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Dig into History at the Deserted Village during 'Four Centuries in a Weekend,' Oct. 20-21

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Visitors to the Deserted Village of Feltville/Glenside Park in the Watchung Reservation will have an opportunity on Saturday, October 20, and Sunday, October 21, to dig into the history of the Deserted Village, literally. Using an archaeologist’s trowel, visitors can dig through a box of soil in search of an artifact related to Feltville’s past. Children will be allowed to keep what they find during the weekend-long open house of the historic site, as part of Union County’s “Four Centuries in a Weekend” celebration.

From 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 20, and from noon to 5 p.m. on Sunday, Oct. 21, most of the Village’s buildings and grounds can be seen from a hayride, which will run continuously both days. The ghost of David Felt will lead a two-hour guided tour of the site starting at 2 p.m. each day. County staff will provide a 45-minute version of the tour at various times.

A hands-on demonstration of apples being pressed into cider will be ongoing over the weekend of Oct. 20-21. Nearby, children can play old-fashioned games. Elsewhere in the Village, visitors can hear the director of the Feltville Archaeology Project explain how the site of David Felt’s house was discovered. Masker’s Barn will be open throughout the weekend.

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All of these activities are offered free of charge. Light refreshments will be available for purchase. Picnic tables are available for families wanting to pack a lunch.

“The Union County Freeholder Board is very appreciative to the New Jersey Historical Commission for funding that helped us to open the Church/Store Building and Masker’s Barn to the public this year,” said Freeholder Chairman Alexander Mirabella. “Since the beginning of June, these historic buildings have been open from noon to 5 p.m. on weekends, and will continue to be so until the Thanksgiving weekend.”

Feltville was a thriving mill town from 1845 to 1860. After being sold by David Felt, the village wasted away and became deserted, but was reborn in 1882 as Glenside Park, a summer resort. This business closed in 1916 and the Village was again briefly deserted until being purchased by the Union County Park Commission during the 1920’s. 

Feltville’s general store and church building was restored in 1998 and subsequently opened as a visitor center. In addition to restrooms and other visitor services, this building houses an exhibit of artifacts, photographs and paintings that depict the Village’s history across four centuries. Visitors may pick up a map and narrative at Feltville’s parking lot at any time for a self-guided tour. Restoration of the resort-era carriage house called Masker’s Barn was completed last year. During the restoration, the building was actually levitated and held in mid-air for months as the foundation was replaced.

All activities for the Four Centuries weekend are rain or shine. Enter the Deserted Village via Cataract Hollow Road, off of Glenside Avenue on the Berkeley Heights side of the Watchung Reservation. Wear warm clothes and sturdy walking shoes.

Information about 23 other Four Centuries in a Weekend sites is available from the Union County Office of Cultural and Heritage Affairs, telephone: (908) 558-2550, e-mail: culturalinfo@ucnj.org; or by visiting the Union County website at www.ucnj.org and clicking on “Fall Activities in Union County.”

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