24 July 2019

Polish Falcon Camp (1933 - 2017)

The Polish Falcon Camp on the appropriately-named Falcon Road in Hillsborough Township, New Jersey can trace its roots back to the opening of the Polish-American Home on August 31, 1930, in Manville. More than 6,000 attendees enjoyed a parade, evening dance, and festivities celebrating Polish heritage.

Polish Falcon Camp, Hillsborough - postcard
With such a tremendous turnout, it wasn't long before there was talk of organizing a local chapter of the Polish Falcons of America. The Polish Falcons - begun in 1863 with the first American "nest" forming in 1887 - is a fraternal organization with a strong emphasis on physical fitness.

2 September 1930 Courier News

William Mazur of South River, who had been connected with other Falcons chapters in New York and New Jersey, and was a physical fitness buff himself, pushed for a new Manville area chapter. The unit was finally organized in March 1932 with Edward Knitowski elected as the first president.

1950s and 1960s ads for events at the Polish Falcon Camp

Organizers immediately set about looking for land to build a camp where they could have swimming and other outdoor recreational activities necessary for their mission, while also providing buildings for indoor entertainment and meeting space. In 1933, 80 acres of farmland on Weston Road - soon to be renamed Falcon Road - was purchased and buildings were constructed. 

Polish Falcon Camp, Hillsborough -  postcard

The camp was dedicated on Sunday, July 16, 1933, as Polish Falcon Camp, District 1. Stormy weather didn't prevent 2,000 people from attending the festivities. When the organization was incorporated the next month it was expressed that the aim of the club was, "social, athletic and civic in its scope of cementing love of their parent homeland in Polish Americans."

1970s ads for events at the Polish Falcon Camp.

The Polish Falcon Camp quickly turned into a popular entertainment destination for both members and non-members. For decades patrons could enjoy a night out with dancing and music by such notables as the Gaines Orchestra, the Kryger Brothers, Stan Skawinski, Jimmy Sturr, and Stanky and His Pennsylvania Coal Miners.

Polish Falcon Camp, Hillsborough - postcard
But of course, physical fitness and recreation remained a primary part of the Polish Falcons. There was always the annual summer camp and swimming in the pool. 

Long-time area residents will remember the fire Christmas morning of 1966 which destroyed the main building of the camp. An overnight snowstorm left volunteer firefighters with the task of first digging out their cars before they could respond to the firehouses. A Somerset County snowplow proved to be one of the most valuable pieces of equipment on the scene.

Barbara Zukowski, Miss Falcon 1969 - and Lisa Formus, Miss Falcon 1991

A new community center was completed in May 1968 and the camp continued for another five decades with all of its regular activities, including the annual Miss Falcon contest.

By 2017, with interest in ethnic heritage organizations on the wane, the owners of the property, Polish Falcons of America, rebranded the camp as Falcon's Nest - a modern catering facility with meeting, dining, and activity rooms as well as an outdoor stage.

17 July 2019

Golf Land (1996 - 2002)

In the summer of 1995 Larken associates received Planning Board approval to build a driving range and miniature golf course on Hillsborough Road just east of Route 206 and the Conrail overpass. At that time the Hillsborough Township Committee was still promoting the idea of an expressway named Corporate Way through that section of the municipality, and Planning Board members liked the idea of a facility of this type in the area, with Board President Thomas Bates noting that a driving range might be an "incentive for corporations to move to Hillsborough."

5 May 1996 Courier News
Initial plans called for a 40-tee year-round driving range, a state-of-the-art miniature golf course - no windmills here - batting cages, a pro shop, and a snack bar. Shortly after ground was broken in the spring of 1996, PGA club pro Robert Mauer was brought on to direct the golf operations - which included setting up driving and miniature golf tournaments, conducting golf seminars and providing lessons.

1 August 1996 Courier News
Before the grand opening in July, it was announced that the recreation center would also include a pro shop and a snack bar. Freeholder Director Peter Biondi got a sneak peek at the facility a few days before opening when he beat out Thomas Bates and Mayor Ken Scherer in a driving competition by being the only player to land his ball on the green.

13 April 1997 Courier News

By the time Golf Land opened the snack bar had evolved into a separate concession called Cafe on the Greens owned and operated by Wayne and Dawn Blauth who also owned the Pennington Bagel Experience. The cafe, which received favorable reviews, was open every day early for breakfast and closed late at 10 or 11pm depending on crowds.

3 July 1997 Home News
In 1997 Golf Land expanded by adding a second tier of 20 stalls to its driving range. It was noted that all of the 40 stalls in the lower tier were lighted and heated for year-round use.

31 August 1997 Courier News

Robert Mauer used all of the latest late-90s technology in his lessons, including videotaping his students' swings. He also predicted that virtual reality was the future of teaching golf and was looking forward to bringing it to Hillsborough.

29 September 1997 Courier News

After the initial excitement of the first few years, Golf Land settled down to steady business at the range, mini-golf, and batting cages. It was a popular destination for parties and club activities.

13 June 2002 Courier News

In 2002, Golf Land was demolished and the land was purchased for the Route 206 Bypass project.