23 February 2017

OOOOOH! 8844 Part 2

At the end of 1995, the Hillsborough Township Committee officially endorsed a proposal to eliminate the postal designations of Somerville, Belle Mead, Neshanic Station, Skillman, and Flemington - and their corresponding ZIP codes - within the municipality, to be replaced by one centrally located US Post Office, and one unifying address - Hillsborough.

Advertisement from the 28 March 1996 Courier News

To gain final approval, 85% of township homeowners, landlords, and business owners would have to return a single-question survey indicating if they were in support of, or opposed to, the plan. Of those, more than 50% would have to support the plan for it to move forward. After some initial grumbling about who would pay to mail the surveys - the township or the post office - surveys finally went out near the end of the winter.

17 April 1996 Courier News

Responses were slow to come back. As of April 24, 1996, Hillsborough was still 1,500 votes short of the number needed to reach 85%. The good news was that because 78% of the returned surveys were "Yes" votes, even if every one of the outstanding 1,500 surveys came back with a "No" the plan could not be defeated. The town was given 28 more days to collect the necessary surveys.

On June 3, 1996, The Courier-News reported that a sufficient number of surveys had been returned and counted and that more than 75% of 8,638 were in favor of the Hillsborough post office. With Hillsborough residents wondering where this post office would be built, Deputy Mayor Brett Radi was quoted as saying, "I don't know if there are any feasible municipal sites".

13 December 2000 Courier News

After much consideration, the familiar site on Amwell Road was announced on September 8, 1998. With construction nearing completion in September 2000, the USPS web site inadvertently leaked the long-awaited new Hillsborough ZIP code. Visitors to the site found that when they searched for Hillsborough, NJ, the site returned 08844 as the ZIP.

The grand opening was held on Friday, December 1, 2000. 

I usually refrain from personal commentary in these types of posts, but I have to ask, looking at the photo above, what kind of a montage would you like to give the current Hillsborough postmaster?

16 February 2017

OOOOOH! 8844

According to Snell's History of Hunterdon and Somerset Counties (1881), there were thirty-four post offices in Somerset County in 1879. Nine were in Hillsborough - ten if you count Clover Hill. The others were located at Blackwell's Mills, Frankfort (Flaggtown), Hillsborough, Millstone, Montgomery (the hamlet on Montgomery Road), Neshanic, Roycefield, South Branch, and Weston.

From the 1873 map

Having more than a quarter of all the post offices in Somerset County located in one township was convenient for residents, but certainly didn't help Hillsborough's identity problem. Look through any old local newspaper from the 19th or early 20th centuries and you will realize that no one lived in Hillsborough (until it came to tax time!). People regarded themselves as inhabitants of their local hamlets.

As the town progressed through the 1800s and into the 1900s, the post offices were closed, or incorporated into other jurisdictions - Weston to Manville, Millstone to Millstone. At the same time, the larger housing developments which began to spring up after 1955 belonged to no village in particular. One of the last post offices to close, at the end of the 1970s, was the one which operated out of Amey's General Store in South Branch. This left only the Flagtown Post Office which had been relocated to its current location decades earlier.

As development continued apace through the 1970s and 80s, Hillsborough residents not living in Flagtown were assigned addresses and Zip Codes corresponding to post offices in neighboring municipalities - Somerville, Belle Mead, Neshanic Station, Skillman, or Flemington. For many residents this was just fine, for others the 1980s were now worse, postally speaking, than the 1880s! At least those old post offices were IN Hillsborough.

The Courier News 18 June 1995
The 80s became the 90s and Hillsborough residents continued seeking solutions. One proposal that didn't gain a lot of traction was for the municipality to be divided into four postal zones each with an address containing the word "Hillsborough".  There had to be a better idea than that.

The Courier News 19 September 1995

By the summer of 1995, the township committee was still undecided about which course to pursue. Township Committeewoman Helen "Chickie" Haines told the Courier News that having one post office "would unite the community".
"I think it would be terrific. I think it will give us a sense of community. Besides that I think it's neat to have a centrally located post office of a proper size for this community."
Committeeman George Ostergren wasn't so sure, telling the Courier News, "I haven't seen any gung-ho activity in Hillsborough Township for the change."

Once the US Postal Service was on board with the idea of a centrally located Hillsborough post office, a USPS district manager explained that the people of Hillsborough would also need to hop on. At least 85% of residents would need to return a mailed survey - and at least 50% of those would have to be in favor of the post office. And, of course, the township committee would have to endorse the plan.

Courier News 16 December 1995

To help gauge public opinion, the township committee commissioned a two-day telephone poll conducted over the weekend of December 16th and 17th 1995. Although there were only 135 responses, 111 were in favor of the plan, and the township committee dutifully gave their endorsement at their December 19th meeting.

All that was left was for the USPS to send out their survey, and wait for the mail to come in.

Read Part 2 here.

14 February 2017

Anna Case and Her Dogs

The career of soprano Anna Case is filled with many distinctions. The South Branch, New Jersey blacksmith's daughter was the first singer to appear at the Metropolitan Opera without European training, she sang live over the radio in some of the first transmissions to reach a wide audience, and she was featured in the first program of motion picture "talkies" - singing a song that she wrote herself.

7 February 1915 New York Times
But Anna Case wasn't the only member of her family with a historic first. Her prize-winning dog Boris was the first Russian Wolfhound to appear on stage with the Metropolitan. He was led onto the stage by Italian baritone Antonio Scotti for a scene in The Huguenots during a December 1914 performance. The New York Herald described Boris as "a picturesque dog, even when suffering from stage fright, as he was last night."

Portrait by artist Michel Jacobs as reproduced in the
February 1925 Edison Phonograph Monthly magazine.

It is fair to say that the diva loved her dogs, and especially loved Boris. She was photographed numerous times with both Boris (official name Ranco o' Valley Farm) and his son Nickolai. She even chose to have her portrait done by artist Michel Jacobs posing with Boris.

With Boris at The Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show, February 1915

She also loved showing her dogs, entering them many times over the years at the Westminster Kennel Club annual show, and others on Long Island.

25 March 1923 Asheville, NC Citizen-Times

Anna Case kept her dogs as close as possible. They stayed with her in her New York apartment when she was in town and joined her at her summer residences whether at the Jersey Shore or on Long Island. When she was on tour, the dogs went to stay with her mother in South Branch.

With Boris in New York, October 1916

With Boris and Nickolai on Long Island, August 1921

Summer 1930

Dogs remained an important part of the life of Anna Case after her marriage to communications industry mogul Clarence H. Mackay in 1931, She continued to show dogs, and the couple was photographed often with their pooches. 

With Brownie at the Westbury Dog Show September 1936.

The Mackays with Bang Stone Peggy and Duke, May 1937

Anna and Brownie