25 June 2019

Tine's Greenhouses - NJ Botanical Gardens (1891 - 2004)

John Tine was just 21 years old when he purchased an eight-acre property tucked into the northeast corner of the triangle formed by the intersection of the South Branch Railroad and what was then called Woodville Road, but today is known as Duke's Parkway. The year was 1891 and Tine's idea was to do something different with farming employing greenhouses.

10 September 1936 Courier News

The initial business consisted of propagating and selling vegetable plants to area farmers. Indeed, Tine considered himself to be a farmer and continued with this business model for many years, making deliveries by horse-drawn wagon.

A portion of a 1932 map showing the location of the Tine property.

In 1893 Tine got a new neighbor when tobacco tycoon James B. Duke began buying properties to the north, east, and eventually all around the eight-acre nursery to assemble his Duke's Park. Whether Duke was spurned in efforts to buy out the nursery, or simply did not deem the effort necessary, it appears he simply ignored the Tines. In fact, he located one of the main entrances to the park, the Eagle Gate, directly across from the greenhouses.

27 July 1941 Courier News
As the management of the business passed to Tine's son John V.A. Tine they began to move away from vegetables and started to offer geraniums, petunias, ornamental plants, and flowers. In the 1930s and 40s, they operated a successful flower shop on Main Street in Somerville.

1 June 1935 Home News

Before the days of plastic sheeting, running a business that depended on a couple of dozen glass-covered greenhouses could be hazardous. In one particularly devastating May 1935 hailstorm, the Tines lost 400 panes of glass. Doris Duke lost about 200 panes in the same storm. Three years later, Doris Duke set off the damage when dynamiting to remove her father's spectacular fountain terraces caused shock waves that again shattered a number of Tine's greenhouses.

1 August 1975 Courier News
In the 1970s with the business now being run by grandson Clifford Tine and wife Madge, they changed their name to New Jersey Botanical Gardens. In the 1970s and 1980s, the nursery became widely known across the state and hosted many special events - including appearances by legendary WOR radio host Ralph Snodsmith. By 1987 the nursery consisted of 14 greenhouses with 5,000 varieties of plants.

Third generation proprietors Clifford and Madge Tine,
 18 October 1987 Home News
Clifford Tine passed away in 2004 and the property was sold to Duke Farms in 2007.

19 June 2019

Faith Lutheran Church

Rev. Robert H. Loucks was something of an expert - not just in the Bible, but also in getting new churches up and running. So when the Lutheran Church in America was looking to organize a new congregation in Hillsborough in 1965, they knew who to call. Rev. Loucks had developed St. Stephen's in South Plainfield in 1955, and lately had served as pastor of Trinity Lutheran Church in Topton, PA. Now the Camden native was ready to come back to New Jersey and lend his guiding hand to a new Hillsborough church.

10 July 1965 Courier News

He spent the first two months in Hillsborough knocking on doors - 1300 doors to be precise - trying to find Lutherans or non-churchgoers who would be interested in supporting a Lutheran church in the township. Before long he reached his goal of sixty adults and forty children, and, with financial support from the New Jersey Synod of the Lutheran Church, Rev. Loucks held his first church service on October 10, 1965, at the Hillsborough Consolidated School (HES).

10 October 1966 Courier News
Exactly one year later, Faith Lutheran Church was officially organized as a congregation of the Lutheran Church of America. Now numbering 136, the congregation that had come together from 28 different area churches set their first goal - raising the first $1,000 for a church building fund. The Lutheran Church in America soon acquired 18 acres of land on the corner of Beekman Lane and what was then Amwell Road (now South Branch Road). Five acres were partitioned off for a church site.

19 May 1969 Courier News
In January 1967, Faith Lutheran Church purchased that 5 acres from their national organization and redoubled their fundraising efforts. To that end, the church employed a professional capital funds counselor and set an $8,000 "must" goal and an $11,000 "venture" goal - both soon surpassed. Groundbreaking for the initial structures at Faith Lutheran Church took place in May 1969.

15 December 1969 Courier News
The finished building consisting of a chapel and a classroom wing was dedicated on December 14, 1969. The contemporary church was designed by Michael Meloni. A major addition to the church was begun in 1992 and there has been yet another addition in recent years.

Aerial View from Google Maps
Faith Lutheran Church celebrated 50 years in Hillsborough in 2016, and will soon celebrate 50 years at its familiar location on Beekman Lane.

10 June 2019

Belle Mead Baptist Church - Fellowship Bible Church

As befitting the decentralized nature of the governing structure of the Baptist Church in the U.S., the Belle Mead Baptist Church didn't get its start as a mission project, or with permission from any regional church authority but rather, as explained by first pastor Rev. Harry B. Morris, "as a result of the spontaneous action of local people who felt a concern for the spiritual needs of their own area."

24 June 1967 Home News

The year was 1964, and Hillsborough residents who wanted to worship in a Baptist church found themselves having to travel miles to other towns. That, combined with the rapid growth of Hillsborough, almost guaranteed that a new church in Hillsborough would be a success. 

13 May 1967 Home News

The first Sunday service for the new church was held on November 22, 1964, at Hillsborough Fire company No. 2 on Route 206. The church also made use of the Rescue Squad building on Amwell Road, the Hillsborough Consolidated School (HES) and the Flagtown School. The church was officially incorporated in February of 1965 and one of its first acts was to establish a building fund.

18 November 1968 Courier News

In June 1966 the Belle Mead Baptist Church bought the 5 1/2 acre site at the corner of New Amwell and Auten Roads. It was correctly predicted that this site would be right in the middle of an anticipated housing boom. A year later, with the architect's plans and drawings in hand, the church launched a building drive to acquire the final funds needed to construct the $72,000 building.

7 March 1970 Courier News

Groundbreaking for the brick-veneered colonial style 36 by 92-foot building took place in November 1968, and the church was dedicated in March 1970. In 1976 the church changed its name to Hillsborough Baptist Church. In 2001 the church was renamed again to Fellowship Bible Church, possibly, as many Baptist congregations did during that time, to distance itself from the more fundamentalist Baptist churches in America.

Google Maps view

The nearly 50-year-old modest church building remains a treasured local landmark in Hillsborough.

03 June 2019

The South Branch General Stores (circa 1840 - 1975)

In the first half of the 19th-century, most of the Hillsborough Township village of Branchville - now known as South Branch - was owned by the Amerman family. They owned the mill and nearly every property on both sides of River Road north of the Quick farm and south of the covered bridge. When Gilbert and John Amerman donated the land for the Reformed Church in 1850 they had already been operating a general store south of the church property for some time.

19th-century photo of Bowman's original store,
as reprinted in the South Branch Reformed Church 150th anniversary book

James Bowman along with his wife and son, James Jr., emigrated from Scotland to Hillsborough in the late 1830s. Bowman was a tailor and soon set up shop in Branchville north of the Amerman property directly across from the bridge approach. It wasn't long before the Bowmans branched out into general merchandise, and by 1860 tiny Branchville had two general stores on River Road, the only avenue.

Detail from the 1860 map of Philadelphia and Trenton vicinity,
showing the location of the two general stores.

James Jr. began as a clerk and soon took over the store from his father who continued to provide services as a tailor. Meanwhile, the Amerman's gave up their store, Branchville changed its name to South Branch, and the village acquired a post office located in Bowman's store.

Amerman's store after it was relocated to the site of Bowman's store,
from a postcard circa 1907.
The decades passed to a new century and James Jr. passed the store and post office to his son Dewitt. In the early morning of March 22, 1903, a mysterious fire destroyed the store, swept to some adjoining buildings, and threatened the entire village. With a bucket-brigade and some providential rain, the village was spared - but the store and post office valued at $20,000 - almost $600,000 today - was a complete loss. Within weeks the 200 resilient residents of South Branch came up with a plan to get their store and post office back. They used wheeled planks to move the disused by sturdily built Amerman store up River Road from south of the church onto the Bowman property.

Borsmann's store and post office circa 1931

After Dewitt Bowman left the retail business in 1918 the store had a succession of owners. Marvin Sheets, who had previously run a store at Three Bridges, had the place from 1918 to around 1930. It then passed to Herman Borsmann who turned the place into more of a grocery store before retiring around 1940. It was about this time that the fourth class Post Office was discontinued for a diminished volume of mail. At the time the Post Office was reinstated in 1947 the establishment was known as the Abercrombie General Store.

2 December 1964 Courier News

The next owner of note was Robert Thomson who operated a small lending library out of the building until the US Postal Service prohibited it. He sold the store to James Amey in 1965 but stayed on as postmaster until 1967. In 1970 South Branch residents began to be concerned that the long-planned Raritan Confluence Reservoir - which would put most of the village under water - was imminent. Seeking protection for their many significant historic buildings - including the general store - the villagers requested a historic designation for their hamlet. The village was placed on the state and national historic registers in 1972.

James Amey and Mrs. MacArthur
29 July 1973 Home News

Many Hillsborough residents today fondly recall Amey's Store of the late 60s and early 70s. But by 1975, Amey had sold his store to the state of New Jersey in anticipation of the reservoir. He couldn't have realized at that time that a few years later local opposition to the reservoir would be successful in killing the plan. Unfortunately, the vacant, heavily vandalized store had become an eyesore in the community - the mayor called it "a pile of junk" -  and the historic designation, unwittingly, made it difficult for the state to raze it. However, after several attempts to sell the store at auction, it was finally demolished on April 29, 1981.

1981 demolition