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History

The Chatham Historical Society website has considerable information about Chatham's history, including photographs, and has a listing of available programs, books and pamphlets as well. The Library of the Chathams also has a number of books about Chatham and New Jersey history, including several by New Jersey's famed historian, John Cunningham. The information below is excerpted from several of these sources and provides a small snapshot of historical events and places along the trails.

Shepard Kollock Trail:

1.     Shepard Kollock Park

Shepard Kollock: published the first copy of The New – Jersey Journal in Chatham on February 16, 1779, becoming a key part of the American Revolution. He served in the American Revolution as a Lieutenant, moving up in rank to a First Lieutenant, taking part in battles of Trenton and Monmouth and spent time at Valley Forge. To fight Loyalist printers such as James Rivington, of New York, George Washington suggested a “camp press”, and with the relief from active duty on January 3, 1779 by General Knox, Shepard Kollock started printing; becoming a crucial part of the American Revolution. [0, 4, 11]

Washington’s Hoax: To help George Washington deceive the British into thinking he was going to plan an attack on New York, Washington ordered a 65-foot long shed of brick ovens to be built in what is now Shepard Kollock Park that produced 3000 loaves of bread a day. On August 19, 1781, Washington sent three regiments to guard the high ground east of Chatham to prevent a surprise attack and to help the bakery staff. As the ovens baked bread in massive quantities, the locals, any spies and British General Henry Clinton all had to believe that a major troop buildup was in progress and that an attack on New York was about to erupt. (Continued Next)

2.     The Jacob Morrell House (63 Main St.)

George Washington is said to have lodged at the c. 1740 Morrell homestead for two days on August 25, 1781 while his army, estimated at between two and three thousand men, assembled in the outlying fields. The general wrote 17 letters from his stay in this house in Chatham revealing his intention to deceive the British stationed in New York into believing his troops were preparing for an attack. Instead, he marched silently out of Chatham in the early morning hours of August 29, crossing the Delaware river before the British realized he had tricked them. Washington’s army headed to Yorktown, Virginia along with French General Rochambeau’s army, forcing General Cornwallis to surrender on October 18, 1781 after a short, but devastating siege. [2, 4]

3.     The George T. Parrot House (47 Main St.)

Currently the Parrot Mill Inn; is a survivor of the gambrel-roofed Federal dwellings built in Chatham at the turn of the eighteenth century. Mr. Parrot owned the last mill in Chatham which was centered on the Passaic River, on Parrot’s Mill pond (currently Shepard Kollock Park). The mill pond had a large island where canoes and row boats were available at a quarter for an hour, and Ice during the winter was cut for later use by guests at the local hotels and taverns. During the 1850s, four mills located in this area provided power for the production of flour, machinery, lumber, and textiles. [2, 5]

4.     The Captain William Day House (70 Main St.)

Its Vernacular Georgian symmetry and simplicity, the William Day House, c. 1780, stands as one of the most significant of East Main Street’s early houses. It includes an intact beehive oven and several “nine-over-six” façade windows. William Day served for three years in the Morris County militia during the Revolutionary War, advancing from private to captain. He married Nancy Bonnel, daughter of local miller Nathaniel Bonnel, who gave the young couple a fifty-acre tract of farmland, which remained a farm well into the 1910s, supplying the Chathamites with eggs, poultry, vegetables, and freshly baked bread. [2]

5.     The Library of the Chathams

Formerly known as the Fairview House on Main Street, this hotel accommodated more than 150 guests, who came to enjoy the river and nine-hole golf course. The Fairview also provided dancing, bowling, distinguished cuisine and a large bar. The present library building opened on Main Street in 1924, and was strongly influenced by its first Librarian Lynda Phillips Lum, wife of Dr. Frederick H. Lum Jr. [3]

6.     The Dusenberry House (186 Main St.)

This parsonage belonged to the beloved Reverend Joseph Meeker Ogden, who was pastor to Chatham’s Presbyterian congregation for forty-five years, from 1828 to 1873. Presbyterians later named the Ogden Memorial Church in his honor. Built in 1848 following Ogden’s marriage to Emeline Swayze, the house exhibits an exceptionally fine doorway, heavy window cornices, and gable returns as an excellent example of Greek Revival architecture. It was purchased by Newark businessman Frederick Dusenberry in 1907 who added two west bays in 1912, and the house was then placed on the National Register of Historic Places following its exemplary restoration in the 1970s. Today it is used as a commercial enterprise structure. [2]


Milton Avenue Trail   

1.     Milton Ave. School

Milton Avenue School was built in 1948. The grounds cover 6 acres and the original cost was $457,000, which had a desired capacity of 325. An addition was built in 1952 to accommodate the post-World War II baby boom. It was most recently expanded to accommodate dramatice demographic changes to student growth in the 1990s and 2000s. [1]

2.     Mulch Area (Old Police Shooting Range)

This area behind Milton Avenue School used to be the area of the Chatham police firing range. It was developed in 1964 by volunteers under the order of Police Chief Richard Rudow.  For many years Police Officers came to the range to train and hold shooting contests before it was mandated to close in the late 1970s due to the construction of the new route 24. This led to the much needed mulch area of the Borough that is still there today. [9]

3.     Kelley’s Pond

Named after Fire Chief Kelley, this area along with the mulch area used to be known as Brookside Grove which was designated for recreation and conservation. The artificial spring-fed pond is the site of the fire department’s annual fishing derby for school children and used to be used as an ice skating rink in the winter. [1]

4.     Triborough Bridge (unreachable/off limits)

Across the stream and past the trees lies Triborough Rd., the bridge and road that was going to connect the Eisenhower Parkway to the town of Chatham at Brooklake Road and Main Street and provide an exit and entrance ramp for the new Route 24 Freeway. The project was abandoned due to its intrusion into wetland areas and the many local resident complaints which stopped the project from happening. Now the abandoned overpass/bridge is part of Weird NJ and known as “the bridge to nowhere.”


Stanley Park Trail:

1.     Stanley Park

The park on the Passaic used to be home to the mills run by George Shepard Page decades ago. Mr. Page gave the industrial section of town the name “Stanley” in honor of his mother’s family name. Also established was a post office/general store near the river for the Stanley section, but closed down in the 1920s after a serious fire. [8]

2.     James Perrin (63 River Road)

Across from the 5-K Deli at 63 River Road, Raymond St. James Perrin lived in this vintage stucco house the later part of his life. Mr. Perrin owned what are now Perrin Street, Bonnell Street, and St. James Street in the early 1900s. In the early 1900s, Mr. Perrin ran a small varnish factory on Bridge Street, where his plan was to bring Italian immigrants from the city to Chatham to work in his factory (housing them off of these roads). In 1945, Perrin Street was zoned for two-family residential. [8]

3.     James Perrin House (70 River Road)

Built in the late 1800s, was Raymond St. James Perrin’s home when he died in 1915. Look for the beautiful chimney still standing. [8]

4.     Perrin Street Stand-off (top of Perrin St.)

In autumn 1945, Perrin Street was the site of angry residents of River Road who formed a human chain across the end of Perrin Street, armed with sticks and rocks to fight against the garbage trucks that had been dumping their contents at the end of Perrin, upsetting Stanley residents. After an intense stand-off between the residents and garbage truck drivers, a scuffle broke out before the cops arrived and broke up the crowd. Eventually in December 1945, the Borough Council voted on an ordinance putting control measures on the disposal of garbage in town. Today the end section of Perrin Street is zoned for conservation, and may lead to the town’s next area for a community garden. [8]

5.     Nathanial Bonnel Plantation Homestead (32 Watchung Ave)

Built prior to the Revolutionary War in 1750 by Nathanial Bonnel, was the plantation homestead of direct descendants of the original settlers of Elizabethtown. They were major influencers of the development of Chatham and should be given much credit. (Chatham Borough, U.S. Bicentennial 1776 – 1976)

6.     The Wagner Family (34 Watchung Ave.)

The Wagners lived in the old Bonnell House at 34 Watchung Avenue, now the Pascarella Brothers Delicatessen, and owned greenhouses across the street, currently the Bottle King building. Julius Wagner served as a Trustee to the Village of Chatham, and another Wagner served as one of our earliest Council Members who carefully looked after the interests of residents and businesses of the Stanley section of Chatham. [8]


Chatham Middle School Trail:   

1.     Chatham Middle School

The area used to be occupied by Samuel Lum’s seven greenhouses, which was then bought and modernized by Anthony Ruzicka who started marketing roses. Along with the greenhouses, the area included a large pond that Ruzicka maintained to water his plants, and was heavily used by teen-aged boys until it disappeared under the construction of the high school (now the Chatham Middle School). [3]

2.     Chatham Community Garden

Officially opened on April 13 th , 2010; it promotes community interactions among the residents of Chatham Township and the Borough of Chatham by providing a communal area for growing flowers and vegetables. The preservation and maintenance of the area is looked after by volunteers who are determined to keep improving Chatham.

3.     Bruen House (96 King’s Road)

Ichabod Bruen built this house during the 18 th century. In the basement are 2 large walk-in fireplaces which were used to cook for Washington’s troops. Also in the basement were underground tunnels which led to the fields and woods to provide escape from the British, even though there is no evidence that the Red Coats crossed the river in force. Look for the windows owing in part to the Victorian improvements. (Chatham Borough, U.S. Bicentennial 1776 – 1976)

4.     Chatham United Methodist Church (490 Main St.)

The fourth location of this church, which was founded in 1800, resides now at 490 Main St. (Chatham Borough, U.S. Bicentennial 1776 – 1976)

5.     Home of Charles Lum (492 Main St.)

Built circa 1860, this was the home of Charles Lum, who brought cattle by foot from the pastures in Sussex County to be butchered in Chatham. Later this property was the site of the largest greenhouses in the area and is now occupied by the Chatham Middle School. (Chatham Borough, U.S. Bicentennial 1776 – 1976)


    

Borough of Chatham
54 Fairmount Avenue, Chatham, NJ 07928
973-635-0674     Hours: 8am to 4pm M-F




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