NUTLEY, NJ - The morning of Memorial Day on May 28 prior to the township’s 99th annual parade provided the perfect time for Nutley Historical Society’s “A Walk in the Park” that brought yesteryear to life. The guided tour kicked off with a friendly welcome from Historical Society President Domenick Tibaldo at Memorial Park (Mud Hole) on Vreeland Avenue.
Nutley Museum Director John Simko then led the two-hour program as more than 30 Nutley residents in attendance walked the banks of the Third River, which included various stops along the way to explain the historical significance of several landmarks.
“Around the 1880’s when trains brought our residents to work in New York City, that’s when the parks and the township really began to first take its shape to resemble more of what Nutley looks like today,” explained Simko.
Simko talked in detail about the Third River’s role in Nutley history as a power source for our early lumber mill and cotton mill industries. “The Third River is what really gives Nutley it’s personality,” said Simko. “It stretches throughout the township from Kingsland Manor all the way past Harrison Street.”
The park also served as a source of inspiration for numerous world-class painters and artists. Many of those artists would hop on trains at the old High Street station en route to New York City to paint murals inside various buildings. Some of those buildings were constructed with brownstone dug from the quarry in the area now where the Parks and Recreation Building and sports field complex is located.
The Mud Hole pond in the center of the park was manmade, complete with a ditch to drain into the Third River. As a symbol of civic pride, the Mud Hole – now Memorial Park - serves as a tribute to our war veterans.
“Agreed upon by the township committee in 1918, built in 1919, and opened in 1920, Memorial Park honors the 427 men and women from Nutley who served in World War I … 17 of which paid the ultimate price,” Simko said.
In addition to the former mills, the tour visited the pre-Revolutionary War Van Giesen homestead, and touched on the beginnings of our hundred-year-old Carnegie Library and Town Hall.
After a walk through one of Nutley’s oldest cemeteries, the tour concluded inside Nutley’s first brick schoolhouse, which was built in 1875. Grade school classes were held there until 1894. The building ultimately became the Nutley Historical Society and Museum, where objects from the archives and items discussed during the tour were on display.
It was in 1945 that a group of local citizens established the Nutley Historical Society to collect and preserve material associated with the history and genealogy of the people and the township.
Originally set for Sunday, May 27, but pushed back a day due to rain, this informative stroll down memory lane talking about our townships origins seemed more fitting to take place on this important American holiday.