Located at 201 Franklin Turnpike, the museum is open Wednesdays, Saturdays and Sundays from 1-4 pm, September 22-June.
This year we are featuring three new exhibits, along with our permanent exhibits.
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!
We also invite you to join us for our programs and events held throughout the season. See our Events page for more information.
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.
If you have anything to add to our community’s “family tree”, feel free to contact the Mahwah Museum at 201-512-0099 before Sept. 1 (and if you’ve caught all of our tree references in this article, we apologize for driving you “nuts”).
Palisades Amusement Park 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!
The Museum’s Donald Cooper Railroad is an operating HO-Scale model railroad with many trains traveling between levels and on different routes. Centralized electronic switches allow the operator to control the entire layout from the DCC central control panels. The railroad yard is fully functional allowing operators to make up trains and dispatch them to their own destinations. The four-level high layout has three independent scenic modules that are constantly changing, as well as a trolley, a subway system, logging station, waterfall, roundhouse and turntable. We invite engineers of all ages to come and visit our ever-changing and growing railroad world. For information about joining the train crew, please email email@example.com or call 201-512-0099.
Please note: the DCMRR is open Saturdays and Sundays. Admission to the exhibit is included with Museum admission -$5 for adults, free for children. It is a model train display, not a train ride.
Mahwah Museum has a small permanent exhibit featuring some Les Paul history which allows visitors to learn the essential facts of Les Paul’s life and career. It has sections on his inventions and innovations, a display of one-of-a-kind precious guitars made especially for Les, and a re-creation of the studio in which Les did his work.