Union County, NJ – History fans of all ages are invited to enjoy Union County’s annual civic heritage event, “Four Centuries in a Weekend: A Journey through Union County’s History” on Saturday, October 21 from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. and Sunday, October 22 from noon to 5:00 p.m.
Sponsored by the Union County Board of Chosen Freeholders with the participation of staff and volunteers at 35 historic sites, the free two-day event provides Union County residents and visitors with a chance to walk in the footsteps of the men, women and children who shaped more than 370 years of Union County history.
“During Four Centuries in a Weekend, some of the most fascinating historic sites in Union County open their doors to provide visitors with a unique experience enriched by live demonstrations, re-enactments, and more,” said Freeholder Chairman Bruce H. Bergen. “We are especially excited about a special presentation scheduled for the Shady Rest Clubhouse in Scotch Plains, in partnership with the Preserve Shady Rest Committee.”
Shady Rest was the first African-American owned golf club in the United States. In celebration of Four Centuries in a Weekend, the Clubhouse will host a series of presentations on October 21 from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. recognizing the 100th anniversary of the US entry into World War I. The day’s events will feature World War I re-enactors highlighting the Ebony Doughboys 93rd Infantry Division, which served with honor and distinction. The presentation is sponsored by the Union County Office of Cultural and Heritage affairs.
Nineteen of the 21 municipalities in Union County are represented in the Four Centuries event.
“As always, we encourage families to engage children in the shared history of our community,” said Freeholder Bette Jane Kowalski. “Our new local history trading cards are now available at the sites, and students can earn a Time Traveler’s Certificate and a Four Centuries Patch by requesting a Time Traveler Passport at any of the sites.”
All Four Centuries visitors can pick up a free Union County: Across the Centuries history booklet at any of the sites, and representatives at many of the sites of the sites can mark the Time Traveler Passport with new “Passport to Your National Parks” cancellation stamps. Adult visitors are welcome to use the Time Traveler Passport, too.
“National Parks fans of all ages enjoy traveling to sites around the country and commemorating their visits with cancellation stamps for each park,” said Kowalski. “It’s a real pleasure to offer this service to visitors at our historic sites right here in Union County.”
The new cancellation stamps are available at sites included in the National Park Service’s Crossroads of the American Revolution national heritage area, which includes parts of Union County.
Special events for this year’s Four Centuries in a Weekend include (cancellation stamps are available at sites marked CS:
Deserted Village of Feltville (CS) — Children’s games, walking tours, fresh pressed apple cider.
Little-Lord Farmstead (CS) — House tours.
Dr. William Robinson Plantation-Museum (CS) — Demonstrations of early farm life activities including open hearth cooking, butter churning, candle making, smokehouse preserving, quilting and rug making.
Crane-Phillips House Museum: House tours celebrating the 90th anniversary of the Cranford Historical Society.
Boxwood Hall State Historic Site (CS) — Explore the 250-year history of this house, mini-exhibit features objects depicting George Washington, Look Up & You’ll See Elizabeth” guided walk on Saturday at 1:00 p.m. — discover centuries-old architecture within a single block!
First Presbyterian Church of Elizabeth & Snyder Academy (CS) — Special exhibits in the Snyder Academy Museum Room; Saturday only activities include tours of the campus with church, burial grounds and Snyder Academy (attended by Aaron Burr and Alexander Hamilton), Colonial-era battle reenactment on the front lawn, tours of Snyder art studio including a recent portrait of Alexander Hamilton as a student.
Nathaniel Bonnell Homestead and Belcher-Ogden Mansion (CS) — House and site tours.
Historic Fanwood Train Station Museum: Documentary film about the Jersey Central Railroad.
Evergreen Cemetery — Self-guided tours (pick up the tour booklet at Woodruff House).
Woodruff House / Eaton Store Museum (CS): Phil Rizzuto All Sports Museum, vintage auto exhibit from the early 1900s, and mini apple festival with sale of fresh apples and pastries.
Oswald J. Nitschke House – House tours including wheelchair access, teaching garden featuring heirloom flowers, vegetables, herbs and garden-to table program focused on Italian culture, living history program set in 1907, “New Orange Residents Create Kenilworth” exhibit and light refreshments.
Deacon Andrew Hetfield House (CS) — Diorama of the Battle of Monmouth, presented by Mountainside resident John Sileo, and recently acquired collection of Mountainside pottery.
Salt Box Museum – Saturday demonstrations of spinning wheel and basket coiling, Sunday demonstrations of basket coiling.
Drake House Museum (CS) — “Plainfield during World War I & the Influenza Pandemic” exhibit and Sunday presentation at 2:00 p.m., “How Civil War Veterans Influenced 20th Century America,” by Leanne Manna, Kean University honors student, including discussion of the Plainfield Post (Winfield Scott Post #73) and notable veterans.
Plainfield Meetinghouse – Site tours.
Merchants and Drovers Tavern (CS) – Site tours, second-floor exhibit room, Gravesite of Abraham Clark.
Rahway School for Colored Children/African-American History & Learning Center — A representative will be on hand from 1:00 to 5:00 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday, to discuss the history of this site and the restoration underway (building not open).
Union County Performing Arts Center – This beautifully restored 1920’s vaudeville theatre is open Saturday and Sunday during all Four Centuries hours, with tours given on Saturday from 10:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m., and Sunday from noon to 2:00 p.m.
Abraham Clark Memorial House (CS) – tour a replica of Abraham Clark’s home.
Roselle Park Museum — “100 Years Ago in Roselle Park” showcases 99 years of the annual Thanksgiving Day football game against Roselle (the 100th game will be played this fall).
Battle of the Short Hills (CS) — Visit the tent at the Union County Vocational-Technical Schools campus in Scotch Plains and learn about this pivotal Revolutionary War battle of 1777, and join a guided nature hike of the swampy trail (dress for possible wet conditions — last departure at 2:30 p.m. To pre-schedule a hike for a group, call 732-221-2683).
Frazee House (CS) — Exhibit tent will present a movie and a display about this site (building is not open), tour the community garden behind the house.
Historic Cemetery of Scotch Plains Baptist Church – on Saturday at 5:30 p.m. join a flashlight tour of the historic cemetery, led by Rev. Chaz Hutchison (departs from parking area), highlighting the grave of Caesar, a freed slave who drove a supply wagon for American troops during the Battle of the Short Hills.
Osborn Cannonball House (CS) — Grand Reopening! Tour this newly renovated historic building, with rooms painted in period colors. The Victorian Room picture rail displays antique paintings, hair wreaths and samplers. On Saturday, local tinsmith George Pierson demonstrates his craft.
The Shady Rest & Country Club — Saturday, 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., World War I re-enactors, The Ebony Doughboys, present stories about the 369th Infantry and Eugene Ballard, the first African-American military pilot. See WWI artifacts and educational material relating to African-American soldiers (Sunday open house, 1:00 to 5:00 p.m. only).
Cannon Ball House (CS) — Artifacts and artwork pertaining to WWI, including war medals, autograph books and the anti-war political cartoons of Louis Raemaekers. Open Saturday 10:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m. with World War I re-enactors. Also open Sunday noon – 4:00 p.m.
Carter House (CS) — “Summit Show & Tell” exhibit of more than 100 items from the archives of Summit Historical Society, showing the city’s history from the 1830s, when the first train arrived, up to the present.
Reeves-Reed Arboretum — Open Saturday 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. (closed Sunday, October 22) — Library/lounge features historic photos, maps, drawings, artifacts, letters and original materials from noted architects Calvert Vaux, Ellen Biddle Shipman, and Carl Pilat. Each visitor will receive a copy of “The Clearing,” a book detailing the history of this arboretum. Saturday, 9 am–1 pm: Drop-in children’s workshop focuses on history (in English and Spanish).
Summit Playhouse – View a display documents past performances by one of the nation’s oldest continuously operating community theatres.
Twin Maples — Ballroom dancing demonstrations on Sunday.
Caldwell Parsonage (CS) — Student-interpreters from the National Junior Honor Society of Kawameeh Middle School, historic games for children of all ages, church” doll-making lesson — make a souvenir doll. On Saturday from 2:00 to 5:00 p.m., Meridoc Burkhardt appears as Rev. James Caldwell.
Connecticut Farms Church (CS) — Bake sale.
Liberty Hall Museum (CS) — “Brothers in Arms – Memories of the Great War” exhibit commemorating the centennial of the USA entering World War I, highlighting the service of Capt. John Kean and his brother Congressman Robert W. Kean. The letters and postcards they sent home tell of their experiences in basic training, fighting on the front lines, and returning home.
Miller-Cory House Museum (CS) — open house noon to 4:00 p.m. only both days, with blacksmithing demonstration by David Bala.
Reeve History & Cultural Resource Center — open house and tours noon to 5:00 only both days.
Complete details including hours, special events, addresses and contact information are included in the fully illustrated Four Centuries in a Weekend 2017 program. The program is available free of charge at each site as an insert with Union County: Across the Centuries.
To request a free copy of the Across the Centuries and the 2017 program by mail, call the Office of Cultural and Heritage Affairs at 908-558-2550 (NJ Relay Users dial 711) weekdays between 8:30 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. or e-mail email@example.com.
Both documents are also available as free downloads on the Four Centuries web page, at ucnj.org/parks-recreation/cultural-heritage-affairs, using the Across the Centuries and “Special Events” links at the top of the page. The Four Centuries web page also includes links to mass transportation alternatives, activity books, lesson plans and passport sheets, along with a map and detailed description for each site.
The Office of Cultural and Heritage Affairs is a division of the Union County Department of Parks and Recreation, which offers enriching public programs and activities all year. For more information visit ucnj.org/parks or call 908-527-4900.
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