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Category: Then & Now

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 

Then & Now

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The lovely red brick building with the white Doric columns has stood on Kearny Ave. since 1907, housing the main branch of the still-vibrant Kearny Public Library. Today’s structure features an addition at the rear, but the central portion is much as it looked more than 100 years ago. From the clothing of the people in the ‘Then’ picture, and the fact that it is from a penny-postcard printed in Germany, we surmise that the image dates, if not to the same year the library opened, then not long afterward. Kearny’s was one of 34 free public libraries built in New Jersey from 1900 to 1917 with funding from steel magnate Andrew Carnegie, whose philanthropic foundation would eventually help construct more than 2,500 worldwide. 

Kearny’s Carnegie library must have had very special meaning to local residents, since so many of them were Scottish immigrants, as Carnegie himself had been. Born in a oneroom cottage in Dunfermline, Fife, in 1835, he came to the U.S. with his parents in 1848. That year, at age 13, he took his fi rst job, working 12 hours a day, six days a week, in a  Pittsburgh cotton mill for $1.20 per week. When he died in 1919, his net worth was estimated at nearly $300 billion (yes, billion) in today’s in today’s dollars. See what a little literacy can do?

– Karen Zautyk 

Then & Now

Photo courtesy Kearny Museum

 

 

Photo by Karen Zautyk

Photo by Karen Zautyk

 

In early March, ‘Then & Now’ featured a 1906 view of the Erie Railroad Cut as seen from the Kearny Ave. bridge between Locust and Washngton Aves. This week’s photo is from 1907, looking toward that bridge from below.’The Cut,’ which served the Erie, Erie-Lackawanna, and then NJ Transit, saw its last passenger train in 2002. Today, only a portions of the tracks remain to indicate the site’s former use. It has become a virtual jungle.

We would have liked to have shown the bridge in the ‘Now’ photo, but we were not about to venture through the underbrush. Not alone, anyway. As has been noted before, disused railroad tracks have become a common travel route for forest animals coming down from rural areas; animals that are being displaced by mini-malls and condos and such.

We wouldn’t have minded seeing a deer or a raccoon or wild turkeys, but who knows what might be lurking in ‘The Cut’? Just last week, small packs of coyotes were reported roaming around Elmwood Park.

Coyotes! In Elmwood Park? Be alert. And if you happen to hear howling some night, don’t assume it’s just your neighbor.

– Karen Zautyk 

Then & Now

Photo courtesy Kearny Museum

 

Photo by Karen Zautyk

Photo by Karen Zautyk

When we first saw this postcard marked ‘Belgrove Drive,’ we knew instantly we wanted to use it for Then & Now. But where exactly on the long Kearny street was the photo taken? And when? Luckily, the answer was on the back. There, some unnamed person had written the date, 1910, and a note: ‘Looking toward our house from Midland Ave. to the cut & 659.’ We don’t know if the house numbers were the same then as now; if so, 659 would have been somewhere on the left. The message writer did identify the house on the right as being ‘Cornwalls.’ For those unfamiliar with Kearny, this view is looking north from Midland, and at the far end Belgrove dead-ends at what is still called ‘the cut,’ the deep trench through which the railroad tracks ran. The trains and tracks are long gone, but the trench is still there. Belgrove today has fewer trees, but it remains fairly leafy and is lined with lovely homes. No hitching posts, though. That’s a hitching post at the curb between the first two trees in the photo. Wouldn’t it be nice if some of the old ‘street decor’ like that were still in place? Then again, maybe not. Someone would probably try to feed it quarters. 

– Karen Zautyk 

Then & Now

Photo courtesy George Rogers Collection

Photo courtesy George Rogers Collection

 

Photo by Karen Zautyk

Photo by Karen Zautyk

 

Except for the red brick building on the far left, the houses in this nearly century-old postcard view of Devon St. at Wilson Ave., Kearny, are the same today as then. But what used to be a small green space is now a parking lot. Call it ‘progress.’ The card is postmarked 1915, so the name of the site was still Devon Circle. It would later offi cially become McMahon Circle, named in honor of Army Capt. Christopher C. McMahon, a World War I veteran.
A plaque had been placed on a boulder in 1926, a year after his death, and luckily the town kept it on site, although now in a block of concrete, when the parking lot was built in the 1980s. It reads:
In memory of Christopher C. McMahon. Husband, Father, Soldier, Hero. Captain, 113 U.S. Inf., A.E.F. Enlisted 1st N.J. Inf. N.G.N.J. Jan. 14, 1902. Honorably Discharged June 30, 1919. Died June 13, 1925.
We have tried to fi nd out more about McMahon, to no avail. If any history-minded reader knows his story, we’d appreciate a call. We admit that we never even knew the circle had a name, or a monument, and we thank the posters on kearnyalumni.com for noting these facts.
– Karen Zautyk

Then & Now

Photo courtesy George Rogers Collection

Photo courtesy George Rogers Collection

 

Photo courtesy Google Images

Photo courtesy Google Images

The old postcard view of the Kearny Town Hall is undated, but it had to be taken before June 9, 1913 (we’ll explain in a moment). The building was constructed in 1909 for an estimated $65,000. Its crowning glory was the tall tower/cupola, bearing stone urns and a clock on each side and capped by a small metal dome and spire, referred to by locals as ‘The Oil Can.’ (Look closely at the very top and see the resemblance.) A 1910 architectural journal called the tower ‘especially interesting as it is strongly reminiscent of colonial work.’ As recorded in a 1984 history of the building by Town Historian Jessie M. Hipp: ‘(On) June 9, 1913, the Town Hall’s tower and spire met with disaster when struck by a bolt of lightning, causing severe damage to stone work on the tower, even cracking plaster in the offi ce of Police Chief William Tolen in the Hall basement. Newspaper accounts said . . . Superintendent of Fire Alarms George Smack, Mayor Louis Brock and his son, Louis Jr., Town Clerk William Ross and Street Commissioner Durkin were in the tower making an inspection when the bolt struck. Though stunned, none suffered any harm. For public safety, the damaged tower and spire were removed . . . leaving the appearance of Kearny Town Hall as it is today.’ And aside from the landscaping and the addition, it still looks basically the same.

– Karen Zautyk