The History of Nutley, New Jersey
The Township of Nutley is located in the Northern quadrant of Essex County and enjoys a unique picturesque suburban existence in close proximity to New York City. It is conveniently located near the Garden State Parkway, New Jersey Turnpike, Route 3 and Route 21. Even with a population of approximately 27,000, this bedroom community enjoys a small town ambience throughout its quiet, well-maintained tree lined streets.
The parks in Nutley are considered the "crown jewel" of the Essex County park systems. The Township prides itself in maintaining a commendable level of conservation while safeguarding this pristine natural resource from impending and unnecessary sprawl. The latest surveys list the Township as maintaining over 10,000 trees and over 100 acres of recreational land. No home in Nutley is more than one half mile from a park or playground.
Since the arrival of Robert Treat in 1666, the character of the men and women who have lived in Nutley in the past 300 plus years has influenced our town. Our forefathers quarried the brownstone from the mines along the Passaic River to provide the raw materials for expansion of our great cities, and they toiled in the mills that lay along the Third River to manufacture the basic necessities of life. Living in the Enclosure area, they created the paintings and authored the writings that contributed to our appreciation of the arts, and in more recent times they have established homes and schools, and created neighborhoods that give Nutley the characteristics of a small town in a metropolitan environment.
Nutley has been recognized as a town blessed with residents who take an active role in maintaining and improving the quality of life here. Although we may think this is something unique to modern times, a history of Nutley written in 1925 as part of the history of Essex County states "seldom can one find so deep a public spirit, so complete a participation in public affairs, so unselfish an affection for a place, as is shown by its people."
This spirit of volunteerism has been demonstrated by many of Nutley's distinguished residents. In 1894, Annie Oakley and Henry Cuyler Bunner, a renowned author and editor of the famous Puck magazine, spearheaded a community effort to benefit the American Red Cross with a performance of the Nutley Amateur Circus (See 1894 The Illustrated American magazine article) . Held at Eaton Stone Circus headquarters on Kingsland Road, prominent residents volunteered as performers and roustabouts. Later, in 1917, Col. H. G. Prout, editor of the Railroad Gazette, became the first president of the Nutley Red Cross when it became affiliated with the American Red Cross.
In the early 1900's, John Bouvier, a successful New York trial lawyer, took an active role in Nutley organizations by serving as president of the Nutley Board of Education, president of the Nutley Field Club, trustee of St. Mary's RC Church, and others. This characteristic of volunteerism was reflected in the life of his granddaughter, Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy, and is similarly shown today in the lives of many people living here. Whether those families have lived in Nutley for generations or for a few years, the civic involvement here in Nutley is infectious.
Nutley derived its name from the large estate of the Satterthwaite family, established in 1844, which stretched along the banks of the Passaic River. In 1902, the quaint town of Franklin, New Jersey, once the northeast corner of Newark, changed its name to Nutley when a growth in population prompted a change in the form of government from Township to Mayor/Council. Prior to this event, the geographical area now called Nutley had a colorful 236 years of recorded history.
Since no photographs and little actual recorded data that describe life in Nutley in its earliest days are available, our knowledge dating back to 1666 must be inferred from other resources. These include paintings, old maps, wills, estate inventories, and most important, contemporary photographs of historic buildings in Nutley that survived the ages and today stand as a living and vibrant part of Nutley's heritage. The fact that so many historic buildings exist bodes well for the people of Nutley and those in local government positions, for it is the Township of Nutley that has acquired ownership of three historic sites: Kingsland Manor, Van Riper House, Church Street School ( Nutley Museum). In addition to these the Vreeland Homestead and 12 homes within the Enclosure Historic District are listed on the State and National Register of Historic Places and are maintained by local homeowners.
The Lenni Lenape Indian tribe first inhabited the wilderness that greeted Robert Treat and a group of Puritans form Connecticut in 1666. They deeded to the Puritans a land filled with wildlife: pristine rivers and lakes stocked with abundant fish.
As the Village of Newark developed, its inhabitants did not wander far from their settlement and the town grew slowly, with few men, known as planters, acquiring land as far north as the Third River where Nutley is located today. However, at this same time, the Dutch began to settle along the Passaic River just north of the Third River at Acquackanonck (now Passaic) and established farms, saw mills and gristmills. The earliest recorded presence of a Dutch planter in the Nutley area was recorded in the minutes of the Newark town meeting held March 5, 1693, which admitted Bastian Van Giesen. The Van Giesen home, which still stands today on Chestnut Street (The Women's Club) exhibits the characteristic masonry of the Bergen County Dutch, while the façade and floor plan embody the influence of the English settlers of Essex County. This combination, extremely rare among the 219 stone houses in the area, highlights the use of transitional building features in a transitional geographical location.
In 1695, John Treat acquired land adjacent to VanGiesen, and in 1698 Thomas Stagg purchased another adjacent lot. These transactions signified the beginning of land development in Nutley in which people of different nationalities could live and work together.
Although it is not known when the first quarry was opened in the Nutley area, the existence of stone houses dating back to the early 1700's gives credence that quarry operations had begun at that time. Located close to the Passaic River, which provided a mode of transportation for the stone, the quarries became the first major industry. Unfortunately, as the quarries were dug ever deeper, water seepage caused them to become uneconomical and they were abandoned in the early 1900's.
A recently discovered map (drawn in 1792) of property along the Third River in an area now known as Memorial Park I, shows the beginning g of a small industry to meet the growing need of local inhabitants. It pictures a dam and pond; a home, gristmill, sawmill and a log yard operated by John and Thomas Speer. Mills located along the Third River became the second major industry in the mid 1800's Joseph Kingsland operated a paper mill near Kingsland Road that produced a high grade safety paper used by banks throughout the world. Henry Duncan built mills at several locations, the largest being the Essex Mills located near Chestnut Street. Here he built his own home and helped to establish the quaint village of Franklinville. It consisted of about 30 small homes, a bakery, boarding house for bachelor workers, and the Franklin Hotel, later called Military Hall. Today only one of the original circa1850 mill structures exists, which has been adapted for use as our town hall. Workers spent 12 hours per day, six days a week eking out a living. In 1884, the lowering of tariffs against imported woolens destroyed the mill's major business and ended this industry in Nutley.
In 1870, railroad service came to Nutley with three stations located within the town's borders: Franklin Avenue station on High Street, Nutley station on Highfield Lane and Walnut Street station on Walnut Street.
With the advent of the railroad to towns surrounding New York, came a need for a true suburban home for commuters. William Lambert, president of the Nutley Realty and a noted architect and author of a book entitled Suburban Architecture, met this need. He is credited with giving Nutley much of its unique character. Lambert's style, beauty, originality and reasonable cost met this need as exemplified by the 500+ homes he built in sections of town known as Prospect Heights, Nutley Park and Nutley Heights. Other structures included St. Paul's Congregational Church, Nutley Post Office (now Starbucks) and High Street railroad station (now demolished). As the mills and quarries were phased out as the town's major industries, these homes enabled Franklin/Nutley to become a haven for New York commuters, and a new spirit of camaraderie was born.
Another 19 th century land developer in Nutley was James Hay, who, in 1873, purchased the circa 1812 John Mason house located by Cotton Mill Pond, now known as the "Mudhole" in Memorial Park I. This house, which stands today, is of Federal design and is one of Nutley's most architecturally significant buildings. It is now part of the Enclosure Historic District that was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1973.
Mr. Hay was instrumental in enticing scores of artists, authors and magazine editors to make the Enclosure and its environs their home.. Among the list of notables who lived in Nutley were painters Frank Fowler, Frederic Dorr Steele, Frederick Dana Marsh and his wife, Alice Randall, Albert Sterner, Arthur Hoeber, Earl Stetson-Crawford and his wife, Brenetta and Ferdinand Lungren; authors Frank Stockton, Henry C. Brunner, and editors of such prominent magazines as Puck, Century, Judge and The Railroad Gazette. Even the famous sharp shooter Annie Oakley took up residence in 1892 in a house on Grant Avenue (since demolished). In 1894, she and Henry C. Butler, the editor of Puck magazine, with many other town residents, volunteered their services to produce the Nutley Amateur Circus on the grounds of the Eaton Stone Circus Headquarters on Kingsland Road to benefit the American Red Cross. Special trains arrived from New York bringing in people to witness the event. (The spirit shown by these people lives on today as shown by the benevolent work of today's residents).
Starting in the latter part of the 19 th century and continuing throughout the 20 th century, civic groups were organized to help enhance the quality of life for the residents of Franklin/Nutley. Some organizations were purely recreational and catered to the social elite, while others were conceived solely to solve social and economic problems of the day.
Typical of the latter was the Yanticaw Improvement Association, organized in the spring of 1892. It strove to interest property owners and tenants in beautifying their residences, including such mundane concerns as the disposition of garbage and debris. Apparently the objectives were met, for the Association gave out yearly monetary awards for the best kept grounds in the town, and garbage dumping became regulated at sites like the large dump on John Street. Also, several old barrack structures on Washington Avenue near Grant Avenue, which housed quarry workers were in such deplorable condition that 200 citizens of Franklin attacked the buildings with disinfectant solutions in March 1893. They later raised enough money to purchase the structures and apply the kindling torch. Such was the character of our forefathers and their concern in maintaining a high standard of living.
Together with the Nutley Civic Society, both organizations strongly opposed buggy racing on Washington Avenue, the nuisance created at the Masonic Hall by boys loafing around the corner of Franklin and High Streets, the number of saloon licenses issued, slot machines in candy stores and whiskey drops on sale to minors, to name just a few of the turn-of-the-century social concerns. Question: were they successful? Answer: do we still have these problems?
The first of another type of organization in pre 1902 Nutley concerned the welfare of residents was the Granite Council No. 51, Order of United Friends that held its meetings in Rusby Hall, located on the second floor of Rusby's grocery store. Founded in 1882, it was the only lodge at the time for mutual benevolent purposes. Today we have numerous groups that car4ry on the work started over 100 years ago.
Social organizations started with the Franklin Archery Club organized in June 1878. With the advent of tennis, the club evolved into lawn tennis and eventually became the Nutley Field Club located between the railroad tracks and what is now Tennis Place. The clubhouse became the focal place for the social events among the rich and famous of the day. Among the presidents of the Nutley Field Club was John Bouvier, grandfather of Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy, who commuted to New York via the Erie train and lived on Nutley Avenue in the estate named Woodcroft.
Other civic groups also dedicated to improving life in Franklin/Nutley have disappeared over the years, including the Nutley Association, Nutley Civic & Improvement Association, First Ward Association, North End Association, Men's Civic Association and the Fortnightly Club, whose altered clubhouse still stands on Franklin Avenue.
As would be expected of a town with such a spirit of volunteerism, in 1894 an all volunteer fire department was organized. Named the Yantacaw Hose and Truck Co., it was housed in the west end of our present town hall. In 1895 the Avondale Company was formed and in 1898 its headquarters was built on Park Avenue in a building still standing today. In later years, the Nutley Sun wrote: "Manned by men who not only had a sense of civic duty, but also the adventurous spirits of firefighters, the companies have been centers of neighborhood activities since the beginning of the town's history." An example of such neighborliness has been demonstrated over the years by the long hours firemen spend repairing broken toys for several months before Christmas. Remembering the events of 9 -11-01, we salute and thank all of our police and firefighters for the humanitarian efforts shown each and every day.
With the end of the 19th century and the start of the 20th, came a time of change like to other in the history of man. No millennium change had caused as much stress and apprehension. Events had occurred and were occurring that would affect man socially and environmentally in profound ways.
In America, the 1890 census called the frontier closed: all of the lands explored claimed and settled. The death of Queen Victoria in 1901 was not only the end of a monarch but also an end to the era named for her. By 1911 the earth's north and south poles would be reached. The end of the 19th century closed the first great chapter in American history.
Just six months before the township of Franklin, NJ changed its name to Nutley the world was shocked by the assassination of President William McKinley. He was succeeded by Teddy Roosevelt, a charismatic man with boundless energy and progressive politics. In the years prior to 1902, Nutley was a blue collar community whose major industries were stone quarries, woolen mills and paper manufacturing. With the advent of the railroad in the late 1860's, the town became a town of commuters. The caliber of its residents created the need for independence from the more provincial town of Belleville. The division established the Township of Franklin in 1874 and the geographical boundaries we have today.
The statistics of 1902 present a start contrast to conditions 100 years + later:
Total U.S. population was 76,100,000
Nutley population 3,600
The average worker made $200-$400 per year
Only 8% of homes had a telephone
Only 14% of homes in the U.S. had a bathtub.
Coffee cost 15 cents per pound
Sugar cost 4 cents per pound
The average life expectancy was 47 years
Such were the times when on March 5, 1902, the town council adopted a resolution to officially re-name our town from Franklin to Nutley.
1902 – 1912
By 1902, we had a new name and a population growth from 1500 in 1874 (our first year as a separate town, Franklin) to 3,600 in 1902. This trend continued during the ensuing years. This fact, along with the passing of the Walsh Act in 1911, which regulated and provided for the government of towns, specifically the commission form, kept our town fathers busy. The next ten years would be spent building streets and sidewalks, extending the water mains and metering the water use, collecting taxes and water bills, licensing saloons and dogs and peddlers. In addition to changing our entire form of local government in 1912, other services and organizations were established. Firehouses, churches and new schools would also be built. It was also during this time through the persistent efforts of two local men, John F. Clark and Dr. Thomas E. Satterthwaite, that the town commissioners stopped the private development of properties along the Third River. This made way for the Parks system through the center of town that we enjoy today.
Yantacaw School 1902
The Friday Afternoon Club 1904
Capalbo's Fruit Baskets 1906
First Baptist Church 1906
The Bank of Nutley 1906
West Nutley Fire Hose #2 1906
First Police Department 1908
Grace Church built 1908
Holy Family Roman
Catholic Church 1909
Vincent Methodist Church 1910
Windheim Plumbing 1911
Washington School 1911
Viola Brothers 1912
Nutley Elks Lodge 1290 1912
Women's Club of Nutley 1912
1913 – 1922
The 1910 census reported Nutley's population at 6009; almost double the amount from ten years prior. With this growth the next decade would see the construction of three additional new schools, the second addition to the Park School and the Free Public Library. Civic involvement would also continue. With the groundwork laid out the previous decade, the development of the park system would take place along the third river.
In 1913, the cornerstone of the Public School Library, later named the Free Public Library was laid. 1913 also brought the lobby of town women to sit on the School Board and discussions of the women's suffrage movement. In a special section of the Nutley Sun (1913) the attributes of life in Nutley are detailed. Noted were: it is within the heart of things; transportation facilities are splendid; life of paradise outside of metropolis; population 7,000; occupies larger area than most towns with as many people; has miles and miles of splendidly laid sidewalks of concrete construction; miles and miles of cement curbing and gutters; macadamized roadways; most roadways are beautifully shaded with elm and chestnut trees; the lawns are well kept; there is an abundance of open fields for children to play; all schools have spacious grounds which present a very neat appearance throughout the year and extensive parks are being built by the Essex County Parks Commission.
1915 brought one of the largest graduating classes of Nutley High School – 21 students. In that same year, the Nutley Family Service Bureau was formed. In addition, this era brought the following:
Spring Garden School ground breaking 1916
County Park (Centre to Chestnut) 1917
Gary's Pharmacy 1917
Nutley Abundant Life 1918
Nutley Post 70 American Legion 1919
Memorial Parkway 1920
Stuart E. Edgar Post 493 1920
St. Mary's School 1921
Zinicola's Bakery 1921
Knights of Columbus 1922
Nutley Chapter Rotary International 1922
1923 – 1932
In America, the 1920's were a time of economic boom, population growth and great social optimism following the first Great War. However, in a short time the Great Depression would take hold and the generation of that time would receive a formidable experience that would shape them and our country for the next 60 years. Nutley experienced its greatest population growth during this time, from 9,421 in 1920 to 20,572 in 1930. New developments included:
Holy Trinity Lutheran Church 1924
Kingsland Park 1924
Franklin Men's Shop 1925
League of Women Voters 1925
Nutley Lions Club 1925
Mt Carmel Roman Catholic Church 1925
Franklin School 1927
Franklin Theatre 1927
Nutley Branch AAUW 1927
Hoffman La Roche 1929
Public Safety Building 1930
Nichols Park 1930
Booth Park 1931
Nutley Park Shop Rite 1932
1933 – 1942
The Depression and World War II would dominate America during this period. Like the rest of the country, the citizens of Nutley would pull together for each other and for their country. A Civil Defense film was made depicting Nutley's efforts at home during the war. The film was borrowed by other communities in the US to use in developing their own programs and finally made its way back to Nutley in 1975 from a town in North Dakota. Like the rest of America during the war, Nutley citizens did all they could . Scrap drives, food rationing, and blood drives were just a few of the activities that took place. This era also established the following:
George T. Bowes Realtors 1933
Recreation Center at Lincoln School 1933
Nutley Velodrome 1933
Nutley Little Theatre 1934
Oilways Fuel Corporation 1935
Janette Nutley Center 1936
NBC Auto 1937
Holy Family Church 1938
Third Half Club 1939
J & N Service Center 1939
1943 – 1952
With the end of World War II in 1945, the Township experienced returning GI's intent on partaking of the American dream. After years of fighting for freedom, they got buys with the post war economic boom, the baby boom and the building of their communities and families. The proposal of the Garden State Parkway in 1953 and Route 3 in 1949 would be part of an expansion of highways and interstates that would contribute to the continued density growth of the areas surrounding Nutley. The challenge became to maintain our small town character while still being progressive. Beginning with the 1944 commission election, names such as Lucy, Chenoweth, Jernick and DeMuro would remain at the helm for much of the next 40 years. We would continue to experience this trend of longevity in later years with the addition of Commissioners Carmen Orechio and Frank Cocchiola. The Commissioners oversaw much of our growth during this period, introducing a Master Plan, zoning requirements and seeing to the development of many of the garden apartment complexes we have today. Life in post-war Nutley also brought the following:
Richards Florist 1945
Nutley Amvets 1946
Riverside Community Church 1946
Nutley Old Guard 1947
Recreation Department 1948
Town Hall 1948
Nutley Historical Society and Museum 1948
Russo Insurance 1948
Golden Age Club 1949
Bethel Assembly 1949
Holy Family School 1950
S.W. Brown Funeral Home 1950
Griffith Shade Company 1950
Temple B'nai Israel expansion 1950
Nutley Chapter – Unico International 1951
1953 – 1962
Some would call this period the golden age of suburban life: Dad at work and Mom at home with the children. Though we had the Cold War, the focus was on family life. The baby boom was still on, television was well entrenched, the interstate highway system enable greater mobility, malls were just emerging and we still had Ma Bell.
Halfway through Nutley's first 100 years, the landscape had changed dramatically. Development leveled off substantially. 3.5 square miles were almost completely developed. With no more farms and the street system complete, we were left with the responsibility of maintenance. However, community spirit thrived.
Nutley Volunteer First Aid Squad 1953
Nutley Chamber of Commerce 1953
Nutley Masonic Lodge No. 25, F &AM (current home) 1953
Park Foods ( 411 Franklin Avenue, Now Nutley Shop Rite) 1953
Nutley Museum Dedication 1954
Jernick Insurance 1954
Garden State Parkway 1955
Radcliffe School 1955
Nutley Jaycees 1955
Town Flag designed 1956
Father Glotzbach Park 1956
Flora Louden Park 1957
Delgen Press 1957
Kiwanis Club 1958
Nutley Senior High School 1959
Ralph's Pizzeria 1961
1963 – 1972
Beginning with the assassination of President Kennedy in 1963, lie in America would dramatically change during the next decade. The Vietnam War and the Civil Rights Movement would have a profound impact on America's psyche. Social unrest would reshape the country's identity.
However, life in Nutley would again remain relatively stable. With a population of almost 32,000 in 1970 the township would see growth of the High School and continued improvements of the park system. Recreation programs in town would also grow substantially.
Glotzbach Little League Field 1966
First Official Girls Basketball Team 1968
Biondi Funeral Home 1968
Franklin Floors 1969
Eight Ciccolini Brothers 1969
DeMuro Park Improvements 1969
NHS Addition 1971
Mattia Service Award established 1972
Tour of Nutley Bike Race 1972
1973 – 1982
By 1973, the post-war economic boom was over and America was facing uncertainty. The Vietnam War would end with the Communists in control. In Iran, the US embassy would be overthrown and Americans taken hostage. At home, high unemployment, high inflation, gas shortages at the hands of foreign powers and the Watergate scandal would cause an unprecedented identity crisis for America. The phrase, "The Me Generation", would come to describe the population. Thoushwe would celebrate the country's bicentennial in 1976, faith in government was shaken. Reaganomics would begin to stimulate the economy again but the accelerated pace of change in the world would force a redefining of social, political and economic approaches. In Nutley, what were becoming identifiable characteristics, stability and progress, though certainly slowed, continued. There were expansions of the Parks and Recreation building, the Public Library and the development of the 22 acre Monsignor Owens/Glotzbach Park. Civic pride and involvement also continued.
Kingsland Manor purchase 1973
Enclosure Historical Site designation 1974
Creation of Special Young Adults 1975
Burial of Bicentennial Time Capsule 1976
Girls Basketball State Champs 1977
Organization of St. Patrick's Parade 1978
Expansion of Parks & Rec Building 1981
1983 – 1992
During this time in America we would see the construction of the Vietnam Memorial in Washington D.C. Finally we would have reconciliation, putting to rest America's struggle with the dividing experience that the war produced. The Cold War would end in 1985 and the Berlin Wall demolished in 1989, changing the world landscape. New words would come into our language: Yuppies, Aids and Reaganomics. The resurgent US space program and the American people would suffer the Challenger Shuttle disaster.
In Nutley, civic pride continued. The first designation as Tree City took place. A new housing project would be built for the senior population and one of the largest volunteer projects in township history would give our children a fun place to play.
Parkside Senior Citizen Complex 1978
Formation of town recycling program 1984
Boys Basketball State Champs 1984
Demolition of Franklin Ave. train station 1985
Improvements to Mudhole 1986
First Female Police Officer 1987
Public Library Expansion 1987
First Designation Tree City USA 1987
Building of Creative Playground 1992
1993 – 2002
As the township closed the first 100 years we saw the explosion of the Internet and dot.com companies, Y2K concerns and, of course, 9/11, which will be remembered as one of the most significant dates in our generation's and our country's history. The tragic events of 9/11 provided an awakening to the common bond we individuals share as Americans, this country's freedom. We were all attacked (many more directly than others), not as individuals but as a people. Nutley lost three of its citizens on that fateful day. But like so many other Americans, Nutley responded heroically. All of our police, firemen and Rescue Squad staff were mobilized immediately in the hours following the attacks in New York. Ordinary citizens gave their time, money and efforts in any way possible. In this time period, the Township will see the last large land development take place. ITT Avionics moved out of its 93 acre site on Washington Avenue, making way for the Cambridge Heights development. Across the border, Clifton saw a huge retail development and our own end of Franklin Avenue was revitalized with restaurants and coffee shops.
Town Hall named Harry W. Chenoweth Building 1994
Van Riper House saved from demolition 1995
Ice Hockey added to HS athletic program 1998
Building plan approved – Cambridge Heights 1998
Rehab of World War II Memorial 1999
Lacrosse added to HS athletic program 1999
Roller Rink built 2000
Senior Citizen addition to Parks & Rec Building 2001
New Senior Housing Complex Built 2002
9/11 Memorial dedicated 2002
Gazebo donated by Rotary to township 2002
2002 noted the 100 th anniversary of the Township of Nutley commemorated by a year's worth of historic events planned by the Centennial Celebration Committee formed under the direction of Mayor Peter Scarpelli and Chaired by Commissioner Joanne Cocchiola.
As the Township of Nutley enters its second century a lot has changed. But our civic pride and our citizens' involvement are as strong as ever. The events of 9/11 only strengthened our commitment to our freedoms, our country and our community There will be debates, there will be mistakes but in the end it is the love of this town that will sustain Nutley for the next century.