15 November 2015

No Solutions Yet

If there is one thing that we should take away from Friday's terrorist attacks in Paris, it is that we have no solutions. Attacks will continue until we find one. Don't despair - the problem will be solved in time if we ask the right questions.

The first question we should ask is, Who is the enemy? And perhaps, Who is not the enemy? The second is easier - Muslims are not the enemy. Our friends and neighbors, in your classroom or in the next cubicle, down the block or at the convenience store - they are not the enemy.

Conservatives have universally called for President Obama to name the enemy as "radical Islam". He has insisted on using the term "violent extremism". President Obama is correct, but not for the reasons he thinks.

What most of the world today refers to as "radical Islam" is not radical at all. By definition, because they adhere most strictly to the tenets prescribed in the Koran and other ancient holy texts, they should properly be described as orthodox, not radical. The real Islamic radicals are the reformers who we call moderates.

It is important to make this distinction because it will ultimately lead us to the solution.

Many have suggested that the answer lies within the Islamic community. I think that is correct. But when we ask, Why aren't the moderate Muslims doing more to stop the violence and terror? Why isn't Saudi Arabia doing all it can? we are showing a basic misunderstanding of the relationship between orthodox (radical) and reform (moderate) Muslims.

The essence of the relationship is that it is difficult to win a theological debate when confronted with an orthodox adherent. And would you enter into one when you risk beheading at the conclusion? Orthodox and reform Jews can have these kinds of debates, as can the various Christian sects, and everyone walks away intact. But can a moderate, reformed Muslim confront an orthodox Muslim knowing they will have to disavow parts of the Koran?

Seems unlikely, for individuals, and nations.

Let's keep thinking.

05 November 2015

J.B. Duke Works the Polls, 1908

Imagine going to your local polling place Tuesday and being greeted by Steve Forbes, or Steve Kalafer, or one of the several hedge fund millionaires and billionaires whose homes dot the Somerset Hills. Could you have been cajoled or intimidated into supporting their chosen candidate?

James B. Duke
On November 3, 1908, James B. Duke, Hillsborough resident and millionaire president of the American Tobacco Company set out to do just that - win votes for Colonel Nelson Y. Dungan in his bid to unseat state senator Joseph S. Frelinghuysen of Raritan.

Trenton Evening Times headline, November 5, 1908

Duke, irritated that the Republican (Republican!) Frelinghuysen had called out the wealthiest Somerset County residents for not paying their fair share in taxes, enlisted the help of Alexander W. Mack, manager of the Raritan Woolen Mills, in organizing the opposition to the first term legislator. Both men directed their hundreds of employees to "vote against Frelinghuysen". Duke personally visited several polling places in and around Raritan hoping that either the force of his personality, or his unflinching stare would win the day.

Senator Joseph S. Frelinghuysen
It wasn't enough. Frelinghuysen was swept up in a wave of Republican support, winning by 150 in Raritan and 725 across the district. He eventually became New Jersey's first directly elected US Senator in 1916 after the ratification of the 17th amendment, serving one term before returning to the insurance business and retiring to Arizona.

28 October 2015

Run, Rabbit

When James B. Duke decided to turn his sprawling farm along the Raritan River in Hillsborough Township, New Jersey into a grand estate and public park, one of the first things he did was to ban hunting. Sure, poaching was always strictly discouraged right from the time the tobacco tycoon began to acquire the lots that would make up Duke Farms in 1893. Now, nine years later, the taking of game was to be outlawed.

Bronze statue on the estate of James B. Duke in Hillsborough, NJ, circa 1904

It didn't take New Jersey rabbits very long to learn of the ban. No doubt the furry creatures had already heard about the hundreds of thousands of delicious trees and shrubs being planted on the grounds, now the news that bunnies were permanently "out of season" sent them scurrying by the hundreds across the stone bridges of Duke's Brook into the heart of the estate.

New York Evening Herald, January 20, 1904

With no competition at the buffet (New Jersey was in the first year of a nine year program to import deer from Pennsylvania and Michigan because the herd was at zero, if you can imagine that!) the rabbits quickly multiplied and were overrunning the place within two years. After expensive plants were destroyed by the voracious chompers, Duke decided a hunt was in order.

The newspapers had a good laugh when it turned out that Duke was going to be subject to a fine of $20 per rabbit for hunting out of season. The four hired sharpshooters took 37 in less than two hours, resulting in a whopping fine of $740 for the multi-millionaire!

There was no report that Mr. Duke himself joined in the hunt, but he did almost bag an escaped circus tiger on his estate in 1921 - but that's another story.

20 October 2015

It All Went Down, On the Farm

Not every gilded-age millionaire had a house and farm on River Road in Hillsborough in the first decade of the 20th century - just those named James Buchanan. We all know about James Buchanan Duke, whose Duke's Farm lives on today as Duke Farms, but much less has been written about the far more flamboyant J.B., James Buchanan Brady, better known then and today as Diamond Jim.

Ellesdale Manor, in its later incarnation as the South Branch Hotel

Diamond Jim is said to have made his fortune in business by being the best salesman of his era. Unable to take "no" for an answer, he was known to sit in a buyer's ante-room for days waiting to be seen. When it came to selling steel railroad cars or a stable of thoroughbred racehorses, he was always able to close the deal.

Larger-than-life millionaire businessman, gambler, and gourmand, Diamond Jim Brady.
In matters of the heart it was a different matter altogether. His marriage proposals were repeatedly rebuffed by the two women in his life - New York stage actress Lillian Russell, and live-in companion Edna McCauley. After summering with McCauley at popular turn-of-the-century vacation spots such as Atlantic City, Belmar, and Long Branch, he decided he needed a New Jersey country retreat of his own. Since eating was one of his favorite and legendary hobbies, why not purchase a farm where he could grow crops and raise cows, pigs, and chickens?

Edna McCauley, Diamond Jim's sometimes niece, sometimes daughter, constant companion.

Brady found the perfect location just north of the village of South Branch - a farm on the Raritan River called Ellesdale Manor, previously owned by New Jersey State Senator William Keys. The design firm of Collins Marsh was called in to decorate and furnish the home with the trendiest of rustic decor. After many months of consultation with Diamond Jim and Edna, designs were approved and remodeling began on the three-story second empire house. Walls were torn down to provide space for a ballroom, wine cellar, and most importantly a gaming room.

Attention was next paid to the farm. Brady purchased twenty-seven Guernsey cows - just enough to give the place the all-important pastoral look - as well as pigs, horses, chickens, dogs, and ten thousand squab pigeons.

Actress Lillian Russell
Money was no object when it came to outfitting the farm. Expensive fertilizers, the very best farm machinery, and enameled milking pails delighted Brady's farm manager. According to biographer Parker Morell, "every vegetable and every animal grown or raised on the place cost at least five times as much as its duplicate could have been obtained for in the open market." But that wasn't the point. Brady thought that the food he grew tasted better, and that's all that mattered.

Financier, banker, merchant, Jesse Lewisohn
In short order, friends from the New York business and theater worlds began to descend on the farm each weekend. Frequent visitors to Jim and Edna's were impresario Florence Ziegfeld, singer Anna Held, and of course Brady's good friend and second love interest Lillian Russell. Also from New York came merchant banker Jesse Lewisohn, a consort of Miss Russell's, and a close friend of Brady's.

Yes, things sometimes got complicated "down on the farm". Guests shared rooms, and people looked the other way. But there was no looking the other way when Diamond Jim returned from a business trip a few years later and was met by Edna and Lewisohn, who told him that in his absence they had fallen in love and were to be married! His common-law wife and his best friend! And for Lewisohn to betray Lillian Russell this way!

Perhaps the pain of how it all went down played a part in Diamond Jim's decision to sell the farm and return to New York - leaving Hillsborough with only one millionaire J.B., but with a lasting impression of the flashy man with the flashy farm.

08 October 2015

Three Towers, 1937

With all of the talk about the Off Track Wagering facility just approved for the old Maestro 206 site, I thought I'd share this 1937 advertising postcard of one of the first establishments to do business at that location. The Three Towers was a banquet hall, nightclub, dance hall, etc. for at least a couple of decades from the 30s through the 50s. It was a tour stop for many nationally and regionally known big bands of the era, and later rock and roll groups.

Three Towers - Entertainment, Dining, Dancing - postcard circa 1937
I have seen some posts on Facebook putting forth the idea that this spot on 206 is a bad location for a restaurant because nothing ever lasts there. I am of the opposite opinion. I believe the OTW folks chose this location because it has proven itself for decades. Yes, the businesses have changed over the years - from The Three Towers to the Jolly Ox, Duke's Farm Inn, Jaspers, the brewing company (forget the name) CocoLa, Maestro 206 - but that's to be expected. It would be more of a surprise if the same business had been there for the past 75 years. Just my opinion.

07 October 2015

Christmas Dinner, 1912

Now that the weather is turning cooler, the most wonderful time of the year can't be far off. Nothing's better than sitting down to Christmas dinner with your loved ones - as long as dad doesn't attack you with the kitchen utensils, a pitchfork, and a shotgun!

New York Tribune headline, December 27, 1912
The Balas family had only been living in Bernardsville a few months when the headline above appeared in The New York Tribune. They moved from New York City earlier that year of 1912 in the hopes that a change of scenery might cure Andrew Balas of his violent alcoholism. Apparently the cure didn't take as dad continued to drink heavily, appearing at the Christmas dinner table already heavily intoxicated. He reacted to a reprimand from Mrs. Balas by attempting to stab her with the carving fork, which was wrestled away by eighteen-year-old son John.

New York Tribune headline, December 27, 1912
When John forced his father out of the house, dad returned with an even larger fork - a pitchfork - but was again overpowered by the youth with mom's help. Balas then retrieved a shotgun from his bedroom and pointed it at his wife, beginning a frantic struggle by all three for possession of the firearm, which then discharged, wounding Balas and his wife.

The parents ended up at the hospital in Morristown, while John celebrated what was left of Christmas from a cell in Somerville. Ah, the holidays. Don't you just love 'em!

11 September 2015

Eagle Gate, Then and Now

In a previous post I commented on the fact that the original entrances to Duke's Park, the Hillsborough, N.J. estate of James B. Duke, were not gated during the heyday of public access to the grounds between 1905 and 1915. This is in evidence below in the 1910 depiction of the Eagle Gate entrance from Duke's Parkway.

The Eagle Gate at Duke's Park, postcard circa 1910
And the Eagle Gate today, below. The Eagles were restored to this location just a few years ago.

The Eagle Gate at Duke Farms, 2015

09 September 2015

"Mountain Air, Mother's Care"

New Yorkers have been sending their tykes out to "the country" for decades, centuries even. Entire institutions, such as the Fresh Air Fund - which began in 1877 - have grown up around the concept that kids need to spend their summer vacation away from city life in the Adirondacks, on Long Island, or even right here in the Sourland Mountains of Somerset County, N.J.

One such camp was operated by Mrs. G.G. Closson and her veterinarian husband in Neshanic. With good intentions, she placed tiny three-line ads, such as the one above, in New York newspapers, hoping to attract clients with the tagline: mountain air, mother's care. But when Henrietta Honius from the New Jersey Bureau of Child Hygiene made an inspection of the property in the summer of 1919, she found the children were barely receiving one of the two touted benefits.

Trenton Evening Times, September 9, 1919

In a word, conditions at the camp were appalling. Seventeen children were living and sleeping in just a few rooms of the ten room house - as many as eight to a room - in homemade berths or straw mattresses on the floor, with little ventilation. No indoor sanitary facilities were provided, and the house was found to be "generally unclean". Mrs. Honius reported to her boss, Dr. Julius Levy, that "Mrs. Closson is an unintelligent person, whose motive for conducting the place in entirely mercenary". The Clossons were receiving $4.50 per week per child in 1919.

The inspection came after parents complained that their children were returning to the city malnourished and with bedsores. Indeed Mrs. Honius further reported that "Mrs. Closson knows nothing about the proper diet for children and.... she should not be permitted to conduct such an establishment."

Ironically, it may have been this inspection that saved the camp. Upon review of the report, Dr. Levy recommended to the state that private kiddie camps should be licensed and inspected on a regular basis. One-year licenses would not be renewed if conditions were unsatisfactory.

Mrs. Closson must have taken heed. Kiddie Kamp Kumfy Kare continued in business throughout the following decade and beyond, with hundreds of city kids enjoying that Sourland Mountain air.....and mother Closson's care.

05 September 2015

What You May Have Missed

If you're not following the Gillette on Hillsborough Facebook page here, you may have missed some photos and stories that don't appear as posts on this blog - like my recent post about Miss Cora Wyckoff, the Lehigh Valley Railroad station agent at Flagtown in the 1890s.

You may also have missed all of the "extra" photos I took at Duke Farms this year while researching the Then and Now series.

Follow Gillette on Hillsborough by "liking" the Facebook page here - you'll never miss a post.

Turtle Lake, Then and Now

There is no question that James B. Duke loved flowing water. He created his Hillsborough, N.J. estate, now known officially as Duke Farms, with this in mind - constructing nine lakes at various elevations so water could flow and cascade down from one to the other.

Turtle Lake at Duke's Park, postcard circa 1907
There were also dozens of free-standing fountains, and fountains whose overflow spilled down into the lakes. If that wasn't enough, fountains also rose up from the lake themselves - as you can see in the postcard view above of Turtle Lake in 1907.

What is left of the Eagle Gate fountain at Duke Farms, September 2015

Although nearly all of the lake fountains have been decommissioned and removed over the years, if you look closely you may spot the remnants of one or two. Click on the photo below to get a better look at one of J'B. Duke's last remaining, albeit inoperative, water features.

Turtle Lake, August 2015