Union County’s annual free public heritage event, “Four Centuries in a Weekend: A Journey through Union County’s History,” will take place Saturday, Oct. 17 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sunday, Oct. 18 from noon to 5 p.m. Sponsored by the Union County Board of Chosen Freeholders, with the cooperation of staff and volunteers at 28 house museums and historic sites, the two-day free event opens doors to more than 370 years of history throughout Union County.
“Four Centuries in a Weekend began in 1994 when 16 historic sites and the County of Union organized a weekend event to tell how Elizabethtown of 1664 evolved into the 21 municipalities of modern-day Union County,” said Freeholder Chairman Mohamed S. Jalloh. “This year you can learn about local military heroes, archaeological sites, bridal gowns, the role of women in the Revolution, special exhibitions and tours that showcase the county’s treasure trove of history.”
Among the historic sites open for free tours, all listed on the National and New Jersey State Registers of Historic Places, are these special programs and events:
- Reeve History & Cultural Resource Center in Westfield celebrates the restoration of the 1870s Victorian Italianate home.
- Deserted Village of Feltville-Glenside Park in Berkeley Heights will host the Archaeological Society of New Jersey on Saturday afternoon in the restored Masker’s Barn with presentations about archaeological sites at the village.
- Deacon Andrew Hetfield House in Mountainside, home to the Hetfield family for 186 years, will feature four centuries of wartime memorabilia including letters, uniforms, newspaper articles, posters and photos of local heroes.
- Oswald J. Nitschke House in Kenilworth plans a “living history” program set in 1898-1924, when the town known as New Orange was home to Upsala College.
- Liberty Hall Museum of Union, residence of New Jersey’s first elected governor, offers 23 acres of formal gardens and farmland, plus an exquisite 50-room Victorian mansion housing 240 years of American history.
- Reeves-Reed Arboretum of Summit will feature tours of the grounds, landscape drawings by noted architects and an art installation, “The Glass Menagerie,” of fantastical creatures.
- Crane-Phillips House Museum in Cranford will present “Here Come the Brides,” a display of wedding gowns from 1880 to 1980.
- Historic Cannon Ball House in Springfield will feature uniformed military re-enactors and relics of the 1780 Battle of Springfield.
Journey on to Elizabeth and visit Boxwood Hall, the 1772 home of Elias Boudinot, President of the Continental Congress; tour the restored Revolutionary War burial grounds at the First Presbyterian Church of Elizabeth, the oldest English-speaking congregation in New Jersey; and then visit the Caldwell Parsonage at Connecticut Farms in Union, an American Revolutionary site, where student docents who are members of the National Junior Honor Society of Kawameeh Middle School will welcome visitors.
A visit to Hillside will bring you to the Woodruff House/Eaton Store, built in 1735, and the historic Evergreen Cemetery, a virtual museum of funerary art. In Rahway, you’ll be welcome at the Merchants and Drovers Tavern, a restored early 19th century hotel, and you can tour the Union County Performing Arts Center, a beautifully restored classic Vaudeville theatre. When you stop at the Dr. William Robinson Plantation in Clark, you’ll discover a post-medieval English-style house where Dr. Robinson practiced healing with plants and herbs.
At the Fanwood Train Station Museum you’ll visit the oldest Victorian Gothic railroad station in the county and learn about Fanwood’s ties to the Central Railroad of New Jersey. At the Abraham Clark House in Roselle, home to a signer of the Declaration of Independence, you’ll learn about Early American life. In the Roselle Park Museum, housed in the Charles E. Stone Store, you’ll be standing in the first electrically-lighted store in the world.
Authentic 18th century farmhouses also are open for touring: the Miller-Cory House in Westfield; the Salt Box Museum in New Providence; the Osborn Cannonball House in Scotch Plains, adjacent to the town green and across from the Stage House Inn; and the Nathaniel Drake House in Plainfield, where on Sunday from 2:00 to 4:00 p.m., Stacy F. Roth will present “Over Here, Molly Pitcher,” a dramatic performance highlighting the lives of women who “belonged to the army” during the American Revolution.
Venturing into the Watchung Mountains, you’ll visit the Littell-Lord Farmstead in Berkeley Heights, a reminder of the county’s agricultural past; and explore Summit, with its Twin Maples, a stately neoclassical mansion; the Carter House, the city’s oldest house, built in the 1740’s; and the Summit Playhouse, a Richardsonian Romanesque structure with a 120-seat auditorium.
Children can earn a Time Traveler’s Certificate and a Four Centuries Patch by visiting and obtaining a Time Traveler Passport at any of the sites, having it stamped and returning the completed form to the Union County Office of Cultural and Heritage Affairs.
For free copies of the Four Centuries in a Weekend tour booklet, map and further information, telephone 908-558-2550 weekdays between 8:30 a.m. and 4:30 p.m., NJ Relay Users dial 711, or e-mail: email@example.com.