May is Blairstown History Month | Explore Warren


May is Blairstown History Month

The volunteers of the Blairstown Historic Preservation Committee (BHPC) are hosting five events during the month of May 2018, free and open to the public, to celebrate Blairstown History Month.

“The Blairstown Historic Preservation Committee is looking forward to these five events in May so that we can interact with the community and speak of Blairstown’s rich history,” said BHPC Chairperson Christine Beegle, adding, “Each event has a special focus and is important in conveying historic information on different topics.”

A highlight will be the May 12 walking tour at Footbridge Park that kicks off a yearlong celebration. “We are so excited to celebrate the 125th Anniversary of our landmark Footbridge.  It was installed in 1893 by railroad baron and namesake of Blairstown, John I. Blair,” Beegle noted. While the walking tour launches the anniversary year, Beegle remarked, “The other four events are just as exciting and important, we hope that the community can attend them all!”

Additionally, BHPC will have four new exhibits at its headquarters in the Blairstown Municipal Building.

History Month events are:

Founders’ Day
Monday, May 7, 3-6 p.m.
Blairstown Municipal Building, 106 Route 94, Blairstown, NJ 07825

BHPC will honor their Committee founders: former Mayor and Committeewoman, the late Anita Ardia, and Blairstown's Historian, the late Helen Hall. A biography of their lives will be reviewed as well as the role they played in founding our Committee in 2001. Images, newspaper articles and personal notes will be on display. The BHPC record books and artifacts of Helen Hall will be shown in addition to the documents passed by Anita Ardia to the BHPC.  BHPC will also pay tribute to all Blairstown historians throughout time that have researched and recorded the history of Blairstown township.

Blairstown’s Four Names
Thursday, May 10, 1 p.m.
Catherine Dickson Hofman Library, 4 Lambert Road, Blairstown, NJ 07825

The event is hosted by the North Warren Seniors during their monthly meeting.  BHPC chairperson Christine Beegle will be speaking with the group on the topic "Blairstown's Four Names." The talk will review the beginnings of our township in the early-to-mid 1700s as a western frontier of New Jersey. At this time a few homesteads dotted the Paulinskill. Chairperson Beegle will review how the township evolved from the 1700s through the mid-1900s and turned from a frontier to a bustling village. The four names of Blairstown will be traced back to these earliest origins: Smith's Mills ca 1760; Buttz' Bridge 1795; Gravel Hill 1825 and Blairstown 1839. A slideshow will accompany the talk.

Footbridge Tour – Celebrating 125 Years
Saturday, May 12, 11 a.m.
Footbridge Park, Blairstown

John I. Blair funded the installation of the Footbridge as a gift to the people of the community in honor of his own 91st birthday. It replaced a wooden bridge that had stood at the site since soon after the Blairstown Railway came to town in 1877. The wooden bridge eventually deteriorated due to excessive exposure to the elements and became unsafe. John I. Blair saw the need to have it replaced and so a new steel bridge was ordered from Passaic Rolling Mills of Paterson, NJ. As the main artery from the village to the railway station the Footbridge was once a very important structure to aide pedestrians in traveling from the north side of town to the train station. As time passed and train travel via the New York, Susquehanna and Western was no longer needed for passenger travel, the bridge fell out of use. It was not forgotten though and in 1976 the Footbridge became the focal point of the revitalization of the area now known as Footbridge Park.  Chairperson Beegle will lead a walking tour and speak regarding the history of the Footbridge.  Models and images pertaining to the Footbridge history will be on exhibit, and music will be provided by the Sycamore Banjo Band. BHPC encourages attendees to please wear sturdy footwear.  Park in the parking lot at Footbridge Park.  The tour will depart from the park side entrance of the Footbridge.  The event is rain or shine, however please check the BHPC Facebook page in case of severe weather.

Heritage Open House
Wednesday, May 16, from 3-7 p.m.; 6 p.m. Chiming Ceremony
Blairstown Municipal Building, 106 Route 94, Blairstown, NJ 07825

Blairstown's rich heritage will be on display from the archives of the Blairstown Historic Preservation Committee. Since BHPC’s founding in 2001 they have been fortunate to have been the recipients of many important donations of Blairstown memorabilia and artifacts. BHPC is thankful to have been entrusted as the stewards of these artifacts and the provenance that is connected with them. These collections were donated to the township and are the property of the people of Blairstown. BHPC is happy to have the items on display for the public to see during this Heritage Open House. The artifacts can also be viewed throughout the year in our lobby displays and our traveling exhibits.  Our latest donations will be announced.

BHPC is thrilled to have several members of the Evening Start Quilt Guild (ESQG) on hand to evaluate BHPC donations of antique quilts and present a demonstration on the art of quilt making. The ladies and gentlemen of ESQG are a tremendous source of information, so please bring your questions!

6 p.m. Clock Chiming Ceremony – One of BHPC’s most treasured donations are the heirlooms of the Adams - Smith - Kishpaugh - Hill - Reichert Family. This collection includes an 18th century grandfather clock, with workings made by the founder of Bixler's Jeweler - Christian Bixler III. At 6 p.m., BHPC will have a special ceremony to hear the chime of this vintage grandfather clock, a sound that was first heard over 200 years ago!

Veterans’ Tribute and Tour
Saturday, May 26, at 1 p.m. and 3 p.m.
Cedar Ridge Cemetery, 117 NJ-94, Blairstown, NJ 07825
Across from Tractor Supply Company, park along Adams Road.

A tour and tribute to honor Blairstown’s veterans who are interred at Cedar Ridge Cemetery. There are more than 300 veterans buried there. As BHPC leads the tour of the cemetery they will stop at the graves of veterans from each conflict starting with the Civil War. BHPC members will tell of the veterans’ service, sacrifice and special acknowledgements. One veteran who will be honored is Civil War survivor Hiram France, who fought in many battles including the Peninsular Campaign, Bull Run, and at South Mountain, Maryland, where he lost his right arm due to sharpshooter’s gun. He returned to Blairstown and carried on work for many years before passing away at Hardwick Center on July 1, 1918.  BHPC will also honor Frank R. Givens (WWI) and Robert A. Belet (WWII) the first two residents of Blairstown to die during the wars in which they served.  It will be the 100th anniversary since Frank R. Givens died during WWI on September 29, 1918.

Members of the North Warren Regional Marching Band will be present to perform.  Images pertaining to the Veterans will be presented.  BHPC encourages attendees to please wear sturdy footwear, as there is hilly terrain in the cemetery.

The tour will depart from the west entrance to the cemetery, closest to Tractor Supply Company.  The event is rain or shine, however please check the BHPC Facebook page in case of severe weather.

Blairstown Municipal Building Exhibits
The public is invited to see the BHPC’s four new exhibits at their headquarters in the Blairstown Municipal Building, 106 Route 94, Blairstown, 07825.  These exhibits will be on display Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., through September 30, 2018.

• The Footbridge – Celebrating 125 Years – A synopsis of the Footbridge’s history including floods, collapse and transition to Footbridge Park.  The exhibit will include our most recent donation of a model of the New York, Susquehanna and Western Railroad Station. Donated by Robert Mohowski and crafted by Fred Wadleigh. 

• The First National Bank Robbery – Items on loan from the collection of Kenneth Bertholf

• Honoring our Veterans: Givens & Belet – Items on loan from the collection of Frederick W. Heilich, nephew of Robert A. Belet and also on loan from the collection of Mary Belet, sister-in-law of Robert A. Belet.

• Riechert - Hill Collection – A treasure trove of history from one of our earliest farming families. Family heirlooms of the Kishpaugh family donated to the BHPC by the Riechert descendants will be on display.

About the Blairstown Historic Preservation Committee:
The Blairstown Historic Preservation Committee (BHPC) is a sub-committee of the Blairstown Township Committee. BHPC was established in 2001 thanks to the efforts of the two of Blairstown’s history advocates; the late Mayor of Blairstown, Anita Ardia, and Blairstown Historian the late Helen Hall. BHPC members are volunteers and are appointed by the Mayor with the consent of the Township Committee. The BHPC performs advisory, educational and informational functions that will promote historic preservation in the municipality. BHPC archives are housed and exhibited at the Blairstown Municipal Building, 106 Route 94, Blairstown, NJ 07825.

Through BHPC's FREE events, lectures, walking tours, displays, and traveling exhibits, they create awareness of local history with the community, schools, and civic organizations.  BHPC also collaborates and shares information with neighboring historic societies and commissions in Warren County.

Accomplishments that have been achieved by the Blairstown Historic Preservation Committee over the last 17 years include: the inclusion of the village of Blairstown on the State and National Registry of Historic Places (includes 177 structures in the historic district); grounds and headstone restoration at the Gravel Hill Cemetery (adjacent to Blair Academy and Main Street); and the establishment of informational plaques placed on the landmark buildings of Blairstown's historic Main Street. 

(PHOTO: The Footbridge circa 1900 shows the Footbridge in the foreground with the NYS&W Blairstown Station and Howell Lumberyard to the left. Photo courtesy of Blairstown Historic Presevation Committee.)