16 September 2020

The Great Train Hold-Up (1910)

On Saturday afternoon, April 30, 1910, excited passengers tumbled out of the cars of the Lehigh Valley Railroad's Buffalo express train as it made its scheduled 3:45 p.m. stop in South Plainfield. They hurried to the station agent eager to share what they had just witnessed as the train passed Flagtown - the greatest and most daring train hold-up in Hillsborough, and possibly New Jersey, history!

The South Branch Railroad - a division of the Central Railroad of New Jersey also called the Flemington Branch - runs parallel to the Lehigh Valley Railroad's mainline in the vicinity of Flagtown affording the Lehigh Valley travelers a view of the stopped locomotive and the South Branch passengers lined up outside the coaches as armed bandits, some on horses, held them at gunpoint and went through their belongings.

The daring caper had been planned long in advance, you might even say it was well-scripted. The bandits arrived at the scene early, riding through the Hillsborough woods before dismounting at a small clearing. Their leader described the plan. Disguised as a railroad flagman, he would go out onto the tracks with a red flag and stop the train between Flagtown and Neshanic. Once the train was stopped he would approach the engineer's cab with revolver drawn.

Another of the gang held the conductor at gunpoint while three bandits headed for the coaches. The panicked passengers dove under their seats and screamed for help, but to no avail. One passenger, E.J. Sanborn, was shot through the arm as he leaped at a robber in a desperate attempt to disarm him. Things seemed to be going well for the gang until they made their way to the first passenger car. 

2 May 1910 Courier News

It was here that the outlaws ran into two visitors from Virginia - F.J. Halley and R.J. Wilson - who were packing pistols of their own and returned fire. It was just then that the Buffalo express was passing on the Lehigh tracks in time to see some of the passengers from the second and third coaches of the South Branch train - who had been lined up alongside the tracks - realize they had their own firearms tucked into their belts. A general melee ensued. Mr. Wiley who had been guarding the safe in the express car jumped from the car and was met with a shower of bullets, but managed to get off a couple of good shot s dropping one of the desperados, then another.

There's more to the story - including how the bandits were eventually captured with the help of the two small children of the Flagtown station agent. But it is unlikely any of those scenes took place in Hillsborough. What those passengers on the Lehigh Valley Buffalo express actually witnessed that April day in 1910 was the filming of the train scenes for one of the first American features produced by the Pathe Freres film company - The Great Train Hold-Up.

23 May 1910 Daily Gate City

Pathe Freres actually opened a large film processing facility in Bound Brook, NJ in 1907, but it wasn't until 1910 that they entered the American market with narrative films of their own. Scenes filmed around the Flagtown train station were shown in some theaters independently of the full movie in May 1910, with the entire film - all 950 feet of it - being released later on June 25.

18 June 1910, The Film Journal

Although the film was a sensation upon release and was well-received by critics, it appears to have never been re-released and may exist now only in the hands of collectors. The first two images in this story are from the film, the third is possibly from the film. Other than those few images and the descriptions of the action from industry trade journals nothing seems to be left from The Great Train Hold-Up of Hillsborough!

11 September 2020

Anna Case Is Made, Part 2

On May 4, 1909, Giulio Gatti-Casazza and Andreas Dippel - the co-managers of the New York Metropolitan Opera - sailed for Europe on their annual talent search. Before they left, the pair announced the singers they had already signed for the new season beginning in November, including the only singer up to that time who had not trained in Europe - a twenty-one-year-old soprano from South Branch, New Jersey named Anna Case.

25 May 1909, Butte Miner

Although she had been singing professionally full-time for just over two years - and had been making a reputation as a unique talent at least since her July 4, 1908 appearance at the famous Ocean Grove Auditorium - this was the first time the national public had heard the name Anna Case.

12 May 1909 St. Louis Post-Dispatch

Aside from being the first Metropolitan Opera singer with no European training, other now-familiar elements of Anna Case's story were promulgated by the press in those first weeks and months after Herr Dippel's announcement. Much was made of the fact that her father Peter Case was the village blacksmith at South Branch and that his daughter helped him in his shop, even shoeing horses on occasion.

The blacksmith shop of Peter Case from a circa 1907 postcard.
The house Anna Case grew up in is on the right.

Before long, syndicated feature stories began to appear in the pages of newspapers across the country. Although most got the circumstances of the chance meeting between Director Dippel and the budding singer wrong - they met at her performance at Philadelphia's Bellevue-Stratford Hotel, not at a church in Plainfield - other parts of her story came to light. Readers were fascinated by the story of the early life of Anna Case - how she scrubbed floors and worked in the kitchens of her neighbors, sold soap door-to-door, drove a hansom cab for fares to and from the local train stations, and gave piano lessons for children in the evenings - a revolver tucked into her belt for protection on the country roads.

30 May 1909, St. Louis Post Dispatch

In the first few years of her career with the opera, more aspects of the beginnings of Anna Case were revealed - how she borrowed seventy-five cents a week from the South Branch grocer so that she could take singing lessons from a Somerville music teacher, how she got a job playing the organ and leading the choir at the Neshanic Reformed Church, and then a job singing in the quartet at the First Presbyterian Church in Plainfield.

5 December 1909, San Francisco Examiner

By the time she agreed to meet a photographer on the roof of one of the big newspaper buildings in New York to have her photo taken holding a blacksmith's hammer, the story of Anna Case was already well known. It's not unusual or surprising that the press - and the Metropolitan Opera - would engage in myth-building - in later years they managed to shave first one, then two years from her age in order to promote an ever-youthful prima donna. What is surprising is that in the case of Miss Case the stories were essentially true. 

22 December 1912, Buffalo Sunday Morning News

Unlike other New Jersey celebrities, past and present, whose connection to our state became more tenuous the more famous they became, Anna Case belongs to that group which includes Frankie Valli and Bruce Springsteen - singers for whom the New Jersey of their youth became an essential element of their larger-than-life stories. 

25 August 1931, Brooklyn Standard-Union

But it wasn't only Anna Case's story which remained inextricably linked to New Jersey throughout her lifetime, but also Anna Case herself. After the death of her father in the 1920s, she repurchased her childhood home in South Branch and remodeled it as a home for her mother. After her mother's passing, Anna Case kept the home as a country retreat before gifting it to the South Branch Reformed Church in 1974 at the age of 86.

22 August 1957, Courier News

05 September 2020

Burlington Zephyr Breaks Speed Record, April 17, 1934

In 1933, as cheap intercity bus routes chipped away at railroad revenues, the Chicago, Burlington, and Quincy Railroad commissioned a new kind of train to compete against the bus companies. The Zephyr was the first streamlined stainless steel diesel-electric train and ushered in a new era of high-speed railway travel.

The three-car 72-passenger train made its debut speed run on April 17, 1934, in central New Jersey, clocking in at 104 mph on a straight stretch of road between Hopewell and Skillman. Passengers commented that the ride was so smooth - even in 90 mph curves - that they couldn't tell the difference between 70 and 100.

How did they do it? A 600 horsepower diesel-electric plant, reduced weight, and fewer than half of the wheels of a similar-sized locomotive all contributed to the increased speed. The train was so light that it could be easily pulled by ten men!

The newspaper photo above appeared in the April 20, 1934 edition of the Paducah Sun Democrat and pictures the Zephyr at Weston Station on April 17, 1934, after its record-breaking run. The train toured up and down the east coast before heading out west where it proceeded to break the Denver to Chicago speed record.

The video below includes scenes from the week of the Zephyr's debut, including fascinating footage of the record-breaking run through Somerset County - officially clocked at 104mph. Unfortunately, these scenes are outtakes, the original newsreel footage apparently being lost.

26 August 2020

Three Stone Bridges of Hillsborough

According to the National Park Service, Hillsborough Township's early 19th-century stone bridges included on the National Register of Historic Places are two of just twenty such bridges still standing in Somerset County. I would propose that we might add a third, later bridge to that list. 

Cat Tail Brook Bridge - Montgomery Road

The Cat Tail Brook Bridge - spanning the stream of the same name on Montgomery Road - is Hillsborough's oldest document stone bridge. The single-span arch bridge was constructed in 1825 by B.J. Gray, supervised by Mssrs. Stryker and Cruser, and assisted by stonemasons John Rowland Jr. and Thomas Stout.

Cat Tail Brook Bridge, 2009

The thirty-foot long bridge is made of local fieldstone. The arch - with a ten-foot span - is made of quarried stone. The bridge can not be called elegant, but the simple fact of its nearly 200-year service to the community attests to the workmanship of the builders.

Cat Tail Brook Bridge cornerstone

Rock Brook Bridge - Long Hill Road

The Rock Brook Bridge is so similar in construction method and materials to other bridges in the immediate area - notably the 1822 Opposum Road Bridge in Montgomery Township - that we can comfortably ascribe a circa 1825 date to this important span.

Rock Brook Bridge, 2020

Originally possessing three arches, an 1891 torrential rainfall washed out the third span. It was quickly reconstructed as an open span, necessitating some new stonework at the center arch and the east abutment. The original stone walls have also been replaced by modern guardrails. Despite these changes, the 41-foot long, 16-foot wide bridge retains its historic integrity and serves its purpose ably to this day.

Rock Brook Bridge, 2020

Hoepfner's Brook Bridge - Township Line Road

The Hoepfner's Brook Bridge on Township Line Road which spans a small tributary of the Millstone River dates to the late 19th-century. The bridge has not been researched and little is known about the circumstances of its construction.

Hoepfner's Brook Bridge looking north

Although its single 10-foot span and fieldstone construction make it visually similar to Cat Tail Brook Bridge, the use of brick for the arch sets it apart. Like the Rock Brook Bridge, a modern guardrail has been in place for a long time.

Hoepfner's Brook Bridge looking south

19 August 2020

Millstone River Bridge and Causeway

Of all the historic bridges in and around Hillsborough, perhaps none have been more important in the commerce and communication of the township than the series of bridges spanning the Millstone River in the village of the same name.

Millstone River Bridge circa 1905

When the first bridge was constructed - probably around 1725 - the Delaware and Raritan Canal was still more than 100 years in the future; the railroads after that. The most direct route to the market town of New Brunswick, and its port, was overland by wagon road. Throughout the 18th century, the farmers of Hillsborough depended on the road and the bridge to get their produce to market.

We don't know exactly what the bridge or bridges that existed in the 1700s looked like, but there are a few things we can say for certain. The bridge would have been wooden, and, the width of the river being too great for a single span, a stone pier would have been required midstream. 

The photo above of the late 19th-century version of the Millstone River Bridge gives a good idea of the configuration of the wooden bridges. We also know those earlier crossings were not in the location of today's bridge but rather just to the north - intersecting with what today is called North River Street.

Millstone River Bridge circa 1906

In 1901 the Somerset County Freeholders commissioned a new bridge at the same location. Originally envisioned as being two spans supported with a stone pier in the middle, the design was changed to a single-span iron bridge.

Millstone River Bridge circa 1908

Although referred to as the "Millstone Causeway", the pedestrian boardwalk was the only element other than the bridge itself that was elevated. The roadway between the river and the Delaware and Raritan Canal was at ground level across the meadows.

Millstone River Bridge and the flooded meadows - looking south, 1905

Flooding of the meadows - which may have only been a nuisance in the 18th and 19th centuries - was considered much more of a serious issue in the 20th. As the area became more developed, properties, especially the commercial and industrial businesses in East Millstone, became very valuable. Constant flooding - not just in Millstone but also in Weston and around Bound Brook - made it impossible for the local fire companies to reach East Millstone during an emergency.

An illustration of the proposed New Millstone Causeway
by Oscar Smith, Jr., County Engineer

It was said that any measurable amount of rain would flood the roadway. This was not such a problem in the days of horses and carriages which could navigate a little water, but in the age of the automobile, it was a disaster. In the 1920s, busses would regularly unload their passengers at one end of the boardwalk and have them walk across to a waiting bus at the other end to continue their commute. But ultimately it was a devastating fire in East Millstone - with fire companies from Manville, Somerville, and Bound Brook unable to reach the town - which led to the consideration of a completely new elevated causeway.

Construction of the New Millstone Causeway circa 1931

The original proposal called for the repaired and strengthened 1901 bridge to remain in place and connect to a new concrete causeway across the meadow. On the East Millstone side, Somerset County officials negotiated with the Pennsylvania Railroad - owners of the canal - over what to do about the canal bridge. These initial plans failed to address the centuries-old problem of the bridge not actually leading to Millstone River Road but rather to North River Street.

14 August 1931 Courier News

A solution was found with the county's acquisition of a small private road called "The Driftway". Never a public thoroughfare, the short street leading from North and South River Street to Millstone River Road became the perfect path for a brand new bridge and causeway. Plans were drawn up in 1929 and preliminary engineering work took about six months. The Courier News gave the statistics for the new bridge and causeway in an August 1931 story heralding the completion of the span:

The bridge is of three spans and is 135 feet long, made of concrete and steel. The causeway starts from the east end of the new bridge and extends for 665 feet, ending in a 300-foot fill connecting the road with the bridge over the Delaware and Raritan Canal in East Millstone. The centers of the 25 spans in the causeway are 27 feet apart. The roadway is 24 feet wide, and approximately 10 feet above the meadow.

A sidewalk, five feet, three inches wide extends along the northerly side of the highway for pedestrians. The piers under the causeway rest on piling, approximately 8,460 lineal feet being used, the piles reaching bedrock 19 feet below the surface. The causeway carries attractive sideway of ornamental concrete and is illuminated with cluster lights at the top of ornamental concrete pillars.

The Millstone Causeway underwent extensive reconstruction in 1998 and continues today as a vital link in Somerset County's 300-year-old transportation network.

20 June 2020

Bloomingdale Farms (circa 1870 - 1961)

When you think of a New Jersey dairy cow, it's a good bet you're not picturing an Ayrshire, a Guernsey, a Brown Swiss, a Milking Shorthorn, or even a Jersey. What you're seeing in your mind's eye is the familiar black and white of a member of the Holstein-Friesian breed - the number one breed of dairy cow in New Jersey and the US.

This wasn't always the case. Holsteins were first introduced to Somerset County by US Senator John McPherson who purchased 34 prime examples of the breed in Holland and had them shipped to his Belle Mead farm in 1885. McPherson not only established the breed in the county but also created the large scale dairy industry, shipping his milk by train to New York.  

21 January 1896, Waterloo, Iowa, Courier

In 1891, one year after McPherson sold his farm, his successors, Roberts & Conn, dispersed the entire herd which then numbered 165. Most of the cattle were purchased by other Somerset County farmers, thereby establishing the southern section of the county as ground zero for New Jersey Holsteins.

1860 Farm Map of Hillsborough

One of the people who benefited from the McPherson cattle auction was Abram A. Cortelyou. In 1869, at the age of 22, he married Catherine M. Staats, daughter of John R. Staats and Mary Brokaw. The Staats family were early settlers of Hillsborough and owned much property, including 250 acres mostly on the north side of Amwell Road near today's intersection with Auten Road.

John R. Staats Farm House. 2008

In 1857 John R. Staats built the Georgian style brick home we see near the intersection today. It is likely that Abraham Cortelyou - who was orphaned at the age of five and raised by an uncle - and his new wife received the farm as a wedding gift the year they were married.

About 1875, the couple moved to Neshanic Station and started a lumber and coal business. They lost a son in infancy in 1872 but went on to raise four daughters - and they kept the farm in Hillsborough. Cortelyou purchased his first Holsteins in 1889 and it may have been then that the property was rechristened Bloomingdale Farms - named after a section of Hillsborough that stretched from Flagtown to almost Millstone.

1873 Somerset County Atlas

Bloomingdale Farms made its name - and its money - through breeding. The breeding of Holsteins in those days (and even today) is about breeding champion producers - cows that could produce record weekly (or monthly, or yearly) pounds of milk or butter and bulls that could sire big producers. Bloomingdale Farms had both - acquired through outright purchases of other stock from farms in New York, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey as well as their own breeding successes.

Holstein-Friesian Aristocracy, trade publication, 1915

Cortelyou also entered prize specimens in cattle exhibitions throughout the northeast and won numerous blue ribbons. After the turn of the century, Cortelyou joined with Bernhard Meyer of the Finderne Stock Farm creating the Somerset Holstein Breeders' Company, an association that produced many world record cows. Finderne Holingen Fayne was the first Holstein to beat the legendary Guernsey Cow, Murne Cowan, with 3-year-old production totals for 7 days milk at 608.1 lbs.; 7 days butter - 37.33 lbs.; 30 days milk - 2599 lbs.; and 30 days butter - 150.33 lbs. among other records.

Holstein-Friesian Aristocracy, trade publication, 1915

Abraham and Catherine both died in 1918 after which Bloomingdale Farm was purchased by M.W. Faitoute of the Faitoute  Iron & Steel Company. With the Cortelyous' daughter, Augusta (a noted authority on the breed) as secretary, Faitoute built on the success of the previous owners - immediately purchasing as a sire the famous King Model. 

8 February 1922, Holstein Breeder and Dairyman

A 1922 feature story on Bloomingdale Farms for the trade journal "The Holstein Breeder and Dairyman" noted the progress Faitoute had made in further developing the breed and made special mention of Miss Cortelyou as well as farm superintendent Jacob Reger. It was stated that "A trip through the eastern states without visiting Bloomingdale and becoming acquainted with the management is like visiting Washington and not seeing the White House."

29 July 1941 Courier News

Augusta Cortelyou died in 1930 and M.W. Faitoute sold the farm in 1937 to Mr. and Mrs. Daniel Durkin of Jersey City. A spectacular 1941 killed five calves and destroyed ten barns at a loss of $50,000. The Durkins continued on for three-and-a-half years before selling to Dr. John W. Thomas in 1945. Thomas specialized in Angus beef cattle, so the Durkins sold the entire Holstein herd at auction on February 26, 1945.

22 January 1945, Bernardsville News

Thomas suffered through a fire of his own in 1947 before selling the property to Paul Bennetch of Langhorne, Pennsylvania in 1951. Bennetch, who was the president of the National Brown Swiss Breeders' Association, brought a dairy herd back to Bloomingdale Farms, albeit not Holsteins.

1972 Bloomingdale Farms

The entire 250-acre farm was sold to Claremont Developers, Inc. of Manville in 1961 and within a decade became the central piece of Hillsborough's Planned Unit Development of townhouses, patio homes, and mid-rise apartments.

20 May 2020

Town & Country Inn, The Jolly Ox, et. al. (1958 - 2013)

In 1915 Somerville, NJ real estate developer O.J. Brown bought a piece of land on the Somerville-Princeton Road -  today's Route 206 - just south of the Jame B. Duke estate and north of the Lehigh Valley Railroad crossing in Hillsborough Township. He built a store there and soon sold it to Joseph Scheff. Scheff sold the business to Willy Cremer in 1922. Cremer's loyal customers (what he sold at his store is lost to time, although some accounts say it was a grocery) woke up one day in 1931 and found the store closed and a new building going up in its place - The Three Towers. Thus began the long history of the ten dining/banquet establishments that followed continuing today with the off-track-wagering place Favorites.

You can read about the history of Three Towers here. Now let's put the rest of it in order with this brief survey of the other nine businesses that called the southbound side of Route 206 in "South Somerville" home.

Town & Country Inn (1958 - 1969)

After a run of bad luck and other incidents that caused Three Towers to acquire, in the words of one Hillsborough Township Committeeman, "a bad reputation" subsequent owners Joseph and Margaret Hazy closed the 27-year-old restaurant/ballroom/catering hall and sold the business to Walter B. Mooney in February 1958. Mooney renovated the ballroom and opened up as Town & Country Inn.

9 May 1958 Courier News

Contemporary newspaper advertisements inform us that Mooney attempted to repeat the early success of Three Towers. Square Dancing was out and the big bands were back including Guy Lombardo and his Royal Canadians for Town & Country's first anniversary in 1959 and the sweet trumpet of bandleader Charlie Spivak and his orchestra in 1961.

Remember gentlemen: "Jackets are in order".

Town & Country Ads 1958 - 1963

By cleaning up the place Mooney  - who lived in the rooms above the hall - won back the local politicians and was even appointed to Hillsborough's Industrial Commission.

28 October 1965 Courier News

In the mid-sixties, the Central Jersey Bachelors' Association sponsored two dances each week. Friday nights were more formal with "jackets and ties required" while Wednesday evenings were casual affairs - sometimes a prize would be awarded for the most casual outfit!

27 December 1963 Home News
After more than a decade in business, Mooney sold the Town & Country Inn to Rudy Esposito in 1969.

Duke's Farm Inn (1969 - 1972)

Rudolph Esposito was a Manville trucking company owner whose family also happened to be in the restaurant business. He initially bought the Town & Country Inn and changed the name to Duke's Farm Inn with the idea that he could get away from serving Italian food. However his customers had other ideas, and he was compelled to bring their favorite Italian dishes to the menu.

10 October 1969 Courier News
Esposito must have guessed that he would have trouble with the Doris Duke estate over the name of the restaurant. He responded by adding a giant burger to the menu and calling it "the Bull Durham" after the symbol of the Duke tobacco empire.

Duke's Farm Inn ads 1970-71
Duke's Farm Inn lasted just three years. At the end of 1972, the business was purchased by Manville Boro councilman Michael Mazur, Jr. and family and reopened as part of the Steak and Ale casual dining chain.

The Jolly Ox (1972 - 1983)

Steak and Ale was a restaurant chain that started in Texas in 1966. For certain jurisdictions that didn't allow an alcoholic beverage (ale) to be in the name, they operated as The Jolly Ox. Hillsborough's Jolly Ox opened on December 1, 1972.

27 November 1972 Courier News

The restaurant featured the standard Steak and Ale fare with daily specials  - Tuesday might be shrimp scampi, Wednesday, prime rib, etc. With the large banquet facilities, the Mazurs were able to do the kinds of weddings that other restaurants in the Steak and Ale family couldn't attempt.

17 July 1979 Courier News
Perhaps the oddest bit of promotion came near the end of the 11-year run of Jolly Ox when they advertised a New Year's Eve dinner with "No Entertainment".

18 December 1981 Courier News
In 1983, with much interest from prospective buyers, Michael Mazur began to look for, in his words, "the right people to take it over". On August 12, 1983, he sold to Raritan restaurant owners Charles Moore and James Richards for $625,000.

Jaspers (1983 - 1996)

Charlie Moore and Jim Richards  - who became friends when they were students at the Culinary Institute of America - opened the original Jaspers in Raritan in 1980. Located on Route 206 near Sherman Avenue the 55-seat restaurant was their first business venture together. Just 24-years-old at the time, the two said their cuisine was heavily influenced by a backpacking trip they had taken together through Europe.

26 Dec 1991 Courier News

In August 1983 they brought their European-inspired veal, chicken, and seafood dishes to the much larger Hillsborough premises. They kept the restaurant in Raritan, renaming it Donovan's.

Jaspers Ads 1995 and 1985
In 1987, in a stunt worthy of the Three Towers era, bride-to-be Dawn Saceric had herself wheeled down Route 206 in a wheelbarrow by eight bridesmaids to Jaspers parking lot, where, with the help of the Hillsborough Township Police she fulfilled an ancient Scottish wedding custom by selling kisses for $1 on the night before her wedding! She made $120 which she donated to the Neshanic Reformed Church.

June 1987 Courier News

Although maybe not as well-remembered by "old-timers" as The Jolly Ox or Town & Country, Jaspers thirteen years in business remains second only to Three Towers in the 90-year history of restaurants at that location.

Jersey Jim's Brewing Company (1996 - 2001)

After running Jaspers successfully for thirteen years, Richards and Moore began to feel increased competition from the growing number of national chain restaurants moving into Central Jersey. Instead of selling out, they thought about changing to a themed restaurant - maybe a sports bar, or a country-western place. Ultimately they hopped onto the 1990s microbrewery bandwagon and opened Jersey Jim's on April 12, 1996.

They turned one of the ballrooms into a brewery and installed a 60-foot-long wooden bar, transforming the restaurant into the largest brewpub in New Jersey. The novelty, combined with good press and relentless advertising brought in the customers and brewer Scott Hercher sealed the deal with his handcrafted porters, amber ales, and IPAs.

Jersey Jim's 1996 ads
By the end of the decade, they were featuring country-western line dancing on Tuesday nights and the occasional live music. They closed unceremoniously in 2001.

The Pavilion (2001 - never opened)

Instead of pining for the old days when they could celebrate important events at Jasper's, Janis and Marty Wolfson and their partners Karen and Bill Hendriksen decided to do something about it. In 2002 they began a renovation of Jersey Jim's to bring back the ballrooms of old as The Pavilion. Their plan was to be primarily a banquet facility while also opening as a restaurant on special occasions such as Mother's Day.

21 February 2002 Courier News
Problems with obtaining construction permits, as well as the Hillsborough construction official's finding that the building was unsafe, meant that for the first time the building was vacant for an extended period. 

Shogun (2003 - never opened)

In 2003, Richard Lee - the owner of the Shogun restaurant on Route 22 in Green Brook - bought the property with plans to turn it into another Shogun. 

21 December 2003 Courier News
The ongoing construction involving the widening of Route 206 snarled traffic and made it difficult to get to the site. And Lee dropped the project.

Coccola (2006 - 2009)

After Richard Lee declined to pursue turning the building into a Shogun restaurant the site was dormant for another three years. Then experienced area restauranteurs Nino and Janet Tamburin (Eccola in Parsippany, Eccoqui in Bernardsville) were taking a drive down Route 206 and found the property to be "eye-catching". They began another renovation of the building to turn it into an upscale Italian-American restaurant.

6 January 2006 Courier News
One of the unique features of the restaurant was the "open kitchen" which allowed diners to see the chefs in action. Instead of the ballroom concept of previous incarnations, the Tamburins created two elegant private dining rooms besides the main room.

23 June 2006 Courier News
As quickly as it came it was gone. In 2010 another restaurant had taken its place.

Maestro 206 (2010 - 2013)

There was no big renovation before Maestro 206 took over the site in 2010. It seems like they moved right in.

18 March 2014 Courier News
Much like Coccola before them, Maestro 206 was gone before many Hillsborough residents had the chance to make it one of their favorites.

Favorites (2017 - present)

And speaking of Favorites, that's the name of the restaurant that includes off-track-wagering that currently occupies the site. As their history is still being written, I will leave it for another time.