Union County’s annual public heritage event, “Four Centuries in a Weekend: A Journey through Union County’s History,” will take place Oct. 20 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sunday, Oct. 21 from noon to 5 p.m.
Sponsored by the Union County Board of Chosen Freeholders, with the cooperation of staff and volunteers at 24 house museums and historic sites, the two-day free event opens the doors to 400 years of history throughout the county.
“Four Centuries in a Weekend began in 1994 when 16 historic sites and the County of Union organized a weekend event to tell the story of how Elizabethtown of 1664 evolved into the 21 municipalities of today’s Union County,” said Freeholder Chairman Alexander Mirabella. “This year, a beautifully restored mansion and church, Revolutionary War burial grounds, quaint house museums, special exhibitions and tours showcase the county’s treasure trove of history.”
Special family-friendly highlights of Four Centuries in a Weekend include:
- An exhibit at Liberty Hall in Union that focuses on the role of slaves and servants from the time of its original owner, Governor William Livingston, to that of the last occupant, Mary Alice Barney Kean;
- The Cannon Ball House in Springfield will commemorate Civil War veteran Captain Edward H. Wade who died of wounds received at Antietam, Maryland on Sept. 17, 1862;
- A living history program at Oswald J. Nitschke House in Kenilworth commemorates 100 years of girl scouting with an historic interpreter portraying Juliette Gordon Law, founder of Girl Scouts USA;
- The Crane-Phillips House in Cranford presents an encampment by Civil War re-enactors, Company D, 2nd Rhode Island volunteers, in honor of local Civil War veterans;
- The Osborn Cannonball House in Scotch Plains presents an exhibit featuring bridal fashions and accessories from the 19th, 20th, and 21st centuries.
Journey on to Boxwood Hall in Elizabeth, the 1772 home of Elias Boudinot, President of the Continental Congress; tour the restored Revolutionary War burial grounds at the First Presbyterian Church of Elizabeth, the oldest English-speaking congregation in New Jersey; and visit the Caldwell Parsonage at Connecticut Farms in Union, an American Revolutionary site that was home to the “Fighting Parson,” James Caldwell and his wife, Hannah.
A visit to Hillside will bring you to the Woodruff House/Eaton Store, built in 1735; and the historic Evergreen Cemetery, a virtual museum of funerary art. In Rahway you’ll be welcome at the Merchants and Drovers Tavern, a restored early 19th century hotel, and you can tour the Union County Performing Arts Center, a beautifully restored classic Vaudeville venue.
When you stop at the Dr. William Robinson Plantation in Clark, you’ll discover a post-medieval English-style house where Dr. Robinson practiced healing with plants and herbs.
At the Abraham Clark House, home to a signer of the Declaration of Independence, you’ll learn about Early American life and the history of Roselle. In the Roselle Park Museum, housed in the Charles E. Stone Store, you’ll be standing in the first electrically-lighted store in the world.
Three authentic 18th century farmhouses are open for touring: the Miller-Cory House in Westfield; the Salt Box Museum in New Providence; and the Nathaniel Drake House in Plainfield, which was used as George Washington’s headquarters during the Revolutionary War.
Venturing into the Watchung Mountains, you’ll find the Deacon Andrew Hetfield House in Mountainside, home to the Hetfield family for 186 years; stroll through the Deserted Village of Feltville-Glenside Park in the Watchung Reservation, an 1845 town created by businessman David Felt; visit the Littell-Lord Farmstead in Berkeley Heights, a reminder of the County’s agricultural past; and explore Summit, with its Twin Maples, a stately neoclassical mansion; the Carter House, the city’s oldest house, built in the 1740’s; and the Summit Playhouse, a Richardsonian Romanesque structure with a 120-seat auditorium.
Children can earn a Time Traveler’s Certificate and a Four Centuries Patch by visiting and obtaining a Time Traveler Passport at any of the sites, having it stamped and returning the completed form to the Union County Office of Cultural and Heritage Affairs.
For free copies of the Four Centuries in a Weekend tour booklet, map and further information, telephone 908-558-2550 weekdays between 8:30 a.m. and 4:30 p.m., NJ Relay Users dial 711, or e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.