31 January 2021

Charlie's Farm Inn (circa 1930 - 1981)

Cesare and Maria Quirico came to the United States from Italy in the first quarter of the 20th century eventually settling in Hillsborough. Here they operated a guest house which eventually became the extremely popular Charlie's Farm Inn. Today it is known as The Landing.

Charlie's Farm  Inn circa 1974 - 
Note the hunter and game bird in acknowledgment
of the roots of the establishment. 

The property where the inn was located on Amwell Road was for decades the home of Peter Sutphen Van Doren. He worked his 70-acre farm prosperously until his death in 1899 at the age of 93. 

Part of a New York Acreage Estates map from 1944

After the turn of the century, many hundreds of acres of land bordered by the Philadelphia and Reading Railroad and Millstone River Road - west to east, and Amwell Road and Hamilton Road - south to north, were owned by New York Acreage Estates, Inc., and styled as Sunnymead Farms. This large corporate farm raised a little bit of everything - wheat, poultry, etc. - and was especially known for its pear orchards. There was also seasonal hunting over 1200 acres and in later years private hunting clubs on the property.

Vintage matchbook cover - 
collection of Gillette on Hillsborough

It was around 1930 that the Quiricos opened their home as a guest house catering primarily to hunters. It's Hillsborough lore that hunters would arrive at Charlie's Farm after a day of flushing pheasants from the grass to have their birds prepared for an evening's dinner.

3 September 1959 Courier News

In the 1940s, 50s, and 60s, Charlie's Farm Inn became the premier destination in the south end of Hillsborough for an Italian dinner or any special occasion. From weddings and anniversaries to retirement parties and testimonial dinners, the Inn hosted it all. Every type of civic and fraternal organization utilized the dining and meeting space for their functions. It was here that the Belle Mead Rotary Club - now the Rotary Club of Hillsborough - first formed in 1955 and awarded their first student scholarships in 1959. In the 60s and 70s, it was also the meeting place for Sophisticated Suburbanites - a kind of singles' club with membership open to men between the ages of 24 and 40, and women from 21-39!

Ads from 1962, left, and 1970

Charlie's Farm Inn incorporated as a restaurant with Cesare (Charlie) Quirico owning 52% of the company and sons Frank and Angelo each having a 24% stake. After Cesare passed away in 1963, and Frank in 1978, Angelo sold the restaurant to Neil Van Cleef and Vince Lipani in 1981. They reopened that same year as Pheasant's Landing - including featuring pheasant under glass on a revamped menu.

Charlie's Farm Inn entrance, circa 1975

The old inn is now in its third iteration as The Landing and continues to be a popular destination for events or just a great dinner.

13 January 2021

American Vitrified Products (1960 - 1970)

Hillsborough's post-war endeavor to bring post-war industry to Hillsborough finally began to bear fruit in the mid-1950s. One of the first companies to take an interest in Hillsborough was the century-old Cleveland, Ohio firm American Vitrified Products. Two officials of the clay pipe manufacturer traveled to Hillsborough and appeared before the Planning Board in October 1955. With a couple of possible plant sites identified, the company wanted to gauge the reaction of the town before spending money on surveys and soil samples. Their trip was well worth it as the Planning Board proved receptive to the project - and the tax ratables.


7 October 1955 Home News

At that initial meeting the representatives of American Vitrified Products - often shortened to Amvit - explained that they would be primarily manufacturing sewer pipe using shale and clay that would be stripped from the ground leaving shallow pits - or perhaps leveling a small hill. 

Valley Road Amvit Plant, 1969

About a year later the company purchased 79 acres north of Valley Road between the Lehigh Valley and Jersey Central railroads for $38,000 and planned for a $2 million factory that was expected to employ as many as 120 people. 

26 May 1960 Engineering News

Three years later the company had expanded the site to 87 acres and was now planning a $4 million completely automated plant that was touted as being "the most modern ever to be built in the industry". In addition to standard clay sewer pipe, the new plant would be capable of producing Amvit's industry-leading plastic-jointed clay pipe and a new pipe product called Glas Glaz suitable for corrosive or acidic industrial waste lines.

Clockwise from top right,
clay pipe production at Amvit in the 1960s.

To make its inert sewer pipe, shale mined on-site was mixed with clay and treated water and then sent through a machine that extruded the pipe which was then automatically cut to length and placed on pallets to be moved through the drying area where a specified amount of humidity was removed depending on the specific intended use of the pipe. When the pipe was dry it was bathed in a ceramic glazing solution and sent to the kilns.

21 January 1971 Home News

In March 1970 Amvit sold the Valley Road plant to the Glen-Gery Corporation of Reading, Pa. which planned to convert the plant to manufacture its own line of products which included face bricks, glazed flue linings, and concrete blocks.

Today the site is the location of Hercules Chassis.

10 January 2021

Hillsborough Youth/Community Center Project (1973 - 1985)

On September 11, 1973, the Hillsborough Youth Council, Inc. signed a 99-year lease with Hillsborough Township to acquire 11 acres off of Old Somerville Road where they planned to construct a community-youth center. Ten years later the group defaulted on the $1 annual lease payment and the property reverted to the township. The center never opened.


4 May 1975 Home News

The idea for a Hillsborough teen center grew out of the late 1960s Hillsborough Drug Council - a non-profit chaired by Hillsborough resident and later Branchburg teacher Ann Gorton. By the early 1970s, the group had changed its name to the Hillsborough Youth Council. Realizing the need for space for the group's "supervised but non-structured activities for all ages" - and encouraged by the optimism of the times - they were drawn to the 11 acres set aside by the developer of Buena Vista Estates.

4 May 1975 Home News

The plan was to construct a building with all volunteer labor and mostly donated supplies. With so much residential building going on in the township, there was initially no shortage of labor and building materials around - and no shortage of enthusiasm on the part of Mrs. Gorton and her group to acquire it.  The project got off to a quick start with a donated backhoe and Edward Rhodes - Hillsborough's building inspector - volunteering to head the construction committee. Developer Sal Kramer stepped up with a check for $2,000 and 1,000 cinder blocks.

1970s Fundraising for the community center

Local architect Kevin Wilson contributed the design - an 11,000 square foot building with a gymnasium, locker rooms, kitchen, office space, bathrooms, and three meeting rooms. Footings for the foundation were in before the end of the year, and before winter 1974 was out a 60-by-100-foot, 8-inch deep, ice-skating pond had been built in the southwest corner of the property. Exhibition football games, carnivals, and movie nights at the Hillsborough Cinema were all included in the fundraising efforts as were pancake breakfasts. The Hillsborough Community Center project probably still holds the record for most flapjacks served in pursuit of a goal that was never reached! Regardless, during the spring and summer of 1974 cinder block walls went up, and construction continued apace. 

26 February 1979 Home News

The roof went up in the spring of 1975 - but a housing downturn caused donations of supplies to dry up. The unfinished building - no doors, windows, or floors - was an invitation to vandals. By 1979, despite six years of hard work by hundreds of volunteers, the project was completely out of cash. Hillsborough Township picked up the property's $2,000 insurance payment that year, but what was really needed was at least $30,000 to finish the job.

16 February 1981 Courier News 

By the early 1980s, Mrs. Gorton - who also served on Hillsborough's school board from 1973-79 and 1980-89 - was seeking funding from federal and state sources - to no avail. Two years after the Hillsborough Youth Council relinquished the site, Hillsborough Township floated plans to complete the building as a senior citizen center. The project went out to bid twice at the end of 1985 but the bids of $245,000, $175,000, and $182,000 were all deemed to be too high.

05 January 2021

New Jersey Shale Brick and Tile Corp. (1954 - 1988)

"Here in the middle of the world's richest market is an industrially-minded municipality eager to satisfy your plant requirements. New and realistic zoning ordinances are in effect. An example is the ordinance for industrial parks which is designed for the maximum freedom of operation of the developer."

By the time the above sales pitch appeared in the Somerville Area Chamber of Commerce 1966 Annual, the Hillsborough Industrial Commission had already been touting the township as a center for industrial development for two decades. 


22 August 1954 Home News

One of the first big industrial concerns to locate in Hillsborough was the newly-formed New Jersey Shale Brick and Tile Corporation. In 1954 they built a 40,000 square foot plant on the north side of Hamilton Road in what used to be called the Hamilton Station area of Hillsborough. This was the first completely mechanized continuos-tunnel kiln plant in New Jersey.

2 April 1961 Home News

The plant was designed to produce shale face brick as well as acid-resistant ceramic products and structural glazed tile. Although the raw material was mined on-site, this was no deep pit operation.  Significant deposits of two different types of shale were "contour-stripped" from the surface of what would eventually be expanded to a property of over 200 acres - leaving no deep craters.

2 April 1961 Home News

Principals promised there would be no loud blasting, smoke, or dust. The shale was scooped up by power shovels, crushed to small particles, and eventually into a fine powder. After being mixed with water and essential chemical agents, the mud-like substance was forced through a machine that extruded a long ribbon 8 inches wide and 4 inches thick. This would then be sliced twenty bricks at a time and be stacked by workers to go off to the kiln for drying. By 1961 the plant was producing 100,000 bricks per day. 

Finished bricks being loaded onto a trailer.
Notice the Three Little Pigs inspired logo and the company slogan, 
"Be Smart - Build With Brick".
2 April 1961 Home News

Although the shale brick produced in Hillsborough cost about 10% more, it was both harder and smoother than traditional products. One of the first local uses was for the 1957 addition to the Hillsborough Consolidated School on Route 206 (now known as Hillsborough Elementary School). It was also used in the construction of the Manville High School in 1959.

22 October 1964 Home News

Ten years after beginning operation, New Jersey Shale Brick and Tile was still the only producer of shale brick in New Jersey and began an expansion program to double yearly output from 25 million to 50 million bricks. The plant, which operated 24 hours a day, seven days a week, was also expected to double its full-time employees from 60 to 120. The expansion also allowed the company to manufacture a new line of ceramic glazed brick which no other company in the east was producing.

7 April 1973 Courier News

Many of the jobs at the plant required no previous experience and specialized skills could be learned on-the-job. 

17 May 1988 Courier News

In 1988 New Jersey Shale Brick was purchased by the sizeable Pennsylvania-based brick manufacturer Glen-Gery Corp. By that time the plant was employing about 55 people, none of which were expected to be laid off as Glen-Gery planned to continue operations. They did just that for a little over twenty years before closing the plant early in the last decade.

5 September 1989 Courier News