Arts & Entertainment

Canal Society Is Expanding Waterloo

The Morris Canal at Waterloo Village. Credits: By Jane Primerano
The Musconetcong River at flood stage earlier this year at Waterloo Village. Credits: By Jane Primerano
One of the historic homes at Waterloo Village Credits: By Jane Primerano

BYRAM TOWNSHIP, NJ – While Canal Heritage Days at Waterloo Village celebrate the restored Morris Canal town, the Canal Society of New Jersey is working behind the scenes to rehabilitate more of the historic buildings.

The Canal Society maintains the New Jersey Canal Museum on the site, with exhibits of the major canals around the state. The society has occupied the house for 35 years and more recently expanded exhibits into the barn in back of the historic house they maintain.

The society also restored and opens Smith’s Store, the blacksmith shop, the 1820s Rutan log cabin and, most recently, the waterpowered Grist Mill, according to a press release issued by the society.

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Canal Heritage Days continue on the fourth Saturday of the month through October and include boat rides on the canal and guided tours of all the open buildings.

The familiar portion of Waterloo Village, which was operated by the Waterloo Foundation until 2006 and is owned by the state, is in Byram Township, Sussex County.

However, according to Brian Morrell of Stanhope, president of the Canal Society, a portion of the village was on the other side of the Musconetcong River in Mount Olive Township, Morris County.

The Canal Society hopes to extend the boundaries of the National Register of Historic Places designation which currently encompasses the narrow canal right-of-way and the Sussex County side of the village. The society received a New Jersey Historical Commission Projct grant for $11,443 and a grant from the Morris County Historic Preservation Trust Fund for $22,257. The $33,700 will cover the application, Morrell said.

The Waterloo Village Historic Preservation Plan, prepared in 2008 by the state, also only includes the Sussex County side, mentioning the Morris County sites only peripherally, according to the National Register grant nomination.

The Village isn’t complete without interpretation of the Morris County sites, according to Morrell. The society retained Connolly and Hickey, historic preservation specialists who have worked at the village in the past, to created the application to expand the district.

According to the application: “The Sussex Railroad, which served the iron mines in Andover to the north, crossed the river at Waterloo to connect with the Morris Canal and with the Morris and Essex Railroad to the south.”

The Sussex Railroad cargo facility was on the Morris side as was the Morris Canal Inclined Plane 4 West, former residences associated with the canal and the village and ice houses associated with ice-harvesting operations along the river in the late-19th and early- 20th centuries.

The state park staff that oversees the village has limited access to the Morris County side of the river since the collapse of the wooden footbridge about 20 years ago, Morrell said.

Morrell said the canal society also secured a nomination for the Morris County side of the village to Morris County’s 10 Most Endangered Historic Sites.

The application for that nomination reads in part: “Also present is the alignment of the Sussex Railroad with its embankments, sites of sidings, iron ore transfer docks and stone abutments from two bridge crossings, one over the inclined plane and one over the old road from Stanhope to Waterloo.” There is also the twin of the house that is used as the Canal Museum and the foundations of ice houses as well as a terracotta tile building “which may have been a manager’s residence or workers’ housing.”

Morrell and the canal society hope the Morris County side of the river eventually becomes part of the public village.

For now, visitors can view the Sussex County side of the village on the heritage days on the fourth Saturday of the month though October.

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