22 February 2018

Andrew Lane - JC Lane Stores (1870 - 1918)

By the time Andrew Lane came to Hillsborough Township in 1870, the thirty-seven-year-old Readington native had already been successful in two separate careers and was looking to begin a third.

Andrew Lane Store (left) and home (right) circa 1904
He took up carpentry in 1848 at the age of seventeen, and by twenty-one was out on his own building houses. In 1857 he became engaged in farming  - purchasing his own farm in Clinton Township in 1864. It is unclear what convinced Lane that he should move to Neshanic and open a general store, other than the fact that he saw a huge opportunity.

Neshanic Mills area  - detail from the 1873 map
When the firm of Voorhees & Brokaw were looking to sell their mill and store property in what used to be called Corle's Mills in 1870, Lane jumped at the chance to get in on the ground floor of what would soon become the new railroad village of Neshanic Station. Judge Schenck got the South Branch Railroad to cross the South Branch of the Raritan River near his property and build a station just a few years earlier - now the Easton & Amboy Railroad - later to become the Lehigh Valley Railroad - was building across New Jersey, and was set to lay tracks just north of the village. As the Courier News recounted years later:
"The enterprising storekeeper obtained a concession from the railroad to provide its workmen with food, clothing, drugs and other supplies. Local legend has it that a good part of Lane's fortune were the profits from selling the large bottles of "Spring Tonic" that stood on the patent medicine shelf - and later had a resurgence of popularoty during the Prohibition Era."
Lane did so well with the railroad contract, that by 1875 he was able to completely rebuild the old circa 1810 mill and use it as a flouring-mill, saw-mill, plaster-mill, and phosphate-mill.

Lane's Mill circa 1917. Built in 1875, burned down in 1927.

Business was so good that by the end of the decade Lane's brother Gilbert, fifteen years his junior, who had been clerking for him in the store, set up his own store at the northwest corner of Amwell Road across from the Neshanic Dutch Reformed Church.

Andrew Lane from Snell's
1881 History of Hunterdon and Somerset Counties
The great flood of 1896 which washed out all the bridges from Neshanic to Bound Brook, flooding towns and villages along the way, nearly destroyed the store. As the water began to rise, Lane ignored pleas from his clerk to get the merchandise to higher ground. He lost his entire stock - and the mill sustained $2,500 damage (about $65,000 today). Andrew Lane passed away in 1903 and the mill was run for a time by his son-in-law. It was purchased by A. S. Amerman in in 1921, and was lost to a fire in 1927. Amerman later rebuilt a slightly shorter mill on the same foundation.

John C. Lane Store circa 1900
Meanwhile down at the old village of Neshanic, Gilbert Lane had passed away in 1891, leaving the store to his nineteen-year-old son John C. Lane. J. C. Lane ran the store prosperously for another quarter of a century, before it was also burned to the ground in 1918.

10 October 1957 Courier News
Andrew Lane's old store at the corner of Mill Lane remained in the Lane family for decades, and was rented out as a residence for most of that time. It too finally succumbed to a fire on March 15, 1962.

15 February 2018

Amwell Farms Inn - Capri's - et. al. (1933 - 2010)

John Trimmer was a huckster. The fifty-seven-year-old from Three Bridges Road in Hillsborough was described as such in the 1920 US Census - which noted that he sold fish and eggs. Traditionally, a huckster is a person who sells small items either door-to-door or from a stall or small store. In Trimmer's case, his store was a roadside stand at the corner of Route 31 (now Route 206) and Hamilton Road.

20 April 1932 Courier News
By the mid 1920s Trimmer's sons John. Jr. and Alfred had joined the business, expanded into trees, shrubs, and nursery items, and called the business Amwell Farms. In 1933, with the repeal of Prohibition just around the corner, New Jersey loosened the laws on beer sales, and many of Hillsborough's long dry eateries applied for liquor licenses. It was probably around this time that the Trimmer brothers sold their store to Willard S. Hafner who remodeled Amwell Farms into Amwell Farms Bar and Grill.

15 June 1938 Courier News

The business took off. By 1936 Hafner was offering live music on Friday and Saturday nights, promising, "Good Food at Reasonable Prices", and advertising in the classifieds for a "Middle-Aged woman (white) for kitchen work in bar and grill. Sleep in. Wages $30 a month and board." In December 1949, Hafner sold out to John Bennett and Edward Lyver who continued the tavern under the name Amwell Farms through the mid 1950s.

Matchbook circa 1958

In 1957 the restaurant was sold to Peter and Mary Pilat who officially changed the name to Amwell Farms Inn. Around 1961 the tavern was purchased by Salvatore Coffaro - of the well-known central Jersey pizzeria family - and his brother-in-law Michael Mastrobuono. 

3 October 1963 Courier News
It wasn't long before the pair changed the name from Amwell Farms to Capri's - which better represented the Italian-American cuisine.

9 May 1969 Courier News
After their retirement in 1973, the establishment retained the Capri name for three years - continuing to offer live music and dancing on Saturday nights. Couples only!

14 February 1975 Courier News
In October 1976 the name was changed to Hillsboro Inn.

2 October 1976 Courier News

Hillsborough residents will remember that at the time that the Hillsboro Inn went out of business in the early 1980s, it had been operating as a Go Go bar.

22 July 1982 Courier News
The site was revived in 1987 by the Charlie Brown's restaurant chain, and was very successful in Hillsborough until the entire company went bankrupt in 2010.

16 March 1997 Courier News
Today, as the corner of Route 206 and Hamilton Road approaches its centennial as a prominent place of commerce, a Chase Bank sits on the site.

13 February 2018

The Neshanic Institute

It was December 1869 and the Reverend Peter Davis "P.D." Oakey wasn't feeling well. The well known fifty-four-year-old clergyman of both the Dutch Reformed and Presbyterian denominations on Long Island decided to resign his position at the Presbyterian Church of Jamaica, Queens and relocate to rural New Jersey for his health.
Ad from 1873 Our Home Magazine
What Oakey's Queens congregation may not have known was that earlier that year he had begun to organize a boys boarding school in Neshanic with the intention of beginning the first term in September 1870. Reverend Oakey was no stranger to New Jersey.  He was born in New Brunswick in 1816 and graduated from Rutgers College in 1841. After a three year divinity course at the theological seminary in New Brunswick he was assigned to his first pastorate at the Brookville Reformed Church in Oyster Bay. He moved to the Presbyterian Church in Jamaica in 1850, serving there for nearly twenty years, while also helping to start the church in nearby Springfield.

Detail from 1873 map
The site Reverend Oakey chose for his Neshanic Institute was on a hill overlooking the Raritan River near where the Lehigh Valley Railroad bridge would be built two years later.  Despite the religious background of its principal, the Neshanic Institute was non-sectarian. Not much is known about the school itself other than what can be gleaned from ads that ran in the New York Tribune and other publications. The school was touted as offering the "superior advantage of a good home; pleasant, healthy location; solid instruction."

Neshanic Station 1873 map

 According to the 1876 Commissioner's Report on New Jersey Schools, during the previous year there was one female and two male teachers for the seventeen students - all boys - and there had been nine graduates entering college after the close of the last academic year.

2 September 1874 New York Tribune
Reverend Oakey also found time to preach at the Three Bridges Reformed Church between 1873 and 1876 - the year that he was called back to the Springfield, New York church that he had started years earlier. He closed the Neshanic Institute at the end of the 1876 school year, and the building later was converted to a private residence. Unfortunately, it burned down some time in the early decades of the 20th century, and is not at all remembered today.

08 February 2018

Jerry Lewis Cinema - Hillsborough Cinema (1971-1991)

In this era of the of the ultra-mega-multiplex, can there be a child today who could even contemplate a movie theater with just one screen? Yet, for a two decade period not very long ago, thousands of Hillsborough Township boys and girls enjoyed just such a cinema experience at the corner of Route 206 and Andria Avenue.  

24 May 1970 Asbury Park Press

"If you can press a button, you can own a Jerry Lewis Cinema." This was the nationwide sales pitch made by Network Cinema Corporation and Jerry Lewis in 1970 seeking franchise owners for their Micro-Theatre (100 seats) and Mini-Theatre (350 seats) cinema concept. For an investment of between $10,000 and $15,000 - no experience necessary - you too could "make a lot of money."

3 July 1971 Home News
Six months after the successful area launch of a franchise in Basking Ridge, Hillsborough resident Robert Piechota and his partners held the grand opening celebration for their new 350 seat Jerry Lewis Cinema on July 27, 1971. According to The Home News, Piechota, in keeping with the Jerry Lewis family-friendly concept, promised to never show an X-rated movie - and only R-rated movies "if they're in good taste." The very first feature shown was Dustin Hoffman in Little Big Man.

21 July 1971 Home News

Franchisees were expected to make money through the promise of low overhead. For instance, film projectors would be able to accommodate giant 60-minute reels - meaning that for a typical movie the projectionist would be able to switch to the second projector just once instead of every 20 minutes, hence the "press a button" idea. In January 1974 the theater was re-branded as Hillsboro Cinema, dropping the affiliation with Jerry Lewis.

27 July 1971 Courier News

The theater continued in Hillsborough for another 17 years, quietly going out of business in 1991. Robert Piechota never left the movie theater business, as he was still the owner of the Montgomery Township theater, and saw that theater through the expansion of the shopping center there. He made his return to Hillsborough with the opening of the multiplex on Raider Boulevard in 2000.

31 January 2018

Sourland Mountain Tavern - Hillsborough Inn (1933-1962)

In the Hillsborough of the mid-1950s it wouldn't have been out of place for elected officials and township professionals to adjourn their monthly committee meeting at the old Municipal Building on Amwell Road (now East Mountain Road), cross the street, and head over to the Hillsborough Inn to quench their collective thirst. You can still see the old Municipal Building today on the site of the Department of Public Works, but the old Hillsborough Inn is only a memory.

Circa 1940s advertising postcard.

Some time around 1933, Raphael "Ralph" Galluccio opened a service station on the Amwell Road property that was known as the P.J. Everett farm, and repurposed an old barn for use as a tavern. The Sourland Mountain Tavern, as it was named for the first fifteen years or so of its existence, also featured a few bungalows for renters or visitors. In fact, the first mention of Gallucio's business in a local paper was the May 1934 account of the attempted suicide by veterinarian George Closson - one of Galluccio's first tenants.

Circa 1940s advertising postcard.

The advertising postcard above indicates that the two Galluccio sons were involved in the business as well, possibly before they went into the service during World War II. In 1944, the Galluccios sold the tavern to Michael and Simon DeAngelis of Flagtown. In 1948, the tavern was sold again to Mr. and Mrs. Edward Murray of Somerville. It was some time during this period that the name was changed to Hillsborough Inn - not to be confused with the Hillsboro Inn which operated decades later on Route 206. Joseph Torio and Charles Odda, veteran restaurateurs from Metuchen, purchased the business in 1955, but they listed it for sale less than 18 months later.

26 January 1957 Courier News
If the establishment was sold in 1957 it wasn't to the final owners. In 1962, the Hillsborough Inn was purchased by Peter Philipsheck and family who operated it until it was lost in a fire in 1965.

25 January 2018

Garden State Lanes (1957-1963)

In 1921 Peter and Eva Wengryn purchased an 80-acre poultry and dairy farm in the New Center section of Hillsborough Township on Beekman Lane. Immigrants from the Ukraine, the couple had been in the U.S. for about a decade. A "farm boy" back in his native country, Peter Wengryn spent his first years in America working for the Standard Oil Company, but had always wanted to get back to farming. 

2 March 1956 Home News
Over the next three decades the Wengryns expanded their farm to 700 acres, turning it into one of the premier dairy operations in Somerset County. They also found the time to raise nine children! All nine - seven sons and two daughters - embraced farm life through their work on the farm and their participation in 4-H.

16 April 1956 Courier News

A few years after Peter Wengryn's death in 1949, some of his children, while still remaining connected to the family farm business, began to seek opportunities in other businesses. In 1954 some of the brothers were seeking to capitalize on a popular craze by building a bowling alley in Bridgewater on Route 22.

9 September 1957 Home News

When their plans were held up by zoning issues, they turned to their native Hillsborough with Myron Wengryn taking the lead. Once again, issues with zoning threatened to sink their plans for a 20-lane bowling alley on Route 206. The problem was that in 1955, land along Route 206 was zoned for residential and agricultural uses - not commercial. A proposed change by a planning expert was deemed to be too radical!

26 September 1957 Courier News
After more than a year of waiting, approval for the bowling alley was granted in March 1956. Besides the 20 lanes with automatic pinsetting, the building was proposed to have two snack bars, a locker room, and a 200-car parking lot.

17 January 1959 Home News
Garden State Lanes opened on September 8, 1957 on what today is the southwest corner of Route 206 and Andria Avenue. Women's National Champion bowler Marian Ladewig was on hand for the grand opening.

17 June 1961 Courier News
The bowling alley was a hit and operated successfully for several years. In 1962, the Wengryns sought to transfer a liquor license they had purchased from the Hillsborough Inn on Amwell Road for use at the bowling alley. Their customers, especially their league participants, had told them that a cocktail bar was a decisive factor in deciding where to conduct their leagues.

21 January 1963 Home News
The Amwell Farms Inn - located across Route 206 at the location that now contains a Chase Bank, and was previously a Charlie Brown's and many other restaurants - objected strongly to the transfer saying that they had invested a lot of money in their own liquor license, and that their business would be hurt by having a bar across the street. When township committeeman John Guerrera suggested that it was actually Amwell Farms pizza that was their draw, not booze, the Amwell Farms owner said that here was nothing to stop Garden State Lanes from making pizza also - to which Mr. Guerrera replied, "Not as good as you make it."

21 January 1963 Home News
In due course the liquor license transfer was approved, and the new cocktail lounge opened at the start of the new year of 1963. A mere three weeks later, on January 21, 1963, the entire building was destroyed by fire.

22 January 1963 Courier News

30 December 2017

Hillsborough Township Postwar Residential Development Part 2: 1972 - 1980

Readers who follow the Gillette on Hillsborough Facebook Page are participating in a year-long house-hunting expedition through the real estate ads of yesteryear. In the second 16 weeks, represented by the brief excerpts below, we have taken a look at residential development in the township during the initial phases of the Planned Unit Development period between 1972 and 1980.

Enjoy the recap below, and be sure to follow the Gillette on Hillsborough page by clicking the link here, and "liking" the page. Thanks!

It's 1973 and we are flipping through the real estate ads looking for an apartment or townhouse in Hillsborough's new Planned Unit Development zone. The township began hearing development proposals in 1970 - including some fanciful ones such as a plan by Apollo Improvement Co. for 1,325 apartments and townhouses, a major department store, an indoor-outdoor recreation complex, and a nine-hole golf course for 140 acres on what today would be the southeast quadrant of the Auten/Triangle intersection. One of the first solid proposals to actually get to the building stage was City Financial Corp's Alexandria at Hillsborough project north of Country Club Homes. The plan called for 300 one and two bedroom units on 30.9 acres, and included such amenities as a swimming pool, tennis courts, and air conditioning.

Today we are staying in 1973 to visit City Financial's other big project in the Planned Unit Development (PUD) Zone - Claremont Hills. This project on Auten Road near Amwell Road was planned for 700 garden apartrments, 100 townhouses, and most uniquely, 390 mid-rise apartments in 7-story towers. Like it or not, the three towers in the middle of Hillsborough have turned out to be iconic, and, although not repeated in any other part of town, stand as a representation of the PUD zoning.

We have been stuck in 1973 for a few weeks now - and it's all due to the PUD (Planned Unit Development) zoning. Enacting the ordinance caused property values to skyrocket, and tempted farmers to sell, and developers to buy! The soaring prices can be illustrated by looking at today's featured development - Hillsborough Gardens south of Triangle Road. The 97-acre tract was bought by farmer Stanley Kanach in 1964 for $117,500. He sold it in 1969 for $270,000 to a Princeton based land company. A pretty good deal, but this was eight months before Hillsborough Township enacted the PUD ordinance. At that point, two of the principals in the Princeton company bought out their partners for $300,000 - and then sold the 97 acres to Hillsborough Gardens, Inc. for $915,000! Considering that Hillsborough Gardens was proposing 48 houses and 876 garden apartments, they probably made some money too.

In our quest to reveal the history of Hillsborough Township's post-war residential development through the real estate ads of yesteryear we have finally made it out of 1973! Today we will visit "The Location For Happiness" US Home's Whittier Oaks. Located in the triangle formed by Hillsborough and South Woods Roads, these homes invite you to "Come on...live in the country.....away from confusion yet so close to the city." Did you grow up here in one of the "huge, livable homes...just perfect for growing families?"

Today's ad is for Buena Vista Estates, built in 1974-75 off of Old Somerville and Hamilton Roads. We are still in the era of the "Paneled Family Room" as a major selling point! It was the 70s, after all. What is more interesting than this developpment itself is that in 1973 the developer donated a portion of the property to be used as a Hillsborough community center/youth center. The property was leased by the township for $1 a year to the Hillsborough Youth Council, who spent the next ten years raising money and constructing a building with a solely volunteer effort. In 1983, with an incomplete structure that had also suffered from vandalism, the Youth Council relinquished the lease back to Hillsborough.

Cali Associates of Cranford, NJ was one of the first developers to jump on the Planned Unit Development (PUD) bandwagon. They appeared before the planning board in 1970 for Kimberwyck Village on Auten Road, but the plan needed some major revisions. In fact, the plan wasn't complete until 1973, after Hillsborough had made some revisions to the PUD ordinance. 

This week's ad is for the condominium townhouse development along Farm Road known as Hillsborough Village. This development was built in phases, so whereas this ad is from 1975, four years later in 1979 the Hillsborough Township Planning Board was hearing pleas from both the builder and buyers to allow Hillsborough Village to open three buildings before all of the site work required by the Planned Unit Development ordinance was complete. Some buyers had approved mortgages in hand for nearly a year. All the while the list price for the homes had risen from $34,000 to $40,000 to $51,000!

Looking to rent an apartment circa 1974? Beekman Gardens is "The Talk of the Town." These "exravagant", "luxurious" apartments are located south of New Amwell Road on Gemini and Capricorn Drives. Far Out!

Last week our excursion through the the real estate ads of yesteryear brought us to Beekman Gardens. Today, in less than a Bicentennial Minute, we will cross Gemini Drive and visit the townhouses that make up the circa 1976 Beekman Village. Be sure to turn onto New Amwell at the Arco Station!

I just love the ads from today's featured Hillsborough development, Brookside Square. Tennis rackets, pipes, the Good Life circa 1976!

City Financial Corporation broke ground on many projects during Hillsborough's initial wave of Planned Unit Development (PUD) in the 1970s. But perhaps none was more ground-breaking than The Meadows. Located off of the Auten Road extension south of New Amwell, this unique "Quad" development was designed by award winning architect Daniel Cahill, and consists of four clusters, each containing four townhouses, for a total of sixteen units arranged around a central court.

Today's featured development began building on New Amwell Road in 1977 under the name Kenwood Village. By 1978, this handsome townhouse complex was known as Williamsburg Square. This may be the first Hillsborough development to feature a floor plan right in the ad.

Our trek through the real estate ads of yesteryear brings us this week to two late 1970s developments - Brandywine at Homestead and Fox Chase. Brandywine is just south of Homestead Road near Route 206, and Fox Chase is north of Hillsborough Road, east of Willow.

We are closing out the 1970s this weekend with another double dose of vintage Hillsborough real estate ads. I knew where Somerset Woods was located - down Pierson Drive near Route 206 - but I must admit that I was unsure of Sunrise at Hillsborough until I took a drive down Danley Lane and found a home identical to the one in the ad.