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 15 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sunday, October 16 from noon to 5 p.m.
Sponsored by the Union County Board of Chosen Freeholders with the cooperation of staff and volunteers at 35 house museums and historic sites, the two-day free event opens the doors to more than 370 years of history throughout the county.
“See history come alive in Union County! Four Centuries in a Weekend began in 1994, when historic sites and the county got together to tell an exciting story: how Elizabethtown of 1664 became the 21 towns and cities of today’s Union County,” said Freeholder Bette Jane Kowalski. “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 our treasure trove of history.”
Among the historic sites on tour, all listed on the National and New Jersey State Registers of Historic Places, with special programs or events highlighting their rich heritage are:
- Miller-Cory House Museum in Westfield will have Open hearth cooking using 18th century recipes and “Quilts-A work of Art” featuring quilts ranging from antique to modern.
- The Connecticut Farms Church in Union will offer tours of the Church and the Cemetery; as well as opportunities to purchase both desserts on Saturday and on Sunday a lunch, all based on recipes from the 1700’s.
- Deserted Village of Feltville-Glenside Park in Berkeley Heights will host a panel discussion about the murals painted in historic house #7 by Nicaraguan Artist Roberto de la Selva, circa 1927; on Sunday at 2 p.m.
- Deacon Andrew Hetfield House in Mountainside, will exhibit a private photo collection celebrating Mountainside historic past.
- Oswald J. Nitschke House, will be highlighting “James Arthur: The Story of 100 Houses in 100 days."
- Carter House of Summit will feature a 1927 Fire Engine.
- Nathaniel Drake House in Plainfield will present a lecture on both days at 2 p.m., “Colonial African- Americans’ Contributions to America”
- First Presbyterian Church & Snyder Academy in Elizabeth will feature on Saturday; from 12-3 p.m. a Revolutionary War re-enactment of the 1780 Battle of Elizabeth.
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 the interior upgrade of the house, tour the grounds of the Nathaniel Bonnell Homestead and the Belcher-Ogden Mansion, and visit the Caldwell Parsonage at Connecticut Farms in Union, an American Revolutionary site that will feature a re-enactor portraying the “Fighting Parson” James Caldwell.
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; then continue on to the historic Evergreen Cemetery, a virtual museum of funerary art.
In Rahway you’ll be welcome at the Merchants and Drovers Tavern, a restored early 19th century hotel, and you can tour the Union County Performing Arts Center, a beautifully restored classic Vaudeville theatre.
When you stop at the Dr. William Robinson Plantation in Clark, you’ll discover a post-medieval English-style house where Dr. Robinson practiced healing with plants and herbs. Civil War Re-enactors will be there as well throughout the weekend.
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 its extensive collection.
While going to Cranford, stop by the Crane-Phillips House and look at their display “Cranford Chronicle: 120 years.”
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. In the Roselle Park Museum, housed in the Charles E. Stone Store, you’ll be standing in the first electrically-lighted store in the world.
Authentic 18th century farmhouses are open for touring. The Salt Box Museum in New Providence will feature pine needle basket coiling. The Osborn Cannonball House in Scotch Plains which will offer the exhibit, “Beautiful Blushing Brides” -- bridal fashions, accessories and photographs from the19th, 20th and 21st centuries, 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 explore Summit, with its Twin Maples, a stately neoclassical mansion, the Carter House -- the city’s oldest house, built in the 1740’s --and the Summit Playhouse, a Richardsonian Romanesque structure with a 120-seat auditorium.
Also in Summit, you will find the Reeves-Reed Arboretum with a great mix of history and horticulture.
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.
More details about Four Centuries in a Weekend are available online at ucnj.org/parks-recreation.
For free copies of the Four Centuries in a Weekend tour booklet, map and further information, telephone 908-558-2550 weekdays between 8:30 a.m. and 4:30 p.m., NJ Relay Users dial 711, or e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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