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Cranford Historical Society Membership Drive

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Cranford Historical Society, Inc.

An Invitation…..

 This is a personal invitation for you and your family to become members of the Cranford Historical Society.

The Cranford Historical Society was founded by Wesley A. Stanger, Sr. and a group of local citizens interested in preserving the town’s unique history. Since its founding, the Society has been dedicated to the perpetuation of Cranford’s history by continuing to collect and document the town’s past as we now enter the 21st century.  The Society was chartered by the State of New Jersey on February 17, 1927, as a non-profit educational organization.

The Society’s headquarters were initially located at 124 North Union Avenue, now the Crane-Phillips House Museum until the Society moved to the Hanson House.  It was the longtime home and office of Dr. Carl Hanson, a pediatrician, who opened his office here in 1934 and over the succeeding decades, provided care for hundreds of Cranford children.  Dr. Hanson was a nationally recognized researcher in the field of strep throat.  The Township purchased the property and then leased it to the Cranford Historical Society in 1990. 

The Cranford Historical Society has maintained the Hanson House since 1990 and through a recent grant from Union County, matching funds from the Township of Cranford and the Society in addition to other donations; the Society was able to have the Hanson House painted in 2011 in historical colors, green, cream trim and burgundy accents, to blend with nature.  All new windows were installed, a needed stabilization.  Still, our work is an ongoing process to preserve this “historic home.”

The Society conducted strictly in the interest of Cranford, affording opportunities for becoming acquainted with the past and present history of Cranford and its environment.   Its only source of income is from annual dues, donations and grants.  Our collection contains many exhibits, archives, maps, documents, photographs, research library, an extensive costume and military uniform collection and all the answers on the history of Cranford.  Our office is open for research during the week, Monday through Thursday from 9:00am to 12:00pm.

Today, the Society is managed by the Board of Trustees, led by President Margaret Gerlach.  The Board of Trustees also includes: Vice-President Mary Wade, Chairman of the Board John Dreyer, Treasurer Charles Goodfellow, Recording Secretary Barbara Klaus, Corresponding Secretary Jean Kreiling, Curator Robert Fridlington, Trustees Vic Bary, Nancy Bender, Bill Curtis, Louise Engstrom, Program Chairperson Christine Glazer, Lori Hoffner, Costume Curator Maribeth Lisnock, Julie Murphy, Jim Murphy, Judy Panagakos, Jean Pascarella, Patricia Pavlak, and George Wankmueller. 

The Cranford Historical Society also maintains the Crane-Phillips House Museum which is our primary programming site.  It is a prime example of the work of Victorian architect Andrew Jackson Downing, whose book, Victorian Cottage Residences, published in 1843, influenced American vernacular architecture.  The museum was restored in 1998.  A replica 19th Century kitchen was installed along with interior restoration.  This Victorian cottage’s vibrant two-toned green and red exterior trim with peach door were uncovered and restored.  Cranford’s Third Grade students visit our museum annually to learn what life was like in the late 1870’s.

An average of 4,000 people a year visit the Museum which is across the street from the Cranford 9/11 Memorial.  It is open on Sundays from 2:00-4:00pm from September to May or during the week by appointment only.  Admission is free but donations are happily accepted.  If you have not visited the museum with your family, you are cordially invited to do so.  The Museum was placed on the National and State Registers of Historic Places in 1997 and was named a “Save America’s Treasures” by The White House in 1999.

Some important highlights on the History of Cranford! We hope you enjoy passing through time.

1716 — John Crane enters into an agreement with John Lee to build a dam and two mills on the Rahway River, a gristmill on the east side and a sawmill on the west.  The dam is at the site of the present North Union Avenue dam.  The two mills are the beginning of the community that will become Cranford.

1765 —The British Parliament passes the Stamp Act, setting in motion a chain of events that will lead to the American Revolution.  At just about this time a Pepperidge sapling sprouts along the road from Elizabethtown to Westfield.  Today, more than 247 years later, “Old Peppy” still spreads its giant branches next to the Lincoln Avenue Playground.

1780 — On January 1st, with George Washington’s Patriot Army in winter quarters at Morristown, Brigadier General William Irvine establishes the front-line headquarters at Crane’s Mills (Cranford), guarding the New Jersey front opposite British-held Staten Island.

1780 — On Jan. 13th and 14th, at Crane’s Mills, Major General William Alexander (Lord Stirling) and Lt. Colonel Alexander Hamilton put the finishing touches on Washington’s plan for a surprise attack on Staten Island.  On January 15th, in one of the strangest military operations of the American Revolution, 500 sleighs carry 2,500 troops across the ice to invade Staten Island.  The attack is not a surprise and it fails.

1801 — By this time, the area along the old stage—coach road (now Lincoln Avenue) west of the Rahway River is called Craneville.  The neighborhood along the stage road east of the river is known as Williams Farms.

1837 — The Elizabethtown and Somerville Railroad line from Elizabeth reaches Cranford and proceeds west toward Plainfield.  In 1849, the E&S merges with the Central Railroad Co. of New Jersey.  The Jersey Central, as it is known, brings a new type of residents to Cranford—the commuter.

1842 — Josiah Crane built a small cottage across the street from the family home as a wedding present for his son and his bride, Sarah Jane.  The cottage was one single room which is now the Crane-Phillips House Museum.

1871 — On March 4, the New Jersey State Legislature creates the Township of Cranford, carving the new township out of five neighboring towns—Westfield, Springfield, Union, Linden and Clark.

1871 — Bursting with optimism, the Town Fathers offer twenty acres of land and $200,000 if the State will relocate the capital from Trenton to Cranford.  The offer is declined.

1880 — The population of Cranford reaches 1,184.

1881 — Joshua Bryant is elected constable, the first African-American to hold elective office in Cranford.  Bryant is re-elected in 1883, 1887 and 1890, serving longer than any other nineteenth-century constable.

1886 — Cranford holds its first River Carnival, featuring beautifully decorated canoes lighted with Chinese lanterns.  Cranford soon becomes known as the “Venice of New Jersey.”

1892 — Union Hose Company, No. 1, a volunteer fire company, is organized and in 1893 Cranford Hook and Ladder Company No. 1 is formed.  Hose Company members wore red shirts; Hook and Ladder men wore blue.

1897 — The Cranford Police Department is established.  At first members of the department wear civilian clothes.  Not until 1902, do the Cranford officers appear in uniform.

1900-1913 — During this time, Union Avenue South extends only as far as Lincoln Avenue.  On the other side of Lincoln Avenue is the golf course of the Cranford Country Club.

1912 — On successive days in May, President William Howard Taft and former President Theodore Roosevelt, both presidential candidates, speak from the porch of the Munoz house on North Union Avenue.  A third candidate, Woodrow Wilson, does not speak in Cranford, but he wins the election in November.

1913 — There are six sets of tracks on the Jersey Central route through Cranford.  Over these tracks, the railroad runs 274 trains a day.

1920 — Cranford tops the 6,000 mark.  According to the Census, the population is 6,001.

1920 — The Cranford Police Department acquires its first automobile, a Ford with side curtains.  The Police Commissioner thinks the car will “add greatly to the efficiency of the Department.”

1927 — The Cranford Historical Society is founded.

Go online to cranfordhistoricalsociety.com where you can print and fill out our membership form and choose the annual dues of your choice. Make your checks payable to the Cranford Historical Society and mail it to 38 Springfield Avenue, Cranford, New Jersey 07016.  In becoming members, you are aligning your family with one of the important educational organization in Cranford.  We are looking forward to having you and your family become members of the Cranford Historical Society You will help us in our goal of preserving and perpetuating the rich history of Cranford through our many programs.

Cordially yours,

The Cranford Historical Society

Margaret Gerlach



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