Which Way

The Main Street Bridge in Clinton, NJ, raised in 1870, is of special significance because of its early date and unique construction. Very few of its type, made with a combination of cast and wrought iron, a method used for only about 20 years, now survive in America. Designed by Francis C. Lowthorp and fabricated by William and Charles Cowin of Lambertville, it is based on the pony truss web system patented by Caleb Pratt in 1844. It features diagonal members in tension and simple pin joints. Its long service is a testament to its soundness of design, quality construction, and care of maintenance.

The bridge is also significant for its important role in carrying the former New Jersey Turnpike across the river, allowing commerce and trade to flow in and out of town to great advantage.

Which Way

Craftsman Farm-The Home of Gustav Stickley

Yesterday we visited the home of Gustav Stickley, a furniture maker in the Craftsman style during the early 1900’s. Here is some background:

Gustav Stickley made popular the Craftsman style of  furniture in the early 1900’s, a departure from ornate Victorian style. This new furniture reflected his ideals of simplicity, honesty in construction, and truth to materials. Unadorned, plain surfaces were enlivened by the careful application of colorants so as not to obscure the grain of the wood and mortise and tenon joinery was exposed to emphasize the structural qualities of the works. Hammered metal hardware, in armor-bright polished iron or patinated copper emphasized the handmade qualities of furniture which was fabricated using both handworking techniques and modern woodworking machinery . His firm’s work, both nostalgic in its evocation of handicraft and the pre-industrial era and proto-modern in its functional simplicity, was popularly referred to as being in the Mission style, though Stickley despised the term as misleading. In 1903 he changed the name of his company again, to the Craftsman Workshops, and began a concerted effort to market his works — by then including furniture as well as textiles, lighting, and metalwork — as Craftsman products. Ultimately, over 100 retailers across the United States represented the Craftsman Workshops.

Those ideals – simplicity, honesty, truth – were reflected in his trademark, which includes the Flemish phrase Als Ik Kan inside a joiner’s compass. The phrase is generally translated ‘to the best of my ability.’

Stickley began to acquire property in New Jersey between 1905 and 1907, purchasing 650 acres of farmland in Morris Plains. He wanted to establish a boarding school for boys. Craftsman Farms was designed to include vegetable gardens, orchards, dairy cows and chickens. The main house there is constructed from chestnut logs and stone found on the property.

As he wrote in The Craftsman:

There are elements of intrinsic beauty in the simplification of a house built on the log cabin idea. First, there is the bare beauty of the logs themselves with their long lines and firm curves. Then there is the open charm felt of the structural features which are not hidden under plaster and ornament, but are clearly revealed, a charm felt in Japanese architecture….The quiet rhythmic monotone of the wall of logs fills one with the rustic peace of a secluded nook in the woods.

Although the main house at Craftsman Farms was initially conceived of as a clubhouse for students, lack of interest in the school prompted Stickley to live there with his family instead. The planned school never became a reality. By 1913, changing tastes and the financial strain of his new twelve-story Craftsman Building in Manhattan, conceived as a department store, began to take their toll; in 1915 he filed for bankruptcy, stopping publication of The Craftsman in December 1916 and selling Craftsman Farms in 1917.

All that remains is 30 acres of the original farm, highways and homes have taken over where once stood a vineyard, a pasture and fruit groves. The house that was built using chestnut logs still remains, with many of the original furnishings.

George Washington Slept Around

On Sundays my husband and I like to take short day trips to visit different places in our area. Our area is rich in the history of the events during the Revolutionary War.

After British forces were driven from Boston in March, 1776, General George Washington headed to New York City, where he arrived on April 13, 1776. The task for him and his army was to protect New York from British invasion. The city was of great strategic importance, and New York harbor offered control of the Hudson River. The British had a large and powerful navy, and their strategy was to use their ships to gain control of the Hudson River in order to split the thirteen colonies in two, as a way to win the war. Work began on a fort there in July 1776, which was originally called “Fort Constitution,” later renamed “Fort Lee,” in honor of General Charles Lee. Across the Hudson River, another fort called Fort Washington had already been constructed. The idea was that these two forts on opposite sides of the river could be used to stop British ships from sailing up the Hudson River. We visited what is now Fort Lee Historic Park, located atop a bluff of the Hudson Palisades. It overlooks the George Washington Bridge connecting New Jersey and New York.

General George Washington marched to Morristown, New Jersey, in 1777, where he set up winter headquarters for himself and the men of the Continental Army. The hills surrounding the camp offered Washington a perfect vantage point from which to keep an eye on the British army, which was headquartered across the Hudson River in New York City.

Washington’s Headquarters in Morristown, NJ and the bed he slept in while there

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The Bed Washington Slept in
The Bed Washington Slept in

New Bridge Landing was the site of a pivotal bridge crossing the Hackensack River,where George Washington led his 2,000 troops from Fort Lee in retreat from British forces. This move preserved them from entrapment on the narrow peninsula between the Hudson and Hackensack Rivers. New Bridge was a prosperous mill hamlet, centered upon a bridge strategically placed at the narrows of the Hackensack River. Washington headquartered here for 16 days in 1780.

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The Steuben House