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Category: Then & Now

Then & Now

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Wikipedia

Wikipedia

 

That rather ornate structure in the ‘Then’ photo is the Jackson St. Bridge, linking Harrison to the Ironbound section of Newark at the southern end of Frank E. Rodgers Blvd. The picture is dated 1898, a year after the span was built. According to Essex County records, it was designed by J. Owens Co. and constructed by McCann Fagan Iron Works. (We don’t know where either firm was located; however, there was a Fagan Iron Works in Jersey City.) Note the fancy lattice-work. Note the domed arches over the pedestrian walkways. Note the gas lamp. 

Today’s bridge bears small resemblance to the original, but long before the 1991 rehab of the span, it had already been altered, losing the elegant accoutrements. But it  is on the N.J. Register of Historic Places. 

Re the name: Folks on the Newark side of the Passaic always called it the Jackson St. Bridge, since Jackson is the street it feeds into Down Neck. When we moved across the river, we were annoyed to find that West Hudsonites referred to it as the Fourth St. Bridge (Fourth St. being the former name of Rodgers Blvd.). Researching this text, we learned it is and always was officially the Jackson St. (Nyah, nyah.) 

One more thing, although you likely won’t be able to see it without a microscope: Painted on a crossbeam above the roadway ‘Then’ is a warning: WALK YOUR HORSES OR PAY 10 DOLLARS FINE. According to an inflation calculator, that would be $285.71 in today’s money. Notice that all the horses are walking. 

– Karen Zautyk 

Then & Now

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Photo by Karen Zautyk

Photo by Karen Zautyk

 

What you are looking at ‘Then’ is a photo taken at the 1921 Kearny High School cornerstone laying ceremony, which, considering all the bunting and banners, was quite a do. Look also at the height of that grandstand, which is holding not only the stone itself (on the right behind the long poles) but lots of people, including a whole passel of top-hatted men. The gentleman in the center of the speakers’ stand we presume to be Kearny Mayor Robert E. Torrance, who presided at the program.’Now’ the school is only partially visible from the Devon St. viewpoint, abutted as it is by a bunch of trailers. These house temporary classrooms, necessitated by an ongoing construction/sound proofing project. The trailers have been there for awhile and will likely remain indefinitely, since there is no projected completion date for the work. (There have been difficulties.) We tried to find the cornerstone, but we didn’t know which side of the facade it was on, and we didn’t want to get arrested for trespassing in the trailer park.

– Karen Zautyk 

Then & Now

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Photo by Karen Zautyk

Photo by Karen Zautyk

 

Last time, ‘Then & Now’ featured the Old Soldiers Home on Belgrove Drive in Kearny. This week, we focus on the statue of the Civil War infantryman that graced the property in front of the home’s canteen from 1888 until 1933. The Union Army soldier now stands on the opposite side of Belgrove, between the American Legion and Veterans of Foreign Wars posts. But it’s a duplicate. The original, composed of zinc and white metal, disappeared after the Soldiers’ Home closed in ‘33. Historian Bill Styple found it in 1997, stored in the National Guard Armory in West Orange. As reported in Civil War News, ‘It was brittle and cracked and was missing such pieces as the left hand, part of an arm, musket and accoutrements.’ The Gen. Phil Kearny Memorial Committee raised $35,000 to create a bronze replica. ‘Molds were made of the remaining pieces and were created for missing parts,’ Civil War News said, noting that ‘Styple’s hand, his 1863 Springfield and other items stood in for the originals.’ The new statue was erected, with great ceremony (including Civil War cannons firing from Veterans Field), on Sept. 29, 2007. Today, the soldier views the vista from atop a 7-ton boulder from Gettysburg. 

-Karen Zautyk 

Then & Now

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Photo by Karen Zautyk

Top: Photo courtesy Kearny Public Library/Museum Bottom: Photo by Karen Zautyk

Regarding the site depicted in this week›s ’Then’ photo, the following description is by William C. Brigham Jr. published in The Observer in 1933: ‘The New Jersey Home for Disabled Soldiers, located on Belgrove Drive, north of Bergen Ave., is one of the oldest [1887] and most familiar landmarks’ in Kearny. Built to accommodate Civil War veterans, ‘it also became a haven for Spanish-American War soldiers.’

’For years, it was a common and beautiful sight for passersby to see the old veterans sitting under the trees . . . and telling a group of wide-eyed children their heroic tales of Bull Run, Antietam, Gettysburg and Chancellorsville.’

As the number of veterans diminished, ‘it became necessary to consolidate the home with the one at Menlo Park, and in June 1932, the old soldiers, numbering only 46, of which just 13 were Civil War veterans, left the Arlington home. At present, the last building has been razed and the destiny of the plot has not been decided . . .’

The destiny of the plot was to become Veterans’ Field (or ‘Bunnyland Hill,’ named for the small zoo that once was there.) And last week, it was once again full of wide-eyed children, fascinated by a State Police helicopter at the KPD’s National Night Out Against Crime.

Then & Now

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Photo by Karen Zautyk

Photo by Karen Zautyk

 

Officially, it was known as the Catholic Protectory, an orphanage for boys in the Diocese (later, Archdiocese) of Newark. 

Eventually, it was called Boystown, and for a century it offered a home to generations of youths. The postcard photo is from 1906, which surprised us because we hadn’t realized Boystown was that old. Then we learned it was even older. 

According to the Catholic Encyclopedia, Newark Bishop Winand M. Wigger ‘removed the Catholic Protectory to Arlington’ in 1883 and ‘established the Sacred Heart Union to aid in its maintenance.’ Initially, the Protectory, launched in 1875 by then-Newark Bishop Michael Corrigan, was located in Denville. Boystown closed its doors in1984, but the property on Belgrove Drive is still used. It is now the headquarters for the Archdiocese Youth and Young Adult Ministry and serves as the CYO Retreat Center. The Victorianera housing is long gone, but the lovely church still stands. And recently, a refurbished meditation garden opened just to the north of the church. It is a place of peace and beauty and contemplation. And you don’t have to be Catholic to visit. 

– Karen Zautyk 

Then & Now

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This was one of those mystery postcards. ‘Midland Ave. looking Northwest, Arlington, N.J.’ it said. But looking northwest from where? Then, as luck would have it, we found a second image of the same scene, and it read ‘Midland Ave. from Franklin Place.’ Mystery solved. This the intersection that today faces the Post Office on Midland, and  the view is toward Belgrove Drive.

The card is dated 1908. It is difficult to tell if the street is paved, but it appears full of wagon or buggy tracks. But once again, we wonder: Where have they all gone? All these beautifully wide avenues, and no traffic of any kind anywhere in sight.

– Karen Zautyk 

Then & Now

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Photo by Karen Zautyk

Photo by Karen Zautyk

Yes, there it is. Eagan’s. Long a landmark at the northeast corner of Schuyler Ave. and the Belleville Pike. While just over the border in North Arlington, the restaurant/watering hole was the home-away-home for many a Kearnyite. And Harrisonian. And whatever you call people from Lyndhurst. This particular photo is labeled as being from the 1940s, although the car in front looks at least a decade older. In any case, Eagan’s later greatly expanded and for decades flourished.

Then it disappeared, to be replaced with a CVS, which doesn’t serve french fries. If anyone can tell us when Eagan’s closed, we would appreciate it. We were not living in N.J. when it vanished and, believe it or not, no one has been able to provide a date.

A favorite source of accurate info on such matters is kearnyalumni.com, and we found an Eagan’s post from Joan Csedrik (Dvoranchik) dated April 2002 which reads: “My youth is officially gone. No more frenchies & gravy. No more onion rings. No more rice pudding.  Oh my!”

But all the responses are dated 2004. Did it take everyone else two years to answer? When did Eagan’s close?

–Karen Zautyk 

Then & Now

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The ‘Then’ photo, from what was apparently a local postcard, is not dated, but those postcards usually come from the pre-World War I years. The view is of Stuyvesant Ave. from Grand Place in Kearny. When first seeing it, we wondered how we could figure out the precise perspective so we could take a current photo. We shouldn’t have worried. Look at the house on the far left. A century later, it still stands on the northeast corner. The home now is a pretty cream color, and wrought iron has replaced the wooden porch pillars, but little else on the exterior has changed. Architectural details like the shutters and the bay window have been preserved.

The view is looking east, past Kearny Ave. to the meadows beyond. We can’t be sure, but along the curb are what could be hitching posts and mounting blocks, accoutrements for horses and riders. We also can’t tell if the street is paved, but that hardly mattered since there’s no traffic, equine or otherwise.

– Karen Zautyk

Then & Now

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Here, we have a mystery. The ‘Then’ image is from a postcard dated 1920 and apparently published by Knox Presbyterian Church of Kearny. The back bears a preprinted message from the Rev. Robert T. Graham inviting members to ‘Rally Day’ on Sunday, Oct. 10, 1920. We don’t know what ‘Rally Day’ was, but that’s not the mystery. What we’d really like to identify in the old image is the building on the right.

Red-brick Knox Presbyterian is on the left, on Kearny Ave. just south of Woodland Ave., where it had stood since 1881. But what is that other church-like structure? It can’t be an earlier Knox. And online we found a 1907 photo of the property that shows a fairly substantial building (a private home?) on the spot where this mystery building is sketched here.

What stands there in the ‘Now’ picture is the MacMillan Chapel, where Knox Presbyterian held its final worship service in September 2013. The Knox/MacMillan property is now up for sale. But when was that other ‘church’ there? Was it affiliated  with Knox? What was its name? Answers to these questions would be greatly appreciated.

 – Karen Zautyk 

Then & Now

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In honor of Memorial Day 2014, we bring you a ‘Then’ photo of Memorial Day 1926. Placing flags on the graves in the Veterans’ Circle at Arlington Cemetery (in Kearny, not Virginia) are residents of the Old Soldiers’ Home, some of them veterans of the Civil War. Officially known as the N.J. Home for Disabled Soldiers and Sailors, it stood on Belgrove Drive north of Bergen Ave. and operated from 1887 until 1932. As the aged heroes honored their comrades, a bugler was playing ‘Taps.’ You can see him at the bottom left of the old photograph.

Don’t be disturbed by the undecorated graves in the ‘Now’ photo. Veterans laid to rest in Arlington Cemetery (aka Arlington Memorial Park) are still honored every year. Members of the American Legion and Veterans of Foreign Wars will be there this coming weekend with flags to mark the headstones in advance of Monday’s holiday.

As we have noted before, ‘Then & Now’ has become a learning experience. This week, we learned how many Civil War veterans are buried in this cemetery, located at the intersection of Schuyler Ave. and the Belleville Turnpike. Care to hazard a guess? The answer is 553. And you can find all their names at newjerseycivilwargravestones.org. On the home page, click on ‘Browse Gravestones by Cemetery.’ Then select Hudson County. Arlington Memorial Park is at the top of the list. The names are in alphabetical order.

–Karen Zautyk