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Local History Department - Glimpse of History Archive
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May 8, 2016
Elks Club Bar, B.P.O.E. 885, Sunday, May 13, 1945.

imageWatering Hole for Elks in Plainfield

The Elks bar on Watchung Avenue in Plainfield is shown in this photo from 1945.

The Plainfield Lodge of Elks, No. 885 ((Benevolent & Protective Order of Elks) was founded in 1867 as 'The Jolly Corks' and then was renamed the 'Order of Elks' in 1868, although the national affiliation was not in existence until 1903.

The original meeting location was at Red Men's Hall, in the old Stillman building, at 212 W. Front Street. In 1913, the Elks moved to 116 Watchung Avenue. The organization is still in existence and is currently location at 473 Somerset Street.

Photo ID: C22128 - Part of the Paul R. Collier Photograph Collection.

January 18, 2015
Liberty Is Dead, Rushmore Mansion, 1939.

imageThis 1939 photo shows the exterior of Samuel Rushmore's estate on Belvidere Avenue in Plainfield.

Rushmore, founder of Rushmore Dynamo Works, made his fortune manufacturing railroad and automotive headlights. According to a Plainfield Courier-News article written in 1939, Rushmore, involved in a political protest, hung the "Liberty is Dead" banner on his mansion "and began deliberately dismantling the estate, cutting down trees, burning automobiles and uprooting bushes."

Despite doing considerable damage to the property, the house was ultimately spared total destruction.

According to, "This location is also known as the Rushmore-Coffin House because during the reign of Jersey City Mayor Hague in the 1930s and 1940s, a coffin was placed on the roof to protest the mayor's alleged corruption."

Rushmore, who was described as "eccentric" in the Courier-News article, maintained a private game room in his basement which featured a two-lane bowling alley, billiards and a full-size arcade skee ball machine.

The home, which was built in 1915, is still privately owned.

Photo ID: C21698 - Part of the Paul R. Collier Photograph Collection.

March 23, 2014
Local Diner, 1939.

C20165Food fit for royalty in Plainfield.

This 1939 photo is almost certainly of the interior of the Queen City Diner on South Avenue in Plainfield. The diner was built circa 1930, and remained in business in Plainfield through the late 1950s.

The Queen City Diner was built in the Streamline Moderne style by the Jerry O’Mahony Diner Co. of Elizabeth, a classic design accentuating rounded corners and reflective surfaces; some of the O’Mahony diners are on the National Register of Historic Places.

.At the time this photo was taken, there were 10 diners in Plainfield as well as numerous luncheonettes and sandwich shops.

Photo ID: C20165 - Part of the Paul R. Collier Photograph Collection.

February 16, 2014
Patrolman James A. Saunders, circa 1910.

Saunders1910Protecting the public and breaking barriers in Plainfield.

Officer James “Austin” Saunders was the first African-American police officer in Plainfield, He was a member of the force from 1891 to 1917.

As per the Star-Ledger, an article printed in the New York Age on March 8, 1917, notes that Saunders retired after 26 years as “the only colored officer” on the force, and would be paid a pension of $600 a year. The article went on to note that “the appointment of Saunders to the police force created at the time something of a sensation and some feeling throughout the city. It was during the course of one of the closest political fights ever held in Plainfield (in which) the vote of the colored citizens was to decide the issue.”

The first African-American police officer in New York City was also hired in 1891; the City of Newark hired an African-American police officer in 1874.


November 24, 2013
Sears, Roebuck and Co., 1950.

CN2006The corner of W. Front and Grove streets in Plainfield was home to a Sears, Roebuck and Co. store, as seen in this photo from 1950.

The location was originally home to the city’s First Baptist Church until it was destroyed by a fire in 1923. Sears first appears in Plainfield directories in 1929 and likely opened at this location that year, four years after the Illinois-based company began opening local department stores in other states.

Sears opened its current location on Route 22 and Terrill Road in Watchung around 1956, and, by that time, the Front Street location was closed. Over the years, other businesses moved into the Front Street building, including the Oldtown, a furniture store, Kenny’s Oldtown, selling clothing and Roberts Dress. The current occupant is the Park Madison Pharmacy.

Photo ID CN2006: Part of the Courier News Photograph Archive

July 14, 2013
Paramount Walter Reade Theatre, March 10, 1950.

CN2046Built in the late 1880s on the former site of an early fire engine house, the Paramount Theatre building had a long and interesting existence.    In its earliest days, it was known as the Amphion Hall/Theatre and later as The Elkwood (a notorious concert hall and saloon whose loud concerts led to an ordinance banning the playing of music in bars in Plainfield) and Washington Hall.  It featured cabarets, vaudeville shows, and hosted events of local clubs and lodges. 

In 1892 it was used by the Salvation Army as their central New Jersey headquarters. In 1902, it was refurbished and opened as the Central Theatre.  Three years later, it became the Plainfield Theatre, where the Plainfield Players stock company included Pat O’Brien.  Famous greats including Ethel Barrymore and Busby BerkIey also performed there. 

According to newspaper reports, the theater was “resplendent in tinted green bas relief plaster ornamentation, a red curtain and seats against darker green velvet trim and red carpet.”  There was a dragon motif on the curtain, which was repeated on the ceiling.  In the 1920s, Walter Reade bought the theatre, converted it to a motion picture house, and renamed it the Paramount. 

When It finally closed its doors in 1957, it was called the Paramount Art Cinema.  The building was demolished in 1965 as part of the Park-Madison Renewal Project.

Photo ID: CN2046 - Part of the Courier News Photograph Archive.

June 2, 2013
Plainfield Pistol Squad, circa 1937.

CN2101Eight members of the Police Pistol Squad of Plainfield pose with their pistols in front of the Police building. The officer in the center is identified as "Babe" Gleason (#10); the man on right is identified as "Flynn" (Edward "Eddie" Flynn) and the suited man on the left is Detective John V. "Jack" Denny. In the front row, left to right, is Sgt. Jim Brown (#59), James Mansfield, Tom Bray, and John Waldron. The pistol team competed with other local police departments to see whose squad had the best shot.

Photo ID: CN2101 - Part of the Courier News Photograph Archive.

May 5, 2013
They're in the Home Stretch (harness racing), circa 1910s.

C20934Plainfield Driving Park, once located just past the city line between Park Avenue and Short Hill Drive, boasted a fully equipped, one-half mile track with grandstands, barns, and long fencing. The Driving Park, once known as the “Gentlemen’s Driving Park,” was active from the 1860s to 1912. In its early days, it was the home of the Annual Union-Middlesex County Fairs, which were considered among the best in the State.  Stage coaches would meet trolley cars on Park Avenue and convey patrons to the Park.  In 1905, the trolley line was extended so its route reached the Park.  Over the years, the Watchung Hunt and Plainfield Riding & Driving Clubs both held frequent events there.  The Park hosted local and national horse shows, pacers, trotters, light harness racing and steeplechase, as well as bike and motorcycle races, dog races, and even the occasional aviation meet! Plainfield Driving Park closed in December 1912, when a New York realty company purchased the property and broke it up into building lots, which became known as “Holly Crest.”  There a was also a second Plainfield track, Sanger’s, on Randolph Road near Woodland Avenue, where the Crescent Wheelsmen would race.

Photo ID: C20934 - Part of the Paul R. Collier Photograph Collection.

February 24, 2013
For the Love of Reading, 1963.

carnegieThe main reference and reading room of the Plainfield Public Library is pictured here in a 1963 photo.

Public libraries have been promoting reading across America by making books available without fees since the mid-19th century. The Plainfield Public Library was incorporated in 1861 and originally operated from a rented room. Plainfield philanthropist Job Male donated land and funds for [alteration of] a building, which was completed on Park Avenue in 1886.

A Carnegie grant in 1912 funded an addition to the building. By the 1960s the original building was unable to accommodate the growing needs of the community and volume of books.

The present-day library at 800 Park Ave. was completed in 1968 and provides 45,000 square feet of space. The old Job Male/Carnegie library building was razed shortly afterward.

Learn more about the history of the Library, and view photos of the Job Male building or Carnegie building.

Part of the Historical Photograph Collection.

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November 4, 2012
Lohrman's Chocolate Shoppe, 1913.

C40430Mrs. Alfred Lohrman, right, and her daughter, whose name is unknown, stand in front of Alfred Lohrman’s chocolate shop at 133 E. Front St. in Plainfield in this photograph from 1913.

According to Sarah Hull of the Plainfield Public Library, Lohrman opened the shop in 1907 at the location that was previously home to Fowler’s Candy Kitchen and Henry Mehrtens confectionery.

Signs in the window advertise “chocolate cocoanut cream bars” for five cents and “high-grade assorted chocolates of our own make” for 40 cents a box.

The shop moved north to 161 E. Front St., the location of the Woodhull and Martin building. Lohrman sold the shop in 1914 and the name was changed to The Chocolate Shop. Through the years, the location remained a confectionery under different names and management, including Bauer’s and Oswold’s shops, Galane and Arbes and Marcois and Halem’s.

In 1953, the shop was again sold and became a shoe store. The Woodhull and Martin building is still standing on East Front Street, with a variety of small shops and businesses occupying the street level property.

Photo ID: C40430 - Part of the Paul R. Collier Photograph Collection.

September 16, 2012
Visiting Nurse Association of Plainfield and North Plainfield, 1921.

C40589Members of the Visiting Nurse Association of Plainfield and North Plainfield pose for a photo in front of Plainfield City Hall in 1921.

From left are Ruth Kinney, Sarah Nevins, Jennie Smith Bergman, Helen Boice, executive secretary Helen Lovell, Muriel Courser, Sue Whitney, Anna “Joey” Johansen and Elizabeth Slorah.

Organized in 1911 and incorporated in 1915, the VNA’s main office was located in the Babcock Building on West Front Street in Plainfield. According to Sarah Hull, head archivist at the Plainfield Public Library, the nurses would visit patients in their homes and provide treatments, baths and instruction on hygiene.

In their first month, the VNA made 254 house calls. By 1927, the VNA covered an area that included Plainfield, North Plainfield, Scotch Plains/Fanwood, Dunellen, South Plainfield and Piscataway. In addition to home visits, the organization maintained 10 well baby stations, dental and hygiene clinics and conducted pre-school examinations for 35 schools.

According to the 1927 VNA annual report, the nurses would visit “the finest home on the Avenue to the very poorest shacks out in the field, bringing cheer, comfort and health to all members of the family.” The Plainfield and North Plainfield organization was independent through 1989, after which it became a part of the VNA of Central New Jersey, which continues to serve the community to the present day.

Photo ID: C40589 - Part of the Paul R. Collier Photograph Collection.

May 20, 2012
Tea with the Tweedys at Century's Turn, circa 1890s.

U4328The four Tweedy sisters of Plainfield are shown enjoying tea in the parlor of their home at 125 Crescent Ave. in Plainfield in a photo from the 1890s. In 1872, the sisters (from left, Elizabeth Tiffany, Belle, Mary and Florence) moved from New York City to Plainfield, joining other family members already in residence in the Queen City. The sisters were prominent in Plainfield's cultural and social life, and traced their ancestry to Peter Stuyvesant, one of the early governors of New York. All four were active in charitable work, both through contributions of money and time, and were particularly committed to assisting Muhlenberg Hospital, which was founded five years after the sisters moved to Plainfield. Belle, the longest surviving of the siblings, passed away in December 1941, two months before her 100th birthday. The family home on Crescent Avenue is no longer standing.

Photo ID: U4328 - Part of the Historical Photograph Collection.

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January 01, 2012
Blizzard Can't Obscure Historic Hotel, 1888.

T2061This photo shows West Front Street after the blizzard of 1888, with snowdrifts, a man on horseback, and a pedestrian. The white building on the left is Laing's Hotel. One of the early inns of Plainfield, Laing's was built in 1828 and was billed as a first class family resort. In 1890, the hotel was put up for sale, but had no buyers. In 1892, the hotel, its contents, and the attached livery stable were sold at auction; items sold included bedroom suites, carpets, dining-room furniture, parlor suites, and bar room fixtures, including billiard and pool tables). Laing’s was then torn down to make way for a multi-use Babcock Building.

The five-story building was constructed at 240 West Front Street (corner of Madison Avenue) in 1894, and had retail  space, offices, and apartments. Fraternal organizations also kept space in the building.  At various times it housed the Chamber of Commerce and the DuCret Art School.

Fire destroyed the structure on March 6, 1902 in what was then considered the worst fire in Plainfield history.  The building was rebuilt and expanded after an insurance settlement was announced in the summer of 1902.  The structure was damaged by fire December 5, 1969 and again August 6, 1970, after which it was demolished. A McDonald's restaurant now sits on the property.

According to a 1970 Courier News article, "it was a rare Plainfielder who never set foot inside the Babcock Building in its early years, because it was used for lodge halls, music studios, stores, offices and the post office at one time or another."  

Photo ID: T2061 - Part of the Guillermo Thorn Photograph Collection.

December 18, 2011
A Model T Souped-Up for Snow, 1920.

VV60207This photograph, taken in Plainfield in 1920, shows Gertrude E. Adams Vail and her driver sitting in a Model T Ford. The car, which started by crank, was modified with skis in the front and chains on rear tires for better driving in the snow. The gas tank was moved form under the front seat to the rear, giving more traction and making it easier to fill. The Vail family was prominent in Plainfield beginning in the 1600s. The Vails have always been an integral part of the life of Plainfield. They were a dominate influence from its beginning. In the 1879 Plainfield City Directory there are 24 Vail households listed.  Their professions included: bookkeeper, banker, clerk, hatter, scroll sawyer, confectioner, truckman, manufacturers of harness oil and dressing, blue stone dealers, real estate salesman, and postmaster.

Photo #VV60207 - Part of the Marjorie & Roger Vail Collection.

November 13, 2011
A really cool, old theater, 1926.

imageThis photograph, taken in 1926, shows the Liberty Theater in Plainfield. The theater opened at 434 West Front St. in 1925. The theater, which boasted a Wurlitzer organ, was the first In Union County to be cooled by refrigeration, In the early 1960s, it became a first-run movie house in the Walter Reade chain. In December 1983, the theater was closed. Today, Ductworks, a sheet metal company, operates out of the building.

Photo ID: C21208 - Part of the Paul R. Collier Collection.

Learn more about Plainfield movie theaters at the Library's Plainfield: Lost But Not Forgotten online exhibit.

November 06, 2011
Horse Power for Firefighters, August 1889.

T2008This photograph, taken in August 1889, shows one of Plainfield's earliest Hook and Ladder trucks, the Zephyr, in front of the old Second Street firehouse. As reported in the Daily Press newspaper, this picture documents when the Zephyr had just made a best-time record out of the firehouse door. The image was going to be used to ornament the new fireman’s certificate that was being engraved.

The photograph was taken during the volunteer organization's final year before becoming a city-funded department. At that time, the company had three steam fire engines, each with a hose attachment pulled by horses. Water was pumped to the trucks from Green Brook, Cedar Brook and 21 fire wells.

Today, Plainfield has stations on Central Avenue, South Avenue and West Third Street.

Photo ID: T2008 - Part of the Guillermo Thorn Photograph Collection.

Did you know?
When the Second Street house was constructed in 1869, two stones inscribed, "Gazelle" and "Zephyr" were set above the doors. There was a local rumor that when the house was built, a bottle of liquor had been placed behind each of the stones. When the building was razed in 1943, wreckers did indeed find the old bottles - and one was not quite empty!

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October 09, 2011
Washington Headquarters Here, postmarked 1944.

C398This photo postcard, postmarked 1944, shows the Drake House Museum in Plainfield. According to the book “Plainfield” (Arcadia Publishing), the house was built in 1746 by Isaac Drake for his son Nathaniel. The simple 1½-story building was most famous for being George Washington’s headquarters during the Battle of Short Hills. The home stayed in the family until 1864 when it was sold to the Harberger family. John Harberger made many additions and redesigns to the building, estending the downstairs hall, adding a library, raising the roof and adding towers. The house was sold by the Harbergers in 1917 and fell into disrepair. In 1920, it was deeded to the City of Plainfield and today is home to the Drake House Museum, run by Plainfield Historical Society. Next weekend (October 15-16, 2011), the public is invited up to visit the Drake House and many other historic sites in the county during “Four Centuries in a Weekend: A Journey Through Union County’s History.” This year, activities have been created in honor of the 150th anniversary of the Civil War….

Postcard ID: C398 - Part of the Chase Postcard Collection.

September 25, 2011
'Big flood' of 1889 hits Plainfield hard, 1889.

T2050A photo, taken on July 30, 1889, shows Somerset Street in Plainfield after the "Big Flood." Visible in the picture are Martin's Blacksmith Shop and French's Fine Carriages on the right and the Farmer's Hotel and Haberle's Sigars and Tobacco on the left. According to the Plainfield Daily Press, the waters "carried Martin's blacksmith shop to the middle of Somerset Street, partly tore down French's carriage factory and grist mills, twisted a Chinese laundry all about, ... tore a gap thirty feet wide and ten feet deep through the street itself, and flooded the entire central section along the line of Green Brook."

Photo ID: T2050 - Part of the Guillermo Thorn Photograph Collection.

September 18, 2011
An 'endangered' historic hospital in Plainfield, circa 1940s.

C20961Muhlenberg Hospital in Plainfield was incorporated as a response to a railroad accident. According to Plainfield Public Library archivist Sarah Hull, in 1876 "a railroad brakeman had fallen from a passing coal train and the surgeon treating him had to amputate his leg in the only facility available, a railroad freight shed. Soon, residents rallied for a city hospital to be built." The hospital, designed by the New York-based architectural firm of Tracy & Swartwout and completed in 1877, was named for a reverend who was a champion for finding care for the sick and poor. It is now part of JFK Hospital and used as a satellite health care center. In May, it was placed on Preservation New Jersey’s "10 Most Endangered Historic Places List."

Photo ID: C20961 - Part of the Paul R. Collier Photograph Collection.

Did you know?
According to local Plainfield historian, Nancy Piwowar, “the historic 1903 core of the existing hospital complex is one of the earliest known extant complexes of buildings designed by the notable New York architectural firm of Tracy & Swartwout. The partners in the firm, Evarts Tracy and Egerton Swartwout, were both Yale graduates who met while working for architectural masters McKim, Mead & White.  In 1900, the two formed their own firm.  Evarts Tracy had strong ties to Plainfield, having moved there as a child. He built his own home in Plainfield on Hillside Avenue in 1901, from which he would have been able to watch progress at the Muhlenberg site when he was overseeing the construction of the original Muhlenberg Hospital buildings.”

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August 21, 2011
Walker-Turner team wins 1945 Girls County Softball League state championship.

C20463The Walker-Turner softball team, sponsored by the Walker-Turner Co., a machine tool manufacturing company on South Avenue in Plainfield, played in the Girls County Softball League. In 1945, the team won the league's county and state championships. In this photograph, members of the team pose for a picture before the 1946 season wearing their championship jackets. Manager John Bicknell stands in the center of the back row.

According to, the first women's softball team dates to 1895 when Chicago's West Division High School organized a squad. The players used 17-inch balls and wore no gloves. Sandbag bases were positioned 27 feet apart and the pitching mound was a mere 22 feet from home plate. In those days, the nine-player teams had two shortstops and two outfielders.

Photo ID: C20463 - Part of the Paul R. Collier Photograph Collection.

July 17, 2011
Central Baseball Club brings glory to Plainfield from 1867 to 1872.

Central BaseballThe Central Baseball Club represented Plainfield from 1867 to 1872. According to the Plainfield Daily Press, the team was "the terror of all the contemporary nines, not only in this county but also from all over this state and New York." The team’s home games were played on East Fifth Street, on the grounds where Edward Mulford’s house would later stand. Later, the diamond was moved to a lot eventually occupied by Scott’s Press Works on South Avenue. The team’s final home field was a lot near where the Netherwood Hotel would stand on Belvidere Avenue. The team played against clubs including the Atlantics of Elizabeth, the Nationals of Williamsburg and the Fly Killers of Bound Brook. Although all of the team members were regarded as excellent players, only one, catcher Frank Smith, went on to make a career in the sport. After playing with the Plainfield team, Smith moved to San Francisco, where he promoted the game on the West Coast.

[Caption: This photograph, taken in 1871, shows members of the Central Baseball Club of Plainfield. Sitting, from left: Frank Smith, Asa Collier, A. Gus VanDeventer, Jake VanDeventer, Frank Symmons and scorekeeper Arthur Titsworth. Standing, from left: Henry Leland, Dave Leeson, Ed Merritt, Charles Daily.]

Photo ID: T2005 - Part of the Guillermo Thorn Photograph Collection.

June 26, 2011
One who gave his life, 1943.

Brokaw1943A photo, taken in 1943, of Frederick Brokaw of Plainfield, as aviation machinist’s mate 3 with the U.S. Navy during World War II. Son of Charles and Mary Brokaw, and brother of Stanley and Emily, he graduated from Plainfield High School in 1931. Nicknamed “Fritz” in high school, it was noted his yearbook that, “Cheerfulness personified is Fred.” Following graduation, Brokaw married Lucy Rita Tocci and worked as an attendant at Walter Olsen’s Gulf Service Station on South Avenue in Plainfield. By 1943, he had enlisted in the Navy. This photo was taken in Hollister, Calif., on July 13, 1943. Four months later, on Nov. 24, 1943, he was killed in action, when his escort carrier, the Liscomb Bay, was torpedoed by the Japanese approximately 20 miles southwest of Butaritari Island. All told, 644 men lost their lives in that operation.

Part of the Plainfield Scrapbook Collection.

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May 01, 2011
Women help balance the scales of justice in Plainfield in 1921.

C40121Gentlemen . . . and ladies . . . of the jury.
On April 13, 1921, women sat on the jury in the Plainfield District Court for the first time. Judge J. Henry Crane presided over the case, in which Ignacia DeFynfo, a real estate operator, accused John Miklos of Rahway of unlawful detainer of a property. The defense attorney was John Stamler of Elizabeth and the attorney for the plaintiff was Irving Kunzman of Plainfield.

The female jurors, who sat in the front row, were Florence Runyon of Plainfield, wife of state Sen. William N. Runyon; Florence Anthony, wife of Dr. William H. Anthony of Plainfield; and Eva Van Hoesen, wife of Stephen G. Van Hoesen of Fanwood.

The jury decided in favor of the defendants. During the proceedings, Judge Crane permitted Paul Collier and Henry Bryniarski to take a photograph of the jury and others in the courtroom.

After the verdict was returned, each juror received a 75-cent fee. According to a Plainfield Courier News article the next day, “the women expressed the opinion that it was not such a difficult matter to do duty, although Mrs. Anthony remarked that she could have accomplished much more if she had spent the afternoon at home.”

The other jurors who served that day were Edward A. Laing, John Dahl, Lamar Van Syckel, George Edwards, Donald McInnis, Francis Wernig, Charles S. Thorp, James Harrision and Charles Keller.

Photo ID: C40121 - Part of the Paul R. Collier Photograph Collection.

April 17, 2011
Early Plainfield Police Department, 1897.

CN2108Plainfield police officers pose in front of the Depot Park Police Headquarters and City Jail in 1897. The officers standing are identified as: Christian Fredrickson, James Totten, Thomas McCue, Harry Fraleigh, Martin Vanderweg, John J. Flynn, George Lunger, Jeremiah Cash, Nicholas Myers and William Mattox. Seated in front are Chief George Grant and Sgt. Patrick Kiely, who would later become chief.

The Plainfield Police Department was established June 1870, when the Plainfield Common Council created the office of police chief and authorized two assistants. The department maintained headquarters on West Front and Cherry streets before moving to the Depot Park location. The Depot Park building, near the eastbound station of the Central Railroad, was officially designated as the site of the city jail in 1879. In 1909, headquarters was moved to Sycamore Street (now known as Cleveland Avenue). The Plainfield Police Department operated out of the Sycamore Street location for 54 years, when the department moved to 200 E. Fourth St.

Photo ID: CN2108 - Part of the Courier News Photograph Archive.

March 13, 2011
A Uniform Look, 1929.

C40275This photograph, taken in 1929, shows the nine players on the Plainfield YWCA women’s basketball team, the Red Middies. The team, organized in the late 1920s, was named for the type of blouses they wore. Standing second from left in the back row is Sophia Dickson, assistant physical education director at the YWCA. Dickson had also been employed as the supervisor of physical education for the Plainfield School District. All of the other athletes in the photograph are unidentified. Behind the team members is the YWCA building at 232 E. Front St. Established in 1907, the Plainfield YWCA was originally located at 210 E. Front St. near Watching Avenue. The doors opened at 232 E. Front St., at the corner of Church Street, in October 1929. The English Tudor-style building was constructed by Arthur Ware of New York City. In 1998, the building was added to the National Register of Historic Places. In the early 2000s, a grant was given to the YWCA to restore the theater and second floor. The YWCA at 232 E. Front St. continues to serve the Plainfield area. The structure retains much of it original floor plan and decorative finishes and still hosts numerous programs for its 850 members. For more information, visit

Photo ID: C40275 - Part of the Paul R. Collier Photograph Collection.

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March 06, 2011
Postal Trailblazers, 1888.

CN2092This photograph, taken circa 1888, shows 13 postal workers standing in front of the Plainfield Post Office at 11 E. Front St. The men were the first postal employees hired when free mail delivery began in Plainfield in October 1888.

From left: Nixon Morris, messenger and one of the first African-American postal employees in Plainfield; Edward Hann, Solomon Flagg (or Flaig), John Mackey, Peter Flynn, E.T. Van Winkle, William Demarest, George Godown, Joseph Sheppard, Charles Pratt, John L. Force, postmaster William L. Force and James Whalen.

The post office was located above Schorb’s Saloon. (The entrance to the saloon and saloon workers can be seen at bottom right). Saloon owner John M. Schorb also operated a tailoring business on the second story of the building. Schorb made the letter carriers’ uniforms.

Because of its proximity to the saloon, the office was nicknamed “the bar-room post office.” In 1890, following public outcry regarding the legality of serving liquor in the same building as a government operation, the office moved to 17 E. Front St.

Today, the U.S. Postal Service has three facilities in Plainfield: a main office at 201 Watchung Ave. and branches at 1080 Arlington Ave. and 1120 North Ave.

Photo ID: CN2092 - Part of the Courier News Photograph Collection. Francis Langhorne, photographer.

February 13, 2011
Plainfield Humane Society Takes Animal Care to Heart, 1938.

CN2080This photograph, taken Feb. 11, 1938, shows the Plainfield Humane Society of Rock Avenue decorated for Valentine’s Day. The Plainfield Humane Society opened in 1933, and in 1938, with financial support from longtime benefactor Samuel W. Rushmore, building repairs were made, new veterinary equipment was purchased, and a 54-foot sign was installed on the top of the hospital. The new facility became more than a simple shelter; it was devoted to the hospitalization of the city’s sick and injured animals. Rushmore, a Plainfield resident, insisted the society’s five outbuildings and the dog warden’s home (pictured) be painted with large red hearts in time for Valentine’s Day in 1938. The grand opening was publicized in the daily newspaper with the phrase, “Have a Heart – Help Your Pals!”  Now known as the Plainfield Area Humane Society, the organization continues to operate at 75 Rock Avenue.

Photo ID: CN2080 - Part of the Courier News Photograph Collection. R. H. Sears, photographer.

January 23, 2011
Plant workers and patriotism, May 9, 1918.

C40733Employees of the Pond Machine Tool Co. in Plainfield assembled for a patriotic speech in 1918. On May 9, plant employees were addressed by two Canadian veterans of the Battle at Vimy Ridge (April 9, 1917). The men, who rallied the crowd with their war stories, were sent to the United States by the British government to help sell Liberty Bonds. The Pond Machine Tool Company Works, a subsidiary of the Niles-Bement-Pond Company of New York, was moved to Plainfield from Worchester, Mass. in 1887. Headquartered at 929 South Second Street, the company manufactured tools such as lathes, planers, and radial drills used in automobile shops and machine building plants. During the Spanish-American war in 1898, the Plainfield plant manufactured disappearing gun carriages for the government. In December 1925, the Niles-Bement-Pond Co. sold the factory for $13 million to Mack Trucks, Inc., and moved the entire business to the company's headquarters in Ohio.

Photo ID: C40733 - Part of the Paul R. Collier Photograph Collection.

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December 19, 2010 (Somerset & Hunterdon edition)
Harvesting Ice on Watchung Lake, circa 1910.

C40809The circa-1910 photo above Men from the Plainfield Ice and Supply Company harvesting ice from Watchung Lake, which was then known as Texier’s Mill Pond.  In the photo, a man leads a horse-drawn plough across the ice, followed by another man who is helping to press the teeth of the plough to cut a deep groove into the ice.  To harvest the ice, the snow was cleared away. Then the ice surface, which was porous and uneven, was planed down until a clear ice body was reached. Cutting began with the measuring of large squares, and deeply incising lines in the ice, which was 14 to 16 inches deep. The ice was cut so that a long, narrow canal of open water was made, connecting with a waterway always kept free to the shore. As fast as the cakes were cut, men with long-handled hooks would float them down the canal to the ice house. A steam conveyor would lift the ice into the ice house.  The success of manufactured artificial ice and the increased use of electric refrigerators led to the near elimination of the natural ice harvesting in America.

Photo ID: C40809 - Part of the Paul R. Collier Photograph Collection.

December 19, 2010
Cooking Classes for Children, 1919.

U4291In this 1919 photo, a 14-year old girl instructs a cooking class at the Red Cross Community House in Plainfield. The Community House was at 519 North Ave.  It provided a baby clinic, a doll house, Little Mother's League, a milk station, and recreation rooms for children. There was also a community kitchen in which cooking lessons were offered, a clubroom for men and a well-stocked library. Soon after the organization of the clinic, 72 mothers were attending classes regularly. The House was developed by the local Red Cross Chapter, with the cooperation of other welfare organizations in Plainfield, including the Charity Organization Society and the Visiting Nurse Association. The Tri-County Area Red Cross was established in Plainfield in 1917, and the Community House opened soon after this. This image was used in the organization's 1920 promotional brochure.

Photo ID: U4291 - Part of the Historical Photograph Collection. Unknown photographer (possibly R. C. Hine).

November 14, 2010
Local Army Inductees Leave for Fort Dix, November 13, 1943.

C21081Seen in this photo are local Army inductees getting ready to leave for Fort Dix on Nov. 13, 1943. A contingent of selected enlistees from Plainfield Local boards 13 and 14 pose for a photograph in front of Plainfield City Hall before leaving by train. The soldiers were home on three-week, post-induction furloughs. As was usual for departures, Red Cross canteen volunteers served coffee and the Gideon Society distributed Bibles to the enlistees.

Photo ID: C21081 - Part of the Paul R. Collier Photograph Collection.


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October 31, 2010
Y.M.C.A. Circus, April 1922.

C1455This photograph, taken in April 1922, shows YMCA Circus performers. Originally a Plainfield Boys Club event, the circus was taken over by the YMCA in 1906. Each year, the circus, complete with a ring master and orchestra, began with a parade. The parade was followed by performances in the YMCA gymnasium. Acts included tumblers, acrobats, gymnasts, clowns, odd characters, and "animals with almost human intelligence." Parts were played by local residents and Plainfield YMCA members. In 1922, the Y was located on the corner of East Front Street and Watchung Avenue near Hodges Pharmacy. In 1923, the organization moved to a building across from city hall on Watchung Avenue and East 6th Street, where it is still located.

Postcard ID: C1455 - Part of the Historical Postcard Collection.

September 19, 2010
City Hotel, circa 1880s-1890s.

T2001This photograph, taken in the 1880s or 1890s, shows the City Hotel in Plainfield. The City Hotel was a four-story hotel with balconies that stood at the corner of Park Avenue and Second Street. It was known as the Mansion House in the 1870s and 1880s, and at other points in time, as the Hotel Iroquois and Daly’s City Hotel. From 1910 to 1911, the hotel was renovated and was reopened as the Queen City Hotel. Architect William Clum designed the remodel of the original building. No expense was spared on the remodel, which boasted 39 luxury rooms featuring solid oak furniture and the best bedding money could buy. Running water, telephones and Tungsten lights were found in every room. By 1940, the hotel went out of business. The building was razed and new buildings were constructed on the site.

Photo ID: T2001 - Part of the Guillermo Thorn Photograph Collection.

September 12, 2010
Riding the West Fourth Street Turn-Around, late 1890s.

T2009A photo, taken in the late 1890s, of the Fourth Street Trolley in Plainfield. Shown here is a trolley car with a driver, two men on top and eight along the running board. The caption on the back of the photo reads: "Riding the West Fourth Street Turn-Around." The first trolley, or electric streetcar, came to Plainfield on August 10, 1892, replacing most of the mule-drawn vehicles in the city. Built by Plainfield Street Railway in 1891, service on Fourth Street Car Line started in 1892. The Public Service Railway Co. took control of the line in 1907. The line was a two-car operation that ran every 15 minutes. The trolley started at Front and Somerset Streets, passed the turnaround at West Fourth Street, and proceeded to West Seventh Street. The line ran until 1924, when buses were substituted for streetcars.

Photo ID: T2009 - Part of the Guillermo Thorn Photograph Collection.

August 15, 2010
Plainfield Public Library's Job Male Building, 1905.

MaleLibraryA photo of the Job Male building, the Plainfield Public Library, in 1905. The Plainfield Public Library was incorporated in 1881, following a resolution by the Plainfield Common Council. The first library was a rented room, in which the librarian began to build a collection of books and periodicals. Job Male, a Plainfield philanthropist and the first mayor of Plainfield, offered to donate the land and a library building on the condition that others donate money and art works. The building was completed in 1886 by Male and donated to the library Board of Trustees. In gratitude they named it "The Job Male Public Library, Art Gallery and Museum." An addition was added in 1912. In 1968, a new 45,000 square-foot facility was opened to the public, and the older buildings were razed. That building, located at 800 Park Ave., is still used today.

Part of the Historical Photograph Collection. Unknown photographer.

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July 4, 2010
Double Winning Float, July 4, 1949.

July4This photo shows Plainfield’s 80th Anniversary and Fourth of July Parade on July 4, 1949. That day, the temperature reached 104.4 degrees. Dust and rain storms were also part of the area weather story that day. The Steuben Society of America’s Peter Muhlenberg Unit 398 Float is shown passing in front of a house at 560 West Front St., located on the corner of Plainfield Avenue. The float was awarded first prize in the "Most Patriotic Float" category and third prize in the "Most Appropriate" category. The side banner reads, "Spirit and Patriotism such as theirs, made cities like ours possible." The sign on the back reads, "Gen. Von Steuben Society." On the float were women portraying Molly Pitcher and Betsy Ross. There was also a scale model of Plainfield City Hall. The model was designed and built by Ludwig Herrmann, chairman of the float committee.

Part of the Historical Photograph Collection. Harold Morse, photographer.

June 13, 2010
Old-time Bikers, 1918.

C10173This photo, taken in 1918, shows members of a Plainfield motorcycle club known as the Queen City Motorcycle Club. Men and women are shown posing with their Harley-Davidson motorcycles in front of the stores of Randal Harness Co. and H.J. Pasch on Somerset Street in North Plainfield. Plainfield was called the "Queen City" as it was gaining a reputation for a climate that was beneficial for sufferers of respiratory ailments. In 1886, in an attempt to publicize this, a local newspaper publisher began to use the slogan "Colorado of the East" since Denver was known as the "Queen City of the Plains." The slogan for Plainfield was eventually changed to "The Queen City."

Photo ID: C10173 - Part of the Paul R. Collier Photograph Collection.


June 06, 2010
Mack Trucks baseball team, ca. 1930.

C40273This photo, taken in Plainfield in 1930, shows the Mack Truck baseball team. The Saurer Motor Truck Co. manufactured and sold heavy trucks under the Saurer brand name at its plant in Plainfield. On September 23, 1911, Saurer merged with the Mack Brothers Motor Car Co. of Allentown, Pa. Located at 1325 West Front St. in Plainfield, the Mack Truck Co. produced the first motorized buses as well as hook and ladder fire trucks. During World War I, the company was known for its military armored cars and sturdy trucks. By 1927, the company employed approximately 1,200 people. On October 31, 1961, the Mack Truck Co. shut down its engine and transmission manufacturing plant at Plainfield and moved its operations to Hagerstown, Md.

Photo ID: C40273 - Part of the Paul R. Collier Photograph Collection.

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May 02, 2010
May Day at the Seminary, ca. 1900-1910.

C10506This photo, taken circa 1900, shows costumed boys and girls at a May Day celebration in Plainfield. The event was hosted annually between 1900 and 1910 by the Plainfield Seminary. Located on West Seventh Street, near Park Avenue, the Plainfield Seminary building was construction in 1855 and was known as The Chestnuts. At that time, it was the Opheleton Female Seminary, funded by E. Dean Dow. In 1887, Eliza Elvira Kenyon, a “prominent society lady” and founder of the Monday Afternoon Club, and her sister, Mrs. Maxson, took over Opheleton. The Seminary, also know as the Plainfield College for Young Ladies, Plainfield Seminary for Young Ladies and Children, and Miss Kenyon’s Seminary, had day students and boarding students. Although the Seminary closed June 9, 1919, it had active alumni for many years.

Photo ID: C10506 - Part of the Paul R. Collier Photograph Collection.

April 18, 2010
City Beautiful, ca. 1918.

C10536A photo taken in 1918 during construction of Plainfield City Hall. Eleven construction workers pose on scaffolding around the cupola. Work on the new Georgian-style building began in 1917. The building was constructed during the “City Beautiful” period, which took place from 1976 to 1917. Construction was completed on city hall in late 1918. The building still stands at 515 Watchung Avenue.

Photo ID: C10536 - Part of the Paul R. Collier Photograph Collection.


February 28, 2010
Time of the Model T, 1920.

VV60207A photo, taken in Plainfield in 1920, shows Gertrude E. Adams Vail and her driver sitting in a Model T Ford. The car, which started by crank, was modified with skis in the front and chains on rear tires for better driving in the snow. The gas tank was moved form under the front seat to the rear, giving more traction and making it easier to fill. The Vail family was prominent in Plainfield beginning in the 1600s.

Photo #VV60207 - Part of the Marjorie & Roger Vail Collection.

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February 21, 2010
Recalling the sulky, ca. 1880.

T2032A photo from 1880 of a horse with a rider on a sulky.  A sulky is a light-weight cart with two wheels and a seat for the driver. It was used for harness races. The horse and sulky in this photo belonged to Charles H. Still man. The name of the rider is not known. Stillman helped lead the efforts to provide free education to the youth of Plainfield. He was elected the first Plainfield Superintendent of Schools in 1847 and opened two schools in Plainfield that year. The Charles H. Stillman Elementary School on West Fourth and Arlington Avenues was named in his honor.

Photo ID: T2032 - Part of the Guillermo Thorn Photograph Collection.


January 24, 2010
Plainfield Police Department, 1925.

C40275Members of the Plainfield Police Department pose in front of Plainfield City Hall. Police Chief Flynn, holding a ceremonial sword, stands with officers and patrolmen, six with Harley-Davidson motorcycles. The group is about to march in a town parade. The Plainfield Police Department was established in June 1870 when the Plainfield Common Council created the office of police chief and authorized two assistants. At that time, the station was located at 400 Cleveland Avenue at the corner of East 4th Street. The first police chief was T.J. Giles, who received a salary of $600 per year; his assistants received $500 per year. At the time, Mayor Job Male purchased 18 “pea whistles” and three badges marked “police.” Fifteen other badges were purchased for “special police.” The motorcycle division was started in 1921 with four motorcycles and was increased to six later that year; the department added two more in 1922.

Photo ID: C40147 - Part of the Paul R. Collier Photograph Collection.

January 03, 2010
Baby steps for ailing infants and their moms, ca. 1904-1911.

CN2108A photo of the King’s Daughters Baby Camp in Plainfield, taken sometime between 1904-1911. The camp was a fresh-air refuge for sick infants and their mothers. It was opened in the summer of 1896 and operated at least until 1912, when it was listed in the Plainfield City Directories. The camp was located near Vail’s Spring on Johnston’s Drive along the Watchung Mountains. The matron in charge of the camp was Olive Delaney. [Source information: United Family & Children Services Scrapbook of Newspaper Articles, 1893 to 1905.

Photo ID: H3079 - Part of the John Hoffman Photograph Collection.


December 13, 2009
Inventor’s place in Plainfield, 1935.

C40121A 1939 photo of Samuel W. Rushmore’s home, located on Belvidere Avenue in Plainfield. An engineer, Rushmore invented the automobile self-starter and hydraulic brake system. He also made improvements to automobile headlights and searchlights for ships. The house is decorated with a funeral bunting and banner reading, “Liberty is Dead.” The bunting and banner are expressions of Rushmore’s outrage over political corruption at the time. The structure still stands as a private home.

Photo ID: C20302 - Part of the Paul R. Collier Photograph Collection.


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