Ghost of Deserted Village Founder to Lead Tours during “Four Centuries in a Weekend”, Oct. 17-18
BERKELEY HEIGHTS, NJ – In 1845, David Felt built a mill along the Blue Brook, two dams to supply water power for that mill, and an entire town on the bluff above the mill to house the people who would work there. The town became known as Feltville. Today, it is more commonly known as the Deserted Village.
On Saturday and Sunday, Oct. 17-18, the ghost of David Felt will return to lead tours of the factory town that once housed hundreds of workers and family members. The mile-long tours, which start at 2:00 p.m. each day, occur during the weekend-long open house of the historic site, as part of Union County’s “Four Centuries in a Weekend” celebration.
The 25 sites open to the public free of charge during “Four Centuries in a Weekend” are grouped into five historic themes that describe periods of major changes from colonial times until the early 1920s. Visitors can select a cluster of sites to tour, or mix and match from all 25 locations that include the grand homes of the Early Aristocracy; the settings for the dangerous Revolutionary War years; modest examples of hard Farm Life; the successful undertakings of Commerce and Industry; and the grandeur and comfort of the Victorian Resorts and Suburbs.
Feltville was a thriving mill town from 1845 to 1860. After being sold by Felt, the village wasted away and became deserted, but was reborn in 1882 as Glenside Park, a summer resort. This business
closed in 1916 and the Village was again briefly deserted until being purchased by the Union County Park Commission during the 1920’s. The Deserted Village of today contains ten buildings and the archaeological remains of a vibrant community nestled in Union County’s largest park, the 2,065-acre Watchung Reservation, in Berkeley Heights.
“In 1980, the area in and around Feltville was designated an historic district on the State and National Registers of Historic Sites,” said Union County Freeholder Chairman Alexander Mirabella. “This includes a Revolutionary War period cemetery of some of the area’s earliest residents. Union County is in the process of restoring the Village’s buildings and grounds.”
“Feltville’s general store and church building has been restored and opened as a visitor center, complete with interpretive exhibits and restrooms,” Freeholder Mirabella added. “And with funding assistance from the New Jersey Historic Trust and the Union County Open Space, Recreation and Historic Preservation Trust Fund, work began last month to preserve the Glenside Park carriage house and give it an adaptive reuse as a lecture hall and meeting room.”
Activities will occur at the Deserted Village from 10:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 17 and from noon to 5:00 p.m. on Sunday, Oct. 18. Most of the Village’s buildings and grounds can be seen from a hayride, which will run continuously both days. Visitors may pick up a map and narrative at any time in the Feltville parking lot for a self-guided tour.
Union County staff will be stationed at the restored Church/Store all weekend to answer questions. This building houses an exhibit of artifacts, photographs, and maps that depict the Village’s history. A hands-on demonstration of apples being pressed into cider will be ongoing. Elsewhere in the Village, visitors can hear the director of the Feltville Archaeology Project explain how the site of David Felt’s house was discovered. Nearby, children can play old-fashioned games. All of these activities are offered free of charge. Light refreshments and fresh farm produce may be purchased at the General Store. Picnic tables are available for families wanting to pack a lunch. Enter the Deserted Village via Cataract Hollow Road, off of Glenside Avenue on the Berkeley Heights side of the Watchung Reservation. Wear warm clothes and sturdy walking shoes.
All activities at the 25 historic sites participating in Four Centuries in a Weekend are rain or shine. A new feature this year is the “Union County Time Traveler Sweepstakes” – a chance for children to win tickets to dramatic performances offered by local theater groups. The performances include the New Jersey Ballet’s “Sleeping Beauty” at the Union County Performing Arts Center in Rahway; the Theater Project’s “It’s a Wonderful Life” at Union County College in Cranford; and the Cranford Dramatic Club’s “Alice in Wonderland.” Entry forms for the sweepstakes will be available at each of the 25 “Four Centuries” sites throughout the Oct. 17-18 weekend.
Participating “Four Centuries in a Weekend” sites, alphabetized by municipality:
Deserted Village of Feltville-Glenside Park
Dr. William Robinson Plantation-Museum
Crane-Phillips House Museum
Boxwood Hall State Historic Site
First Presbyterian Church of Elizabeth
Woodruff House/Eaton Store Museum
Oswald J. Nitschke House
Deacon Andrew Hetfield House
Salt Box Museum
Drake House Museum
Merchants and Drovers Tavern
Union County Performing Arts Center
Abraham Clark House
Roselle Park Museum
Osborn Cannonball House
Springfield First Presbyterian Church
(Cannon Ball House is closed for repairs)
Liberty Hall Museum
Miller-Cory House Museum
For additional information about the Deserted Village of Feltville/Glenside Park, call Trailside Nature and Science Center, 452 New Providence Road, Mountainside, (908) 789-3670. Tickets are still available at Trailside for Haunted Hayrides that will run at the Deserted Village on Oct. 22-24.
Information about all 25 “Four Centuries in a Weekend” sites is available from the Union County Office of Cultural and Heritage Affairs, (908) 558-2550, or on the Union County website at www.ucnj.org/cultural/4centuries/index.html.