A blog about living in Aberdeen, New Jersey.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

History: Bull Run > Matawan Road > Heuser Boulevard > Matawan Avenue

As the result of some research I conducted this weekend, I have found a lot of interesting information about the history of Matawan Avenue.

Matawan Avenue appeared unlabeled in the 1873 and 1889 Monmouth County atlases following pretty much the same course that it does today. Rather than meeting Ravine Drive at Lake Lefferts, the two roads merged at Matawan Creek, which one had to cross to get to Main Street. There was no Garden State Parkway then, of course, so the road covered some territory that is now crossed by a bridge.

Through the early 1930s, the road was known locally as Bull Run for some reason. The local Civil War regiment fought at Bull Run, so perhaps there is a connection there?

In 1935, there was a reference to the road as Heuser Boulevard, perhaps after the local engineer, Richard Heuser, but the name never stuck as far as I can tell.

From the mid-1930's til the late 1950's, articles and notices in the Matawan Journal bounced back and forth between the names Matawan Road and Matawan Avenue. Matawan Road was more commonly used. There doesn't seem to have been any borough vs township association to the two names, but the road was in the area annexed by the Borough in the early 1930s, so maybe there is some rivalry involved in the use of the two names?

By the early 1960s, after a brief but awkward period of using "Old Matawan Road" and "New Matawan Avenue," usage settled on Matawan Avenue. The Garden State Parkway had taken quite a section of the town in the previous decade; the construction caused the diversion of the railroad, the displacement of homes and businesses, and a bridge had to be built over the parkway so Matawan Avenue could continue to link Cliffwood with Matawan.

The references below cover only thirty years but there was quite a bit of change in that short period of time.

The 18 Dec 1931 edition of The Matawan Journal (pg 1 col 6):

     "Matawan Township started its emergency relief road program yesterday. . . Another program which is expected to put into operation, possibly tomorrow, is to grade Matawan Road, which is better known as Bull Run. The road is now being surveyed by Engineer Richard Heuser. It will be graded to its full width of 33 feet, ditches will be opened on either side and the road will be graveled. No attempt will be made this winter to raise the grade of the road in the hollow, according to Lewis H. Stemler, Chairman of the Township Committee. Mr. Stemler says to make a fill in the road at this time of the year would leave it in too bad a condition for winter travel."

The 3 Aug 1934 edition of The Matawan Journal (pg 5 col 3):

     "The bridge, known by the New York and Long Branch Railroad Company as the "Mary Adams" bridge on Bull Run over the main line of the Company's tracks, is now thrown open to travel. It has practically been rebuilt. During this time the road has been closed to traffic."

The 13 Sep 1935 edition of The Matawan Journal (pg 1 cols 4 - 5)

     "At the regular meeting of the Matawan Boro Council Tuesday nite held at the Boro Hall, it was decided that Matawan would prepare and submit applications for nine WPA projects. . . . After considerable discussion, the projects to be applied for, with the understanding the boro had the power to turn down the proposition later if it was so decided, included: Extending eight-inch water line along Atlantic Avenue to the water works; a six-inch water main tie up on Aberdeen Road to Heuser's corner; extending water main along Matawan Avenue, also known as Heuser Boulevard; resurfacing of Broad Street, Matawan Avenue, Church and Washington Streets; improvements to parks, such as reopening of public roads to water edge, and building tennis courts and play lots, if possible; cataloguing and rebinding of books in the library."

The 24 Feb 1949 edition of The Matawan Journal includes a legal notice "instituted for the purpose of foreclosing a certain certificate of tax sale affecting lands in the Township of Matawan, aforesaid and situate on the west side of Matawan Avenue, which tax certificate was executed by the plaintiff 's tax collecting official to the plaintiff and is dated December 2nd, 1940, and is unrecorded . . ."

The 7 Feb 1957 edition of The Matawan Journal (pg 10 cols 5-6) reported road construction and repairs to a number of roads in Matawan Township, including the section of Matawan Avenue between Grove Street and the Garden State Parkway.

The 18 Sep 1958 edition of The Matawan Journal (pg 14 col 2):


All that part of the Borough of Matawan, BEGINNING at a point where the center line of Main Street intersects the boundary line of the Township of Matawan, thence
  • (1) along the said center line of Main Street in a southerly direction to the bridge on Main Street, south of South Street; thence 
  • (2) along a line drawn down the center of the gulley crossed by the said bridge to Lake Lefferts; thence 
  • (3) in a northerly direction along the easterly edge of Lake Lefferts to Prospect Point; thence
  • (4) along a line drawn across Lake Lefferts from Prospect Point in a northeasterly direction to Ravine Drive; thence 
  • (5) along a line drawn across the gulley to the left of Highland Avenue to a point at the end of Liberty Street, thence 
  • (6) along a line parallel with Matawan Road to the gulley which runs along Aberdeen Road; thence
  • (7) along a line down the center of this gulley to a point where same intersects with the center line of Matawan Road; thence 
  • (8) along the said center line of Matawan Road in a northerly direction to the point where said center line of Matawan Road intersects the boundary line of the Township of Matawan; thence
  • (9) along the said boundary line of the Township of Matawan to the point or place of Beginning. 
 Polling place: Hook & Ladder fire house, in back of Borough Hall.

The 24 Sep 1959 edition of The Matawan Journal (pg 12 col 4) includes a public notice of sheriff's sale involving about 15 acres of land affected by the construction of the Garden State Parkway. The land description includes a mention of ". . . the road known as the public road from Cliffwood to Matawan, also known as Old Matawan Road, and sometimes called Matawan Avenue, as it was formerly located prior to its relocation by the New Jersey Highway Authority. . ."

The 1 Oct 1959 edition of The Matawan Journal (pg 2 cols 6 - 8) includes legal notices involving over 9,000 acres of Matawan property affected by the construction of the Garden State Parkway. One of the legal notices appears to settle the above sheriff's sale as well as "[p]roperty located approximately 500 feet northeast of Aberdeen Road and the New Matawan Avenue [that] adjoins the southwesterly right of way of the Garden State Parkway, Borough of Matawan, New Jersey."

The 24 Aug 1961 edition of The Matawan Journal mentioned Matawan Avenue among a long list of Matawan Township roads to be repaved.

By the way, as a byproduct of working on the above, I noticed that "Origins of Aberdeen Street Names," by Aberdeen Historian Edward Fitzgerald, has disappeared from the Aberdeen Township website. I have relied on it quite a bit over the years, always finding it helpful, and I pointed to it on my blog's Research Tools tab for the benefit of fellow researchers. I hope it can either be restored to the Township page or added to the Matawan-Aberdeen Public Library's online resources.


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