Union County’s annual public heritage event, “Four Centuries in a Weekend: A Journey through Union County’s History,” will take place Saturday, Oct. 19 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sunday, Oct. 20 from noon to 5 p.m. Sponsored by the Union County Board of Chosen Freeholders, with the cooperation of staff and volunteers at 27 house museums and historic sites, the two-day free 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 Linda Carter. “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.”
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:
· Reeve History & Cultural Resource Center in Westfield celebrates the restoration of the 1870s Victorian Italianate home, and exhibits work by famed local artists John Brunner, Harry Devlin and Sigmund Ivanowski.
· Deserted Village of Feltville-Glenside Park in Berkeley Heights will host a meeting of the Archaeological Society of New Jersey in the restored Masker’s Barn. On Saturday, the Society will give four presentations about archaeological sites (including Feltville). Other weekend activities include free hay rides, children’s games and tours of the village.
· Deacon Andrew Hetfield House in Mountainside, home to the Hetfield family for 186 years, will show a video of the recent move of the historic Levi Cory House to its new location adjacent to the Hetfield House.
· Oswald J. Nitschke House, operated by the Kenilworth Historical Society, will celebrate the 100th Anniversary of the town’s Volunteer Fire Department with a display of photos chronicling the history of Kenilworth.
· Liberty Hall Museum of Union will have on view “Ring for Service: The Role of Servants in a Country House,” a special exhibit about the role of slaves and servants at Liberty Hall from the time of Governor William Livingston.
· Reeves-Reed Arboretum of Summit will celebrate its 40 years as a historic public garden with a display of outdoor sculpture by Tom Holmes. The Wisner House Gallery will feature a series of Holmes’ large scale photographic works and smaller sculptures.
· Crane-Phillips House Museum in Cranford will present “Clean as a Whistle,” an exhibit about the beginnings of healthy living and sanitation including early indoor plumbing, the Civil War Sanitary Commission and Cranford’s role in the first Federal Food and Drug Act.
· Historic Cannon Ball House in Springfield will feature a Civil War Encampment on Saturday; Revolutionary War re-enactors on Sunday, and relics of the 1780 Battle of Springfield.
Journey on to Boxwood Hall in Elizabeth, the 1772 home of Elias Boudinot, President of the Continental Congress, where there will be a celebration of the 150th Anniversary of President Lincoln proclaiming Thanksgiving a National Holiday – with an emphasis on the man who had the idea first: Elias Boudinot; tour the restored Revolutionary War burial grounds at the First Presbyterian Church of Elizabeth, the oldest English-speaking congregation in New Jersey; 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.
A visit to Hillside will bring you to the Woodruff House/Eaton Store, built in 1735, and 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.
At the Fanwood Train Station Museum you’ll see the oldest Victorian Gothic railroad station in the county and learn about Fanwood’s ties to the Central Railroad of New Jersey. At the Abraham Clark House in Roselle, home to a signer of the Declaration of Independence, you’ll learn about local history and Early American life. 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 Miller-Cory House in Westfield; the Salt Box Museum in New Providence; the Osborn Cannonball House in Scotch Plains, adjacent to the town green and across from the Stage House Inn; and the Nathaniel Drake House in Plainfield, with its exhibit, “George Washington and the Drake House,” which highlights the significance of the meetings held there in preparation for the Battle of Short Hills.
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.
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, 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.