New Exhibits for the 2019-2020 Season
Mahwah’s His-“TREE”: 75 Years as a Township, 1944-2019
Mahwah’s history dates back to the 1600s and 1700s, belonging to several territories with different names. In the 1700s and 1800s, Mahwah grew from a seedling of Franklin Township and later stemmed from Hohokus Township. As other towns broke off from Hohokus Township, Mahwah remained, leaving it the largest tract of land in what is now Bergen County.
Mahwah blossomed as an independent community, and was officially incorporated as a township in 1944. Our exhibit will explore the different branches of what makes a community live, breathe, and thrive. Mahwah’s roots as a township were strengthened through the growth of borough organizations, housing developments, schools, recreation, religious and civic groups, and industry.
No matter how far back you can trace your roots in Mahwah, come share our shade as we honor the people, places, and organizations that have continued our history into the 21st century.
Palisades Amusement Park Comes to Mahwah – In Miniature!
(Photo credit: Vince Gargiulo)
New Jersey’s famous Palisades Amusement Park closed nearly 50 years ago. But most Jerseyites over the age of 60 will still smile at the mere mention of this classic American fun center. Mahwah resident, Vince Gargiulo, has been keeping the memory of Palisades alive for the past quarter of a century. He founded the Palisades Amusement Park Historical Society (PAPHS) in the early 1990s. His book, “Palisades Amusement Park: A Century of Fond Memories,” was the fastest selling book in the history of Rutgers University Press. His 1998 PBS documentary of the same name won several awards for outstanding documentary and was nominated for a New York Emmy.
His latest project is a working 1930s model of the park that he has been restoring for over a year. A long time park employee, Joe Prisco, originally built the wooden model in the 1990s. After his death, the model was moved several times and sustained a great deal of damage. In 2018, Gargiulo reached out to Prisco’s family, who donated the model to the PAPHS. Gargiulo set about to restore each piece, most requiring a great deal of work and patience. “The Carousel was the hardest piece to restore,” Gargiulo noted. “Many of the ornamental decorations were missing. Half of the light bulbs were burned out, and replacing them was not cheap!”
But his biggest challenge with the carousel was getting it to rotate. “I wish this model came with some kind of instruction manual,” Vince joked. “It would make repairing it so much easier.” After a month of experimenting, he was finally able to get the merry-go-round to operate properly. Gargiulo has completed restoration of 25 pieces including the Tunnel of Love, the World’s Largest Outdoor Salt Water Pool, the Ferris Wheel, the Carousel, the Free Act Stage, the Bumper Cars and much more. On September 22, the miniature amusement park will be on display as part of the Mahwah Museum’s 2019-2020 lineup. Also on display will be some extremely rare artifacts from the park from Gargiulo’s extensive collection.
A College Comes to Mahwah: Ramapo College, 1965-1975
(Photo credit: Vincent Marchese)
When the State of New Jersey decided to build a new college in Northern New Jersey in 1965, few towns wanted anything to do with it. Fears of radical students, traffic, and lost tax revenues dogged early efforts in Leonia, Hackensack and Saddle River. When the Birch Estate was proposed as a potential site, Mahwah quickly became the front runner. Our exhibit on the establishment of Ramapo College in Mahwah takes a look at life in the township 50 years ago and the creation of a unique liberal arts college.
Working with early faculty and graduates from Ramapo College, the exhibit will provide a brief history of the College’s aspirations and a look at its early curriculum. Students recall what campus life was like when the campus was being built around them; the makeshift “dorms” at the Carmel Retreat, a Boy Scout Camp, and Club 300; the jazz festivals; and student and faculty strikes. These challenges forged a tight community and left fond memories. Come and experience an early 1970s college in Mahwah — sights, sounds, and recollections!
These exhibits will be on display along with our very popular permanent exhibits, the ever expanding Donald Cooper Model Railroad (open weekends only) and Les Paul in Mahwah!
Family Favorite! The Donald Cooper Model Railroad is open every weekend from 1-4 pm.
Free for children and Museum members – $5.00 for non-members.
Get on board with the Donald Cooper Model Railroad! A four-level-high, DDC- controlled model train layout has something for every size, child or adult. The layout honors the importance of the railroad in Mahwah’s development and history!
The Donald Cooper Model Railroad continues to entertain children of all ages with seven trains running at a time. Adults and children delight as they watch over the four layers of the railroad, seeing the many wonderful things that are made possible only by the assistance of trains! As the passenger cars make their way through the Amtrak stops and the subway stations, and mine workers wait for their lumber load to arrive, thirty-car coal trains take large sweeping curves as they climb the grades of the two-track main line!
The Blue Main Line sits between the lower level and the large freight yard and passenger terminal. You can find either passenger or freight trains making their way along the rocky cliffs that identify this line. Trains coming from Union Station or the freight yard must enter this line before heading down the connector track to the large lower level main line.
Come visit our railroad to see it in action. See also our collection of Lionel “O” Gauge trains representing railroads all across the country and all types of locomotives.
This exhibit was made possible through the generous donations of Renee and Ebrima Darboe of Mahwah, New Jersey and the Margolis family of Ramsey, New Jersey.
The Donald Cooper Model Railroad is a permanent exhibit at Mahwah Museum, open Saturdays and Sundays from 1-4 pm, September though June. The model Railroad is not open on Wednesdays. It is not a train ride and it is not a free train display. The Donald Cooper Model Railroad is one of our most popular permanent exhibits. The layout is a favorite stop for children of all ages.
VOLUNTEER WITH THE DCMRR TRAIN CREW
Are you a train buff? ff you are interested in model railroading, we would welcome you as a member of our train crew. The requirements are a love of the hobby, being twelve years of age or older, and becoming a member of the Mahwah Museum Society. If you have any questions please click here to email our train crew or call 201.512.0099 and leave a message for the train crew. For more information about how to volunteer with the DCMRR crew please click here.
Mahwah Museum hopes you will become part of our family of members and patrons. Membership includes free admission to the Museum and to our Lecture and Gallery Talk series.
We accept credit cards though Paypal. Should you wish to join us by mail, please send your check and vital information to Mahwah Museum, 201 Franklin Turnpike, Mahwah, NJ 07430. Please make checks payable to Mahwah Museum. We thank you for your participation.
An Individual Member gets a membership card which entitles the Member to free admission to the Museum; free admission to all of our lectures and gallery talks; invitations to member events; free subscription to the newsletter ; and voting privileges at the annual meeting. Dues are $15 per year per person. Enjoy our most economical membership for individuals under 62 years of age.
Individual Membership – $20
After over a year of work, the Museum’s archive volunteers have completed processing the John W. Bristow Papers. Archivist Cathy Moran Hajo worked with a team of volunteers and college students to organize, re-house, and describe one of the Museum’s largest and richest archival collections. A guide to his papers has been posted on the Museum website.
John W. Bristow (1924-2010) was a high school teacher with an abiding interest in history. He moved to Mahwah in 1973 and became involved with the work of the Mahwah Historical Society and the Mahwah Historic Sites Commission. He became Mahwah Town Historian in 1993 and is best-known for his newspaper column “This Month In Mahwah History” which ran in the Home and Store News from 1985-1992.
John W. Bristow, taken in 2008 (Courtesty of Ruth Bristow Portela).
The Bristow Papers was a large and unorganized collection when it arrived at the Museum. After separating materials like newspaper clippings, Mahwah Historical Society and Mahwah Historical Sites Commission records, and duplicates, the collection still spans 24 boxes! Among its highlights are John Bristow’s many presentations on local history, a rich collection of photographs and the photographic slides that accompanied his lectures, and ephemera he gathered while conducting research.
We could not have completed this major reorganization without the help of a dedicated team of students who volunteered on Saturday mornings. We want to thank Kevin Cosenza, Jeffrey Fischer, Meg Hajo, Lee Herman, Nicholas Incorvaia, Cristina Macari, and Jennifer Zgola for all their efforts to make this collection available to researchers. I would also like to thank Ruth Bristow Portela, John Bristow’s daughter, for sharing photographs and biographical information that we used to write up the guide to his papers.
To view the papers, please arrange an appointment by either calling the Museum or e-mailing the archives directly at email@example.com.
If you’re doing some shopping on Amazon.com, please consider using the Amazon Smile program and donating part of your purchase to the Mahwah Museum! Amazon Smile is a program run by the online retailer, Amazon, which will automatically donate 0.5% of your purchases to the charity you select. It costs you (and the charitable organizations) nothing, and it’s just like shopping on Amazon normally, but you get to do a world of good.
The Mahwah Museum is part of the Amazon Smile program and with a few simple steps, the 0.5% of your purchases made on Amazon can be donated to the Museum… which will in turn be used in the upkeep and running of our facility, new exhibits, programs, lectures, gallery talks, and all of the things that make the Mahwah Museum an integral part of the community.
To start donating, you simply visit smile.amazon.com, go to your account settings, and change your charity to The Mahwah Museum. It’s just like shopping on Amazon—only you get to support your favorite charity without doing anything extra (not even donating time or effort).
Any Youngs, Hagermans, Bodines out there?
The Mahwah Museum archives are processing a large collection of photographs from the Martha Young Kuklinski Collection which document the lives of J. Frank Young (1905-1960) and Henrietta Morriss Young (1909-1984) and their families, ranging 1910-1940s. There are also some older historical family photographs. Henrietta Morriss’ mother was Bessie Hagerman and she lived with Andrew Hagerman. The photos from this branch of the family are fairly well labeled. The photographs of the Youngs, who came from Tallman, often have no labels at all. J. Frank Young’s mother was Anne Jane Bodine and his father was John Franklin Young. His siblings were Alta, Freda, and John Young. If you can help up put names to faces, it would make this collection much more useful to researchers.
The Mahwah Museum needs help in documenting the story of Mahwah. Contact us if you wish to donate photos or documents which will assist us in this endeavor.
Please call or email the museum if interested (201) 512-0099 firstname.lastname@example.org
Charles E. Ellis
Charles Ellis began his career in 1926, at the age of 19, at Norton-Blair-Douglas in New York. He was recommended for an internship by Bassett Jones, a renowned electrical engineer, who was one of the prominent residents of Cragmere and who also holds at least one patent. Charles applied for his first patent in 1929 at the age of 22 when he was working for Norton Blair Douglas. That patent was awarded in 1934 after Norton Blair Douglas had been bought out by Westinghouse. This patent was for a safety device for vehicle doors, particularly those of elevators, that involved the use of beam of light which, when interrupted by a person’s foot for example, would not let the elevator door close. Like the electric eye on your elevator door. He was chagrined that the builders of the Chrysler Building did not use it on their elevators, but was glad that Rockefeller Center did.
When Norton-Blair-Douglas was bought out by Westinghouse Electric Elevator Co, Mr. Ellis and the partners moved to Chicago where they worked for Westinghouse. During this period he was awarded a number of patents for elevator related controls and systems. In 1933, he left Westinghouse and got a $10,000 severance which he used, in part, for a trip around the world, in the depth of the depression, on a Japanese steamer. When in London, he heard that the U.S. was likely to go off the gold standard so he converted his travelers checks into gold coins and weathered the devaluation that occurred in U.S. money when it went off of the gold standard. His nephew John Edwards, who now owns Charles house is still looking for 2 gold coins that Charles told an interviewer in 1981 that he still had in the house.
After returning he worked in a company making packaging machinery and claims he was the first to seal plastics with a radio frequency rather than heat. He did not patent this invention. Through World War II he worked for Sedgewick Machine Works, where one of his inventions was large elevators for aircraft carriers, resulting in multi-million dollar sales for that item.
After a period of self employment, between 1948 and 1951, when he continued to invent, specializing in adjustable speed motors, he joined Sperry Rand Corporation where he worked from 1959 as the director of quality control. From 1959 on, he continued to invent and refine adjustable speed and supersynchronous motors.
In his later years, he became very interested in Mahwah history and the environment. He warned of the dangers of earthquakes along the Ramapo Fault, west of the Ramapo River, as subject that was also addressed by Howard Avery. When Mahwah put sewers into Cragmere, he did a drawing and analysis of the water system on Armour Road that formerly served Ezra Miller’s mansion, and became incorporated into the Mahwah water system. He was invited to become a member of the first Environmental Commission, but declined to serve because, he said, the Township refused to provide a personal indemnity and insurance.
Ellis’s house in Cragmere
Photos courtesy of John Edwards.
Robert Armstrong Smith
He did much of his creative work from a basement laboratory in his house on Beveridge Road.. Early in his career he obtained patents for better machinery couplings and bushings for his business known as Smith & Serrell. He also held patents on a better snow shovel and a coin holder.
But the most interesting stories come from his work in polarized light. He was an associate of Lewis Warrington Chubb of Westinghouse. They were working on polarizing the lights from headlamps in a car. Polarization, as you probably know from figuring out how your sunglasses work, is the process of taking light waves which are in a random pattern and changing them into a more concentrated stream.
Patent for light polarizer
Before the work of Chubb and Smith and of Edwin Land, headlights were dangerous because they were not polarized. Chubb and Smith were working on mechanical means of polarizing light which polarized it at is source. Edwin Land had dropped out of Harvard and was working on a chemical solution that polarized the light using a film on a windshield, or on the headlight lens. They were engaged in a patent battle that resulted ultimately in Chubb and Smith selling their patents to Polaroid Corporation for stock in that company and a job for Chubb.
In 1933, in the midst of the patent negotiations, Land came to Mahwah and they did some testing. Here, thanks to Audrey Artusio, the current owner of the Smith house, Margaret Smith Pryde (1910-2008), Robert’s daughter, Mary Ellen Pryde Abrams, and Tara Van Brederode, Robert’s granddaughters, is a description of that test by Robert’s daughter Molly:
Dr. Edwin Land …..came to Mahwah in 1933 to witness a test run. Our cars were equipped with polarized headlights and windshields.
I was to be the guinea pig. It was a dark, rainy night. Dad gave me instructions. “I don’t want to know where you’re standing,” he said. “That yellow slicker is too light. Go borrow your mother’s black raincoat.”
I did as he said and then stationed myself on the road. Dad and Lew [Lewis Chubb] got in the car at one end of the road and Dr. Land rode with Mother in the second car which began at the other end of the road. Both drivers were supposed to see me. I was scared.
Smith’s home on Beveridge Place
Dad had said, “Don’t move, no matter what. I’ll honk the horn when I see you.”
I was beginning to panic. “But what if you don’t see me?
He calmly replied, “I will.”
I stood, mesmerized, as the headlights of the approaching cars moved closer. I felt rooted to the ground. I muttered to myself, “Please dear God let them see me in time.” My fists were clenched in the pockets of the raincoat. I heard the swish of tires on the wet road as the cars came closer and I closed my eyes.
No sound was ever sweeter than the “beep, beep” of the Essex horn and the answering beep of the Hupmobile.
Smith did not live to see Edwin Land’s most famous use of Polaroid light, the Polaroid Camera.
All images from the Mahwah Museum
Edward Gorcyca, of West Mahwah, was another one of those inventors from American Brakeshoe. He was born in 1923 and served in the Navy from 1943-1945. He died in 1996 in San Diego, California.
I don’t know too much about Ed’s life or background. He was the second son of Myron (or Marion) and Anna Gorcyca who came to the U.S. from Poland in 1906. In 1940 Myron was a coremaker at American Brakeshoe and, according to an oral history taken in 1975 with his daughter, Jenny (who married Larry Nyland, one of our Mayors) the family also had a subsistence farm on Church Street. His brothers Ben and John were proteges of John Warhol and John was influential in persuading John to attend the University of Maryland. Ben was the long time chairman of the Board of Adjustment and John ran for the office of tax collector.
One of Gorcyca’s patents.
Between 1954 and 1965, Ed’s name appeared on five patents that were assigned to American Brakeshoe. They all related to improvement of journal boxes, which contained oiled packing materials to lubricate the bearings of railroad wheels. The picture shows a railroad employee inspecting the journal box on a wheel to make sure the packing was properly in place, because if it failed, the wheel bearings would burn out causing a “hotbox.” Until 1961, the primary inventor was a man named Llewellyn Hoyer, with Ed as a co-inventor. But the last two were in Ed’s name alone: for a clip to make keep the packing in place and a new dust guard that was easier to remove without disconnecting the entire journal box.