30 June 2009

The New Amwell Road

Now that we are closer than ever to realizing the long-awaited Route 206 bypass, it may be a good time to pay tribute to Hillsborough's first bypass.

click on the map to see the big picture
In the beginning, there was the Amwell Road - an important highway going back to colonial times winding from New Brunswick to Amwell. At some point in the first half of the 19th century a new road was built paralleling Amwell Road between Millstone River Road and Beekman Lane.

That new, improved highway was called the New Amwell Road!

The 1860 Farm Map of Hillsboro shows both routes. I have traced the original Amwell Road in red, and the New Amwell Road in blue.

It is easy to see the advantages the new route had over the older in 1860. It was a more direct route, on a newer road, and only required a 2/10 of a mile jog at Beekman Lane to get back on Amwell Road.

So why didn't the New Amwell Road become the dominant East-West traverse through Hillsborough? Why didn't it become County Route 514? My guess is that it came down to business. We know Woods Tavern was on this stretch of Amwell Road, as were, undoubtedly, other businesses. Ultimately, it was the original Amwell Road that was continually improved and upgraded over the years, while New Amwell lagged behind.

This is conjecture, of course, but if any readers have other information or theories about Hillsborough's original bypass, I'd love to hear them.

[The 1860 New Amwell Road consisted of today's New Amwell Road and Hamilton Road. Before the construction of Route 206 split the road in two, this was one continuous route.]

29 June 2009

The New Bridge

Motoring west on Amwell Road just got a whole lot easier now that the Neshanic River bridge has been completely rebuilt and opened for traffic. And heading back east is pretty good, too, as these photos attest.

28 June 2009

Fireworks - Up Close

On Friday June 19, Hillsborough students from Sunnymead and Woodfern schools, along with about 8,000 other baseball fans, jammed TD Bank Ballpark for an exciting night of Somerset Patriots baseball.

Jeff Nettles made three amazing plays at third base in one inning, and the Patriots lit up the scoreboard.

But the real fireworks came after the game. What a show!

27 June 2009

Fireworks - From a Distance

One of the advantages of living in my neighborhood - especially right on the corner of Beekman Lane - is that even if mommy is out of town and your daughter has the flu, you don't have to miss the fireworks!

Here are a few photos taken from the front lawn.

Hillsborough, NJ Fireworks 2009
Hillsborough, NJ Fireworks 2009
Hillsborough, NJ Fireworks 2009
Hillsborough, NJ Fireworks 2009
Hillsborough, NJ Fireworks 2009

24 June 2009

Distressing Death - and a Warning

There are no accidents in Hillsborough in 1835, only tragic consequences of sinful behavior! Read this 1835 newspaper story - especially the last line.
Distressing Death. - A melancholy occurrence took place on Wednesday the 4th inst. at a coal pit belonging to Mr. Henry Young, in the vicinity of Rock Mills, Sourland Mountains, 6 or 7 miles north of Princeton, New Jersey.

The particulars are briefly as follows: While one of the hands, a young man named John Hinckle, was lying asleep in the shed attached to the coal pit, the shed took fire, and was instantly enveloped in flames. Another of the hands at a short distance, perceiving the fire, ran to the assistance of the unfortunate man, waked him from his perilous slumber, who walked through the devouring element, being literally on fire. His clothing was almost consumed on him, and himself shockingly burnt. He suffered inexpressible agonies until the following Sunday, when death released him from his bodily pains. He is said to have presented a spectacle revolting to the feelings, and of inconceivable misery. It is also asserted that he was in a state of intoxication at the time he was burnt. An awful warning to the intemperate.

[Albany, NY Evening Journal, 2 February 1835]

23 June 2009

New Day, New Blog Format

[I have a new blog format over at MyCentralJersey.com, and a new name for the blog - The View From Hillsborough. Here is the first post.]

Welcome to the third iteration of the “Hillsborough Blog” in thirteen months, aptly titled The View From Hillsborough.

To those readers who have made the journey from the old Blogger site past the MyCentralJersey site and finally here, THANK YOU!

It’s been quite a trip already, but there’s still more to see. What’s ahead for Hillsborough? How did we get here? I’ll give you my take on what’s happening - and I want to hear from you, too.

Come share the View.

22 June 2009

Enough To Make You Sick

I can't take it anymore. I have to weigh in on the Health Care debate.

What is coming out of D.C is enough to make you sick. Proposals that will turn the nation with the BEST health care in the world for the vast majority of its citizens into a nation of poor health care for everyone are coming fast and furious.

What is wrong with the health care we have now? Simple answer - some people fall through the cracks. They aren't old enough for Medicare, not poor enough for Medicaid, or have lost the job that used to provide their coverage.

Simple solution. Since Medicare, for all of its faults, still seems to work, why not just extend Medicare to YOUNGER PEOPLE. Let's go all the way down to 55. Let's do it over a period of five to ten years. If you can make it to 55, you're set. Younger than 55, make sure that you or your spouse has a job that covers you. Over 55 - Hey! Your employer is now off the hook for that huge expense. Under 18? Let the states figure that out - most have programs for children.

That's it. My solution. Oh, by the way, every other "cost savings" that President Obama has spoken about - computerization of medical records and the like - can work under my plan also. And we won't need to bankrupt our country first, or kill a lot of citizens with crummy nationalized medicine first.

21 June 2009

Wrong Way on Orchard Road

To the person who believes driving in reverse on Orchard Road allows one to travel the WRONG WAY on this ONE WAY STREET, I have news for you. You are plain wrong.

Furthermore, I didn't appreciate having to slam on the brakes as I made that left turn from South Branch River Road today and found myself about to be "front-ended" by the rear-end of your SUV!

I wonder how many residents of the west end of Orchard - or their guests - routinely sneak out the wrong way. Please, be lawful - or at least be careful.

View Larger Map

20 June 2009

For Sale

" C R E S T L I N E F A R M"
Near Somervllle. N. J. (Duke's Park)
for Sale—To Close Estate.
Old, Pre-Revolutionary Homestead of 8
Generations of the QUICK Family.

Highest elevation of rolling farm land in
north central New Jersey, with panoramic
outlook over Somerset and Hunterdon
counties and the Rarltan River Valley for
20 miles. Wonderful view of Sourland
Mountain around and over which Washington
marched a handful of troops until
he convinced the British in New Brunswick
that he had a powerful army.

Large, 2-story, slate-roofed, modern-built
residence in excellent condition: 5 bedrooms,
4 rooms, 16x16 for library, living and
dining room, and kitchen, porches, wide
halls with open staircase. Lawn of several
acres, boxwood-bordered paths, shrubbery,
large old shade trees, garden, orchard,
fruit of all sorts. One of the best dairy,
grain and fruit farms, 130 acres in high
state of cultivation, well-drained and tiled,
never rented. 6 acres woodland, large new modern
farm and dairy barns, running
water, carriage, auto and machinery
houses. Also old Colonial-built farmhouse,
huge hand-hewn ceiling beams, wide 10-
foot fireplaces, crane and kettle, Dutch
doors with upper and lower halves and
hand-forged hinges.

Two miles north of Neshanic Station on
Lehigh Valley and N. J. Central lines.
40 miles from New York, 7 miles west of
Somerville and the wonderful Duke's Park.
2 miles from the old York-Philadelphia Post Road.

Exclusively old Colonial-American community.
Good stone roads. Telephones and electricity
for light and power available. Completely
stocked. Holstein dairy herd, horses,
full equipment machinery and tools. For
full details, photos and directions for inspection,
South Haven, Mich. (Executor).

[Brooklyn Daily Eagle 24 August 1928]

17 June 2009

Hillsborough Fireworks FAQs

What: Fireworks and Family Fun Night

When: Saturday June 27, 4:30 p.m. Fireworks begin at approximately 9:15 (rain date June 28)

Where: Auten Road Intermediate School

Why: Refreshments - hamburgers, hot dogs, chicken, desserts, etc. Entertainment - inflatable games for the kids including the big slide, Melzo the Clown, mr. Ray at 6:30, the CC Coletti Band at 8:00, fireworks at 9:15.

How: Free shuttle buses from the middle school and high school beginning at 4:30.

More Questions? Call the Parks and Recreation Department at 908-369-4832

16 June 2009

Basilone Boro?

What do you think of the recent suggestion that the Borough of Raritan change its name? The idea was pooh-poohed in the pages of the Courier News, but I believe it has merit.

The borough is one of two remaining Raritans in New Jersey. The Middlesex County Township of Raritan changed its name to Edison in 1954 and the Monmouth County Raritan changed to Hazlet in 1967 - too late for the new high school built in 1962, which retains the former name. In each of these instances, the town took the name of a notable past resident. Would it be so unthinkable for Raritan Borough to do likewise?

South Belmar became Lake Como in 2004, and Dover Township changed to Toms River Township in 2006. The changes were made to end confusion and help differentiate each town from similarly named municipalities.

It hasn't been as easy for the six Washingtons (5 townships, 1 borough), or the five Franklins (4 townships, 1 borough) scattered throughout New Jersey. Each of those communities is ALREADY named for someone famous - and proud of it. Who would cast a vote against George Washington or Benjamin Franklin?

But Raritan? It's named after a river. Changing the name of the borough won't dishonor the river, but would instead honor a hometown hero who became a national hero.

What do you think?


I wrote about Raritan's confusing name last year. Click here to read.

14 June 2009

No Cover

Before I am pummeled for providing cover for my "political pals" or any other such nonsense, I want to make my opinion of the upcoming town-wide property revaluation perfectly clear.

I am in favor of a fair system for assessing property taxes. An all-at-once revaluation is the fairest system there is. Some will argue that a system of rolling reassessments, if conducted correctly, can work just as well. Maybe that's true in some locales - but it didn't work in Hillsborough.

Yes, the expense bothers me. Any time we are spending close to a million dollars we had better be sure we are getting something for it. In this case, I believe we are getting something - a level playing field that will wipe away years of unequal tax assessments.

13 June 2009

There's Value in Revaluation

This week, the Hillsborough Township Committee awarded Appraisal Systems, Inc. a contract to perform the first town-wide property revaluation in more than a quarter century. A revaluation is a comprehensive assessment of every township property performed in one finite period, producing a "snapshot" of the value of each property. Previous methods of assessing property values used by the township, most notably the "rolling reassessment" program used through 2003, did not look at all properties - focusing on properties that had undergone improvements or areas of town that had significant resales.

A problem with rolling reassessments is that it is possible for inequities to build between frequently and infrequently assessed properties and neighborhoods. Although this happens rarely - and this program is used succesfully in most other towns - it did happen in Hillsborough. This led to Hillsborough stopping rolling reassessments in 2003.

The benefit of a revaluation is that it provides for a fair assessment of every property relative to every other property. In other words, when the project is completed in 2010, everyone will be paying their fair share of property tax!

The downside to the revaluation is that it is expensive. The rolling reassessments were conducted by township employees as part of their regular responsibilities. The marginal costs were minimal. The town-wide revaluation will be done by an outside company - and comes with an $800,000 price tag.

Still, that is $400,000 lower than the anticipated cost - and a whopping $1.2 million lower than the number being bandied about in some of the blogs. Also, Hillsborough can pay off this obligation interest-free over a five year period. And better still, this type of revaluation will be so all-encompassing that it probably won't need to be done for at least another ten years.

At the most, the revaluation will be costing Hillsborough $80,000 a year averaged over that ten year period. Not chicken feed, for sure, but well worth it to level the taxpayers playing field for the next decade - or longer.

12 June 2009

What's Down, Doc?

Time to fold up the rabbit ears for good. As of June 12, 2009, over the air broadcast television is kaput!

I think I was about 12 years old when Mom and Dad bought me a small second-hand black and white T.V. It sat on my dresser all through my teen years. It looked a lot like the one in the picture above.

I spent hours - HOURS - adjusting the antennas - VHF and UHF. I especially enjoyed Monty Python on PBS, WWF wrestling, the classic Saturday Night Live, and all of the old re-runs. Ha - old re-runs! This was 1976! I guess they are ancient re-runs now.

11 June 2009

"Living in Somerset County"

Over the years I have seen and studied many maps and plans depicting the proposed route(s) of the Somerset Freeway - the missing link of Interstate 95 through central New Jersey. None are as peculiar as the map I presented in yesterday's blog.

Peculiar because of the way the route of the proposed highway narrowly skirts the border of Montgomery Township, careful to stay completely within Hillsborough and Franklin townships as it bisects Somerset County.

The map appears on the back cover of "Living in Somerset County", a thirty-two page booklet published in 1974. The book contains descriptions of everything that makes living here great - today and thirty-five years ago - including profiles of all the municipalities. There is extensive information about all of the school districts. For example, Hillsborough's per pupil expenditure in 1974 was $824.99, and a teacher's starting salary was $8400!

Today, the book reads like a fascinating encyclopedia of an often overlooked period in Somerset County's history. In 1974 it probably read like what it really was - a sales pitch.

"Living in Somerset County" was published by Claudia Condo Pascale, Realtor - with research by Beverly L. Perkins, her Director of Public Relations.

Born in Raritan and living in Bridgewater since 1963, Ms. Pascale was one of Somerset County's most notable Realtors of the last fifty years. She was the first woman to be president of the Somerset County Board of Realtors, the chairman of the Arbitration Committee of the Hunterdon-Somerset Association of Realtors, and the first Realtor in New Jersey to receive a designation as a Certified Residential Realtor from the National Association of Realtors.

So what about the map? Is there a sales advantage to showing the proposed Interstate 95 as traversing only Hillsborough and Franklin - and avoiding Montgomery? And is this supposed to help sales in Hillsborough? Montgomery?
Sadly, Ms. Pascale passed away on December 3, 2008 at the age of 92, so we may never know the answer for sure.

10 June 2009

The Bypass Is Coming

You didn't think I was talking about THAT bypass, did you?

This is a map of Somerset County showing one of the many proposed routes for Interstate 95 - the 1974 version.

Notice how the mapmakers have been very careful not to touch one square foot of Montgomery Township. Instead, the Somerset Freeway bisects Hillsborough quite neatly.

What's up with that?

Find out tomorrow!

09 June 2009

879 Affordable Low Income Houses

Low income housing is coming to central New Jersey. Wait - did I just write that? Shouldn't I have written "affordable housing"?

Not this time. Now, thanks to the feds, we can call it what it really is. At least the announcement last week that $19.5 million was coming to the region in the form of federal Low Income Housing Tax Credit Funds - with another $20.6 million in American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funding - allows us to drop the absurd "affordable housing" moniker.

In housing, like in every other product, you get what you pay for. The market expands to fill every niche. If you are making an "income" - even a "low income" - there is a home out there for you. Maybe not in your first choice city or neighborhood - but that's always something to aspire to.

I can't imagine anyone aspiring to live in low income housing - no matter how affordable it is.

08 June 2009

$115,000 Saved

Have you noticed the signs taped to the doors at the municipal complex? The ones that read, "Thursday's meeting of the Hillsborough Planning Board has been canceled"?

The economic downturn has led to a severe decrease in the amount of construction in the township, and in the number of building applications - and in everything else that goes with that, including inspections.

Hillsborough has found a way to save money in that department by combining the responsibilities of two state-mandated positions - the Fire Subcode Official and the Building Subcode Official. The new position will be ably filled by Jack Daniels - the current Fire Subcode Official - at a modest salary increase of just $5000. Not replacing the current Building Subcode Official, who recently retired, will save Hillsborough $115,000 in salary and benefits.

And what if construction REALLY dries up?

Bound Brook combines four state-mandated positions - Construction Official / Building Subcode Official / Electrical Subcode Official / Fire Subcode Official - leaving only the Plumbing Subcode Official in a separate paid position.

07 June 2009

The Traditional Second Anniversary Blog

If you are reading this in the print edition of the Courier News, congratulations! To you, dear reader, and the newspaper. Since I started writing "On Hillsborough" in June 2007, dozens of newspapers nationwide have shut down their presses - 120 just since January 2008.

Ad revenue for America's newspapers was 23% lower in 2008 than in 2007, mostly due to dwindling circulation. And I don't have to tell you who the culprit is. If you are NOT reading this in the newspaper, you already know.

What happens when newspapers fold? Big cities that were once home to two or more competing papers are now down to one. And some one-paper-towns, like San Francisco, may soon have no daily newspaper at all.

SAN FRANCISCO - FEBRUARY 24:  San Francisco Ch...Image by Getty Images via Daylife

Gannett - the parent company of the Courier and the Home News Tribune - and its major competitor McClatchy will likely survive, but it has already been painful. Many local newspaper employees have been terminated or furloughed - while revenues continue to plummet.

So, is the newspaper dead? I don't think so. As people continue to turn to the internet to get their information, there is no reason newspapers can't incorporate what makes the 'net work into their print editions. The Courier News and Home News Tribune have already begun to do that by cross-promoting their special and general interest blogs, and there is so much more that can be done.

I am excited to begin my third year writing "Gillette on Hillsborough". As the traditional second anniversary gift is cotton, I think I may go out tomorrow and pick up some cotton paper, the archival stuff that lasts 200 years, and print out a couple of my blog posts for posterity. Because when it comes right down to it, it's the "ones and zeros" that are most ephemeral. It's the paper that lasts.

Let's hope that goes for newspaper too.