Our Story

Over the Years

1664   Elizabethtown becomes a formal settlement, the first permanent English community in New Jersey. They had benefited from the transfer of power from Dutch to English with the British capture of New Amsterdam.

1664   On October 28, a group of Englishmen—the Elizabethtown Associates—from eastern Long Island bought land from the Lenape sachem, Mattano.

1680   Elizabethans, John Ogden, father (1609-1682) and son (1638-1702), constructed the oldest portion of their home about 1680. Both had been born in Bradley Plain, Hampshire England, came to the colonies about 1641, first to Connecticut, then to Long Island, before becoming founding settlers of Elizabeth in 1664. Their house would be developed by several subsequent owners and eventually be known as the Belcher-Ogden mansion, a beautifully proportioned example of Georgian architecture and the brick style known as Flemish bond.

One subsequent resident was Jonathan Belcher ( born January 8, 1682- Cambridge Mass.). Belcher graduated Harvard in 1728 and also received additional education in London. He was Governor of Mass. and New Hampshire (fired because he was very unpopular). He was appointed by King George II (whom he had met while in Europe) to be Governor of New Jersey from 1747 to his death in 1757. Belcher was very popular and respected in New Jersey. While Royal Governor he resided in the mansion and became a benefactor of the college which would become Princeton University. Belcher granted the school a charter in 1748 while it operated in Elizabeth and donated 474 books, the beginning of its library.

1682   The Bonnell House, 1045 East Jersey Avenue, is the oldest house in Elizabeth NJ and one of the oldest domiciles in the state. It represents the 17th century carpentry skills of its owner/builder, Nathaniel Bonnell, originally a native of New Haven, Connecticut, came to Elizabeth about the time of its founding (1664) and served as a member of the incorporating organization, the Elizabeth Associates.

On January 3, 1665 Bonnell married Susanna Whitehead, the daughter of British-born Rev. Isaac Whitehead, who was a founder both of New Haven (where his daughter Susanna was born) and Elizabeth NJ. He too arrived about 1664 and served as an Elizabeth Associate.

Bonnell and his wife had seven children between 1670 and 1685, presumably some of them raised in the existing farmhouse. The house, built sometime before 1682 (some think as earlier as 1670 with the birth of his first child) sat on the owner’s six-acre plot and he farmed an additional 16 acres west of Elizabeth. Bonnell served as a member of the General Assembly on New Jersey in 1692 and the last official reference to him is as a signer of the 1696 petition for relief against the oppression of the Lords Proprietor. Not long after Susanna moved to Springfield, presumably after the death of her husband. She died in 1733 and was buried at Connecticut Farms (now Union, NJ), the site of a later Revolutionary skirmish between the British and American patriots. Bonnell left his western farmland to his son and namesake, Nathaniel (b. 1670)

“On September 12, 2003 the Historical Society; Elizabeth NJ Inc. took possession of the Bonnell House.”

St John’s Episcopal Church


1705   Episcopalians formed St. John’s church on land owned by Elizabeth, the wife of the NJ proprietor, Sir George Carteret, who agreed to have the city named after his wife. Her third husband, Richard Townley, donated the land for the church. The church was rebuilt in 1860 in its distinctive Gothic style.


Rev. Jonathan Dickinson

1706   Rev. Jonathan Dickinson, a graduate of Yale College (1706), becomes pastor of old Congregational Church, which he persuaded to join the Philadelphia Presbyterian synod in
1717. Henceforth his church would be known as First Presbyterian Church of Elizabethtown.

First Presbyterian Church

He distinguished himself as author and preachers against Deism and Episcopalianism and in 1739 hosted the famous evangelist George Whitfield in his city.



1746  At Dickinson’s request, the Governor of NJ granted Elizabeth NJ a charter for a classical school which would eventually become Princeton University, which Dickinson served briefly as first president. His successor at the school was his friend and frequent house guest, Rev. Jonathan Edwards of Massachusetts.

Litchfield Law School building

1763-67 Tapping Reeve, a 1763 graduate of the College of New Jersey (later (Princeton) conducted an academy in Elizabeth. At the same time he tutored the children of Rev. Aaron Burr, who had served as acting president of the college (1747-48). In 1771 Reeve married his student, sixteen-year old Sarah Burr, and moved his own law practice to Litchfield Ct. There he began to tutor aspirant lawyers, with his former Elizabeth NJ student and brother-in-law, Aaron Burr (later Vice-President under Thomas Jefferson) as his first law student. His tutorials expanded exponentially, creating the first law school in the United States and training over 1100 individuals, including John C Calhoun and Horace Mann. Before the school closed in 1833 its graduates included two vice-presidents, 101 US congressmen, 28 US senators, three justices of the US Supreme court and fourteen state governors. Reeve left his Elizabeth academy in 1767 and in 1771 its principal was also a Princeton graduate, Francis Barber, who owned the present day Bonnell House, where the HSE has its offices. The British burned the Elizabeth Academy in 1779. The Law School building Reeve erected next to his Connecticut home probably resembled the Elizabeth NJ Academy that had launched his teaching career.

Francis Barber

1771  Francis Barber (1750-1783), a 1767 graduate of Princeton, became schoolmaster of Elizabeth Academy, a Latin grammar school adjacent to the First Presbyterian church on Broad Avenue. On January 26, 1773 Barber married Mary Ogden, sister of prominent Elizabeth residents, Robert and Aaron Ogden, later a Governor of New Jersey.

Barber and his student, Alexander Hamilton, joined the New Jersey militia in January 1776. During the Revolutionary War the former schoolmaster rose to the rank of colonel and fought in many engagements, including Germantown and Brandywine in Pennsylvania, Monmouth and Connecticut Farms in New Jersey. He fought under General Anthony Wayne at Green Springs (Va) and with Lafayette at Yorktown. In January 1783 he died from a falling tree, presumably an accident.

In Elizabeth Barber resided in the Bonnell House, where in the 1925 City Directory there resided Susan C Barber, widow of William P Barber, Francis’s descendant. [See 1682 in this Timeline]”


The Belcher Teaspoon – The expansion of the Royal Governor’s residence for NJ Governor Jonathan Belcher (1682-1757) created a superlative example of Georgian architecture in Elizabethtown. Governor Belcher settled in his new home and expedited New Jersey affairs there until his death. He was known for his colonial sympathies and for his congeniality. Part of his reputation rested on his hospitality, his store of Madeira wine and his welcoming punchbowl. His widely admired silverware also testified to his taste and his social standing.

Sometime after his residence in this elegant Georgian home, an extraordinarily beautiful silver teaspoon appeared, bearing the markings of Samuel Casey (c1723-c1780). Through the 1750s and 1760s Casey had developed a coveted reputation for silversmithing in Newport and Kingston, Rhode Island amongst very wealthy merchants and plantation owners. The Belcher teaspoon, perfectly gadrooned, represents the finest craftsmanship of this eighteenth century form and one of the finest examples of Casey’s art.


Casey himself overreached his reputation in 1770, was arrested for counterfeiting and sentenced to hang. His fellow citizens freed him the night before his execution and he reportedly traveled south, completely masking his later career. The specimen teaspoon was very likely a part of Jonathan Belcher’s reputed silver service.

1775   Three Elizabethmen—Stephen Crane (1709-1780), William Livingston (1723-1790) (later first Governor of NJ), and Jonathan Dayton (1760-1824) (with Livingston a signer of the Constitution and later speaker of the US House of Representatives and US Senator from NJ)—constitute the majority of New Jersey’s five delegates to the First Continental Congress.

1776   George Washington marches his army of 3500, recently driven from Fort Lee, NJ, through Elizabeth NJ pursued quickly by British General Lord, William Howe, with 6000 British and Hessian troops, who occupied the town in December.

1778 In this year Alexander Hamilton played Master of Ceremonies to a wedding party at the Belcher Ogden Mansion. The bridge was “Caty” Smith, daughter of then owner, William Peartree Smith, a Revolutionary patriot. The groom was Elisha Boudinot, brother of Elias Boudinot, President of the Continental Congress and Smith neighbor at nearby Boxwood Hall. George Washington and the Marquis de Lafayette were guests. The British received sketchy information about the affair but arrived several days after it was over, failing to capture the Revolutionary leaders. They took out their disappointment on the house and sacked the Belcher-Ogden Mansion of many of it goods and furnishings – seen here in an artist’s rendering: “The Sacking of the Belcher-Ogden Mansion” by Davis Gray of the College Watercolor Group, Skillman, New Jersey.

The Sacking of the Belcher Ogden Mansion
Belcher Ogden

1780   AARON LANE, noted Elizabeth silversmith and clockmaker, flourished in the city in the years 1780-1793. He worked with his brother-in-law, cabinetmaker Ichabod Williams, who furnished the cases. Lane often painted his name across the top of his painted clock faces and “Elizabethtown” across the bottom. His clocks in Liberty Hall, the Livingston/Kean estate, reflect these features. He seems to be no relation to Elizabeth clockmaker, Mark Lane, who thrived in the city during the 1830s. Together however the two Lanes bracket an energetic craftsman culture of the late 18th and early 19th century.

Boxwood Hall

1781 Elias Boudinot (1740-1821), resident of an Elizabeth (East Jersey St.) farmstead, known as Boxwood Hall, and during the Revolutionary War commissioner general of prisoners, becomes President of the Continental Congress. Later he directed the US Mint and was first president of the American Bible Society. In 1943 his home became a property of the state, the only state-owned and operated historic site in Union County.

1782  First regular stagecoach line established between Elizabeth and Princeton; later in 1787 regular stagecoach lines between Elizabethtown Port and Morristown.

1789  Martha Washington stays at Gov. Wm Livingston’s Liberty Hall on Morris Avenue, en route to the New York City inauguration of her husband as first president. George Washington had traveled through Elizabeth on his inauguration route, stopping at Elias Boudinot’s home for lunch. Guests that day included John Jay, his father-in-law William Livingston, Richard Henry Lee of Virginia and Charles Carroll of Maryland.

Jonathan Dayton

1789 Jonathan Dayton (1760-1824) becomes a signer of the US constitution. He was born in Elizabeth, attended the town academy under headmaster Tapping Reeve with fellow students, A Hamilton and Francis Barber, and in 1776 joined the 3d New Jersey Regiment. He had studied in the college at Princeton and took his degree in 1776. He patrolled the Ohio frontier, checking the initiatives of Loyalists and Indians, and familiarized himself with the area. Later he served with George Washington at the battles of Brandywine and Germantown. In 1781 he served with his old schoolmates, Hamilton and Barber in the Battle of Yorktown. He was one of the youngest members of the Constitutional Convention and associated himself with Hamilton’s financial policies. Afterward he served four terms in the US House of Representative, the final four years (1795-1800) as Speaker of the House. He then served a term as US Senator from NJ. His western speculations involved him in the Aaron Burr scandals from which he was exonerated. Out of his land speculations came a town named for him in Ohio: Dayton. He died in 1824 and is buried in the St. John’s Episcopal Church graveyard, Elizabeth NJ.

1789 – The EHS has acquired newspaper clippings from the Litchfield (Ct) Historical Society that appear to be from an early 18th century newspaper, the Christian Scholar and Farmer’s magazine (f. 1789). The clippings seem to have belonged to the Rev. Jeremiah Chapman (1741-1813) who had supported Shepherd Kollock, the newspaper’s first editor and the first editor of the New Jersey Journal. The Chapmans descended from an immigrant family from Hull, England who came to Boston in the early 17th century and settled in Saybrook, Ct. Jedidiah was born in East Haddam, September 24,1741 and died in Geneva, New York. In the 1770s Jedidiah served as minister and missionary in the “Newark Mountains” and was a member of the Presbytery that monitored the Elizabeth area. It was likely that he acquired the newspaper in these years and used clippings for his own edification and probably also as grist for his sermons. Many thanks to Linda Hocking, curator at the Litchfield Historical Society.

1797  Aaron Ogden, a descendant of one of the city’s founders, Jonathan Ogden, buys the Jonathan Belcher mansion, which housed the Tory governor of the colony before the Revolution. Ogden (1756-1839) had ably served in the military during the revolution, was a prominent Federalist politician and would serve the state as governor during the War of 1812. While living in Elizabeth, he promoted the development of the steamboat business and was a principal in shaping federal policy on interstate commerce in the landmark Supreme court case, Gibbons vs Ogden, which specified that the federal rather than the state government would control interstate commerce.

1804  Morris turnpike completed, improving travel on the old road between Elizabeth and Morristown. Also Gradual Abolition Act passed in state legislature, insuring that any slave born after July 4, 1804 would be freed at age 25. (New Jersey outlaws slavery in 1844)

1820  The formation of the Second Presbyterian church on East Jersey street by Dr David Magie gave the city (now in 2003) its oldest church structure.


1836   First railroad passes through Elizabeth.

1839   The Elizabeth and Somerville Railroad, later the Central Railroad of New Jersey, established regular passenger service, first to Plainfield, making interior farmland accessible for development.

1840 Woodcut of Elizabeth in 1840 from Broad Street bridge. 

Rev. Isaac F. Howell

1845   St. Mary of the Assumption Parish acquired land from the Irish-born Presbyterian minister of First Presbyterian Church, Dr. Nicholas Murray. Services initially were conducted for Irish immigrants working on the railroads and local factories. Parishioners built their present church in 1858, the oldest Roman Catholic church in Union county. Their first pastor was Rev. Isaac F. Howell who served for twenty-two years.

St. Mary’s Church




Charles Lawrence Williamson

1846 On November 12, 1846, Charles Lawrence Williamson died. Williamson born in 1795, joined the small US Navy in 1811 as Lieutenant and served in several capacities before joining the USS Saratoga under Commander Thomas Macdonough in the Battle of Lake Champlain (1814). Later in 1827 while aboard the USS Delaware he was injured in fighting pirates in the Mediterranean.The injury would plague him for the rest of his life. Nevertheless, he was promoted Master-Commandant of the USS Warren in 1841 and retired from service at that rank in 1844.

Susan Ten Eyck Williamson

He died in (802 Pearl St) Elizabeth, November 12 1846, the hometown of his wife Susan Ten Eyck Williamson. Charles was a nephew to Isaac Halsted Williamson (1768-1844), a native of the town, Elizabeth mayor (1830-33) and NJ Governor and Chancellor (1817-29). Williamson St in Elizabeth NJ was named after this prominent Elizabeth family.

Scott House Replica

1848  General Winfield Scott (1786-1866), hero of Mexican War and Whig candidate for 1852 presidency, moves into his father-in-law’s home on East Jersey and Madison Avenues and resides there until his death in 1866. The house was razed in 1928 and a replica erected on Westminster Avenue in 1931, now occupied by the NJ branch of the American Cancer Society.

1849  David Naar becomes Mayor of Elizabeth, shortly after his return from the island of St. Thomas where he had served as US Consul. Naar, a native of Wisconsin (b. Nov. 6 1800) belonged to an old family of Portuguese Jews who could trace their families lines to the expulsion of Jews from Spain in 1492. In his early years he operated a merchandising business with his brothers, specializing in the St. Thomas to New York City trade until a fire in 1835 destroyed their business. He then practiced farming in Elizabeth NJ where he became known for his speaking skills. His assistance with the 1844 campaign of President James Polk in New Jersey led to his consulship. In 1851-52 he was clerk of the NJ Assembly and state treasurer in 1865. As a Mason, he worked successfully to secure the Grand Lodge’s recognition of blacks members. In 1853 he acquired the “True American” newspaper in Trenton, making it and him important influences in the state until his death in Trenton, February 25, 1880.

1854   The Elizabeth Water company received its charter March 3, 1854 (according to THE CITY OF ELIZABETH, copyright by 1889 The Elizabeth Daily Journal) and one year later the Elizabethtown Gas Company followed suit.

1855   The city’s water supply first drew on the Elizabeth River, then on reservoirs on Westfield Avenue, Chilton Street and Irvington Avenue at Ursino Lake, which sported icehouses.

Pingry School on Parker Road

1857   The first Jewish congregation formed and later became Temple B’nai Israel.

1861   Founding of Pingry School, which thrived until 1953 on its 2.5 acre campus,now the site occupied by School 23 aka Nicholas Murray Butler School, named after Elizabeth native who became president of Columbia University and in 1931 a Nobel laureate.

John Pingry (1818-1893), a native of Haverill, Massachusetts, came to Elizabeth in 1836, the year he graduated from Dartmouth College. For four years, while studying for the ministry, he served as assistant to the Rev. John T Halsey, headmaster of Chilton Seminary on West Jersey Street. Later Pingry married Caroline G Oakley, a sister of Mrs. John T. Halsey. In 1842 Pingry was ordained and ministered to the Fishkill (NY) Presbyterian Church, while conducting a classical school for boys. He later relocated his school to Roseville NJ, a suburb of Newark. In 1860 he became principal of Elizabeth’s Pearl Cottage Seminary [then 1186 E. Grand St], the successor to Chilton Seminary.

Original Pingry School
on Westminster Ave.

In 1861 Jonathan Townley, principal of another nearby school, enlisted for duty in the Civil War and Pingry took over his school, then located at 445 Westminster Avenue. He served the Pingry School until his death in 1893, the year the institution incorporated with Congressman Charles Fowler its Board President. Pingry School continued as a day school until 1918 when its Headmaster Mitchell Froelicher, converted it to a country day school. The change extended the day and encompassed many shop and club activities ordinarily associated only with boarding schools. In addition, Pingry organized its classes into six lower and six upper forms with the additional innovation of a Student Council.

In 1953 the school moved to North Avenue, a location now serving Kean University as its East campus. In 1983 Pingry School moved once more to a 193 acre site in Martinsville, New Jersey, where it continues today.

1861 In the early morning hours of January 9, 1861 Elizabeth resident and ship captain, John McGowan steered his merchant star of weststeamer, Star of the West, toward Fort Sumter to resupply the union troops stationed there. With US flags prominently displayed, McGowan’s ship drew cannon fire from Morris Island and its secessionist cadets from The Citadel. One shot went across its bow and two others struck the ship, but without much damage. The South Carolina resistance prompted McGowan to sail out of Charleston Harbor and return to New York. Historians consider this exchange to be the opening shots of the Civil War, even though war had not been officially declared.

McGowan, born in Philadelphia in 1805, had extensive naval experience in the US Revenue Marine Service during the Mexican and Seminole wars. In 1853 he resigned the navy to enter civilian life as commander of merchant steamships and moved his family to Elizabeth. He lived there for the rest of his life, dying January 18, 1891 at his home at 1027 Elizabeth Avenue (his residence in the 1880 federal census). His death came a few days after the 30th anniversary of his participation in the first gunfire of the Civil War. [Cf Steven D Glazer, “John McGowan” in NEW JERSEY GOES TO WAR Edited by Joseph G Bilby (Hightstown NJ: NJ Civil War Heritage Assn, 2010), p.80. ]

February 21, 1861 Abraham Lincoln travels from New York City and stops briefly in Elizabeth on his way to Trenton and Philadelphia. In Elizabeth Mayor J. J. Chetwood offers him welcome and Lincoln replies from the train platform, very cognizant that New Jersey as a state voted for his Democratic opponent in the 1860 presidential election. In Philadelphia where he stays that night, he learns of a plot to assassinate him on the inaugural journey. He assumes a disguise and a different train from Harrisburg to Baltimore and eventually arrives safely in Washington before its citizens are aware of his presence.

1866   The Hersh family moves to Elizabeth and starts a paper bag business on First Street. The business later included groceries and other supplies. In 1932 the family builds the tallest building in the city, the Art Deco Hersh Tower.

 African American organized the first black church in Elizabeth, Siloam Presbyterian Church. Such churches provided leadership in the black community and advanced education. Some independent schools flourished as early as 1815 like Oliver Nuttman’s free school for “colored” children and adults. In 1847 Miss Pamela Price conducted a school on East Jersey Street behind Stephen Pearson’s grocery store.

1868 Under the guidance of Rev. T. A. K. Gessler the First Baptist Church of Elizabeth constructed an impressive building on the corner of Union and Prince Sts. in this year. Actually the congregation dated its origins from 1843 with the recognition of a local group by eight Baptist churches. The first pastor, Rev. Charles Cox, accepted the called of the first incorporated Society (1848) and baptized his wife and another congregant in the Elizabeth River nearby.

F.L. Pope & T. A. Edison – Printing Telegraph

1870 In the 1870 federal census Franklin Leonard Pope resided at 235 Morris Avenue with his parents, Ebenezer and Electa Pope, both natives of Great Barrington, Mass. Franklin and his brothers Ralph and Henry are all listed in the 1870 census as “telegraph operators” but in fact are inventors. Franklin had worked for many years for the innovative America Telegraph Co and in 1869 worked on the creation and refinement of the stock ticker (with Thomas Alva Edison) in New York. In 1869 and 70 he created the Pope Edison & Company and had Edison reside in his Morris Avenue home. Franklin L Pope went on to many distinguished accomplishments in electricity and publications on the subjects. After many years living in Elizabeth, he returned to Massachusetts where he set up a laboratory in Great Barrington. There, on Oct 13, 1885 he died accidentally from an electric jolt of 3000 volts. Sometime in the mid 1870s Franklin married Sarah Amelia Dickinson of Amherst Massachusetts, a kinswoman of poetess Emily Dickinson of Amherst.


Ulysses S. Grant
President Ulysses S. Grant – 1870

1870 – Monday, May 2 – On this day the New York Times reported that President Ulysses S. Grant attended morning services “yesterday” in Elizabeth NJ at St. Pauls’ Methodist Episcopal Church, on the corner of Jefferson and East Jersey Street. He was accompanied by the family of Abel Rathbone Corbin, his brother-in-law, then an Elizabeth resident. The sermon was delivered by Rev. L. R. Dunn, but the 600 or so attendees at the end of the service cheered the departing President. Grant spent the rest of the day and evening with the Corbin family. The remarkable feature of this event was that less than a year earlier financier Jay Gould had used Corbin as a willing participant in his scheme to corner gold, only to be thwarted by the astute Grant who flooded the market with US gold and prevented its price manipulation. Still, in 1870 Corbin put his net worth at $1 million dollars in the US federal census making it clear that he, like Gould, was not ruined, as were others, by the dynamics of Black Friday (September 24, 1869).




Trinity Episcopal Church

1871 Completion of Trinity Episcopal church (f. 1857/59) designed by Richard Upjohn (1802-78), leading architect of the Gothic Revival style and noted for his Trinity Church in Manhattan and Grace church in Newark NJ. He also produced Italianate residences like Kingscote (1850) in Newport, Rhode Island for William Wetmore Story, who made his fortune in the China trade. Upjohn, born in England and immigrated to the US in 1829, was the author of the influential book, Rural Architecture (1852) and was the founder (1857) and first president of the American Institute of Architects. The Church has merged with several other congregations in the 20th century to become St. Elizabeth’s Church, Rev. Barton Brown, Rector at North Broad and Chestnut Streets.



Lyonel Feininger
Lyonel Feininger

1871 Lyonel Feininger, (1871-1956) [pix] one of the distinguished caricaturists and painters of the 20th century and exemplar of Germany’s Bauhaus School, was actually a native of NYC (1871). His maternal grandparents John B. and Marie Elizabeth Lutz, were residents of Elizabeth N.J. from at least 1860-1880. In Elizabeth John Lutz was a Merchant Tailor and in 1880 resided at 210 South Street. In the 1870 federal census, Feininger’s parents were Frederick William Carl – a 25 year old musician – and Elizabeth Cecelia, (nee Lutz), a 20 year old native Elizabethan and accomplished singer. In 1870 the Feiningers were residents of Brooklyn NY, living not far from the Brooklyn Academy of Music (f 1861).


First Baptist Church

1872   The First Baptist church, formed in 1843, built its solid, brick church on Prince and Union Avenues in this year.

1873   I. M. Singer (1811-1875) establishes his sewing machine factory on Newark Bay, a 32 acre plot on the former site of Crane’s Ferry, and builds a workforce of six thousand, at the time the largest in the world. The company remained an economic mainstay of Elizabeth until 1982.

 Rev Martin Gessner (1825-1912) was a native of Bavaria, Germany and accepted his appointment to St Patrick’s parish (f 1858) in 1873. He worked for the rest of his life promoting temperance in his sermons and building St. Patrick’s church (1887) not far from the Singer Sewing Machine factory. Gessner was passionate about St. Patrick’s schools, which were dedicated (Aug 1, 1880) with a service attended by thousands of city residents who listened to a sermon in the adjacent park by Bishop Bernard McQuaid, former president of Seton Hall University (1856-57, 1859-68) and later bishop of Rochester NY (1868-1909).

William H Rankin Roofing Company

1873 – In this year William H Rankin (1843-c1925), a native of Pennsylvania, came to Elizabeth and established his business of making roofing products. Initially he bought land (the block bordered by Front St, Elizabeth Avenue, First Street)adjacent both to the railroad and to the Arthur Kill in order to ship heavy loads anywhere, both nationally and internationally. He resided close by at 214 Elizabeth Avenue according to the 1880s federal census. In the 1900 census he has moved his residence further from his plant to 322 North Broad Avenue and in 1910 to 332 Westminster Avenue. By 1927 the Sanborn Map Company produces a color-coded diagram of his enlarged plant, now a unit of the Barrett Roofing Company, probably a consequence of Rankin’s death in the 1920s. Rankin’s story well illustrates many features of the manufacturing careers in Elizabeth in the late 19th and early 20th century.

Orestes Brownson
Orestes Brownson

 – Orestes Brownson, for nearly two decades before his death in 1876, resided in Elizabeth NJ. A native of Vermont, Brownson associated himself with New England Transcendentalist intellectuals like Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau. He distinguished himself for his publications which defended the rights of the laboring classes, the abolition of slavery and experimental social thinkers like Robert Dale Owen and Fanny Wright. His 1844 conversion to Roman Catholicism continued his defense of reason and other advanced issues in Brownson’s Quarterly Review (f. 1844) and made him one of the most important social critics of his day. His writing became particularly controversial when he publicly differed from Catholic orthodoxy and urged the Church to engage its own vigorous intellectual heritage. He served (1861-1876) as trustee of Seton Hall University and was at times a professor there.

His daughter Sarah, an authoress herself, married Wm J Tenney in St. Michael’s Church, Elizabeth in 1873. Tenney, a graduate of Yale and also a journalist/ editor, had served as collector of the port of Elizabeth under appointment of President James Buchanan. He was the longtime editor of Appleton’s Annual Cyclopedia and served for a time on Elizabeth’s Common Council.

John Gilmary Shea
John Gilmary Shea

It may well have been this vibrant circle of Catholic intellectual culture that attracted to Elizabeth John Gilmary Shea,the 19th century’s most distinguished Catholic historian. From his appearance in the 1870 federal census to his death in 1892 Shea and his family resided at 138 Catherine Street, Elizabeth, NJ. During this time, while continuing his occupation as a lawyer and sometime literary editor of Frank Leslie’s Illustrated Weekly, Shea produced an extensive stream of books, culminating with his four volume

138 Catherine St in 2005

masterwork, A History of the Catholic Church in the United States (1886-92), which documented the Catholic contribution to the shaping of the nation. Implicitly Shea’s work attempted to check Protestant nativist criticism concerning the putative undemocratic influence of Catholicism in American democracy.

1882   John H Kean (1852-1914), the president of Elizabeth Water
company, Elizabeth Gas Light Company and founder of the Elizabethport Banking Company, accepted election to the US Congress. He is elected again in 1886 and in 1899 and 1905 to the U. S. Senate, while residing in Liberty Hall. His brother Julian H Kean (1854-1932) succeeded him as president of the Elizabethtown utility interests. Their father, Col. John Kean (1814-1895) was the longtime president of the National State Bank and the Central Railroad of New Jersey.


1887  “St. Patrick’s Church, a Roman Catholic parish since 1858, laid the cornerstone of its present church in 1887. The imposing twin-spired structure, designed by William Shickel imitating the Cologne Cathedral, took thirteen years to complete and used Maine granite. In 1948 the interior, with its wondrous 44 stained-glass windows, received an uplift and a modernization. The church, easily seen from the New Jersey Turnpike and for miles around, served as the spiritual mainstay for many Elizabeth workers, many of whom were employees of the nearby Singer Sewing Machine Company.”



Jacobson & Co., Inc.

1889 March 5 – On this date Gustav Jacobson founded a small picture framing business that continued the work his parents began earlier.  The frame molding quickly became a plain plastering contracting business, then segued into an ornamental and decorative plastering enterprise. Their clients in the early years of the 20th century included important architectural firms, like McKim Meade and White, and leading architects like John Russell Pope and James Gamble Rogers. They participated in many notable projects including the Pompeian Court at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, The Cloisters Museum in Upper Manhattan and the Presidential Palace in Cuba along with contributions to Hearst Castle in San Simeon, California and several of the Newport “cottages.” As ornamental work went out of style in the Depression years, Gustav’s son, Victor Jacobson took the company into architectural acoustics and ceiling materials.  Today the company is recognized as the premier drywall contractor in the Metropolitan New York area. Among their major recent projects Jacobson & Sons contributed to the Trump Tower, the American Express Tower, the Rainbow room renovation and the Carnegie Hall renovation. Its current CEO are partners: Thomas Davidson and John V. Jacobson, the fifth generation of their family to lead the company – Jacobson & Co., Inc., whose main office is in Elizabeth NJ.


Battin High School

1889   Joseph Battin, president of the Elizabethtown Water Company, donates the A. W. Dimock mansion to the city for use as a High School.




1890s Below this bicycle bar is the logo of the Junior Order of United American Workmen, a fraternal group of skilled laborers, that sought a national outreach but organized state by state. Here one member has his picture taken by Elizabeth photographer J. G. Hall, 915 Elizabeth Avenue.





annual report

1893 Charity Organization  Society founded as a voluntary effort to distribute coal and food during the severe winter of 1893. This effort was private and afforded an outlet for advantaged women whose work outside the home was often blocked by cultural reservations. Gradually the work of distribution became more activist and reformist, addressing issues of child labor, parental care, truancy etc. Increasingly state institutions like juvenile courts and professional training schools, made the work of charity less voluntary and private and more public and formalized. In Elizabeth the COS merged with the Elizabeth Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children in 1898 and moved its offices from Elizabeth Avenue to the Union County Court House, reflecting the changing nature of the work. As the state expanded its protection, especially to neglected children, Elizabeth’s organization, which became The Family and Children’s Society in 1938, shifted its attention to unmarried parents, temporary foster care, adoption services and family counseling. During the 1960s federal interventions in this area moved charitable work beyond the middle class to issues of the larger community, focusing especially on at risk children. Federal support enabled branches of this work to open in 1969 in Pioneer Homes (Elizabethport) and School #1, serving troubled children. In 1981 the organization changed its name to Family and Children’s Counseling and Testing Center with a professional staff.

family and children's services
Family and Children’s Services

In 1990 the organization’s Board of Trustees renamed itself Family and Children’s Services, embracing a range of issues including homeless or delinquent children, child abuse, domestic violence, in-home family counseling and teen parents among others. The current director is William H. Webb and their central office is located at 40 North Avenue, Elizabeth NJ.




1893-94 Bruce Price (1845-1903), Architect of the Elizabeth Train Station, completed 1893-94. The train station design Price began in the same year he designed the buildings for Hotchkiss School, Lakeville, CT.

Price was born in Cumberland Maryland and came to New York in 1877 after a period of study in Europe. In New York he refined his style with many tall office buildings including the American Surety Co. His fame peaked with projects like the Hotel Frontenac in Quebec and several memorial buildings – Osborne and Welch halls – at Yale University. His style is associated with Henry Hobson Richardson, known for his varied stone and brick surfaces and his characteristic arches. He cultivated these features in laying out the design for Tuxedo Park NY where in addition to the overall plan, he became the architect for several houses including that of tobacco magnate Pierre Lorillard. In 1887 he designed a home for Elizabeth resident and manufacturer, Frederick Levey, at 323 North Broad Street. In 1899 his work for George Gould, the son of robber baron Jay Gould, resulted in a mansion and estate which today has become Georgian Court University. His daughter Emily became the well-known arbiter of American etiquette and manners, Emily Post. He was a member of the American Institute of Architects and notably employer/mentor of John Russell Pope, designer of the Jefferson memorial in Washington DC. He was the author of
A Large Country House

546 Jefferson Avenue
546 Jefferson Avenue

1893- 95 The residence at 546 Jefferson Avenue became the home of Elizabeth resident, Emily Jordan (1858-1936), and her husband, Henry Folger (1857-1930). In these years Henry Folger worked as the director of Standard Oil company’s manufacturing wing . He commuted to the company’s main office at 26 Broadway. In 1908 he became a director and then in 1911 president of the company. Folger and his wife, a graduate of Miss Ranney’s School in Elizabeth, then Vassar College, developed an interest in Shakespeare’s work.

Miss Ranney’s School in Elizabeth
Miss Ranney’s School in Elizabeth

Eventually the couple amassed a library and archives of over 200,000 books, manuscripts and items relating to the poet. In 1932, a year after Henry’s death, the couple’s plans for a Washington D.C. Library were realized with the opening of the Folger Shakespeare Library, a world-class facility for the study of Shakespeare. The full realization of the couple’s dream became the lasting achievement of Elizabeth resident, Emily Jordan Folger.


1900 Foster Voorhees (1857-1927), Gov of NJ, resided in Elizabeth (297 No Broad St) since 1878. In that time he served as Elizabeth School Commissioner and State Assemblyman while conducting a law practice. During his governorship (1898-1902) he was noted as a reform governor – school system, corporate franchise policy, and most especially, with Theodore Roosevelt, the promoter of the Palisades Interstate Park along with many other environmental measures that secured the state water system and state forest service priorities. His progressive Republicanism set the stage for the reforms of Democratic Governor Woodrow Wilson a few years later. After his governorship he returned to Hunterdon County where he was born. Before his death he donated his 325 acre estate to the State, the core of land which became Voorhees State Park. [Many thanks to his kinsman, David Voorhees of NYU, for this data]

1902 Stone arches over Broad Avenue built by Pennsylvania RR as part of 1890-1905 modernization of connections from Jersey City to Chicago.
1903 The Union County Courthouse was built in this year and added its tower in 1923.


1903-1911 A plan for Greater Newark developed in these years, one which projected annexation of much of Essex and Hudson counties and parts of Bergen and Union counties, including the city of Elizabeth. Newark sought to become the fourth largest city in the United States, ahead of St. Louis in population, manufacturing, banking and property valuation.

The strategic impediment to Newark’s annexation of territory depended on the relative sophistication and maturity of targeted towns’ infrastructure. Elizabeth’s Water company (founded 1854), drew on the Elizabeth River to fill two reservoirs, one on Westfield Avenue and another on Irvington Avenue. In 1889 the company operated forty-six miles of water mains, serving 35,000 individuals. Its capacity was sufficient for foreseeable future development in the eyes of its directors (Joseph Battin, John Kean, etc). In addition, Elizabeth had railroad service since 1836 connecting it to interior towns like Somerville as well as New York City ferries. Its internal street railway dated from 1888. Electricity arrived in 1888 and the telephone followed a few years later. Highways to adjacent towns by 1890 boasted macadam or stone pavers, an advantage for “wheeling clubs” and their cycling members. The city circulated seven newspapers in 1890.
A strong city infrastructure was the key to the city’s independence and progressive spirit in the early years of the 20th century and a defense against Newark annexation.

1908 Kirk Building dedicated, for use by German-American Liederkranz

1908 Aline Murray, a student at prestigious Vail-Deane School on Salem Road in Elizabeth, composed a song which her family thought strange that it was not accepted by the school for official use:

On the steps of old Vail-Deane
On the steps of old Vail-Deane
Where we gathered with joy
At the sight of a boy
On the steps of the old Vail-Deane

In 1908, not long after her graduation, Ms Murray married Joyce Kilmer. She herself matured into a fine poet and story-teller, publishing Candles That Burn (1941). She was born in Norfolk, Virginia and probably attended Vail-Deane because of her stepfather, Henry Mills Alden, the influential and long time managing editor of Harper and Brothers, publishers. Alden had been the author of a guidebook for the Central Railroad of New Jersey, which passed through the city, and likely became acquainted with the school during that assignment. Ms. Murray, whose mother, Ada Foster Murray, was also a poet, died in Stillwater, NJ October 1, 1941.

The Vail-Deane School had originally been the home of Charles N Fowler, a Republican lawyer and banker who represented New Jersey in the US House of Representatives from 1895 to 1911. His home, later Vail-Deane School, was designed by Carrére and Hastings – the distinguished architects of the New York Public Library among many other structures and residences – in the Colonial Revival style and in 1986 was added to the National Register of Historic Places.

The photo of Aline Murray Kilmer is published with permission of Anne and Miriam Kilmer, granddaughters of the poets. [cf:mirian@risingdove.com and a related weblink: http://www.risingdove.com]

1908 The “Steps of Vail-Deane” represents the building designed by Carrére et al, recovering from a fire in July 2003 and now the property of the Dar Ul-Islam mosque.






1910 Altenberg’s Piano House flourished (on East Jersey Ave.). One member of the family, Alexander Altenberg (1884-1940), though born in Greenville, NJ, resided in Elizabeth in 1910, to cultivate his expressionist landscape painting. Though later he removed to France, his Elizabeth presence energized an active artists’ group in the city.

Another member of the Elizabeth artistic group was Charles Goeller (1901-1956) who was born in Irvington, studied in France
but resided for much of his adult career in Elizabeth, He cultivated a Precisionist style which focused on urban and industrial forms for their geometry and mechanical dynamism. For many years he taught at the Newark School for Fine and Industrial Arts.

New Jersey has been equally reputed for its artists of naturalism and landscape realism. One Elizabeth born practitioner was Maxwell Stuart Simpson (b1896) who later moved his residence and studio to Scotch Plains.

The Artists’s community buys their paint supplies at Kosberg
Paints (just opposite the Broad Street Station’s stone arches.
One later painter who frequented the store was Mickey Walker,
an Elizabeth resident who had earlier won fame as the Middleweight Boxing champion and later Light-Heavyweight Boxing Champion of the world.

Kosberg’s business closed in the 1990s after nearly a century of business, at the time the oldest retail establishment in Elizabeth

1910 – Anthony George Diener was born this year in Elizabeth and resided with his family at 9 Prospect Street, near the corner of Elizabeth Avenue. At the time Diener was the third generation to reside in the city where his father, T. Edward Diener, was the proprietor of a Clothing Store and his grandfather (res: 629 Elizabeth Avenue in 1880) had worked as a tailor.

Anthony’s family changed their residence shortly after his birth and moved to California, where Anthony attended Christian Brothers high schools. He graduated from their St Mary’s College in Moraga and joined the Christian Brothers, teaching chemistry. In 1930 Anthony’s family operated a restaurant in Glendale and it may have been there that his culinary knowledge joined his chemical interests and the Christian Brothers need for a director of their small vineyard for sacramental and medicinal purposes.

Anthony converted the small vineyard into a world-class wine and brandy producer and became known in the words of admirer and fellow vinter, Robert Mondavi, as a pioneer of California wine-making industry, “a legend …the heart of the industry.” Brother Timothy as Anthony was known to the Christian Brothers, worked for 50 years building a business that in 1989 was sold to Heublein Fine Wine Group.

Brother Timothy died November 30, 2004 at Christian Brothers Mont La Salle novitiate.

1911 JANET MEMORIAL HOME replaced the Elizabeth orphanage (f 1858) on Murray and Cherry Streets. The new building, built at Salem Road and Westminster Avenue, received financing from Mrs. John Stewart Kennedy of New York City, who had the facility named after her mother, Janet Van Eyck Edgar. In 1962 the State of New Jersey closed all orphanages, replacing them with foster care. On February 11, 1952 a commercial airplane crashed just behind the Janet Memorial Home, killing 25 passengers and crew and four residents on the ground. This was the third commercial crash in 58 days and this last event closed the Newark Airport for nearly a year. Subsequently different landings and takeoff routes were developed so that such tragedies would not recur. In 1996 the Janet Memorial Home building was torn down and replaced with a public school, the Westminster Academy, subsequently named Dr Orlando Edreira Academy, after a respected Kean University teacher and co-president of the Historical society; Elizabeth NJ Inc. One of the noted presidents’ of the Janet Memorial Home was John A McManus (1910-2007), who for many years owned and operated Elizabeth’s McManus Brothers Furniture company.

1912 Andrew Carnegie provides funds to build the Elizabeth Public Library (click to visit)

1913 Opera House opens and later becomes Gordon’s Liberty Theater (HB); Battin High School is built on site of local mansion that first housed the school.

1917 Elizabeth Rotary Club founded (HB)

1918 – On Sept 12, 1918 Anthony W. Dimock died, leaving behind an important legacy for Elizabeth NJ. He was born in Yarmouth, Nova Scotia Aug 27, 1842 and attended Phillips Andover Academy graduating in 1859. He travelled to New York and entered the banking business and had great success in the gold market. His profits enabled him to purchase control of the Bankers and Merchants Telegraph company as well as becoming president of the Atlantic Mail and other steamship companies. Eventually he created his own brokerage firm, A. W. Dimock &Co. Later in 1872 he took a degree from the Columbian University, now George Washington University in Washington DC. By this time he had married Helen Weston of Elizabeth NJ and built a large, stylish home on South Broad St. The Panic of 1873 curtailed his fortune and he sold his residence to Joseph Battin, who later donated the residence to the city for Elizabeth for its high school. At the height of his career he journeyed West to study Indians and ranchers. Upon his return to the East he bought a 100 acre farm on South broad St and proceeded to build hundreds of homes large and small as well as a gymnasium and other structures. Afterward he built a palatial estate on the Hudson Palisades as well as a comfortable home in Happy Valley, Ulster Co, NY where he lived the rest of his life. From his Ulster Co home he travelled regularly to Florida where he enjoyed the fishing and writing a number of books about his experiences: The Book of the Tarpon (1911), Florida Enchantments, Wall St and the Wilds (1915) and Be Prepared or The Boy Scouts in Florida (1912). His first wife died in 1901 and in 1909 he remarried to Leila B. Allen of Elizabeth NJ. His Florida presence is noted in Peter Matthiessen’s 2008 National Book Award winning Shadow Country (p.120)

1918 The New Jersey Dry Dock and Transportation Company workers celebrate the November 11, 1918 Germany’s unconditional surrender. The Company made and repaired all manner of ships and was located near the mouth of the Elizabeth River on South Front Street.
[Photo – courtesy of Dirk Van Hart]

YMCA in Elizabeth
YMCA in Elizabeth

1919 Elizabethans – Emily Hiller and Elsa Wallack – initiate efforts to create YWCA and organized supper conference at First Presbyterian Church on November 13, 1919 for 250 attendees. YWCA formally organized in 1920, reaching 1801 charter members and electing Elizabeth W. Renshaw, first president. YWCA purchases building 1129-31 East Jersey in March 1920 and opened it January 25, 1921. The building can board 15 women and includes a gymnasium. The facility offers programs in health education, household arts, clerical training, job placement , recreation, religion, etc. In 1925 they conduct informal programs with Siloam Hope Presbyterian Church to reach out to African-American girls. In 1932 YWCA joins other organizations to form Elizabeth’s Community Chest. In 1933 the YWCA offers shelter services to women homeless because of the Great Depression. In 1941 YWCA helps found a Negro Recreation Center on Pine Street in Elizabethport and in the following year established an Interracial Committee for mutual understanding. In 1944 YWCA joins with the NAACP to form the Urban League of Eastern Union County. In 1946 the national YWCA recommends desegregation to all its constituencies. For further info on YWCA see Nancy M. Robertson, Christian Sisterhood and Race Relations, and the YWCA, 1906-46 (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2007).

1921 Creation of the Union County Park System, first president Henry Summers Chatfield (1864-1933), memorialized with a stone bench in Warinanco Park’s tulip garden.

833 Kilsyth Road

833 Kilsyth Road

A 1921 racing car built by two Elizabeth NJ residents – Frederick S. (1877-1932)and Augustus S. (1879-1955) Duesenberg – won the Lemans Grand prix race (July 25, 1921), the only American car ever to win this event. [Pix of Le Mans win] Their record –breaking speed was 78 miles per hour. The Duesenbergs who were born in Germany, immigrated to the US in 1885 and from early work in bicycle repairs became eminent auto designers and manufacturers.

909 Kilsyth Road

In 1921, according to the Elizabeth NJ Directory, Augustus and Fred Duesenberg resided on Kilsyth Road in Elizabeth NJ at #909 and #833 respectively. These houses were attractive, relatively new homes in an arts and crafts style and were exactly one block from the Duesenberg auto factory on Newark Avenue.

1921 Duesenberg winning Le Mans Grand Prix.

Duesenberg Winning Le Mans

Shortly before their Le Mans win the factory was sold in 1919 sold to auto manufacturer, John Willys, and later to Billy Durant of Durant Motors who expanded the building to construct an assembly-line for the Durant Star. (see 1922). The brothers Duesenberg moved their auto production to Indianapolis, Indiana and sold their cars to notable individuals like the King of Spain and movie actor, Rudolph Valentino.

915 Bond St.

1922 Mickey Walker was a product of Elizabeth’s Irish neighborhood, known as Keighry Head, and well represented the scrappy vitality of that community in the early years of the 20th century.

Walker Family

Walker attended Sacred Heart Church and school before dropping out and working in local factories. His family resided at 915 Bond Street in 1910 and 923 Magnolia in 1920.

His first professional fight occurred in Elizabeth in 1919 at age 18. In 1922 he won the world’s welterweight championship in Madison Square Garden.

Mickey Walker

In 1926 he won the middle-weight championship and consistently fought fighters heavier than himself, acquiring the sobriquet, “the Toy Bulldog.” Walker became a notable figure of the 1920s outside the ring, fraternizing with both mobsters, gamblers and actors 


Mickey Walker’s
1920 home

like Charlie Chaplin. After his career he opened a tavern in Elizabeth and took up painting, buying his oils from Kosberg’s on Broad Avenue. He died in Freehold, NJ in 1981.


Durant Motors Star logo

In 1922 the New York Times reported (June 11) that William C Durant, former head of General Motors (f1908), had purchased the Willys-Overland Motor Works, once the Dusenberg auto manufacturing plant, on Newark Avenue. The $5.5M purchase price would enable the Durant Motor Company to produce 500 cars a day on the first assembly line in New Jersey.  The Durant vehicle advertised itself as a competitor with Henry Ford’s model T and offered four types of the Star: Roadster $470, Touring $500, Coupe $642, and the Sedan $710.



Durant Motors Factory

The building had recently been expanded to encompass over 40 acres and was considered the “most modern automobile manufacturer in the world.” During the period of Willys-Overland’s ownership its executive vice-president Walter Chrysler had planned to produce a new 6-cylinder engine at the plant. Durant experienced early success but failure to compete with Ford caused him to sell the facility in 1927.



1923 The noted landscape design firm, Olmsted Associates (founded by Frederick Law Olmsted [1822-1903], the designer of Central Park in NYC among many other projects) completes plans for “Elizabeth Park”in Union County, NJ, now Warinanco Park.

Elizabeth River

1926 Olmsted Associates begins a long relationship with Union
County, NJ in the planning of an “Elizabeth River” park, an association that continues until 1958.

1927 Building of the Carteret Hotel (1155 E Jersey Ave.); $10M rehab in 2000 as 90 unit facility, Carteret Senior Living for retired persons, operated by Wallick companies.

1928 Goethals Bridge Opens. The Goethals Bridge opened June 29, 1928, the same day that the Outerbridge Crossing bridge opened. They were designed by the same architect, John Alexander Waddell (1873-1938). The Goethals bridge was a cantilever span 7100 feet long and 135 feet above the water in the center, permitting ocean-going ships to pass under. The bridge spanned the Arthur Kill, linking Elizabeth New Jersey, with the Howland Hook area of Staten island.

Goethals Bridge

The bridge memorialized Major General George Washington Goethals (1858-1928), the principle builder of the Panama Canal (1907-1914) and the Panama Canal Zone’s first governor (1914-1916). Goethals’s name appeared as consulting engineer to the bridge project, though he died shortly before the bridge opened. In 2002 15.6 million vehicles used the Goethals Bridge.

Edward Stratemeyer

1930 – On May 10, 1930 an Elizabeth native, Edward Stratemeyer, age 68, a prolific novelist of at least 200 books and a businessman who managed the Stratemeyer Syndicate, died and was buried in Evergreen Cemetery, close by the burial site of Stephen Crane, the author of The Red Badge of Courage.

24 Palmer St..

Stratemeyer was born in Elizabeth, October 4, 1862 and lived with his parents, Henry and Ana Stratemeyer, residents of 24 Palmer St in the German enclave of Peterstown. He worked as a clerk in the family “segar” business until 1890 when he opened a stationery store in Newark NJ. The next year he married there and began a family.

Meanwhile, he had begun writing stories for an emergent juvenile magazine industry and caught the eye of an aged and ailing Horatio Alger. Alger, the successful novelist of many books celebrating America’s “rags-to-riches” mythology, persuaded Stratemeyer to complete his final novels and agreed to have him write many more in the upbeat Algeresque vein.

In 1915 Stratemeyer created a Syndicate whereby he sketched the themes and contracted with others to flesh out the stories. He produced numerous successful book series for juvenile audiences, including Rover Boys, Bobbsey Twins, the Hardy Boys and in 1930 the very popular Nancy Drew mystery series. Edward Stratemeyer’s Syndicate produced more than 800 novels for adolescents, significantly influencing a young national audience. His 85 Hardy Boys novels, located in “Bayport,” drew in part on his early experience with the Bayway and Elizabethport sections of his native city.

1932 First Republican mayor elected (HB)

1933 FDR’s bank Holiday that closes US Banks and leaves people and merchants without currency. (HB)

1930s Eliz chapter of Community Chest founded by Henry LeBow (HB)

1930s Newark Airport expansion (NT)

1935 – In this year Charles Godfrey Poggi, a noted local NJ architect, promoted his model home (561 Riverside Avenue) for the upscale residential section of Elizabeth, known as Westminster. The attached image was a promotional packet of needles showcasing his model home. Poggi was born in Rutherford, NJ (Aug 10, 1875) and gained his architectural skills under the tutelage of New York architect, John. H. Duncan (1855-1929) (designer of Grant’s tomb, the Soldiers and Sailors Monument in Brooklyn and Trenton’s War Memorial among other notable structures).

Poggi began his own architectural practice in 1898 and worked for the Elizabeth School system on a number of buildings including Battin High School and Grover Cleveland Jr. High School. He also designed PS 12-17 as well as Cranford High School. Early on his office was located at 2 Julian Place and later at 275 Morris Avenue. Among his other buildings were the Tudor style Warinanco Administrative buildings (1926) and in a similar style the chapel of Evergreen Cemetery (1932-33), where he was buried in 1957. Poggi also designed the building for the Elizabeth Daily Journal, the Elizabeth Home for Aged Women, not to mention the original Westminster Presbyterian Church and the Singer Recreational Building. He also was the architect for Pioneer Homes and Mravlag Manor. He served as President of the Elizabeth Rotary Club in 1936 and President of the NJ Branch of the AIA (1943-45). He died in February 14, 1957 in Cranford, NJ.

1936 High-level RR platforms at Broad Avenue station built by Pennsylvania RR

Thomas Mitchell

1939 Thomas Mitchell, the distinguished American film actor, wins an Oscar in this year for his portrayal of Doc Boone, a boozy physician, in John Ford’s epic STAGECOACH.

Mitchell was the first actor to win the film industry’s triple crown: Oscar, Tony and Emmy. The Tony he won for his 1953 performance in Hazel Flagg (a musical version of the film NOTHING SACRED [1937] and an Emmy in 1953 as TV’s Best Actor.

1939 was a stellar year for Mitchell, since he also contributed to four other classic films in that year: THE HUNCHBANK OF NOTRE DAME, ONLY ANGELS HAVE WINGS, Mr SMITH GOES TO WASHINGTON and GONE WITH THE WIND.

His 1946 performance as bumbling Uncle Billy in Frank Capra’s classic IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE endeared him permanently to his many fans.

118 Livingston St

Mitchell grew up in Elizabeth, residing in 1900 at 125 First Street and by 1910 in the family residence at 118 Livingston Street. In 1910 at age 17 he listed his employment as a newspaper reporter (like his father James). By 1913 he was already acting in the Charles Coburn’s Shakespearean troupe in New York as well as writing plays, like LITTLE ACCIDENT, written with Floyd Dell and performed on Broadway. His film career began in earnest in 1934 and achieved large notoriety with his part in Frank Capra’s 1937 film, LOST HORIZON.

His nephew, also an Elizabeth native – James P Mitchell – became US Secretary of Labor in the Eisenhower administration [see 1953 James P Mitchell] and his memory is preserved with his name on the building in which the Elizabeth Board of Education has its offices.


1945 Victory Parade along Broad Ave.
Elizabeth, NJ

1940s – First Civil Rights protests initiated by Bravell Nesbit, Director of NAACP and funeral home owner, joined by Stephen Sampson (owner of Reed/E. Jersey St. barber shop (“Not Just a Barber Shop”) and other prominent Afro-American leaders (incl. Wm Brown and Kirkpatrick Marrow, the city’s first black police detective). Organized picketing of Howard Johnson’s (on present site of Daffy Dan’s) to protest right to equal service.

1946 – On January 14, 1946 Local 41 of the Electrical, Radio and machinist Workers Union (UE) went on strike against the Elizabeth NJ based Phelps Dodge Co. The strike closed the plant for 270 days, one of the largest work stoppages of the year, larger even than other substantive coal and steel strikes which usually lasted no more than three months.. The length of the strike, ostensibly over wages and working conditions, was a function of the ethnic solidarity of the work forces in the city’s neighborhood.

Phelps Dodge first purchased its South Front St property in Elizabeth in 1932 and was a major producer of nonferrous (esp copper) metal goods. It soon expanded its holdings to the entire Bayway Terminal, once used for storing cotton from India and China. Plant officers or employees – over a third were Polish, largely skilled or semiskilled – played little role in civic affairs but invested substantively in industrial sport leagues. Phelps Dodge president resisted negotiation and hired armed Brooklynites, which the union accused of being gangsters led by Mafia figure Anthony Anastasia. One violent confrontation resulted in the gunshot death of worker Mario Russo. The eventual settlement favored the labor union.

Cf. Robert Bruno, “The 1946 Union of Electrical, Radio and machinist Workers’ Strike Against Phelps Dodge Copper Company of Elizabeth New Jersey,” Labor History

1948-49 Workers’ strike (5 months) of Elizabeth’s Singer plant, one of the most notable strikes in NJ history, receives support of celebrated folklore singer, Woody Guthrie

Rankin Roofing Company
Belcher Ogden

1949  Meryl Streep (b.1949), the distinguished American actress, had a connection to Elizabeth via her great-great-grandfather, Godfrey Streep, (b 1813 in Prussia) who worked for the Rankin Roofing Company and resided in employee housing. The Rankin plant layout here [pix] shows workers’ row houses along the eastern side of Elizabeth Avenue. Streep’s ancestor lived in # 68 acc to the 1880 manuscript federal census along with his wife Christina 48, his 20 year old son William, a laborer; his 17 year old son Godfrey , an oysterman; his 14 year old daughter Elizabeth; his 12 year old son John; his 7 year old son Charles; his 6 year old daughter Rose; and his 3 year old daughter Annie. Godfrey’s oldest son, Frederic (b. 1857 in NJ) worked as a clerk, then as a driver in nearby Newark, NJ. One of Frederic’s grandsons, Harry William Streep, Jr. became a pharmaceutical executive, and the actress was his daughter born in Summit, N.J . in housing far removed from that of her ancestors. The HSE provided this data to the PBS program, “ Faces in America, “ which aired February 17and 24, 2010.


Nicholas S La Corte

1952 Nicholas S La Corte became the Republican mayor of Elizabeth in 1952 and served two terms. His key issues were juvenile delinquency, street lighting and sanitation, parking and police protection. In the wake of three commercial airplane crashes (1951-52) he developed a concern for long-term planning, which included a design for an Elizabeth River Parkway.

1951-52 Three crashes of commercial airliners into the city in three-month span of time. (ET)




James P Mitchell

1953 James P Mitchell, (1900-1964) An Elizabeth native, become US Secretary of Labor in 1953 and in the Eisenhower Cabinet he became “the social conscience of the Cabinet.” Mitchell had worked during World War II in Washington DC for the Army Service Headquarters and later after the war as business executive in the personnel offices of R H Macy and later Federated Department Stores. But perhaps his most effective work was his involvement with multiple national organizations like the National Catholic Conference on Interracial Justice, National Civil Service League, National Conference of Christians and Jews, Anti-Defamation League, National Urban League (for which in 1957 he was awarded the Equal Opportunity Award). After his death in 1964 the central office of Elizabeth Board of Education became the James P Mitchell Building named in his honor.

He was also the nephew of the distinguished film actor, Thomas Mitchell, also an Elizabeth native. [cf 1939 – Thomas Mitchell]. James P Mitchell’s Papers were donated to the Dwight D Eisenhower Presidential Library in Abeline, Kansas.


Stephen Bercik

1956 Mayor Stephen Bercik (1921-2003) elected mayor and serves until 1964. Important achievement: 1960 passage of new City Charter, which sought to remove key policy posts from political patronage, centralize authority in mayor’s office (which shifted from 2 to 4 year term), and created a nine-member council (6 elected and 3 at large, instead of 13 ward- based members).

 In May 1956, Mary Gillen elected the first woman to serve on the City Council. She served Elizabeth’s Sixth ward until 1959, then from 1959 to 1966 as Councilwoman at Large.

Mary Gillen

1957 St. Elizabeth (f 1890s) modernizes with early oxygen unit. Directed by Sr. Ellen Patricia (HB)

196? Protest marches sparked by Afro-American leaders to get black workers into construction unions (SS)

1964 Mayor Thos G Dunn elected mayor and will serve until 1992, 28 years, at the time the longest serving elected mayor in the US.(JR)

1965 Imam Heshaam Jabbar draws attention to Elizabeth’s Muslim community when he conducts funeral in New York City for assassinated black leader, Malcolm X (IHJ). In 1968 Jabbar opens Elizabeth office of Organization for African Unity.

1960s Creation of Pioneer Homes (SCM)

1967 The Central Railroad of New Jersey files for bankruptcy, and its stock, operating under the aegis of the Reading Railroad since 1933, becomes a part of the new (1976) Conrail Corporation. Most of the current Raritan Valley line runs on the old CNJ’s main line.

The Elizabeth and Somerville RR chartered in 1831, was the first railroad company operating out of Elizabeth and served as the predecessor of the Central RR of New Jersey, formed on February 20, 1847. The company directors immediately extended the line beyond Somerville to Bound Brook, then later to Easton and Phillipsburg, Pa. (by 1852). The increasing traffic from the Pennsylvania anthracite fields – the railroad’s major commodity – made clear the need for a larger terminus. In 1864 a Newark bay bridge permitted access to the Jersey City marshland where a Hudson River terminal was constructed. The CNJ proceeded in the next decades to buy up many smaller lines, culminating in the 1871 acquisition of the Lehigh and Susquehanna RR which gave it direct access to the coalfields. In 1879 the CNJ leased the NJ Southern Railroad, connecting its existing system southward to Bayside, Atlantic City and Camden. In 1883 the Reading Railroad leased the entire CNJ but defaulted on their contract. Nevertheless, the joint effort created a century long partnership between the two companies. In 1933 the CNJ came under the control of the Reading, which operated the system until the 1976 creation of Conrail. In 1954 the last steam engine was retired in preference for the postwar diesel locomotives. In March 22, 1967 the CNJ filed for bankruptcy, bringing an end to the company.
Cf Clint Chamberlin, CNJ History: NE Rails

1968 Founding of Elizabeth Education Association, after law passes permitting teachers to organize (AM)

Elizabeth Train Station c1972


1972 Westbound Central RR of NJ derails and wrecks train station
opposite the Old Railroad Tower. (Nov. 4) No fatalities in spite of complete building destruction and demolition of 600 feet of rail.

Edward Grassman’s 1910 home 422 Madison Avenue

1973 In the early days of March 1973 Edward J Grassmann passed away, age 86. He was a quiet but forceful presence in many aspects of Elizabeth’s 20th century development. He was a graduate of Cooper Union and worked as a civil engineer, working with the distinctive clay, kaolin, an important ingredient in ceramics and other industrial products. He worked in Georgia where the clay was prevalent and eventually became owner (1927) of Georgia Kaolin and president of American Industrial Clay Company in Sanderville, Georgia, the largest kaolin operation in the US and the second largest in the world.

He used his wealth to benefit many educational and environmental projects in Georgia and New Jersey. Particularly important were Grassmann’s efforts to preserve distinctive historic Elizabeth buildings, like the Bonnell House and the Belcher-Ogden mansion, both on East Jersey Street.

1975 First system-wide Teachers strike begins in September and goes several weeks, creating great esprit and solidarity among Elizabeth’s teachers (AM)

1970s Occupational Center of Union County opens on E. Jersey Ave. with four patients (MS)

1976 On January 22, 1976 a Time Capsule, complete with articles and distinctive effects from the nation’s Bicentennial year, became part of a display in the Elizabeth Public Library, to be opened in the year 2026. The Time Capsule Chairman, Peter Runfolo, with the advice of schoolchildren from representative Elizabeth schools, dedicated a cabinet in the library for this purpose. Members of the Bicentennial Committee included Mayor Thomas Dunn, Library Director Hazel Elks, Mrs. John Kean, Capt William Brennan, Charles Aquilina and Sally Essig.

1978– Gil Chapman, an Elizabeth native, was the first African American elected to the Elizabeth City Council. In his six year tenure on this body, he was proudest of his effort to get Martin Luther King honored on the City Plaza. The renaming alone may appear in the 21st century as a small gesture, but in 1978 sentiments for and against Dr. King still were strong. The African-American community felt this commemoration finally produced a public acknowledgement not only of Dr. King’s leadership but of their own contributions to Elizabeth over the years. Chapman relied on his own personal achievement as a star athlete at Thomas Jefferson High School, where he had become one of the leading scorers in the history of New Jersey football. At the University of Michigan he enhanced that record with 18 touchdowns and over 2500 yards, distinguishing himself in kickoff returns. He later played three seasons for the New Orleans Saints before holdings several executive positions in professional sports. In 1986 he became president of Island Ford, a Ford motor dealership on Staten island, New York. In 1999 the Newark Star-Ledger judged Chapman as one of the best offensive players of the 20th century and the City of Elizabeth in 2008 elected him to their Athletic Hall of Fame.


Singer Sewing Machine Factory

1982 Closing of Singer Sewing Machine Co, in operation in Elizabeth since 1873; Isaac Merritt Singer (1881-1875) b Oswego, NY to German immigrant parents; illiterate; a traveling actor who memorized Shakespeare and temperance plays, held many jobs including pressman, ditch digger, sawmill operator but most of all INVENTOR; during his work in printing establishments he invented a machine to carve wooden blocks for making letters. In his travels to New England to sell the machine he observed the difficulties of working with Elias Howe’s invention of a sewing machine that did not sew continuously; he invented one that did, complete with a pedal drive and pitman. In 1851 he promoted his machine, and Howe and other sewing machine manufacturers sued him. Then he hired an attorney, Edward Clark, to meet with the operators and arranged a patent pool of all claimants under the rubric of Singer Sewing Machine Company, one of America’s first patent pools. He licensed all machines to holders for $15 per machine per year and $5 for every one outside US.

Clark was persuaded to run the company and sold machines for $125 when an average worker made $500. He invented the installment plan for $5 down and $3 per month. So well built, family only bought one, forcing company to think about overseas markets.

Singer fathered 24 children by 4 women, two of whom he married. In 1863 his marital arrangement caused a scandal, and he arranged for a stock liquidation and Clark took over company. Singer retired to Torquay in Dorset, England where he lived until he died.

Clark managed the company well, opening the first overseas manufacture in Glasgow in 1861, making Singer one of America’s earliest multinational corporations.

In 1908 Singer built the tallest skyscraper in the world in Manhattan, to hold its central offices (149 Broadway) and remained there until it moved its offices to Stanford Ct about 1962.

Singer took advantage of the large number of Irish and German immigrants for his workforce before World War I and after the war cultivated Slavic and Italian workers. The plant reached its peak Elizabeth workforce in the 1940s with 7K workers (by 1970 1400), whose skills attracted other manufactures of Simmons mattresses, Kelly presses, oil refineries, soap and chemical mfgrs as well as clothing, cordage, and iron and steel mfgrs. Singer itself diversified into thermometers, valves, electric switches and gradually into products for NASA incl. the guidance system for the Apollo lunar modules and Trident missiles.

In 1982 it had experienced downturns due to inexpensive Japanese sewing machine variants. Sears, one of Singer’s principle outlets, also bought the competitive cheap imitators. Between 1970 and 1980 sewing machine sales dropped from 3M to 2M. But even in 1980 Singer’s sales reached $2.8B, making it 194 on Forbes richest American corporations. In that year it was 1st in sewing machines but also 2nd in power tools (also sold to Sears which marketed them under their brand name, Craftsman), and 2nd in bedroom and dining room furniture. It employed 81K workers and had some 2300 sewing machine outlets worldwide. Its sewing machine manuals were translated into 54 languages.

1984–Sam Decavalcante stepped down as Boss of the Elizabeth Mafia, an organization which began in the early years of the 20th century and which concentrated on bootlegging alcohol. During the late 20s and 30 the organization, led by Stefano Badami, built relations with the New York Five Families as well as with its Philadelphia and Chicago counterparts. Their work expanded into loan-sharking, narcotics, prostitution, waste removal, money laundering and of course murder. After Badami’s own murder in 1955, internal tensions increased until the organization was headed by Fillipo Amari. An attempt on his life convinced him to move to Sicily and pass the reins of the organization to Nick Delmore. With Delmore’s illness and death in 1964, the reins of the organization passed in 1964 to his nephew, Sam Decavalcante (1913-1997), also known as “Sam the Plumber” for his Kenilworth plumbing establishment. Decavalcante’s organization became infiltrated and taped but, without federal authorization, the tapes were invalid in courts of law. However, the tapes were published and became the basis for the popular TV series, “The Sopranos.” Decavalcante was convicted of a $20M gambling racket in 1969 and served 5 years, after which re officially retired to Florida. The FBI still monitored him as they could, suspicious that he still directed the Northern New Jersey section of the Mafia. Officially John Riggi succeeded Decavalcante, though increasingly the New Jersey portion fellow under the Gambino family led by John Gotti. Sam the Plumber died in Florida in 1997.

1992 Closing of THE DAILY JOURNAL, (Jan 3, 1992) by its publisher Richard J Vezza, after a continuous run of 212 years. At the time of its closing the circulation was 30,000 and the staff it fired numbered 78 full-time and six part-time employees. Its first publication was Feb. 16, 1779, published as THE NEW JERSEY JOURNAL, a small sheet folded into four pages. In its time reporters who served the paper included Irving Horowitz, later (1957- 91) EDITOR OF THE NEW YORK TIMES and investigative Watergate reporter Carl Bernstein who worked for the JOURNAL as one of his first (1965-66) journalistic jobs.

The first editor was Shepard Kollock, who moved the papers to several locations before settling in Elizabeth in 1785. The newspaper operated out of Kollock’s father-in law’s home on the site of the present-day Second Presbyterian Church. He left the business in 1818 when he became the town postmaster. After a number of owners the newspaper was directed from 1863 by Frederick Foote, a former schoolteacher at the Old North End School at N Broad St. and Salem Avenue. In 1871 he named it THE ELIZABETH DAILY JOURNAL.

Later the Crane family assumed control, first via Augustus C. Crane who became treasurer in 1903 and two years later president, a post he held until his death in 1923. His son Fred L Crane, succeeded him and held the post until his son, Robert C. Crane, succeeded him as editor and publisher in 1948. During the Crane’s ownership Harry Frank became its publisher and hired Valentine Fallon as editor. Fallon raised the circulation to 60,000 by 1960.

In 1959 the paper was sold to Robert Ingersoll, Jr. who was the first editor of Life Magazine, Fortune magazine and (maybe most importantly) the feisty New York tabloid, PM, which refused to publish advertising. On June 1, 1960 the newspaper changed its name to THE DAILY JOURNAL, to reflect expanded coverage of Essex and Middlesex counties. A bitter strike in 1971 forced the newspaper to lock out its 225 employees. It was bought in 1975 by Hagadpone newspapers who built a new building (July 1977) and a computer operated plant. After another strike in late 1970s the business operated with non-union staffers. In 1986 the business was sold to north Jersey newspapers but could not stem falling revenues. In 1992 it closed its doors.

Mayor Tom Dunn asserted at the time, “ A local newspaper is probably the best source of keeping the electorate informed of the issues and candidates for office.” “The loss of a paper,” he added,” is a terrible obstacle to overcome.”

1999 Opening of Jersey Gardens Mall (15 million shoppers in its first year and $2M in city revenues).

199? Establishment of Elizabeth Health Task Force

1999 Founding of Historical Society; Elizabeth, NJ Inc., first cultural organization committed to reconstruction of entire city history and connection of history to present and future planning.


2000 St. Elizabeth’s Hospital and Elizabeth General Hospital (incorp. 1880) end a century-long rivalry by merging into a new corporation, Trinitas Health Hospital.

Chairwoman of the Trinitas Board: Sr. Elizabeth Ann Maloney (1925-2001), Sister of Charity, formerly president of College of St. Elizabeth (1971-1982) and of St. Elizabeth Hospital (1986-2000)

A spirited effort to keep the Archdiocese of Newark from closing the doors of old St. Patrick’s Church (cornerstone laid 1887) begins, to save the impressive church at 215 Court Street in the city’s First Ward.

The US Federal Census put Elizabeth’s population at its highest in the city’s history: 120, 568.

2001 September 11, 2001– Five Elizabeth residents perish in the World Trade Center tragedy: Arcelia Castillo, 49, junior accountant, March & McLennan Co; Carlos S. DaCosta, 41, assistant general manager of building services, Port Authority of new York and New Jersey; Margaret Susan Lewis, 49, legal secretary, Port Authority of new York and new Jersey; Frankie Serrano, 23, telecommunications technician, Genuity; Antony Tempesta, 38, broker, Cantor Fitzgerald.

There is a collective lore in the Latino community that several other undocumented Elizabeth residents perished in the 9/11 disaster



2003  On September 20th, Elizabeth hosted its first national Estuary Day,which assessed the importance of the Arthur Kill (in the background) to the city, discussed the city’s water resources and measured the water quality of the Elizabeth River. Here is Mayor Bollwage addressing the assembled citizenry.


2004 On May 28, 2004 the City’s mayor, Christian Bollwage, and many other official dignitaries, rededicated the Elizabeth Train Station. The long-derelict station has become an attractive restaurant under the directorship of Michael LoBrace, a member of the Historical Society’s Advisory Board. The facility showcases the Society’s principle of imaginative reuse and has become a centerpiece of the city’s midtown renewal effort.
[See “Places” on this website for more information on the Elizabeth Train Station Project]


US Congressman (since 2006 U. S. Senator) Robert Menendez

2005 On April 22, 2005 – The innovative Elizabeth organization, Future City Inc together with the Elizabeth River/ Arthur Kill Watershed Association (a certified Department of Environmental Protection association), arranged a 2005 Earth Day celebration with science instruction and boat excursion on the Arthur Kill. The instructors in this Environmental Educational Laboratory were members of Kean University faculty and the US Corps of Engineers who provided literature and sea creatures in aquaria for several groups of high school students (Benedictine Academy, Reilly Middle School and Elizabeth High School) at the Elizabeth Marina.

City Councilman Bill Gallman

US Congressman Robert Menendez spoke to the students, urging them to use their science knowledge to help clean the city’s water courses and protect their environment as a part of their citizen responsibility. City Councilman Bill Gallman endorsed the event as a constructive, citizen-driven initiative.




US congressman Donald Payne and Elizabeth Mayor Chris Bollwage

2006 – On April 28, 2006 US congressman Donald Payne and Elizabeth Mayor Chris Bollwageresponded to the invitation of Future City Inc’s celebration of Earth Day. Congressman Payne pointedly reminded the gathered Elizabeth students how causal Earth Day consciousness has been historically in the passage of America’s Clear Air and Clear Water legislation. Once again the US Corps of Engineers (www.nan.usace.army.mil ) distinguished themselves with expert instructors explaining the role of sea life in and social importance of the Arthur Kill estuary and the Elizabeth River.


2007 – On April 10 of this year Mayor Chris Bollwage and City Hall staffers arranged   celebration of the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) at the Elizabeth Public Library. This event not only singled out several community groups, it also recognized the city’s participation in this federal initiative for 32 years. With this fiscal support the city encourages organizations devoted to senior citizens, youth, disabled and abused persons, single mothers and the unemployed. CDBG also supports public improvements, recreation, code enforcement and housing rehabilitation. The city has   recognized the effort of the Historical Society to engage and publicize the civic contributions of many ethnic and racial communities, especially during the 20 th century and has supported this civic work with CDBG grants.


Dr. Orlando Edreira Academy

2010 – The completion of a series of new public schools not only enhanced the priorities of the Elizabeth Board of Education; it made clear some of the shifting political allegiances in the city. Dr. Orlando Edreira Academy, named after a prominent Cuban émigré, Kean University educator and former co-president of the Elizabeth Historical Society, documented the new political presence of the Latino community.

Ronald Reagan Academy

In addition, the Ronald Reagan Academy celebrated the President who signed the 1886 Immigration and Reform Control Act that legitimated the residency of many undocumented Cuban immigrants who arrived before 1982. The Latino school trustees were willing to overlook the Reagan Iran-Contra scandals and his administration’s anti-government mantra, to honor this particular piece of government activism. The gesture underscored a deeper (1990s) shift of the Cuban community: most no longer anticipate a return to their homeland; instead, they seek to put down roots in their adopted country and exert political leadership.


warinanco gumtree walk
Autumn, 2011

2011 – The City of Elizabeth and neighboring towns like Roselle Park, which abut Warinanco Park, received support from the Union County Board of Freeholders to give the park a major uplift. Around the borders of the lake, bushes and wildflowers provided a protective edge and attempted some control of Canadian geese access to the public walkways.

Autumn, 2011

In addition, the park’s creek bed was deepened and widened to deal with Spring rains and check flooding. Several handsome bridges over the creek lent a new air of elegance to Warinanco Park, originally designed in 1924 by America’s foremost landscape planners, Olmsted Associates.


2012 – The City of Elizabeth received supported for completion of the first stage of Elizabeth’s Riverwalk. This first stage, dedicated in Summer 2012, connected Broad Street with Bridge Street.


It also set an attractive precedent for future development with attractive plantings of fothergilia, birch trees and decorative grasses, not to mention stone walls and sitting areas where citizens can enjoy attractive views of their city. Ultimately the Elizabeth Riverwalk will extend two and a half miles from the city’s center to the Arthur Kill estuary.




2012 – Hurricane Sandy hit Elizabeth and the east coast especially hard this October 29. Damage was extensive but never more so than to the century-old oaks in Warinanco Park and at the Elizabeth Marina, where substantive dock planks were broken like toothpicks.


The storm was the second costliest hurricane in US history ($75 billion) and the largest Atlantic hurricane on record (winds spanning 1100 miles).



It affected the entire eastern seaboard from Florida to Maine (24 states), cutting power in New Jersey and New York for seven to ten days in some places. The storm reached inland to states like Michigan and Wisconsin and was responsible for hundreds of deaths.




2013 – On April 17, 2013 the Historical Society; Elizabeth NJ Inc joined with Future City Inc, the foremost environmental group in Union County NJ and the NJ Tree Foundation to create an urban tree nursery. The idea for this initiative stems from the difficulty of getting many municipalities, not to mention funders, to consider trees and bushes to be – as Frederick Law Olmsted continually emphasized – an essential part of the urban infrastructure. Plantings are not mere ornaments to the city environment but fundamental features of a city’s commitment to public health and civility. The backyard of the Belcher Ogden Mansion will once again make history, this time for the future, in showcasing a range of trees – elms, oaks, hawthorns, ornamental cherries, etc – and bushes like mallows, crepe myrtles etc – that play strategic parts in the greening of the modern city.


Here they can be observed and studied by urban leaders considering a reaffirmation to the habitat of any city. Our special thanks go to the crew of the NJ Tree Foundation, seen here in the midst of this innovative experiment, a resource for all of Elizabeth.






2013 – A small cove on the Arthur Kill – John’s Cove – was dedicated by the Mayor and Council of Elizabeth this year to commemorate the life, teaching and sudden death of Dr. John Dobosiewicz, a 48 year old scientist on the faculty of Kean University. He worked closely with the dynamic environmental organization, Future City Inc, and with them co-founded the Elizabeth River/ Arthur Kill Watershed Association. These groups help sponsor Estuary Day every Spring and Environmental Day every Fall, teaching numerous school groups about the biological dynamics of Elizabeth’s waterways. His enthusiasm for his subject and his students was palpable, and his work has contributed substantively to the environmental awareness of his university and this region.

Dobosiewicz (1964-2013) was married for 19 years to Diana Pereira, and they had four children: Hailey Paige, Christian John, Jack Tyler and Faith Madison. At the time of his death he was a coach for many sports and served as Executive Director of Kean University School of General Studies.


Bonnell visitors


2014  On Saturday October 25, 2014, The Nathaniel Bonnell Homestead hosted a group of Bonnell Descendants who were visiting their family homestead. The house has always attracted visitors with a genealogical connection – Belchers, Ogdens etc – but never in 30 years has the house had a group of connected visitors and never from such great distances. No doubt there are millions such people around who have ancestral links to the two Elizabeth houses. In 350 years, that is about 14 generations, many generations had many children and many of them had many more. 


The event was a real treat for all presently associated with the houses. Several of the visitors had done  DNA tests to further support the probability that their direct ancestors lived in the houses – some could have had ancestors who lived in both the Bonnell House and the Belcher Ogden Mansion. For them they could actually touch foundation stones and wood touched by their ancestors. 

The day was further enhanced by a visit from the present mayor of Elizabeth Chris Bollwage. Each of our houses was the home of a former mayor of Elizabeth (Joseph Bonnell [? – 1748) and William Peartree Smith[1723-1801]). The Belcher mansion was also part of the tour and that was the home of Royal Governor Jonathan Belcher (1681-1757) and a New Jersey Federalist governor, Aaron Ogden (1756-1839). 

The Bonnell visitors also visited with the students at Future City who use the buildings for “base camp” for their various projects relating to environmental data collection. Most of students are of recent Hispanic origin, thus the Bonnell house continues to be a place for recent arrivals seeking a new life in a new land, just as it was 350 years ago. 

A lunch presentation was made for the students and Bonnell visitors about the similarity of the economic activity in and around Elizabethtown in the 17th century and the 21st century. The Elizabeth connection with slavery and piracy was reviewed in some detail.