Over the weekend I got an amazing email from Tom Schneck. It included this rare photo of his uncle Floyd Shimalla driving around in the first Manville Police car. If you recognize the name Floyd Shimalla that’s because he was Manvilles first constable and is featured in the pretty famous “First Manville Administration” photo that is on display at the Manville Library. I also posted it on this site… you can see it HERE. According to Tom he was also a professional Heavyweight boxer, which I actually was not aware of, but if you ask me is pretty good experience if you are about to serve as the only constable for a brand new town. Anyway, this photo is dated 1929. I’m not sure what that building is in the background there… anyone know? Thanks so much Tom, for this great photo! Here is the back of the photo…
Archive for the Notable Folk Category
1685 Landowners Map • Click to Enlarge
I was doing a little more digging on the Library of Congress website and I found a great link to a digital book entitled Historical discourse on occasion of the centennial anniversary of the Reformed Dutch church of Millstone. If you are doing any research on the Hillsborough / Manville / Millstone area this is an excellent & detailed record on the earlier settlers of the area. It also includes this great map from 1685, which I have seen in poor photocopied form before… the quality on this copy is great. You can read or download the complete book for free HERE. But for Manvillian purposes we need mostly be concerned with the dealings of John Royce.
Some of you might recognize the name Royce, since the Royce brook is still so called in Manville. The truth is that John Royce was the first official landlord of Manville. Famous for his shady real estate dealings and infringing on (and leasing out) portions of other peoples lands that lay next to his borders. He also leased said lands that he didn’t even legally fully own out to a gentleman name Charles Winder for a period of a thousand years… and then proceeded to sell parts of this leased lands to other parties. It was a nightmare that took the executors of his estate years to get sorted back out. SO you can fairly say that the first Manville landlord, like many more to come… was a crook.
On the receiving end of the shady dealings were Van Vechty & Co., which actually had to shell out money for the disputed areas twice to satisfy the discrepancy in ownership. The deal opened the floodgates 1703 for the Dutch to settle the new lands formerly known as Roycefield & Royceton so named for the former owner. They promptly renamed the area Harmony Plains, which would many years later become part of Manville.
For what its worth it’s a great story and the great story is told in more detail in the book… I extracted the relevant pages and posted them below. The map above opens in a new window, and in my opinion it’s a tremendous help to look at the map while reading to keep your bearings, as most of the property owners lands told in the tale are listed on the map. Anyway here you go… all of these pages will enlarge if you click on them…
Alright, well I managed to get a second issue scanned today. Thanks goodness for slow work days! This issue is for November 7th, 1941. There’s a lot more local content in the issue than the last. Only 6 more issues until we finish out 1941… and while that feels like an epic milestone, there are still a lot of these issues left. This is a good one though. Heres a download LINK!
The fact that Manville had a tremendously talented semipro football team was totally unbeknownst to me until I started turning over the stones of Manville’s history. No one that I can remember in my years as a young boy growing up in Manville ever spoke of it. Not the teachers, the gym teachers, the history teachers, not even the many sports organizations I was involved with as a very young man. We even have a street named after the old sports field, where so many great memories and histories were achieved. Still the term Evans Field, literally meant nothing to me all my life. I find this to be slightly discouraging. I guess we can chalk it up to a young town not valuing it’s historical assets.
Evans Field was located right off Main Street between the Royce Brook and Fucillo Street, behind the current Steve’s Tire. As you can see on the 1953 map above from HistoricaAreals.com, the current Manville street “Evans Drive” runs basically straight through what used to be the old Evans Field… the old practice site of the Manville Yellow Jacktes from the 1920′s to sometime in the 50′s. Gary Carmon sent in this great team photo and the accompanying caption…
Started in 1928 when a group of JM workers began playing Raritan and Bound Brook teams. They also played up in the coal mining towns of PA, where many Manville residents originated. The home games were played at Evans Field, currently where Evans Dr is near Weston school. I believe they played up until sometime in the 40′s.
This picture shows the 1930 champs -
Left to right, front row sitting: Andy Batcho, Mickey Repka, Ralph Stanley, William Pilla, Jake Zimney
Middle row kneeling: Leo Piskowski, Steve Zydiak, Adam Sandusky, Jim Kelyman, Frank Sobchinsky, Andrew Shutack, George Hallad, Andy Lapotsky
Standing in the back: Joseph Shutack, Joe Rosky, Chester Myskowski, Charles Golcheski, Andrew Menzak, Pete Menzak, Leo Traney, Jerry Deto, Frank “Ham” Dudash, Henry Waida, Pete Semenick
Adam Sandusky is my grandfather Vincent’s brother, and owned Sandusky’s Bar in Finderne. Adam’s son Mike played for the Pittsburgh Steelers 1957-65.”
IF you are unfamiliar with the Yellow Jackets you can see an earlier post with some action shots HERE. But Gary also, submitted this great article from the Manville News, which is a great abridged history of the team. This article will enlarge if you click on it.
But Evans Field was more than just a football field, it also doubled as a baseball field. Home plate was the current corner of Newark Ave and Fucillo St. Gary also, sent in some great photos of the Manville Grammar School baseball team from 1946, which I was pleased to find out included my great Uncle Tony Polnasek, and Gary’s father Art. Anyway let me get right to the photo followed by another caption from Gary.
This picture was featured in a Manville News article, dated Feb. 2, 1989:
“Art Carmon remembered the lineup”
Standing, from left to right, are Art Carmon, John Dinsmore, an unknown player, Lloyd Wade, Pete Weichkus, John Terraciano, Ed Wolenski, Tony Polnasek, John Brennan.
Kneeling, from left to right, are Bob Lupino, Charles Saitta, Bob Passarello, Steve Ziegler, Julius Smolinka, Vic Czupprewicz, Frank Vayda and Charles Hladun. “
Art is my father. He played at the many baseball fields of Manville over the years, including:
- Dukes Parkway Park
- the current site of the Rustic Mall bowling alley
- the current site of the MHS parking lot
And here are a few more MGS player photos… You can click on them to enlarge them. Gary Carmon has been a long time supporter and contributor to the blog. I just want to thank him, Art, and the rest of the Carmon family for all of their help.
According to genealogical records from the Somerset County Historical Archive, Peter P. Smith was born on 01-19-1741 and owned a large farm right in the current area of Walmart and extending into Lost Valley. I had heard rumors of such a farm for many years, so it was a blessing to find my new buddy Hank over at the SCHS had already mapped out the genealogy… and had these sweet photos to go with it. I can’t really date any of the photos, but let’s try and frame the time period with some context clues. First of all, lets take a look at a pertinent page out of the genealogy book…
Upon his death, Peter Sr. passed his land down to his 4 sons (listed in the document above). One of which was Adam, a son who had a badly burned arm from falling into a fireplace as a child, he was put in charge of caring for his mother after his father passed. He was also in charge of the portion of land with the homestead on it. Here are a couple of photos of their home.
In 1823 Adam moved out to Middlesex County. At some point the land & house must’ve been sold to the Colonial Creosote Company, who used The “Old Smith Homestead” as a rooming house for their employees. According to The Unionist Gazette, the house was destroyed by a fire on December 19th, 1913, which also claimed the lives of two young boys. As of the 1860 Hillsborough Farm Map, the Smith family still owned a good deal of land in that area of town. But, according to the genealogy records all the lands passed from Peter P. Smith Sr. ended up in the hands of the Johns Manville Company. Anyway, here is one last look at the great Peter P. Smith Sr. Farm. I got to say, I’d take looking at this over Walmart any old day.
Manville Memos was a great column that appeared weekly in The Manville News in the 80′s. They were written by Joe Patero after some of his interviews with folks from around town. This particular one from 1983, is the last part of a three part interview with Dan Nebb who’s parent’s owned Capt. Frederick Davey’s old Manville estate, which later became The Elmcrest Inn. If you missed part one you can click here.
Dan Nebbs • Part 3 of 3 • ”Sea Capt.’s Mansion”
If you have ever seen the movie classic, “Gone With the Wind” you are familiar with the fabulous ante-bellum mansion, known throughout the Sout as Tara, the legendary home of Scarlett O’Hara.
One Hundred years ago, the existed, in what had not yet become Manville, another Tara. But this one was for real!
It was the mansion of a retired U.S. Navy captain, Frederick Davey, who was its designer and builder.
It was the showplace of the area, according to James P. Snell, in his “History of Hunderton and Somerset Countys,” published in 1881.
Only the “cream” of Somerset County could consider itself fortunate enough to even be invited to one of the captains parties.
The front porch faced south on the enormous residence, while the huge barn where the horses were stabled was between the railroad tracks and the house itself. The entire property was surrounded by several hundred feet of immaculate picket fencing.
Shortly after the turn of the century, Captain Davey sold his pride and joy to J.J. Becker and son, who changed the name to “Elmcrest Park”
Then in 1922, Louis Nebozinsky purchased the entire property for $24,000, a tremendous amount of money in those days.
By that time, yet another name was beginning to attach to the site, this time the “Weston Hotel.” Louis’s son, Dan, is quick to explain that “it was never really a hotel at all. It was the home myself, my brother Bill and our eight sisters grew up in and loved.
”We rented rooms only one time to a touring Vaudeville company who had just finished a performance at Charlie Mazur’s theater in Manville. The actors had apparently no other bookings because after an extended stay, one morning they were suddenly gone, not paying their bill and leaving all their luggage behind.
“On top of the house there once was a glass cupola. As a kid, I loved to climb up there and see what I thought was the whole world. ”
The big horse barn behind the house was totally destroyed by a fierce fire in 1931.
“After the Prohibition Era ended, my father applied for either the first or second liquor license in Manville and converted the downstairs or the home into a place where drinks were served to the general public. Looking back at that decision, I realize that in my father’s mind it was the correct thing to do, but I really wish the borough would have purchased it for municipal offices. Manville would’ve had the most magnificent Borough Hall in the entire United States.”
In the late 40s the Nebbs sold thier mansion to Charles Esterhoy, then followed Nick Lebedz, Joe Cimino and Jim and Joan Wirzman as owners.
Additions have been made and at the same time items such as the once famous cupola and the front porch have been removed, and yet dominating essence of the structure remains today as Wirzman’s Inn.
“It’s quite a place,” said the Wirzmans’ in a recent interview. “It’s history and background are extremely interesting. We are trying to restore some of the old class that was here over a century ago. ”
Once in a while, after we close up, we leave a drink of brandy on the bar for the captain and in the morning the glass is empty.”
Manville Memos was a great column that appeared weekly in The Manville News in the 80′s. They were written by Joe Patero after some of his interviews with folks from around town. This particular one from 1983, is part 2 of a three part interview with Dan Nebb who’s parent’s owned Capt. Frederick Davey’s old Manville estate, which later became The Elmcrest Inn. If you missed part one you can click here.
Dan Nebbs • Part 2 of 3 • “Liberty Hall”
An old building used to be on the east side of South Main Street. Now there is a bank there, but Dan Nebb, the son of the builder of that old building remembers it vividly.
“Liberty Hall was located to the rear of the present site of the Manville Savings and Loan on South Main Street. My father, Louis, built Liberty Hall in 1922 at a cost of $4,700. There were no zoning ordinances or building permits in those days. You merely built anything you wanted, anyplace you wanted,” said Dan Nebb from his present day home in Middlesex.
“It was really not well built because much of the lumber was greatly undersized. It had a ceiling that was 16 feet high and trusses that spanned over 20 feet. It had a raised stage area, ticket booth and a maple floor for dancing. The exterior sides each had four large windows and two doors. At maximum capacity it would hold 1,000 people. It had no indoor plumbing and the only facilities available was a two seater outhouse.
“But,” Dan Nebb continued, “in it’s heyday, it was without question, the center of all social life in Manville.”
Much of it’s sucess was attributed to Prohibition. All the taverns were closed and you couldn’t go to them to drink and dance because it was against the law. The only place for a get together of any size was at Liberty Hall.
“My father would charge between $30 and $35 to rent the hall for a function. That was, all things considered, a lot of money in the late 20’s. But, it was booked every Saturday night as well as an occasional Friday or Sunday for a dance, wedding or party.
“The stage was used by politicians running for office who held rallies. However, more often it was used by various ethnic groups like the Polish, Ukranians or Hungarians who would present ‘Folk plays’ which were demonstrations of each nationality’s culture and heritage.
“There was an extremely popular group named, ‘Allie Maiden and His Jazz Band’ which played at least once a month at Liberty Hall. It was amazing to see the place packed to the ceiling with people who loved the music but had a very limited knowledge of English.”
Dan served as the clean-up man whose function was to make Liberty Hall available for the next event.
“They used to have a Grape Festival there every September sponsored by the Hungarians. Wires would be strung at a height of seven feet throughout the ceiling, and bunches of ripe grapes would dangle from them. Designated persons would dress up as policemen. You would dance with you partner and the object of the whole festival was to jump up and grab some of the grapes off the wires without being spotted. If you were unlucky and got caught, the police ”arrested” you and your partner and marched you off to “jail” where you had to pay a fine.
“the next morning was a tremendous job trying to get the grape stains out of the floor.
”In 1932 Roosevelt became president and soon prohibition was repealed. The taverns reopened and people resumed their old patterns of drinking and dancing. This was the death blow to Liberty Hall and soon it lost its popularity.”
Dan changed the function of the building to a furniture store which lasted for several more years. In 1964, Nebb sold the building which was thereafter demolished, thus ended a glamorous era in Manville.
But, legends do not die so easily. “I took the famous chandelier that hung in Liberty Hall with me when sold,” said Dan.
“Even today, I can see hundreds of people laughing, singing and dancing in Manville over 60 years ago, as if it were a Saturday night.”
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..
THE “BIG HOUSE” ON KYLE AND MAIN ST • CLICK TO ENLARGE
Some of you might remember a post I did awhile back about The Elmcrest Inn. As I remembered it, the Elmcrest was a grand old building that sat on the corner of Main St. and Kyle St. at the current site if the CVS. Thanks to Cathy Deschu, whose grandparents once owned the house, we now have a nearly complete history of this great historic building. The Elmcrest Inn (as most townsfolk remember it) was around barely into the 90′s and was tragically and hurriedly destroyed while a concerned town resident, and a family member were trying to get it listed on the national historic register, and for good reason. First let’s look at the abridged history…
The house was built sometime in the 1800′s and was the residence of Captain Fredrick Davey. At some point in time there was a Ballroom attached to the house, and a barn somewhere between the house and the railroad tracks. Both of which had allegedly burned to the ground. It had been once told through the word of an old elementary school teacher that her grandmother had attended a Ball there which was also attended by then General George Washington. During the Depression, it also operated as “The Weston Hotel” And at some point in it’s history the property included the “Liberty Hall” building, which was a community center & concert venue that supported such great artists as Jimmy Dorsey and Guy Lombardo. If that’s not a matter of significant Manville History than I don’t know what is. Here is a copy of a business card from “The Old Reliable Weston Hotel” Signed Louis Nebozinsky “Proprietor”… Cathy’s Grandfather.
When Cathy’s grandparents Louis and Katherine Nebozinsky left their jewelry business in New York City to run a General Store on 11th and Washington Ave in Manville in 1919 Main Street was still a dirt road. Her mother recalls that cows and chickens would roam carelessly into the road at will.
At At the time the Nebozinsky’s bought the Property on Main & Kyle, the house was in great disrepair. The man who previously owned the home before them allegedly had mental problems, which contributed to the poor condition of the home and property. The Nebozinsky’s put their 10 children to the task of helping whip the place back into shape. Cleaning the cupola at the peak of the house fell to the task of Cathy’s very young mother and uncle Dan (aged 9 and 7 at the time respectively), who recalled it’s steep rickety stairs, trap door access, and browsing through found Revolutionary War newspaper issues, and sending them as instructed to the trash.
That cupola would become a haven and art studio for one of their daughters Molly, who was a talented artist (she would later refuse an art scholarship in Paris). She loved the cupola for it’s surrounding windows and ample natural light.
When their 10 children grew older, the Nebosinskys sold the house to the Esterhoy family and moved into the smaller house on Washington and 11th that they had previously bought and used as their General Store. Due to water damage and leakage, the Esterhoys unfortunately opted to tear the amazing cupola off the top of the house. Eventually the house turned into the string of restaurants and inns until it was eventually torn down. Losing a building of this calibur seems like such an incredible loss for a town with such a proud past. In honor of this great lost building, here is a historic Illustration from a prouder time. Click the photo to enlarge it.
Later on in 1983 Dan Nebozinsky sat down for a 3 part interview with Joe Patero of The Manville News to recall his families rich history… here is part 1 I will be on the lookout for parts 2 and 3 and hopefully get them up here ASAP. Thank you Cathy Deschu for this priceless wealth of lost Manville history, the photos, the illustration, and for sharing your family’s story. This is incredible.
MANVILLE GARDENS LAND PLOT ORIGINAL PLAN (1917) • CLICK TO ENLARGE
I have such a soft spot for maps. When historical Manville ones show up I really get siked. A good friend of mine named Jessica Bodo recently bought a house in town. Being a fellow Manville history buff, she started to obsessively explore the history of her property. Her searches have turned up many VERY interesting pieces of info. She discovered that when she got back far enough in time, most of the property in Manville’s “Weston” section was actually owned by one family… The Veghte family. She also found the above map, drafted in 1917 and filed in 1919, it maps out the newly established plots of land to be developed. These two pieces of information coupled with the Hillsborough 1860 farm map was a real slam dunk in terms of concrete information. After viewing the 1860 farm map, combined with this Manville Gardens map we could see that the property line of the Veghtes exactly matched the shape of this newly envisioned Manville Gardens section
I did slightly rotate the Manville Gradens map, but you can see right down to Abraham Veghte’s house (the red arrow)… it’s a perfect match geographically., with Royce Brook backing the property. This was quite an entertaining realization, and proof that Manville Gardens (or Weston) IS Abraham Veghtes farm (and another smaller piece of property in the bottom left , to which I could not read the name of the original owner). As far as my friend Jess has discovered Abraham Veghte died in 1886, and his Wife Anne (formerly a Vannnest) in 1897. The land was handed down to the Veghte’s children… it’s a bit of a mystery on why they decided to sell it.
If you look at the Manville Gardens map (at the top) between the streets then known as Jackson and Schwartz Terrace, between First Street and Raritan, you will see what appears to be the farm plot, which was eventually chopped in half when they extended Harrison Street all the way through to Raritan Ave. Just for kicks I decided to superimpose a modern street map over the old map.
MODERN STREET MAP SUPERIMPOSED OVER THE OLD MAP • CLICK TO ENLARGE
Even though not TOO much has changed in terms of the layout of the streets, I did notice a lot of the street names have since been changed to commemorate some of the great folks that helped perpetuate Manville’s existence as a town. For instance Jasinski Ave, named for our great first police chief was formerly called Beekman Ave. Persinko Ave, named after the family of another man on the police force Lt. Andrew Persinko was formerly named Fourth Ave. Sidorski Ave was formerly known as Schwartz Terrace. Ruth place however, was just always called Ruth place. Weird. Another interesting thing about this map, is that it has a road crossing over the railroad tracks that’s called “Road from Roycefield to Millstone Road.” I’ve mentioned before on this blog that I believe that an old road called Weston Road ran further east of JFK Blvd., which clearly did not exist during that time of this map. You can see a little kink in Kennedy on the modern map where they eventually rerouted the old road. There are 3 streets on the old map called Fifth Ave, Sixth Ave. and Forest that apparently never came to fruition. Nowadays the area where Forest Ave should be is literally just… forrest. It looks like the Reading Railroad owned the area which now houses the end of Dominic St. and Richard Ave. This property was formerly owned by another farmer named Joseph Christopher.
Along her historical searches my friend Jess also noted that at some point on The Veghte farm a young man accidentally shot his sister to death with a shotgun… anyone out there have any insight on this?
This was a pretty heavy post so thanks for hanging on… as always if anyone has additional information please let me know or leave some comments!.