Community Life

Historic Fanwood Painting Donated

Gaylon McGowan tells the history of the Fanwood Tie and Timber Co. sawmill, where he worked in the late 1940s. Credits: John Mooney
Gaylon McGowan wrote some of his memories on the back of his painting. Credits: John Mooney
This photo illustrates the train tracks ran east from the sawmill -- through what is now the Fanwood train station parking lot -- to the Fanwood Lumber Yard. Credits: John Mooney
Gaylon McGowan with Adam Kois, President of the Fanwood Historic Preservation Commission and Mayor Colleen Mahr Credits: John Mooney
Saw mill painting now on display at the Fanwood Museum, which is located at the historic Fanwood Train Station. Credits: John Mooney
Joan Skubish (in pink) of the Fanwood Historic Preservation Commission and others listened to Mr. McGowan's memories of working at the local sawmill. Credits: John Mooney

FANWOOD, NJ -- Gaylon McGowan, a former resident who worked at the Fanwood Tie and Timber Co. on South Ave. after WWII, donated a painting of his memories of the sawmill to the museum at the Fanwood Train Station on Sunday, Dec. 4. 

Mr. McGowan, now 88, moved to Fanwood from a small town in northern Maine in 1938 as his father sought work during the Depression. His family lived in a rental on Farley Avenue and later bought a house on Cray Terrace. He worked as a sawyer at the mill, which was located between Young's Paint on the corner of South Avenue and the Fanwood Train Station on what is now called Old South Avenue. Mr. McGowan explained that the Fanwood Tie and Timber Co. was a conventional rotary saw mill, like many others in the northeast. 

"I make no claim of being a painter. I started when I got bored after retiring," Mr. McGowan said. "I works in acrylics because you can paint, and it only takes 15 minutes to dry and then you paint again. Oil would take five days to dry. I'm not that patient."

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Mr. McGowan, who now lives near Philadelphia,attended the high school, where he was captain of football team and named All-State. He joked that at the high school he "discovered girls and wound up marrying one."

Mr. McGowan explained that the mill cut logs for most of Central Jersey and Fanwood had a lot of open space when he lived here.

"From King Street on down to Edison was all woods," he said. 

"With redevelopment of downtown, we also want to see what was here before," said Mayor Colleen Mahr in welcoming Mr. McGowan and formally accepting the painting on behalf of the borough. "We want to show it off, and we are glad you could make it here today. Fanwood is fortunate to have a museum such as this to preserve our town's history." 

Following the tradition of the past few years, the Museum was open for visitors to tour. Children were invited to make a Victorian Christmas ornament to take home.

The Fanwood Museum welcomes visitors and is open from 2:00 to 4:00 p.m. on the first Sunday of each month. Groups can also arrange tours through the Fanwood Historic Preservation Commission. is Scotch Plains-Fanwood’s only free daily paper. Sign up for our daily eNews and follow us on Facebook and twitter @SPF_TAP.

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