Palisades Amusement Park: A Century of Fond Memories
Palisades Amusement Park: A Century of Fond Memories (1998)
Saturday, March 7 at 11:00 am
at Mahwah Museum
Join us for a rare screening of “Palisades Amusement Park: A Century of Fond Memories.” Narrated by the legendary Ken Burns, the film looks into the history of this New Jersey landmark through the visitors and personalities who knew the park so well: Buddy Hackettt, Walter Cronkite, John Sebastian, Soupy Sales, Cousin Brucie and many others. The documentary won numerous awards for excellence including the 1998 ITVA Gold Award, the 1999 Telly Award and was nominated for an Emmy by the New York Chapter of the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences for Outstanding Historical/Cultural Programming. After the screening, there will be a discussion and Q&A with film producers Vince Gargiulo and David Comora. Screening will be 1 hour.
As the founder and executive director of the Palisades Amusement Park Historical Society, Vince Gargiulo began the extensive research of the New Jersey resort in 1991. With the cooperation of hundreds of residents, employees, and executives of the Park, Mr. Gargiulo has compiled the most comprehensive history of the Park ever written, Palisades Amusement Park: A Century of Fond Memories. The book was published in 1995 by Rutgers University Press and became the fastest selling book in the publisher’s history. In 1998, he wrote and co-produced the PBS documentary, Palisades Amusement Park: A Century of Fond Memories for public television.
The screening is free for museum members, $5 for non-members. Reservations are recommended; please contact email@example.com to reserve seats.
Elizabeth Cady Stanton
A Lecture by Lindsey Greene Barrett
March 5th at 7:30 pm
at Mahwah Museum
2020 marks the 100th anniversary of the ratification of the nineteenth amendment, which gave American women the right to vote. Lindsey Greene Barrett will present the 70+ year story of the fight for women’s suffrage in the United States, and the influential women who brought it to fruition. New Jersey has its own unique voting history, and was home to several women who were integral to the suffrage movement, including Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Alice Paul. Ms. Barrett will discuss Mahwah’s ties to the movement, and how local communities were affected and became involved in the struggle for women’s rights.
Alice Paul in 1918
Lindsey Greene Barrett grew up in Mahwah and has lived in Wyckoff for the past two decades. She taught Women as Entrepreneurs at Fairleigh Dickinson for nine years, and has lectured widely on influential women in history.
The lecture is free for museum members; $5 for non- members. Refreshments will be served. Reservations are recommended; to reserve seats, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org or call 201-512-0099.
February 13 at 7:00 PM
at Mahwah Bar and Grill, 2 Island Rd., Mahwah, NJ
The Mahwah Museum will host a Palisades Amusement Park trivia night!
Fans of The Palisades Amusement Park can test their knowledge against their neighbors’ about the history of the legendary amusement park, from its opening in 1898 to its close in 1971. Participants can join a team (of 4), or cheer on friends, during this one-of-a-kind competition. This special event will be held at the Mahwah Bar and Grill; there will be no admission charge and a percentage of food and beverage purchased during the event will be donated to the Mahwah Museum. Prizes will be awarded to the winning team, and one lucky participant will receive a door prize.
Museum Trustee Wade Morgan will MC, and Vince Gargiulo, Executive Director of Palisades Amusement Park Historical Society, will judge. Contact Mahwah Bar & Grill at 201-529-8056 to reserve a table.
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!
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.
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.
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.
Theodore Havemeyer (Suzanne Meyer Stein Collection, Mahwah Museum)
Three generations of Havemeyers were inventors. As you know, Theodore A. Havemeyer came to Mahwah in 1879 and established Mountain Side Farm, much of which is Ramapo College. He died in 1897. Although Theodore had nine children only his sons, Henry O. Havemeyer and Frederick C. Havemeyer, continued a presence in Mahwah. Henry O. Havemeyer died in 1965 but his son, Henry O. Havemeyer, Jr. continued to live here until his death in 1992. The house in which Henry Jr. lived became the home of the President of Ramapo College. Theodore, Henry O., and Henry O., Jr. were all inventors.
Theodore Havemeyer’s Sugar Mold Carriage patent
Theodore A. Havemeyer, born in 1839, had only a grammar school education but joined the family sugar business as a partner in 1861. He was the technological expert in the family and an early age had spent a year in Europe studying the sugar refining process. In 1862 he and a man named Schnitzpan patented a new and improved carriage for sugar molds. He was a partner in Havemeyers & Elder, which was an integral part of the Sugar Trust. In his later years in Mahwah he was a patron of many agricultural and scientific societies that were advancing the technology of agriculture. He was on the forefront of ensilage– to generate feed for his cows—the breeding of cows to improve milk production, and the breeding of fantail pigeons for show.
Henry O. Havemeyer (On loan from the Mahwah Library)
Theodore Havemeyer’s son, Henry O. Havemeyer, dropped out of Yale in 1897 after the death of his father and became an apprentice at the family sugar business. He returned to Yale and graduated as a proud member of the Class of 1900. The Ramsey Journal reported in 1906 that he had gotten a speeding ticket in his newfangled automobile. So it is appropriate that he was the inventor of a license plate holder that could be flipped over so that it had the plate of one state on one side and the plate of another state on the reverse. Henry O. Havemeyer was not merely a playboy, however. He was the president of the Eastern District Terminal in Brooklyn which had been spun off from the family’s sugar business. He became an officer and later the long time president of the Eastern District Terminal. The Eastern District Terminal was the gateway for all railroads coming from the west and seeking to be in Brooklyn or Long Island. It was also the only way in which refined and packaged sugar could get from the Domino refinery in Brooklyn to the west. They had to come through these yards and be moved by small locomotives like these. It would be up to Henry O. Havemeyer, Jr. – who also worked for the company – to make some important advances.
Havemeyer House (Courtesy Dater Family Archives)
There were no tunnels under the Hudson River so railroad cars were barged or lightered over from the yards of Jersey City, Bayonne or Hoboken, to the Eastern District Terminal and then transferred to the industries or railroads in Brooklyn. To get one or more railroad cars across the river, there was a floating bridge connected to the tracks on the shore. The barge connected to the water side of the bridge. There were tracks on the barge to accept the car being transported. You can imagine how difficult it must have been to transfer a fully loaded railroad car from tracks on the bridge to the tracks on the rolling barge. There were constant mishaps and derailments. The invention of Henry O. Havemeyer, Jr., filed in 1925 when he was 22 years old, improves on the way that the rails on the bridge and barge could be aligned to make derailments rare. Henry O. Havemeyer, Jr. lived in the house we today call the Havemeyer House and had a number of other inventions to improve railroad transportation.
Henry O. Havemeyer’s License plate design
(Thomas Dunn Collection)
Henry O. Havemeyer Jr.’s patent design