Awhile back I did an article on the old Manville / JM Shanty Town that had sprung up on the site of the old creosote factory. Which most of you know later became the Rustic Mall, and then became a Superfund site, and now sits empty as a nice fenced off, perpetual middle finger to the people of Manville. If you’ve never heard of the creosote factory it made the black slime that they use to waterproof and coat railroad ties and telephone poles… and I think some other stuff. It closed sometime around 1960 and looked like this…
Federal Creosote Factory 1954 • Click Photo to Enlarge
According to some of our readers on here, who have had relatives on the Manville P.D. the shanty town were a bunch of folk who lives in boxcars and old handmade shacks. There were a lot of fights, and it was just a rough part of town. Dangerous. The police were summoned back there… a lot. If you have never heard this place I encourage you to click that link in the previous paragraph to see some photos.
Rumor has it the place burnt to the ground. People died. A lot of people were hurt. I’d be going out on a limb here to assume the above photo was the actual fire that burned the shanty town down, so I’ll just say it could be. Regardless it’s a great photo Taken by Neal Ranauro, to whom we owe a great deal for his very comprehensive collection of almost everything Manville.
Thanks to Gary Carmon for bringing this photo to my attention. He also is deeply interested in Manville’s history and has a great site with some more of Ranauro’s photos, which are not featured on this blog. You can see those HERE.
I always talk about the many Manville Train Stations. Awhile back I did a post about specifically about the Weston-Manville stop, which was the main passenger line serving Manville between Trenton and NYC. I recently lucked into an actual 1960 train schedule from the station. I am a bit of a railfan, so I hope this doesn’t bore the pants off of everyone else that comes to this site. Let’s face it though, if you are from Manville trains are a way of life. It’s the very thing that made the town so accesable to so many people in the beginning. Also, I had this gorgeous photo of a Reading Railroad passenger train passing through Manville…
Mainly I guess it felt like finding this schedule was a personal victory, and another crucial entry into my personal Manville ephemera archive. When you went over to the Manville station the first thing you had to do was go see this guy… Michael Persinko.
He could definitely hook you up with one of these…
If it was 1960 and you were headed from Manville to NYC your schedule would’ve looked like this… (It will expand if you click it)
And if you were interested in the reverse schedule, or just owning a digital copy of this I actually scanned the whole thing.
Even though I do enjoy the many freights still pulling through town, I think it’s still a disaster that there is no passenger lines servicing Manville. In a town full of tracks, it seems like a no brainer. Hopefully one day. But for now, here is a photo of some lonely train tracks to hold you over…
I hope everyone is having a great, work free, stress free Labor Day. I decided that today was going to be a light hearted fun post. One that is a nod to the social and economic achievements of American workers. We all work hard, and sometimes we need some good old fashioned fun, or at least the satisfaction of knowing we can provide that for our children. So I offer you this great photo of an unknown Manville girl flying a kite. This photo is so great, and it reminded me that I haven’t flown a kite in soo long. If you feel like working for it today, I welcome you to try and identify her. Using context clues I believe this photo was taken on the south side of Manville above 13th ave. I can only assume that a girl this adorable, that warrants a photo this amazing must have not flown under an entire towns radar. I’d love to know who she is. If you know her please leave a comment. The photo will enlarge if you click on it.
Oh and by the way, you probably notice that I have been moving things around on the site and such. I’m just trying to clean things up a bit. I like to keep a tidy house, even out here in cyberspace. I will be slowly tweaking things over the next few days… please be patient with me. Enjoy your day off everyone.
One of the biggest Manville urban legends that has continued to escape me is one about a “shanty town” that had sprung up around the JM property. I think I have possibly tracked down some photos. I cannot confirm this is it, using context clues here is what I came up with. In the photo above on the left is what looks like the asbestos bays from JM that backed up to the tracks that run over Main street. It looks like the Watchung Mountains in the background there. On the right if you really look you can se the other train line that cuts through the Lost Valley. To be honest when I look at these photos it seems more like this whole site is on what would’ve been the Federal Creosote Factory land, which was nestled in between the two train lines right before what was then know as Port Reading Junction (or basically the Manville train yard).
From the lose hearsay and unreliable information I have gathered over the years, I’ve heard that this was essentially built by workers out of old train cars and scrap wood and that it had eventually burned down. If anyone has any stories of can confirm that this is actually the shanty town, please comment on this. Here are a few more shots. They will all expand if you click on them. Thanks Anne Sullivan for contributing these.
I got this old reprint of a 1910 map of Manville out of a 50th anniversary special newspaper insert that came with The Manville News, The Hillsborough Beacon, and The Franklin News Record on April 26, 1979. Thanks again to the Folks at the Somerset County Historical Society for letting me snap digital photos of this. The street you see with all the cars on it is Main Street. If you look WAY in the back between where the train tracks meet you can see the Federal Creosote Factory. All three train stations appear on the map. Also, for some reason on the left side of the map there is a giant rooster. I have no idea what the hell that means. Apparently this map was drawn crudely and not to scale, although it looks pretty awesome to me. It was used as a sort of handout to lure residents into town. Some of the farms on the map are “hypothetical farms” but there are a few houses I recognize from other old maps. I’m going to try and sort out the residences for a possible future post. Until then though… if you want to download a bigger PDF version of the map, where you can zoom in on more detail just click HERE. Enjoy.
Manville was a different looking place back in the 1930′s. In some ways it was a better place, in that you could actually get out of town via the many train stations around. Most likely though if you were a regular Chad or Brad leaving town you were probably headed out from the Manville-Weston Station. Here’s some scenes from your 1930 walk over to the station… all of these photos will enlarge twice if you click on them.
This is Main Street looking south. Across the street is the great St. Mary’s church. It looked the same all the way into the 90′s. Just a few more blocks south you’d end up near the Royce Brook, looking at the old train bridge leaving town. Just to the right up on the hill is the Weston Station…
You’d walk up the old stairs to get to the train station, where you could catch the old Delaware and Bound Brook Railroad to your connecting trains to NY or PA. But not before you saw the ticker agent Mr. Persinko to pay your fare..
HOLY HELL! A NEW POST!! Hey all… i’m sure a lot of you have been wondering what the hell happened to me. Well I’m still here, just super busy. I think a lot of you know that i’m a graphic designer for a newspaper and December has been hectic as we wrapped up for the holiday break. I also have a little record label which has a lot going on right now… which is great, but also hindering my ability to scan newspapers or warm up a seat at the library. Never fear… these are just passing moments and will be lost to the supreme task of Manvilles historical documentataion once again very soon. I realize I have a lot of folks hanging on here (even though some of you seem to be carrying on quite well and keeping it on life support for me) Anyway… I beg your patience as switching this site back in full gear is high on the priority list for 2010 (saying that year still feels so wierd to me). For now though accept this consolation photo of Johns Manville. I just lifted this off of ebay the other day… it’s a gorgeous interpretation of the factory around the area where the freight bays were located. It looks like it was probably done with watercolor, and I feel like the bright colors (however pretty) are a bastardazation of how gloomy it probably looked in real life. Thanks again everyone for your patience… we be back in force very soon! HAPPY HOLIDAYS .XOXO.
I was pretty excited on Thursday when I received an email from Richard Onderko. Not just because I was being contacted by one of Manville’s current Councilman candidates. It was rather the content of the email which was something to the tune of “Hey Mike. Meet me over on South 5th I found some great stuff”… and I mean who am I to stand up a possible future Manville Council Seat holder, so I went.
I arrived to meet Richard and a guy named Kevin Shutack, who explained to me the far reaches of his family participation in the towns history. The Manville Police, The Building Commitee, and most thankfully owner of the Manville Print Shop that was right next to the Krausers. I remembered the print shop as a kid… we used to peer into the windows there to find out what went on inside of it. But not to get off track… it seems the print shop handled most of Manville printing needs going at least as far back as the early 40s including the printing of The Manville News. Kevin gave me all sorts of printed goodies that were produced by the shop including A LOT of issues of the paper from 1941-1943. Just as soon as I work out the best way to archive these I will be posting digital copies of the issues just as fast as I can get them up. They are in a super fragile state, with much discoloration and edge damage, but they are brilliant and contain tons of great stories and history including some key Manville events like the building of the row homes, robberies and the Manville train derailment in the 40s in Lost Valley. That’s not even the tip of the iceberg… there are tons of wedding and birth announcements. Deaths, car accidents, reports from the war involving Manville residents, honor role lists, sports scores. I can’t wait to get these up.
This marks the most fruitful batch of town history I have found since Neal Ranauro’s photo archive. I feel like so many mysteries have just been solved. On behalf of the town of myself and Manville’s lost history we definitely own a huge debt to the Shutack family, Kevin, and Richard Onderko for making the connection happen. None of the afore mentioned ever had to waste their personal time to help me communicate this stuff to everyone, but they did. That’s awesome. I also got to spend some quality time with Rich and Kevin who were both very knowledgeable and very willing to share some information with me. Overall I couldn’t think of a better way to spend Saturday morning than striking another victory for my perpetual quest for Manville’s past.
It’s hard to talk about the town of Manville without talking about the railroads. Awhile back I posted a photo of a Lehigh Valley steam engine passing through the Main street railroad intersection. This photo was an important one, when talking about the esthetic history of the town as well as the industrial one. Geographically Manville is sort of nestled in between two lines of the Philadelphia & Reading Railroads as you can see in the map above…
If you look at the map and find the area where the red and green lines connect just southwest of bound brook you will be looking at Port Reading Junction… right next to the current Manville Yard. If you can imagine a line going south from Finderne that would pretty much be Main Street. The “green” line that heads southwest was a shortline called the Deleware & Bound Brook, which served the Weston-Manville stop. The Deleware & Bound Brook Passenger line provided easy access to West Trenton Junction and Bound Brook where you could get a connection to New York City or Philadelphia. The “red” line going west is the Lehigh Valley Line, which passes through the center of town… and served Johns Manville and the Main Street Train station. The other green line to the north is the line that served the Manville Finderne Station and also provided easy access to New York… this passenger line still runs, but service was shut down to the stop in 2006. At some point in the 70′s all three abandoned stations were still standing… here are some photos. These are all by Bob Pinnisi… again I hope he doesnt mind, but these are great photos.
MAIN STREET L.V. DEPOT (WAS ON THE LEFT OF THAT ABANDONED STREET BETWEEN THE CHESTER HOUSE AND THE TRACKS)
It’s hard for me to understand why there isn’t a single passenger line serving Manville at the moment given all the tracks around town. Someone told me that they were talking about starting service up again, but I just haven’t seen anything serious happening. Growing up in Manville the trains become ingrained in you… it’s the way of life. I lived across the street from the tracks most of my life, watching freight trains go by every day… I used to dream about where they were going… later in life I got on one and found out. When I moved out of my old house I had a hard time sleeping without the proverbial late night rumbling. When it comes down to it Manville’s relationship with the railroads was crucial, amazing, and occasionally a burden… overall I believe that Manville could not have flourished as a town or a player in the industrial revoloution without them. Here is one last photo by Neal Ranauro…
A LEHIGH VALLEY STEAM ENGINE PULLING THROUGH THE MAIN STREET INTERSECTION (PRE-UNDERPASS)
THIS PHOTO WAS TAKEN BY BOB PENNISI. I PURCHASED IT AT THE BIG LITTLE RAILROAD SHOP IN SOMERVILLE. USED WITHOUT PERMISSION… AS A FELLOW RAILROAD APPRECIATOR I HOPE AND FEEL THAT HE WON’T MIND
Weston-Manville station was built in 1882 by the Philadelphia-Reading Railroad right near the corner of JFK Blvd. and Main Street. I believe you can still see the stairs there that used to go up to the station, right next to the “old tunnel” which is buried but can also still be seen. It was built on a 27 mile long short line connecting Trenton to Bound Brook… called the Delaware & Bound Brook line, which also stopped in Hopewell and Pennington. The D&BB stop at Weston-Manville was crucial to the town, especially given all the new growing industry and plentiful available land to build on. The building itself has been pretty well documented though history including a gorgeous watercolor painting by Ranulf Bye… and still stood abandoned well into the 70′s. My grandfather told me when he was younger the station was sort of a little hang out for some of the kids in town, he recalled there being a fireplace inside the building. From what I understand there were some folks squatting in the building after it fell out of use. Im not why it wasn’t preserved as it seemed a crucial part of the towns history, and sort of a historical landmark in its own right. Anyways here are a few more photos… as always I look forward to anymore input anyone might have on this stuff… and as always thank you.
THIS IS THE STATION AFTER IT WAS ABANDONED IN THE 70′S. I FOUND THIS PHOTO ON RAILROAD STATION HISTORICAL WEBSITE
THIS IS A WATERCOLOR PAINTING OF THE STATION BY RANULF BYE… PAINTED IN 1965. IT’S A BEAUTIFUL PAINTING IN IT’S OWN RIGHT. THANKS TO JOE ZARNOWSKI AND MIKE KULL FOR HELPING ME GET THIS RIGHT AS I HAD SOME MISINFORMATION.
I SNAGGED THIS ONE OF OFF A ZAREPATH HISTORY SITE… A GREAT SHOT OF THE OTHER SIDE OF THE STATION AS YOU’RE COMING INTO TOWN. I THINK THIS WAS DATED 1912.
AND ONE MORE LOOKING OFF OF THE RAILROAD DECK AND DOWN ON MAIN STREET INTO TOWN. THIS ONE IS ALSO AROUND 1912 FROM NEAL RANAURO’S ARCHIVE.