House built circa 1842 added to Nutley’s historic register
An international monument in a township park and a mid-19th century house have been added to Nutley’s list of municipal historic landmarks.
Nutley’s planning board voted on July 6 to give landmark status to the 1961-62 Venetian glass mosaic United Nations monument in Memorial Park I (the northern part of Kingsland Park) and a dwelling single family home at 401 Passaic Ave., built in 1842.
These designations bring the total number of iconic Nutley properties to nine.
Previously, such status had been granted since the Township enacted a legal mechanism for historic preservation in 2012: 3 Kingsland St. (Kingsland Manor), 492 River Road (Van Riper House), 226 Chestnut St. (Vreeland House), 65 Church St. (Nutley Historical Society and Museum), 232 Highland Lane (Ruth Bedford House), 263 Harrison St. (Essex Film Club) and 111 Vreeland St. (a barn-turned-artist’s studio-turned-artist’s house) .
Information about the township’s later entries was contained in historical applications filed by members of the Nutley Historic Preservation Committee (NHPC), on behalf of the owners.
John Simko, who is also director of the Nutley Museum, proposed the UN monument, built in 1961-62 by Rambusch House, of Jersey City, based on plans by the architect and children’s book author Rolf Myller, from New York.
As Nutley author Anthony Buccino has described, the creation of the 6-foot mosaic replica of the UN logo – complete with surrounding gardens – was inspired by the Nutley Chapter of the American Association as “a symbol of the UN itself – people working together in achieving world order.
In fact, the gardens came first, with their grand opening in October 1959, followed by the installation of the centerpiece two years later, notes author Dave Wilson, a retired Nutley firefighter, in a history of the park and gardens. The finishing touch, he writes, came with the installation of a stone monument and flags, donated by Sergeant Edgar, in 1962.
The Nutley Home Garden Club, the Nutley AAUW Chorus and the Boy and Girl Scouts have joined forces to plant 60 trees, as well as shrubs and flowers, representing more than 100 specimens, in the park peninsula, representing the many member countries of the United Nations, all anchored near the monument, says Buccino.
Over the years, storms, neglect and vandalism have taken their toll on the landscaping and in the summer of 2009, local scout Tyler Huey enlisted his friends from St. Vincent’s Methodist Church to join his project Eagle to clean and restore aging mosaic tiles and restore order to gardens.
Maintaining the gardens has continued to be a struggle and the historic claim acknowledges that “Landscaping is an important but complicated related matter, since the selection and installation of the trees and shrubs that accompanied the monument was a a deliberate, meaningful and integral component of the original overall design (and) a significant number of the original plantings still stand.
Nonetheless, the application states, “We are not seeking landmark status for landscaping; relevant landscaping exists, and it is necessary to have a separate discussion in the future on the care of the remaining part of this important and significant part of the original design of the United Nations Garden.
And, adds the application, “While this discussion is ongoing, we felt it was prudent to move forward to protect this beautiful, relevant, publicly funded and lovingly restored United Nations mosaic. love, which is the anchor of the larger installation.”
NHPC member Dante Intindola recommended the historic designation of 411 Passaic Ave., a “one-and-a-half-story clapboard house” acquired by Jeanne and Fred Van Steen in the mid-1950s. But there is plenty of evidence to show that the building has been used for at least the last century for a variety of uses, including commercial and educational.
“The house represents a simple vernacular style common in the region between around 1825 and 1850, a simple rectangular flood plan with a pointed roof,” notes the historical app. “There are very few houses of this age in Nutley today (and) the inclusion of this house in the Federally Designated District merits its inclusion as a local historic landmark in itself.”
The property was once part of a large complex containing a cotton mill run by Henry Duncan, credited with the major industrialization of Nutley (then known as Franklin) in the late 19th century, coinciding with the arrival of the railway. It is one block from the old Nutley Railway Station at Highfield Lane and Whitford Avenue, where it faced Connolly’s Meat Market and Guthrie’s Confectionery and Stationery Shop on the opposite corner.
In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, the building housed the Nutley Water Co. and PSE&G. In 1915 it was occupied by a cleaning and dyeing business. Its most recent use, however, has been as a private residence. It was last altered in 1969 when Jeanne and her late husband Fred added an extra length of dormers to the house at the west end.
Jeanne Van Steen said that among the occupants of the building after PSE&G were “a women’s labor exchange consignment shop for handmade items and two women who wove hand-woven rugs with the hand loom. weaving visible through the large window”. She later said: “Bernard McGinnity, the fight promoter and resident of Kingsland Manor, rented the store, set up a boxing ring in what is now my living room, visible through the bay window, so that the practice matches can be watched from the outside.”
“I have always been proud to live in an area of such rich local and architectural history and hope to see more of these buildings join Nutley’s list of historic landmarks,” she said.
Ron Leir | For the observer
Ron Leir has been a journalist since the late 1960s, beginning his career at the Jersey Journal, after being a summer reporter at university. He became a full-time scribe in February 1972, working primarily as a generalist in all but sports, including a 3-year stint as associate editor for entertainment, reporting, religion, etc.
He retired from JJ in May 2009 and came to The Observer soon after.
He is also a part-time actor, mostly on stage, having worked most recently with Kearny-based WHATCo. and plays Sunday softball in Central Park, New York