29 March 2018

Villa Firenze (1932 - 1945)

On September 3, 1944, a massive fire started by a spark thrown from a passing locomotive and fanned by high winds swept across 500 of the 1200 acres leased by Cosimo Mancini from the Belle Mead Development Company. Destroyed in the blaze was an expensive pear orchard - including the entire season's crop - and most of a private hunting club, as all of the ground cover was burned off leading to the retreat of all of the birds. This was the first of two fires that plagued Mancini in a six-month period - the second one driving him from Hillsborough.

1 October 1941 Courier News

The Belle Mead Development Company was affiliated with New York Acreage Estates, a real estate company controlled by W. M. McElroy with holdings in Hillsborough and Montgomery Townships and elsewhere in central New Jersey. The specific property leased by Mancini was called Sunnymead (or Sunnymeade) Farms and comprised the area in eastern Hillsborough north of Amwell Road, east of the Philadelphia and Reading Railroad, and northward almost to Falcon Road, as shown on the map below.

Detail from 1945 Hagstrom Map
Cosimo Mancini was an immigrant from Florence, Italy who came to America in 1912, eventually settling in Hillsborough. As early as 1932 he was operating a restaurant on Amwell Road called, appropriately, Villa Firenze. Mancini and his wife and family also lived in the tavern, which was in a large 12-room house with seating for 150 in the dining room.

1942 and 1943 ads from the Courier News

At the end of Prohibition in 1933-34, Villa Firenze followed all of the other eateries in Hillsborough Township by applying for a liquor license. From then until the mid-1940s Villa Firenze was a destination for diners looking to get out to the countryside. Ads from the period advise motorists to Turn Left at the Wood's Tavern Intersection and proceed to Sunnymead Farm.

1941-1943 ads from the Courier News

As the name, and the Mancinis' background would suggest, Villa Firenze specialized in Italian cuisine, and featured live music with dancing seasonally on the weekends, and on special occasions such as New Year's Eve.

On February 4, 1945, a fire which started in the boiler room of the tavern spread quickly through the house. The Montgomery Fire Department responded, but found no available water to fight the fire. The $25,000 building was a total loss, although half of the $10,000 of liquor was able to be rescued.

20 June 1952 Home News


Mancini ended up suing the railroad over the 1944 fire, and received a settlement of between $2,000 and 3,000 in 1948 - but it wasn't until June 21, 1952, that he returned to the restaurant business with the New Villa Firenze on Route 28 in Bridgewater, west of the Somerville Circle. He died in 1962, after which his wife sold the restaurant in 1963. The new owners changed the name to The Villa and ran the successful restaurant for another 32 years before closing in 1995.



27 March 2018

Evelyn Wentworth Murray - The "Countess" of Somerset County - Part 1

Picture this: A young serving-girl pinned to the floor in the master bedroom of a palatial riverfront manor while her mistress - the wealthiest woman in the county - spanks her brutally with a slipper, as the girl's older brother, the assistant gardener on the estate, bounds up the wide staircase to rescue his sister - who just happens to be their employer's recently adopted fourteen-year-old daughter. It reads like a scene out of a 1880s stage melodrama - appropriate since the protagonist here is the 1880s actress Evelyn Wentworth Murray - but this scene played out in Hillsborough Township, New Jersey on the banks of the Raritan River in the summer of 1896.


20 August 1896 New York Journal
Little is known today of Mrs. Murray's acting ability or stage credits except that she was in Maud Granger's troupe in the mid-1880s, but one thing we know for sure is that the lady knew how to make an entrance. On January 1, 1885, newspapers in Pittston, PA, Maysville, KY, St. Louis, MO, and all across the country reported the story of twenty-one-year-old Lena - the Countess DeGrasse - the beautiful actress and enchantress who went by the stage name Evelyn Wentworth.

5 January 1885 Maysville, KY, Daily Evening Bulletin

At the age of fifteen, Lena, whose actual surname remains a mystery to this day, was, according to later newspaper accounts, "led astray" by a boy who she was keeping company with, and fled from the Canadian village of her birth to Toronto. She stayed in Toronto three years before coming to Buffalo, New York. It was there that she picked up the appellation Countess De Grasse. It was said that as she drove a carriage through the streets of Buffalo, her dark hair, big blue eyes, red lips, and "beautifully developed figure" made her look like a Russian countess. 

1 January 1885 St. Louis Post Dispatch
Her charms had an effect on a young married man from a prominent Buffalo family. So much so that the man's father presented the Countess with $10,000 - an amount equal to over $230,000 today - to go back to Canada. This she gladly did, briefly, before taking her new-found fortune to New York to attempt to cultivate a career on the stage.

6 January 1885 St. Louis Post Dispatch

Lena returned the next year to Buffalo, and at some point met C. Clarke Vandeventer, a twenty-five-year-old merchant, and heir to a fortune left to him by his uncle Cyrus Clarke. Newspaper accounts state that Clarke pursued the Countess for more than a year before she agreed to his marriage proposal. The pair were secretly wed on September 7, 1884, since Vandeventer's friends did not think she was suitable for marriage. Things fell apart when he was on a business trip to New York at the end of the year. Mrs. Vandeventer appeared at police headquarters in Buffalo, a copy of her marriage certificate in hand, and proffered a charge of desertion against her husband. The episode played out over the next weeks, with Lena eventually receiving a settlement from Vandeventer, and returning to New York City to once again tread the boards.

30 October 1886 Huntington Indiana Daily Democrat -
a performance including Evelyn Wentworth and David Murray

Back to being Evelyn Wentworth, she joined the troupe of the renowned actress Maud Granger. Also in the company was David Murray, brother of NYPD Superintendent William Murray. The pair married while on tour in Mississippi, then again with a proper marriage license in Jersey City. In short order, the story took a familiar turn. In January 1888, Murray found himself in Manhattan's Yorkville jail charged with desertion and failure to support his wife. She went to see him during his 24-hour incarceration, and then met the press:
"I took him his dinner last night out of pity, and I said to him that I would let him out if he would give me a chance to get a divorce. He replied that no other man should ever call me his wife while he lived. He promised once to give me a divorce and I gave him money. He spent the money for oysters with his witnesses."
She got the divorce and within a year or so bought a farm on the south bank of the Raritan River in Hillsborough just west of the James B. Duke estate. The property was the former country residence of Secretary of State Frederick Theodore Frelinghuysen - the place where President Chester A. Arthur courted Frelinghuysen's daughter during his frequent trips to Hillsborough. The Frelinghuysen mansion had been recently lost in a fire, so Mrs. Murray commissioned a new residence.


20 August 1896 New York Journal

Mrs. Murray began spending summers on her farm which she dubbed "Wentworth" around 1892 - the year before James B. Duke came to town - splitting time between here and her New York apartment at 223 West 57th Street. Somerset County residents were not receptive to having the beautiful thirty-year-old divorcee in their midst. They were jealous of the luxury she displayed in her horses and carriages and gossiped about her eccentricities - including the time she buried her beloved poodle in a silver coffin, then had him dug up to take one last look at her baby.


21 January 1901 New York Evening World
But Mrs. Murray's biggest battles were with her servants. It took a staff of eight to run her 146-acre country estate, tending to the livestock, the gardens, the house, and especially the Countess herself. Just weeks before the incident described at the beginning of this tale - which ended with the young woman's brother being arrested for assault and both of them being dismissed from their duties - she fired the head gardener and his wife for impertinence, and then had her coachman swear out a warrant for the gardener after he threatened to break the coachman's back when he was told to fetch a policeman to have the couple removed from the premises.


22 March 1897 New York Sun
The tables were turned a year later when Mrs. Murray's twenty-two-year-old maid escaped at 3am to a nearby farmhouse, arriving beaten, bruised, and sporting a slash from a fruit knife across her face, with a tale of living in terror for two months. This led to Mrs. Murray's brief arrest a few days later, an assault charge, and the beginning of a $5,000 civil suit. The Countess spent the next three weeks in New York but returned on the day her maid was released from the hospital to have her arrested for forging and attempting to cash a check in her name. The criminal charges on both sides were thrown out, but Mrs. Murray took the stand in the civil trial at the end of the year, denounced her maid for having a "bad reputation" - and imported several witnesses to state the same - and stated emphatically, "I never laid a hand on a servant in my life."


3 April 1898 New York Times

Mrs. Murray also made headlines at her New York residence. Now living at 48 West 73rd Street, she had a notable run-in with an Italian-American produce vendor over a pear, some mushrooms, and several oranges. The ensuing fracas included a butler with a club, the flash of a stiletto, a broken down door, and one abject Sicilian in the 68th street lock-up. Two years later, back in Hillsborough, she somehow instigated a fight between two of her servants which ended with a bitten finger, a fugitive, and more appearances before justices.

7 June 1900 Philadelphia Inquirer

The fortunes of the Countess took a ruinous turn in 1900 as newspapers around the nation reported the devastating fire at Wentworth which destroyed the beautiful home on River Road she had built less than a decade earlier. She vowed to stay on the property, quickly building a new house.

4 July 1901 Rochester Democrat and Chronicle

As a longstanding vice-president and benefactor of the Somerset County SPCA, Mrs. Murray had long been concerned about the suffering of animals. Early in 1901, she turned her attention to the plight of working horses in New York City. She made headlines in January for having a cruel driver arrested, but saved her most novel remedy for later that summer. In her crusade to give tired horses a break in the heat of the city, she came up with the clever approach she described here:
"I just ride around in my automobile, and when I see a horse that is fagged out I stop the driver, chat with him nicely for a few minutes and then give him twenty-five cents to go get a glass of ice-cream soda. Of course, they always go to some saloon and buy beer instead of getting soda, but the horses get a little rest while they are drinking and that is what I am after."
She also brought her activism to Somerset County, providing the funds to build a drinking fountain for horses in Raritan and arranged for the SPCA to erect a second fountain on the road from Somerville to Pluckemin. 

11 November 1903 Home News

Mrs. Murray's next endeavor to ease the suffering of animals is shocking to us in 2018, but was only thought of as peculiar in 1903 - she systematically put to death every animal on her farm - the cattle, the horses, even the dogs. On account of her strict vegetarianism, she refused to sell any of her livestock for fear that it would wind up with the butcher. Newspapers reported how Somerville veterinarian E. R. Voorhees administered the lethal injections "with tears in his eyes." Still, Mrs. Murray ordered the procedures without compunction. Indeed, the Somerset County SPCA cheerfully enumerated the number of animals put out of their misery in their annual reports.

9 January 1904 New York Sun
There exist but few accounts of Mrs. Murray's interactions with her near neighbor James B. Duke. In December 1903, her servant John Garrigan, after being held in the county jail for six weeks, confessed to setting fire to a large hay barn on the Duke farm and also to destroying another large barn on the property two years previously. In a rare turn, the Countess vociferously defended her employee but had only nice things to say about Mr. Duke. 

"I am but slightly acquainted with Mr. Duke, and any time Mr. Duke called on me it was on business pure and simple, such as any good neighbor might do. If every one [sic] had such neighbors as I have, they could easily follow the Scripture and say thankfully: 'They loved their neighbors as themselves.'"
 Even 115 years later we may be able to read between the lines of that unsolicited protestation!

21 December 1904 Courier News
Tragedy struck again a year later when a lamp carried by Mrs. Murray's Japanese servant exploded just as the Countess was slipping into the bath. Frantic efforts to extinguish the flames proved useless, and Mrs. Murray was forced to escape with bare feet over the snowy fields to the tenant house. She spent two full days in self-imprisonment awaiting new clothes to be sent from New York. After she was able to properly attire herself, she had her coachman hitch up the sleigh for a shopping trip in Somerville to buy Christmas presents for all of her servants who had been so kind to her since the fire. 

23 December 1904 New York Sun


On the return trip, the horses were spooked by the trolley in Raritan, overturning the sleigh, bruising the Countess, and scattering Christmas presents everywhere. More concerned for the presents than herself, she searched through the snow for a big doll meant for the daughter of one of her employees. According to The New York Sun, when fifteen-year-old Raritan youth Philip Cahill found the doll in a snowbank and presented it to her, "she hugged the doll with one arm and Philip Cahill with the other in such a manner that caused the boy's face to turn almost the color of his scarlet muffler." When the trolley conductor approached her for the early 20th-century version of exchanging insurance information, she replied in the third person, "It is all right. Mrs. Murray will sue no one at Christmastide."

Read part 2 here.

22 March 2018

Hillsborough National Bank (1972 - 1987)

In April of 1971, as Hillsborough was preparing for the celebration of its bicentennial the next month, local and county Democrats got together to do something novel - start a bank. The list of organizers reads like a who's who of Somerset County politicians - Hillsborough Mayor John Guerrera, former county Democratic chairman John J. Carlin, Jr,, county prosecutor Michael Imbriani, Hillsborough Township Committee member Michael Cinelli, township judge Stanley Purzycki, Bernardsville Democratic leader Andrew Erchak, and Richard W. Herman, president of Hermann Services trucking and warehouse firm - of which Michael Cinelli was vice president.




Also on the list of organizers was William Bruce Amerman, George R. Farley, Albert J. Macchi, and Sylvester L. Sullivan. Approval was granted later that year for the Hillsborough National Bank, with an expected opening in 1972 at Route 206 and New Amwell Road. The proposed location was subsequently changed to the site of the A&P Shopping Center under construction at the intersection of Route 206 and Amwell Road.


30 January 1973 Courier News
The bank, with an initial capitalization of $1.75 million, opened in a "mobile banking center" on the site of the shopping center in September 1972, and quickly grew to total assets of near $4 million.

19720927 Courier News
Sylvester Sullivan served as the first president and chairman of the board. He was replaced by the appointment of Michael A. Cinelli as president on June 1, 1973. Cinelli, besides being a township committeeman and former president of the Hillsborough Township Board of Education, held a master's degree in finance from NYU and worked in the banking industry before becoming vice president-finance for Hermann Services, Inc.


11 July 1973 Courier News

Many of the first shareholders in the bank were Hillsborough residents. Hillsborough National Bank highlighted this in a series of ads which ran in 1973 and 1974, Recent Hillsborough High School graduate Alan Kravette was in the first ad, which subsequently featured the Fierst Family, George and Janet Wulster, Santa and Felix Carlisi, and the bank staff.


1973-74 "stockholder" ads
The new main offices broke ground on September 29, 1973, and opened one year later. The 10,000-square-foot building was a contemporary design by the firm of Eckert & Gatarz of South Brunswick.

19 September 1974 Courier News
Hillsborough National Bank also opened a location that same year at the corner of Route 206 and Triangle Road - the building now occupied by Levinson-Axelrod. It was at this branch on April 30, 1981, that a man entered and handed the teller a note which read, "I have a gun, put the money in the bag if you don't want to get hurt." He escaped in a waiting getaway car driven by a "dark-haired woman." Police noted that this was the fourth bank robbery in Central Jersey since the beginning of the year.


1 May 1981 Courier News

In 1984, Franklin Bancorp. announced a plan to acquire Hillsborough National Bank for $5.6 million. As Michael Cinelli explained:

"Our customers will get additional convenience. For example, people holding automatic teller cards will be able to use Franklin State's Treasurer machine at more that 6,000 terminals statewide and national."
Hillsborough National Bank's wholesale lending limit would also increase from $450,000 to more than $6 million. The agreement was finalized in January 1985, with Hillsborough shareholders receiving 2.1 shares of Franklin stock for each of their Hillsborough shares. By the end of the year, the entire company was merged with United Jersey Bank, and in May of 1987, Hillsborough National Bank was completely subsumed by United Jersey Bank with the merger of its boards and executives into one entity.


15 March 2018

Merusi's Tavern - Roycefield Inn (1933 - 1959)

The colorful Roycefield Inn made a final appearance in the news, and in the consciousness of Hillsborough residents, fifty-eight years ago when the two-story barn and tenant house on the property were destroyed in a spectacular fire.

12 March 1960 Courier News

At the time of the fire on March 11, 1960, the 200-year-old, 95-acre farmstead north of Triangle and west of Farm Road (at that time still called Roycefield Road) was owned by Somerville Poultry Farms - one of the largest producers of eggs in the northeast. An eight-year-old boy lit a match in the darkened barn filled with hay in an attempt to find his friend. 


12 March 1960 Home News

A refugee family of seven from Yugoslavia, who were living in the house and working on the farm, were displaced as the roof of the house, just five feet from the barn, came crashing down. Newspapers noted that the Roycefield Inn, closed since late in the previous year, was undamaged. Nevertheless, the storied tavern never reopened.



Detail from 1945 Hagstrom Somerset County Map

Around 1933, as Prohibition was ending, Mrs. Mary Merusi opened a tavern on the property that in the previous century was the Pierce farm. The widowed Italian immigrant's farm became a popular location for civic groups to have their picnics in the summer, and clubs to hold their dinners in the winter. In 1937 Merusi's Tavern was the site of the first meeting of the newly-formed Innkeeper's Protective Association of Hillsborough Township - essentially a lobbying body for the rights of innkeepers. By the end of the decade, Mrs. Merusi had remarried and within a few years sold the tavern to Charles and Mary Krassy of Manville who incorporated the business in 1941 as The Roycefield Inn.



28 July 1944 Home News

The Krassys did not own the tavern for long as 1943 news articles show the Roycefield Inn as being owned by Michael Mesko and family. Each of the Mesko's four sons was in service to America at this time - the elder three in military service and the youngest - just sixteen - working at the South Somerville Quartermaster Sub-Depot. Because he was unable to find any other labor to work the farm, Mesko sold the tavern to William Von Spreckelson and Otto Schreiver in May 1944. He got out just in time.
29 July 1944 Courier News

On July 27, 1944, forty-six-year-old Robert Westover - a Somerville resident employed at The Belle Mead Army service Forces Depot in Hillsborough - was spending the night out with the thirty-nine-year-old Anna Legedza - a married woman from Manville. They went first to the Amwell Farms Inn on Route 206, and then to the Roycefield Inn. It was there that they ran into Vincent Mullane, 50, also of Manville. Mullane resented the attention being paid to Mrs. Legedza from Westover and asked him to step outside where at least one punch was thrown. Mullane hit the ground and suffered a cerebral hemorrhage. 


11 April 1955 Home News
The couple picked up Mullane and put him in the passenger seat of his car while Westover got into the driver's seat and drove to Manville, Mrs. Legadza following in her own car. Police stopped Westover for speeding on Camplain Road and discovered Mullane, who was already dead, slumped in the front seat.  Westover was charged with murder, but in a plea deal three months later received five years probation and a $500 fine on an assault charge.


11 April 1955 Courier News

In the 1950s the Roycefield Inn was owned by Mr. and Mrs. John Askane. It was during this time that the establishment was cited on numerous occasions by the Alcohol Beverage Commission for allowing underage drinking, allowing altercations to take place, and allowing foul language to be used. It was that kind of place - full of payday rowdiness.



11 April 1955 Home News
The tavern next made the headlines in April 1955 when a hooded gunman showed up at the door of the tavern after closing at 2am telling Mrs. Askane that he forgot his keys. When she opened the door, he stepped forward into the light and revealed the hood covering his entire head and a shotgun in his hand. Mrs. Askane slammed the door - the muzzle of the gun shattering a glass pane - and the bandit ran off towards his car pursued by Mr. Askane. Near his car, he fired once at the proprietor, before speeding away towards Duke's Farm.



22 November 1958 Courier News

After what The Courier News described as a "payday brawl" knife fight in November 1958, the Alchohol Beverage Commission warned the Askanes to stop the use of "foul, filthy and obscene" language by customers.

That February 1959 warning letter likely lead the Askanes to close the Inn for good. In May 1960 the Roycefield Inn liquor license was transferred to Lucille Petrock who, according to the Home News, "plans to open a tavern on Amwell Road west of Route 206." I wonder how that worked out.

08 March 2018

Foodtown of Hillsborough (1969 - 1990)

William Mazur, an ethnic Pole from what was then the Austrian region of Galicia, emigrated to the United States about 1904 at the age of 16. He learned his trade by working as a helper in a butcher shop in Manhattan, eventually moving to Wilkes-Barre, PA, and then to Manville, NJ by 1916. He opened a butcher shop in the growing Hillsborough Township community which soon became the Manville Provision Company.

Mazur's ads which appeared in the Home News from left to right,
1933, 1955, and 1959

Around 1955 he got into the supermarket business with Mazur's Star Market. The distinguishing feature of supermarkets was that they were "cash and carry." Instead of giving a list to a grocer and paying at the end of the month, shoppers found their own items on shelves and paid at the time of purchase. By 1959, with sons Charles and John on board, they joined the Foodtown family of stores - rebranding the Manville store and opening a Foodtown in Somerville.

Ribbon cutting at the Hillsborough Foodtown - left to right -
co-owners John Plesa and Charles Mazur,
Hillsborough Township committeemen John Guerrera and Elliott Smith,
R.L. Eghertt Refrigeration president and vice president Ray Eghertt and Tom Marshall,
and Mrs. Mazur
Almost exactly seven years after William Mazur's death in October 1961, the cornerstone was laid for the construction of the Hillsborough Plaza Shopping Center at Route 206 and Andria Avenue. The anchor store for the center, which at its opening in May 1969 also boasted a Buxton's, a beauty salon, and a barber shop, was Mazur's third area Foodtown and the first modern supermarket in Hillsborough. Owners Charles Mazur and John Plesa touted the ample parking and seven checkout lines!

South Somerset News 22 May 1969

On November 9, 1977, a fire which is believed to have started in a faulty air conditioning or refrigeration system completely destroyed the interior of the 23,000 square foot store. Most of the food, including the canned food, was ordered by the township's health officer to be removed from the store and buried in the landfill.

Add caption

The renovated store was back up and running by February 1978. Both Charles Mazur and his brother John passed away later that year and operation of the supermarket fell to the Paczkowski family. In 1990 they were unable to negotiate an affordable renewal of their lease at the Hillsborough Plaza and were forced to close Hillsborough Foodtown on Saturday, March 17, 1990.

06 March 2018

Fairview School

Hot Lunch Club we're no fake,
See the dishes we can make,
Mix all well is the rule,
Hot Lunch Club of Fairview School
This was the cheery yell shouted by the members of the Fairview School's Hot Lunch Team as they demonstrated their techniques and took questions from the members of the Somerset County Teachers' Association at Somerville High School on April 17, 1920. These Branchburg students attended the "new" Fairview School built in Neshanic Station in 1914, but the original Fairview School was in use long before there was any village at all.


Fairview School, Neshanic Station, circa 1905
The school was sold in 1929
Maps from 1850 and 1860 show us that a schoolhouse was present on the site on Fairview Drive just outside of town even before the mid-1860s construction of the school in the above photo. In the mid 19th century this school was attended by the farm children from all over the southern part of Branchburg Township, and likely by children from Hillsborough as well.

Detail from 1860 map of Philadelphia, Trenton, and Vicinity
Fairview Schoolhouse at center

Amazingly, as the coming of the railroads in the 1860s and 1870s were the seeds that grew these farmers' fields into a thriving commercial center, filled with homes and businesses, Branchburg Township didn't get around to building a new school for the community until 1914. At that time, a new two-story, four-room school was built at the southeast corner of Marshall Street and Chester Avenue. This new Fairview School had problems right from the start. Despite being a "modern" building, there was still no central heating or indoor lavatories. And worse than that, the state did not approve of the manner in which the school was constructed, and did not allow the two classrooms on the second floor to be used. Those rooms were never finished and remained unfinished through the life of the school.


The "New" Fairview School,
14 May 1938 Courier News
Beginning in 1946, several proposals were put forward to bring the school up to standard, but none were approved. The school was put up for auction in 1950, but there were no takers because of zoning issues. As Branchburg's population began to boom in the early 1950s, the school was again pressed into service for younger grades.

5th through 8th-grade students at the new Fairview School,
1922-23 school year

In 1955, with the thirteen classroom addition to Hillsborough's Consolidated School (HES) not yet complete, the Hillsborough Board of Education rented the two classrooms at Fairview School to ease overcrowding and reduce the number of schools on double shifts.

Fairview School circa 1933.
Photo courtesy of Carlene Kuhl.

In the late 50s, Branchburg Township students overflowed into firehouses, rescue squad buildings, and, yes, the old Fairview School - still in use between 1956 and 1960, despite having been identified years before as inadequate.

2 February 1957 Courier News
The Branchburg Board of Education gave the school to the municipality in 1967, and they, in turn, disposed of the property in a land-swap in 1973, which led to the school's swift demolition.



01 March 2018

Asbestos Inn - Pal's Inn - New Hall Tavern (1930 - 1986)

The Asbestos Inn - not to be confused with the Asbestos Hotel - was a roadside tavern on Camplain Road in Hillsborough Township, just over the border from Manville. Said to have opened in 1930 - which seems at least three years too early for a tavern since Prohibition didn't begin to be phased out until the end of 1933 - the name of the establishment was changed at some point to Pal's Inn, probably for owner Charles Palahach.


1937 photo of Camplain Road showing the Asbestos Inn/Pal's Inn,
reprinted in the November 7, 1985, Somerset Messenger-Gazette,
 by way of the Manville History website
Meanwhile, in the summer of 1933 former Manville Police Chief John Jasinski was busy building a "combination residence and dance-hall" for his parents at the southeast corner of Camplain and Sunnymead Roads. Described as "the largest frame structure erected in Hillsborough Township in [the] last several years", the two-story house portion of the building was to be 44 by 22 feet, while the dance hall was planned for 67 by 32 feet, with an upper balcony.

6 August 1933 Home News
The establishment opened in 1934 as New Hall Tavern. A December 1936 shooting at the tavern led to an investigation by the state Alcohol Beverage Commission which uncovered discrepancies in the state license application. Although Frances Jasinski, the sister of the Manville Police Chief, applied for the license and was listed as the owner, she actually had nothing to do with the business and was being used as a "front" by John Jasinski to conceal his ownership. 

19 December 1936 Home News

Their license was suspended for sixty days, and Jasinski was ordered to sever all ties with the business before they could reopen. The New Hall Tavern re-opened after the 1937 suspension and continued for several years. In April 1945 the New Hall Tavern property was sold by Jasinski to Mr. and Mrs. Palahach. They promptly moved Pal's to the new location and began regularly advertising Friday and Saturday night dancing with live entertainment later that year.


1940s Entertainment at Pal's Inn

It would be difficult to find anyone who remembers the acts shown in the collage above - but they were popular entertainers in their day: Gay Young's Trio, The Village Chestnuts, Frankie Bourke's Trio, Charlie Allo and Carol Nye, Joe Zoppi, The Joe Mack Duo, The Three Jacks, and Johnny Carhart were all regulars at the popular weekend nightspot.




Charles Palahach sold Pal's in 1951 to Joseph and Mary Tomco of Manville who ran the place for a couple of years before selling to Edmund and Mary Jankowski in 1953. Almost immediately they decided to take the club in a new direction by introducing the area to country and western music. 


1950s Entertainment at Pal's Inn
Unlike the previous incarnation of Pal's which featured local and regional acts, the Jankowskis were able to book some national acts to appear on the Pal's stage. Big names like Smokey Warren and his Arizona Trail Blazers appeared alongside Paulette Marshall and her Western Dates, Chuck Palmer and his Rhythm Ranch Riders, The Western Capers, and the recently deceased Christopher Villano who performed as Chris Val and the Western Playboys.




Mary Jankowski passed away in 1960, and Edmund married second wife Catherine Vespromi in 1962. They continued to run the business successfully for another decade-and-a-half. Then on August 1, 1986, this small ad appeared in The Courier News:



Within a year the Jankowskis sold the property to Mario Baccarini who remodeled and reopened the establishment as Alfredo's Deli.