UNION COUNTY, NJ – Union County’s annual public heritage event, “Four Centuries in a Weekend: A Journey through Union County’s History,” will take place on Saturday, October 20 and Sunday, October 21 from noon to 5:00 p.m.  The tour includes three sites in Plainfield:  duCret School of Art, the Drake House Museum, and the Quaker Meetinghouse.

Sponsored by the Union County Board of Chosen Freeholders, with the cooperation of staff and volunteers at 35 house museums and historic sites, the free two-day event opens the doors to more than 370 years of history throughout the county.

“Four Centuries in a Weekend began in 1994 when 16 historic sites and the County of Union organized a weekend event to tell the story of how Elizabethtown of 1664 evolved into the 21 municipalities of today’s Union County,” said Freeholder Chairman Sergio Granados. “This year, a beautifully restored mansion and church, Revolutionary War burial grounds, the county’s oldest railroad station, quaint house museums, special exhibitions and tours showcase the county’s treasure trove of history.”

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This year’s event will branch out and highlight the rich history of innovation, invention and industry in Union County. For the first time, Nokia Bell Labs and the Sperry Observatory will be open for tours and activities. 

The Bell Labs Technology Showcase will be open on October 20 by scheduled appointment (25 per group) at the following times: 12-1 p.m., 1-2 p.m., 2-3 p.m. and 3-4 p.m. Visitors can observe remarkable technological advancements, such as the first transistor and an original Telstar satellite. Pre-registration is required online at ucnj.org/4c.

The William Miller Sperry Observatory is an astronomical observatory owned by Union County College and located on the Cranford campus. The observatory houses two of the largest telescopes on the East Coast. Tours and lectures will be given on both days.

Some sites with special programs or events highlighting their rich history are:

  • The duCret School of Art in Plainfield is another new addition to this year’s event and will provide tours of the historic home and have a display of art work that has been collected over the years.
  • The Shady Rest Golf and Country Club in Scotch Plains will have its official Grand Opening featuring a timeline of African-American soldier re-enactors from the American Revolution, Civil War, WWI and WWII.
  • The Roselle Park Museum in Roselle Park will have an Exhibit “From Science to Technology & Invention: Edison, Keurig, Marconi and a Touch of Tesla… Inventions and Inventors in Roselle Park.”
  • Deacon Andrew Hetfield House in Mountainside will exhibit a diorama with miniatures of the local Battle of Spanktown.
  • Oswald J. Nitschke House in Kenilworth will be highlighting a World War I Victory Garden.
  • Dr. William Robinson Plantation in Clark will have displays and demonstrations depicting the WWII era and include U.S. Army Signal Corps switchboards, an army clerk and an army jeep with crew, plus a display about the U.S. Navy and WAVE (female sailors). 
  • Nathaniel Drake House in Plainfield will present The New Jersey Field Music Group on Saturday. The group will be dressed in authentic Revolutionary War era uniforms and perform fife & drum music. 
  • Cannon Ball House in Springfield will be commemorating the 225th anniversary of the Township of Springfield with the exhibit “Celebrating Springfield.”

Journey on to Boxwood Hall in Elizabeth, the 1772 home of Elias Boudinot, President of the Continental Congress, where there will be an exhibit on “History in My Neighborhood;” take time to tour the Belcher-Ogden Mansion and the grounds; and then visit the Old First Presbyterian Church and the Snyder Academy.

Visit the Caldwell Parsonage in Union, an American Revolutionary site that will feature a re-enactor portraying the “Fighting Parson” James Caldwell. Moving right over to the Connecticut Farms Church, tour the cemetery where British and Hessian soldiers are buried. Then, continue on to the Liberty Hall Museum and check out the amazing home of New Jersey’s first elected governor and signer of the United States Constitution, William Livingston. 

A visit to Hillside will bring you to the Woodruff House/Eaton Store, built in 1735, with a mini apple festival. Continue on to the historic Evergreen Cemetery, which will feature a virtual museum of funerary art.

In Rahway, you’ll be welcome at the Merchants and Drovers Tavern, a restored early 19th century hotel offering a cemetery tour highlighting WWI. Tour the Union County Performing Arts Center, a beautifully restored classic Vaudeville theatre. The Rahway School for Colored Children/African-American History and Heritage Center will be offering tours of the house. 

At the Fanwood Train Station Museum, you’ll visit the oldest Victorian Gothic railroad station in the county and learn about Fanwood’s ties to the Central Railroad of New Jersey. 

Visit the Reeve History and Cultural Resource Center in Westfield and tour the Victorian style house and special exhibits. The Miller-Cory House Museum will offer open hearth cooking demonstrations.

While in Cranford, stop by the Crane-Phillips House and look at what was once a Civil War veteran’s home.

At the Abraham Clark House, home to a signer of the Declaration of Independence, you’ll learn about Early American life and the history of Roselle.

Authentic 18th century farmhouses are open for touring: the Salt Box Museum in New Providence will feature a display of WWII Red Cross nurses’ uniforms; the Osborn Cannonball House in Scotch Plains will offer the exhibit “A Very Victorian Christmas” with presentations, displays and music; and the Plainfield Meetinghouse in Plainfield will feature conversations on the history of the Quaker house. 

Venturing into the Watchung Mountains, you’ll also visit the Littell-Lord Farmstead in Berkeley Heights, a reminder of the county’s agricultural past and Deserted Village of Feltville-Glenside Park, where there is an apple cider press and so much more.

Then explore Summit, with its Twin Maples, a stately neoclassical mansion. There, you will also find the Reeves-Reed Arboretum, with a great mix of history and horticulture. Carter House of Summit will feature a 1927 fire engine.

Children can earn a Time Traveler’s Certificate and a Four Centuries Patch by visiting and obtaining a Time Traveler Passport at any of the sites, having it stamped and returning the completed form to the Union County Office of Cultural and Heritage Affairs.

For free copies of the Four Centuries in a Weekend tour booklet, map and further information, call 908-558-2550 weekdays between 8:30 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. (NJ Relay users dial 711) or email culturalinfo@ucnj.org.