed the company well, opening the first overseas manufacture in Glasgow in 1861, making Singer one of Americas earliest multinational corporations.
In 1908 Singer built the tallest skyscraper in the world in Manhattan, to hold its central offices (149 Broadway) and remained there until it moved its offices to Stanford Ct about 1962.
Singer took advantage of the large number of Irish and German immigrants for his workforce before World War I and after the war cultivated Slavic and Italian workers. The plant reached its peak Elizabeth workforce in the 1940s with 7K workers (by 1970 1400), whose skills attracted other manufactures of Simmons mattresses, Kelly presses, oil refineries, soap and chemical mfgrs as well as clothing, cordage, and iron and steel mfgrs. Singer itself diversified into thermometers, valves, electric switches and gradually into products for NASA incl. the guidance system for the Apollo lunar modules and Trident missiles.
In 1982 it had experienced downturns due to inexpensive Japanese sewing machine variants. Sears, one of Singers principle outlets, also bought the competitive cheap imitators. Between 1970 and 1980 sewing machine sales dropped from 3M to 2M. But even in 1980 Singers sales reached $2.8B, making it 194 on Forbes richest American corporations. In that year it was 1st in sewing machines but also 2nd in power tools (also sold to Sears which marketed them under their brand name, Craftsman), and 2nd in bedroom and dining room furniture. It employed 81K workers and had some 2300 sewing machine outlets worldwide. Its sewing machine manuals were translated into 54 languages.
1984–Sam Decavalcante stepped down as Boss of the Elizabeth Mafia, an organization which began in the early years of the 20th century and which concentrated on bootlegging alcohol. During the late 20s and 30 the organization, led by Stefano Badami, built relations with the New York Five Families as well as with its Philadelphia and Chicago counterparts. Their work expanded into loan-sharking, narcotics, prostitution, waste removal, money laundering and of course murder. After Badami’s own murder in 1955, internal tensions increased until the organization was headed by Fillipo Amari. An attempt on his life convinced him to move to Sicily and pass the reins of the organization to Nick Delmore. With Delmore’s illness and death in 1964, the reins of the organization passed in 1964 to his nephew, Sam Decavalcante (1913-1997), also known as “Sam the Plumber” for his Kenilworth plumbing establishment. Decavalcante’s organization became infiltrated and taped but, without federal authorization, the tapes were invalid in courts of law. However, the tapes were published and became the basis for the popular TV series, “The Sopranos.” Decavalcante was convicted of a $20M gambling racket in 1969 and served 5 years, after which re officially retired to Florida. The FBI still monitored him as they could, suspicious that he still directed the Northern New Jersey section of the Mafia. Officially John Riggi succeeded Decavalcante, though increasingly the New Jersey portion fellow under the Gambino family led by John Gotti. Sam the Plumber died in Florida in 1997.
The first editor was Shepard Kollock, who moved the papers to several locations before settling in Elizabeth in 1785. The newspaper operated out of Kollocks father-in laws home on the site of the present-day Second Presbyterian Church. He left the business in 1818 when he became the town postmaster. After a number of owners the newspaper was directed from 1863 by Frederick Foote, a former schoolteacher at the Old North End School at N Broad St. and Salem Avenue. In 1871 he named it THE ELIZABETH DAILY JOURNAL.
Later the Crane family assumed control, first via Augustus C. Crane who became treasurer in 1903 and two years later president, a post he held until his death in 1923. His son Fred L Crane, succeeded him and held the post until his son, Robert C. Crane, succeeded him as editor and publisher in 1948. During the Cranes ownership Harry Frank became its publisher and hired Valentine Fallon as editor. Fallon raised the circulation to 60,000 by 1960.
In 1959 the paper was sold to Robert Ingersoll, Jr. who was the first editor of Life Magazine, Fortune magazine and (maybe most importantly) the feisty New York tabloid, PM, which refused to publish advertising. On June 1, 1960 the newspaper changed its name to THE DAILY JOURNAL, to reflect expanded coverage of Essex and Middlesex counties. A bitter strike in 1971 forced the newspaper to lock out its 225 employees. It was bought in 1975 by Hagadpone newspapers who built a new building (July 1977) and a computer operated plant. After another strike in late 1970s the business operated with non-union staffers. In 1986 the business was sold to north Jersey newspapers but could not stem falling revenues. In 1992 it closed its doors.
Mayor Tom Dunn asserted at the time, A local newspaper is probably the best source of keeping the electorate informed of the issues and candidates for office. The loss of a paper, he added, is a terrible obstacle to overcome.
1999 Opening of Jersey Gardens Mall (15 million shoppers in its first year and $2M in city revenues).
199? Establishment of Elizabeth Health Task Force
1999 Founding of Historical Society; Elizabeth, NJ Inc., first cultural organization committed to reconstruction of entire city history and connection of history to present and future planning.
Chairwoman of the Trinitas Board: Sr. Elizabeth Ann Maloney (1925-2001), Sister of Charity, formerly president of College of St. Elizabeth (1971-1982) and of St. Elizabeth Hospital (1986-2000)
A spirited effort to keep the Archdiocese of Newark from closing the doors of old St. Patricks Church (cornerstone laid 1887) begins, to save the impressive church at 215 Court Street in the citys First Ward.
The US Federal Census put Elizabeths population at its highest in the citys history: 120, 568.
2001 September 11, 2001 Five Elizabeth residents perish in the World Trade Center tragedy: Arcelia Castillo, 49, junior accountant, March & McLennan Co; Carlos S. DaCosta, 41, assistant general manager of building services, Port Authority of new York and New Jersey; Margaret Susan Lewis, 49, legal secretary, Port Authority of new York and new Jersey; Frankie Serrano, 23, telecommunications technician, Genuity; Antony Tempesta, 38, broker, Cantor Fitzgerald.
There is a collective lore in the Latino community that several other undocumented Elizabeth residents perished in the 9/11 disaster
2003 On September 20th, Elizabeth hosted its first national Estuary Day,which assessed the importance of the Arthur Kill (in the background) to the city, discussed the city's water resources and measured the water quality of the Elizabeth River. Here is Mayor Bollwage addressing the assembled citizenry.
2004 On May 28, 2004 the Citys mayor, Christian Bollwage, and many other official dignitaries, rededicated the Elizabeth Train Station. The long-derelict station has become an attractive restaurant under the directorship of Michael LoBrace, a member of the Historical Societys Advisory Board. The facility showcases the Societys principle of imaginative reuse and has become a centerpiece of the citys midtown renewal effort.
2005 On April 22, 2005 - The innovative Elizabeth organization, Future City Inc together with the Elizabeth River/ Arthur Kill Watershed Association (a certified Department of Environmental Protection association), arranged a 2005 Earth Day celebration with science instruction and boat excursion on the Arthur Kill. The instructors in this Environmental Educational Laboratory were members of Kean University faculty and the US Corps of Engineers who provided literature and sea creatures in aquaria for several groups of high school students (Benedictine Academy, Reilly Middle School and Elizabeth High School) at the Elizabeth Marina.
US Congressman Robert Menendez spoke to the students, urging them to use their science knowledge to help clean the city’s water courses and protect their environment as a part of their citizen responsibility. City Councilman Bill Gallman endorsed the event as a constructive, citizen-driven initiative.
2006 - On April 28, 2006 US congressman Donald Payne and Elizabeth Mayor Chris Bollwageresponded to the invitation of Future City Inc's celebration of Earth Day. Congressman Payne pointedly reminded the gathered Elizabeth students how causal Earth Day consciousness has been historically in the passage of America's Clear Air and Clear Water legislation. Once again the US Corps of Engineers (www.nan.usace.army.mil ) distinguished themselves with expert instructors explaining the role of sea life in and social importance of the Arthur Kill estuary and the Elizabeth River.
2007 - On April 10 of this year Mayor Chris Bollwage and City Hall staffers arranged celebration of the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) at the Elizabeth Public Library. This event not only singled out several community groups, it also recognized the city's participation in this federal initiative for 32 years. With this fiscal support the city encourages organizations devoted to senior citizens, youth, disabled and abused persons, single mothers and the unemployed. CDBG also supports public improvements, recreation, code enforcement and housing rehabilitation. The city has recognized the effort of the Historical Society to engage and publicize the civic contributions of many ethnic and racial communities, especially during the 20 th century and has supported this civic work with CDBG grants.
2010 - The completion of a series of new public schools not only enhanced the priorities of the Elizabeth Board of Education; it made clear some of the shifting political allegiances in the city. Dr. Orlando Edreira Academy, named after a prominent Cuban émigré, Kean University educator and former co-president of the Elizabeth Historical Society, documented the new political presence of the Latino community.
In addition, the Ronald Reagan Academy celebrated the President who signed the 1886 Immigration and Reform Control Act that legitimated the residency of many undocumented Cuban immigrants who arrived before 1982. The Latino school trustees were willing to overlook the Reagan Iran-Contra scandals and his administration’s anti-government mantra, to honor this particular piece of government activism. The gesture underscored a deeper (1990s) shift of the Cuban community: most no longer anticipate a return to their homeland; instead, they seek to put down roots in their adopted country and exert political leadership.
2011 - The City of Elizabeth and neighboring towns like Roselle Park, which abut Warinanco Park, received support from the Union County Board of Freeholders to give the park a major uplift. Around the borders of the lake, bushes and wildflowers provided a protective edge and attempted some control of Canadian geese access to the public walkways.
In addition, the park's creek bed was deepened and widened to deal with Spring rains and check flooding. Several handsome bridges over the creek lent a new air of elegance to Warinanco Park, originally designed in 1924 by America's foremost landscape planners, Olmsted Associates.
2012 - The City of Elizabeth received supported for completion of the first stage of Elizabeth's Riverwalk. This first stage, dedicated in Summer 2012, connected Broad Street with Bridge Street.
It also set an attractive precedent for future development with attractive plantings of fothergilia, birch trees and decorative grasses, not to mention stone walls and sitting areas where citizens can enjoy attractive views of their city. Ultimately the Elizabeth Riverwalk will extend two and a half miles from the city's center to the Arthur Kill estuary.
2012 - Hurricane Sandy hit Elizabeth and the east coast especially hard this October 29. Damage was extensive but never more so than to the century-old oaks in Warinanco Park and at the Elizabeth Marina, where substantive dock planks were broken like toothpicks.
The storm was the second costliest hurricane in US history ($75 billion) and the largest Atlantic hurricane on record (winds spanning 1100 miles).
It affected the entire eastern seaboard from Florida to Maine (24 states), cutting power in New Jersey and New York for seven to ten days in some places. The storm reached inland to states like Michigan and Wisconsin and was responsible for hundreds of deaths.
2013 - On April 17, 2013 the Historical Society; Elizabeth NJ Inc joined with Future City Inc, the foremost environmental group in Union County NJ and the NJ Tree Foundation to create an urban tree nursery. The idea for this initiative stems from the difficulty of getting many municipalities, not to mention funders, to consider trees and bushes to be - as Frederick Law Olmsted continually emphasized - an essential part of the urban infrastructure. Plantings are not mere ornaments to the city environment but fundamental features of a city's commitment to public health and civility. The backyard of the Belcher Ogden Mansion will once again make history, this time for the future, in showcasing a range of trees - elms, oaks, hawthorns, ornamental cherries, etc - and bushes like mallows, crepe myrtles etc - that play strategic parts in the greening of the modern city.
Here they can be observed and studied by urban leaders considering a reaffirmation to the habitat of any city. Our special thanks go to the crew of the NJ Tree Foundation, seen here in the midst of this innovative experiment, a resource for all of Elizabeth.
2013 - A small cove on the Arthur Kill - John's Cove - was dedicated by the Mayor and Council of Elizabeth this year to commemorate the life, teaching and sudden death of Dr. John Dobosiewicz, a 48 year old scientist on the faculty of Kean University. He worked closely with the dynamic environmental organization, Future City Inc, and with them co-founded the Elizabeth River/ Arthur Kill Watershed Association. These groups help sponsor Estuary Day every Spring and Environmental Day every Fall, teaching numerous school groups about the biological dynamics of Elizabeth's waterways. His enthusiasm for his subject and his students was palpable, and his work has contributed substantively to the environmental awareness of his university and this region.
2014 - On Saturday October 25, 2014, The Nathaniel Bonnell Homestead hosted a group of Bonnell Descendants who were visiting their family homestead. The house has always attracted visitors with a genealogical connection – Belchers, Ogdens etc - but never in 30 years has the house had a group of connected visitors and never from such great distances. No doubt there are millions such people around who have ancestral links to the two Elizabeth houses. In 350 years, that is about 14 generations, many generations had many children and many of them had many more.
The event was a real treat for all presently associated with the houses. Several of the visitors had done DNA tests to further support the probability that their direct ancestors lived in the houses - some could have had ancestors who lived in both the Bonnell House and the Belcher Ogden Mansion. For them they could actually touch foundation stones and wood touched by their ancestors.
The day was further enhanced by a visit from the present mayor of Elizabeth Chris Bollwage. Each of our houses was the home of a former mayor of Elizabeth (Joseph Bonnell [? – 1748) and William Peartree Smith[1723-1801]). The Belcher mansion was also part of the tour and that was the home of Royal Governor Jonathan Belcher (1681-1757) and a New Jersey Federalist governor, Aaron Ogden (1756-1839).
The Bonnell visitors also visited with the students at Future City who use the buildings for “base camp” for their various projects relating to environmental data collection. Most of students are of recent Hispanic origin, thus the Bonnell house continues to be a place for recent arrivals seeking a new life in a new land, just as it was 350 years ago.
A lunch presentation was made for the students and Bonnell visitors about the similarity of the economic activity in and around Elizabethtown in the 17th century and the 21st century. The Elizabeth connection with slavery and piracy was reviewed in some detail.