A blog about living in Aberdeen, New Jersey.

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Several Cliffwood Beach Road Projects Nearly Complete

Aberdeen Township's three main objectives for flood mitigation, as posed in the 2014 Multi-Jurisdictional Natural Hazard Mitigation Plan for Monmouth County, were to deal with 1) State Route 35 between Cliffwood Avenue and Raritan Boulevard; 2) Lakeshore Drive near the beach park; and 3) Amboy Avenue near Matawan Creek.

The NJ DOT had been planning a major project on Route 35 for some time, and that work seems to be nearly completed. Some landscaping still needs to be done on the parcel across from the Goodwill, where the construction crew has been putting its equipment and supplies for the past two years, but that's about it. Route 35 has been raised and the creeks now pass easily under the roadway. No more detours onto County Road and Cliffwood Avenue. The intersections at Cliffwood Avenue and Amboy Avenue have been modified and new signals added to improve traffic flow. Amboy Avenue no longer feeds into Cliffwood Avenue but dead ends after McDonald's and the auto parts store. And the roadways have all been repaved and lined.

Lakeshore Drive was recently raised down where the creek passes under it and around the park at the beachfront. The roadway was newly paved, shiny new guard rails were installed, and lines were painted. Only time will tell if this work will provide meaningful flood mitigation.

There has been some work going on along Amboy Avenue between Prospect Avenue and the Blue Rock Cafe. The road was closed to local traffic recently and only limited vehicle traffic was crossing the bridge. The Up the Creek Tavern by the Keyport Marina has been totally rebuilt and raised quite high -- maybe it should now be called Up Above the Creek? I'm not quite sure of the status of the roadway and bridge. The Blue Rock Cafe is open and doing a rousing business despite the road closing. If you are in the area, be sure to grab a beer or have a meal, or both.

My 2015-16 Aberdeen Township tax bill arrived yesterday. Enclosed was a letter from the Township Manager discussing the township's careful stewardship of tax revenues. Much of the discussion focused on the township's adroit use of county, state and federal programs to repair and maintain our roads. It's an interesting read, mostly the part on page 2.

The manager appreciates our patience as those of us with awful road surfaces await planned improvements. She claims to have a map of the township on her office wall to remind her of the need for roadwork in particular spots. I am being patient, but I might send her a photo to add to her wall of the large pool that forms in front of my house when it rains ever since a township crew repaved the fire hydrant apron in front of my house.

All in all good news. Taxes are only going up about $5/month and improvements to my street are towards the top of the waiting list.

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Van Wickle House - Prominent Matawan Family at Broad and Church

Jason Peist, an owner of 171 Broad Street in Matawan, wrote me this week to share some historic images of the house, which stands on the southeast corner of the intersection of Church and Broad Streets. He invited me to post the images and the history behind them for my readers. Most appreciated.

Below is a set of photographs of the house circa 1919, showing each side of the building.

171 Broad Street (Broad Street view - W side) circa 1919. Visible to the left is a water tower at a factory along the nearby railroad tracks, and a house on Orchard Street, which was behind 171 Broad.

171 Broad Street (Church Street view - N side) circa 1919

171 Broad Street (rear view - E side) circa 1919

171 Broad Street (side view - S side) circa 1919. This was a side entrance. In the window can be seen some beakers, presumably related to the dental office inside. To the left is a house across Church Street, and to the right are two large houses on Broad Street, approximately where the Municipal Building now stands.
If you look closely at the detail below of the Church Street side of the house, you will see a sign that reads DENTIST facing out to passersby at the street corner. The "ickle" portion of the dentist's name can be made out in italicized print arching across the word DENTIST.

171 Broad Street (Church Street view - detail) circa 1919
The current owner did some research and found that from 1899 to 1929, the house served as the home and office of its first owner, a dentist named Orwill Van Wickle. The first floor was his dental practice and the living quarters were upstairs. My research turned up that Orwill was the brother of a long time mayor of the borough.

The 1900 Federal Census for New Jersey listed Orville Van Wickle (Sep 1855 NJ NJ NY) as head of household on Broad Street and with the occupation of dentist. Also in the household was his brother, Daniel E Van Wickle (Apr 1864 NJ NJ NY), a merchant; sister Ora Van Wickle (Dec 1870 NJ NY NY); and widowed sister Anna A Conover (Apr 1858 NJ NJ NY).

Anna Conover was head of the Broad Street household in the 1910 Federal Census. Her sister Ora appeared as Aurelia. Her brothers had married, Orwill to Alice a year earlier and Robert to Florine three years earlier. Robert and Florine had had three children, but only 3 year old son Robert was still alive. Orwill was a dentist.

I found their parents and siblings in Matawan in the 1870 Federal Census. James Van Wickle (53 NJ) and wife Elcy (48 NY) had children Alice (25 NJ), Ann (23 NJ), Sophia (21 NJ), Ida (18 NJ), Orville (14 NJ), Lucina (12 NJ), Eleanor (9 NJ) and Orelia (6 NJ). James was a farm laborer with real property worth $4,000 and personal property worth $600.

Orwill initially hung his shingle as a dentist in town, working from the Post Office building. The professionals listings on the front page of the 21 Oct 1893 edition of The Matawan Journal show Dr O Van Wickle, Dentist.

Orwill's brother Daniel served for many years as Matawan's mayor. (Manual of the Legislature of New Jersey, 121st session (1897)
Orwill's brother Daniel Ellswoth Van Wickle served many years as Matawan's mayor and head of the Borough Board of Commissioners, among other political positions. The 1908 Annual Report of the Comptroller of the Treasury of the State of New Jersey shows Daniel E Van Wickle as mayor of Matawan. The Matawan Journal's Personal Mention column (pg 5, col 2) of the 19 Sep 1901 edition of The Matawan Journal reported that R C McElrath of Jersey City was the guest of Dr and Mayor Van Wickle on Sunday. Mr Van Wickle presided over the last meeting of the Board of Borough Commissioners in 1896, according to an except of a May 1896 article summarized in one of my Matawan history blog articles. (link)

The 16 Sep 1915 edition of The Matawan Journal (pg 1, col 6) showed Orwill Van Wickle running as the Republican candidate for member of the Monmouth County Executive Committee, presumably the equivalent of county freeholder. The same edition's social page (pg 6, col 1) said brother Daniel's wife and sister Ora were hosting "auction bridge" and a social hour after the game.

Post card image of the Matawan public school on Broad Street.

The house is currently across the street from the Matawan Municipal Building, which served as the Broad Street School for many years. Matawan's first public school, pictured above, was built during Van Wickle's tenure in the home and was just down the road. That school eventually served as the Matawan High School until Matawan Regional was built.

 Orwill Van Wickle died in 1926 and is buried at Rose Hill Cemetery. His wife, Alice Ryer Van Wickle, died in 1936 and is buried there as well. (Find-a-Grave)

The house was purchased in 1929 by Frank Bliss. He and his wife did a major renovation of the home, adding a sun porch, a 9' entrance door, numerous built-ins, a large rear bedroom and bath, and an upstairs office. They stored away the original entry door and kept all their renovation paperwork, all of which the owner still has. For good or ill, Bliss stripped off the gingerbread details from the face of the home.

I've only touched the surface on this story, but alas my time is out for research today. Below are some relatively current images of the home, from Google Streetview. Thanks, Jason, for the information. Please let me know if you (or any of my readers ) can add to or correct anything here.
171 Broad Street (Looking down Church Street from the corner with Broad Street) circa 2014

171 Broad Street (Looking down Broad Street at the corner with Church Street) circa 2014