THE MANVILLE HOMES

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All photos will expand if you click on them!

Back in before there was the current version of Manville High School the area consisted of Military style row homes, which according to this The New York Times blurb was used to cheaply house war industry workers from Belle Mead and Somerville after around 1943. I know a lot of people reading this site briefly lived there as well. (check out the comments section!) If you look at the photos above, you can see that the houses form an “L” shape… the open area is where the High School was constructed.

From what I’ve learned from folks on this site… it was owned by the government who then released the land to the town and construction on the new high school began. The school was completed in 1955 and some of the families and houses lingered until the late 50’s when the homes were finally torn down. Some people say the folks who lived there were forcibly pushed out, but I guess that is still a matter of debate.

Before we continue to a pile of photos I wanted to share this reader comment, which I think paints a great picture of life here…

“Great pictures and they brought back a lot of fond memories. My knowledge of the The Manville Homes was also referred to as the “projects” is as follows. I spent my first 8 years growing up there from 1948- 56, before my parents bought a house in the Weston section of town. I believe the facility was initially built to house Jamaican workers who were brought to supplement the work force for area factories during WWII. After the war there was a shortage of housing, low income or otherwise for returning veterans who were getting married in groves and starting the very large “Baby Boomer” generation that I am a member of. As I remember it, there was both a white and black section with the majority of tenants being white. There was also a three room school house for grades 1-3 and it was integrated. I attended the third grade in the “project school” taught by a “Miss Collins who was also the school Principal – imagine that!

The high school kids attended the Somerville, Bound Brook and Dunellen high schools. Given the small apartments I’m sure it was depressing for adults until they could buy a home of their own but for a kid it was heaven. All your buddies lived only doors away and we played in the woods where the Christ the King school is now. We went swimming at the “Dukes Parkway” children’s pool which was filled in many years ago and we lived close enough to walk to “Poni’s” general store on the corner of Brooks Blvd and 7th ave, with the big glass candy counter. You could also buy a sling shot and a bag of marbles but that is another story and a different subject. The construction of the high school was started in 1955/56 and it forced the remaining families to move to another apartment within the project, where the athletic fields are now, out of the way of the construction or leave. Eventually all the families left by 1957 and the remaining row houses were torn down. As stated in a previous comment, the project school and the connecting administration building, which was located approximately where the home team stands are now, remained standing until the 70’s.”

I’d really like to know some more info about this place if anyone has any, as many other residents recall the area fondly. For now though here are some more great photos by Neal Ranauro! A reader also submitted this great development plan MAP!

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Being born after these existed it’s so wild to look at the photos, but in a way a few still exist on the high school properly if you look through the correct set of lenses…

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45 thoughts on “THE MANVILLE HOMES

  1. The housing was military homes, the was used by low income residents until the whole thing was torn down(after it was given up by the government) tobuild the high school

  2. Wow, very interesting. My father gave me a map 20 years ago that belonged to his sister who lived on 9th ave. It is dated 1917 and shows all row homes. it stretches from brooks blvd to dukes pkwy and i think it ends at 13th st. street names are completely different. I never understood what i was looking at. I will find it and present it to all

  3. I had heard the homes were built in the early ’40s to house temporary workers brought in to work JM while the regular JM employees were in the military. Many of the workers immigrtated from Jamaica, and everyone called it “Jamaica Homes” or “Jamaica Gardens” or something like that (that’s why those old photos also show a lot of diversity in Manville).
    The houses weren’t needed after the soldiers returned from the war; the temp workers left; and the land was turned over to the borough and eventually the high school built (1957? — the Manville News had some stories a year or two ago about the 50th anniversary of the high school ). Before that, Manville high schoolers went to Somerville or Bound Brook.

  4. We called it the Project. I believe that’s where all the blacks in Manville lived. My dad was a constable and had to go there occasionally to issue a summons or whatever. I noticed that the houses were mostly covered with transite sheets, both inside and out. Those sheets were manufactured at JM.

  5. The high schools we attended were Bound Brook and Dunellon before the Manville High school was built. Don’t know if Somerville had a high school at that time. —

  6. I believe Ron Charneski has it right about the projects. Mostly black
    population, and actually run out of town when the plans for the high
    school were accepted.Homes were torn down. Bad feelings for years by the blacks in Somerville, and the surrounding areas. Didn’t care much
    for Manville kids.

    and the surrounding areas

  7. This was called the “projects”. I don’t beleive it was ever a military base, but it certainly looks like one. I remember my aunt and uncle (the Zielonkas) lived there and we used to visit often. After it was torn down for Manville high School, the “project school building” remained until maybe 1961 or so. I think it stood about where the athletic field starts.

  8. The “projects” were built as temporary housing for returning WWII vets and their families. My parents lived there. My mom remembers it being very depressing because they were required to have olive green shades. She covered hers with different fabric on the inside!

    My father published an oral history of Manville, based on interviews of long time residents. I believe there should be a copy in the Manville Library. It’s called “From Ellis Island, to the Coal Mines, to the Asbestos Capitol or the world.” (by Edward Purzycki)

    • wow im really glad you showed up on here. I’ve been looking for a copy of this book for years. you guys have an extra ones laying around? id be happy to buy it from you?

      • Extra? I’m not sure. I may have one you can borrow.

        What I DO have are boxes and boxes of old photos! I actually think some of the old black and white photos the are? were? in McDonald’s were from my dad’s collection… I’d definitely seen them!

        If you’re interested, I’d be happy to give you some of the photos, especially the ones where I don’t know anyone!

        My mom ran “The Cottage” during the war. It was an ice cream shop on Main Street. She also printed up newsletters with letters from “the boys” overseas.

        My dad would be THRILLED to know someone else is documenting the history of “his” beloved town!

      • i would love anything you could spare, or just lend me to convert into a digital format. you have my word that it would be taken care of. id also be happy to give you digital copies of whatever I scan or use. i wouldn’t mind doing a whole post on “the cottage” if you have photos or old ads or menus i could actually scan those too. with any information you could give me we could probably come up with a pretty good blog entry. I’m trying to get all the old main businesses documented… ive actually been talking to tommy over at the chester house. he has lots of good info too. let me know how you feel about this. if you want to you can email me to my personal email at devildance@hotmail.com THANKS SO MUCH!

  9. Great pictures and they brought back a lot of fond memories. My knowledge of the The Manville Homes was also referred to as the “projects” is as follows. I spent my first 8 years growing up there from 1948- 56, before my parents bought a house in the Weston section of town. I believe the facility was initially built to house Jamaican workers who were brought to supplement the work force for area factories during WWII. After the war there was a shortage of housin, low income or otherwise for returning veterans who were getting married in groves and starting the very large “Baby Boomer” generation that I am a member of. As I remember it, there was both a white and black section with the majority of tenants being white. There was also a three room school house for grades 1-3 and it was integrated. I attended the third grade in the “project school” taught by a “Miss Collins who was also the school Principal – imagine that! The high school kids attended the Somerville, Bound Brook and Dunellen high schools. Given the small apartments I’m sure it was depressing for adults until they could buy a home of their own but for a kid it was heaven. All your buddies lived only doors away and we played in the woods where the Christ the King school is now. We went swimming at the “Dukes Parkway” children’s pool which was filled in many years ago and we lived close enough to walk to “Poni’s” general store on the corner of Brooks Blvd and 7th ave, with the big glass candy counter. You could also buy a sling shot and a bag of marbles but that is another story and a different subject. The construction of the high school was started in 1955/56 and it forced the remaining families to move to another apartment within the project, where the athletic fields are now, out of the way of the construction or leave. Eventually all the families left by 1957 and the remaining row houses were torn down. As stated in a previous comment, the project school and the connecting administration building, which was located approximately where the home team stands are now, remained standing until the 70’s . The previous comment of the 1917 map showing row houses beyond the high school site was news to me and look forward to seeing the map on this site. By the way, a similiar “projects” facility (row housing), was located at Hillsborough in the former “Belle Mead GSA Depot”.

    • I remember the sling shots. They were plastic, with big rubber bands. We shot bb’s from them. They went blocks and blocks and caused a lot of problems with holes in peoples windows.

    • I remember going to Poni’s store on the corner of 7th Avenue and Brooks Blvd. on the way home from the high school. “Poni” (pronounced “Pon-yee”) was a big woman who would stand behind the glass case with all the penny candy in it and count out how much you were spending. We called her husband “Tex” and their dog was always in the store. Tex just called him “dawg”. I can still hear him saying, “Come ‘ere, daaawg”.

      • I remember tex …my grandparents lived on north 6th. the panateros. walked over to tex’ss all the time when we were like 6,7 or 8 in the early 70s.to by candy and play baseball arcade..

    • I also lived in ‘the projects’ during the early 1950’s,and then we moved to Jackson Avenue in Weston when I was 5. The project, what I remember, was constant police sirens, flashing police car lights at night, hearing fights, screaming, yelling, breaking glass (either windows or bottles). But this blog is absolutely fantastic. I graduated MHS in 1967, joined the army, went to Korea, and never returned to Manville (presently living in Florida with plans on moving to Virginia again).

  10. We called that store Tex’s with the bald man and the big woman both behind the counter. Penny candy and pin ball machine inside and we used to pick up our Home News bundles there for delivery as we were all paper boys. Then spend all our future profits on Yoo-Hoo’s and peanut butter Tandy Kakes for $.25. Great memories and cheaper one’s for sure.

    • As I recall, it was Tex and Veras. We pointed out the candy we wanted behind the big round glass – if you went too fast, Tex would get really impatients. They had that old school refrigerator with abottle of coke for 25 cents, and a glass cantister with pretzel rods on the counter for 5 cents each.

  11. Pingback: The Manville Homes (revisited) « Manville, NJ … Revolution on the Millstone

  12. These homes were called “The project”. They were not military homes. I lived across the street at 33 N. 11 Ave. All my friends and school mates lived there. The bins shown by the front door were coal bins, as these units were heated with a coal stove. The second photo looks like it could be Brooks Blv. and N. 9th. Ave.

    • Hey Ron.. if you check out my more current post on this place, there was a write up about them in the New York Times before they were built calling them “300 family dwellings to support war workers working in neighboring depots and war plants” Since this was in 1943, they probably were meant to be temporary for World War II, especially since they were “factory fabricated” but I think people just hung on living there since it was cheap. But, you’re right… they were known in town as “The Project” in town because they were a “Housing Project” I think they were funded by the Public Housing Authority. That’s not to say that the people that lived there were not just normal people. I mean at that point even Johns Manville workers were manufacturing war materials, plus there is that military depot in HIllsborough. So I’m sure that it was the same as anywhere else… just that some of the folks happened to have jobs that made them eligible to live there or whatever. But if you’ve got any stories of hanging around there I would LOVE to hear them. These houses are something I’ve recently learned about in the fast 5 years or so, but have remained a mystery. I understand there was questionable situations that occurred to get folks out of there so they could put up the high school. I would love to hear some of those stories as well.

    • Ron. Please note my replies. I lived there from 1944-1945.
      Maybe I knew some of your friends. There was an American
      Irish family that lived across the street from me. Can not think
      of their names. Perhaps my sister will remember. I am quite
      sure that I attended the Main Street Elementary School in the
      third grade. I am trying to make contact with anyone who attend that school during that period. I recall walking to school via
      Champlain Road. There was a school the left side of that street
      that must have been the Champlain Road School. Ii connected
      with Main Street. We had to go across a train crossing to get to
      the Main Street School. We could take a short cut from the project homes by cutting accross the railroad tracks and then
      walking down to the Main Street School. Are my recollections
      correct? Would appreciate any info.
      Ed.

  13. We lived in those homes 1944-1945 during the last year of WWII. My
    father worked at the Johns Manaville Chemical plant. My sistser and I
    were in the third grade at, I think, the Maine Street Elementary Schoool. There was a mixture of people that lived at the homes. Whites, American Negroes, and black imigrants from Jamaca. The manger of the homes was southern black man named Gather. He was a very distinguished man. Had a son, with whom I played with after school. I went to an all white school. I do not know what school the blacks attended. I have been
    trying to refresh my memory about that year in Manville.

    • Hey Ed, Thanks a lot for your comment on this. I know that those homes were definitely interracial, which is something I really appreciate about them. If you remember any more details, or stories or have any photos of town please send them to me.

      • I have only a few memories. First, l want to correct the
        spelling name of the Project Homes manger. It was
        Mr. Gaither. He and his family lived in the row of homes behind us. I visited frequently. They were a
        a nice family. Mr Gaither was an impressive man and a natural leader. He had an aquarium hobby of tropical
        fish. He had several tanks. He was also the football
        coach of the Homes team. It was an all black team.
        I watched them practice. Once he let me run the ball
        from the half back position. On Sundays, his family had chicken dinner. Mrs. Gaither would tie the legs of
        two chickens together and hang them over a clothes line. She then twisted their necks off and let the blood
        drip into a bucket, plucked the feathers off and singed
        the bodies with a newspaper torch. The delicious smell of chicken cooking permiated the air. Also on Sundays,
        the Jamacians would play a “Cricket” match among themselves. I figured out that I must have attended
        Main Street School. We had to walk along, I believe, Champlain Road to Main Street and cross a rail rood crossing. We could take a short cut from the Homes by cutting accross the tracks near the homes traveling down the tracks to the school. That was dangerous. Because of the WAR, the tracks were always filled with loaded box cars and ready to depart. There was a swim beach somewhere around Manville. We would go
        there on Saturdays. A lady from the Homes taught my sister and me how to swim there. Her name was Mrs Grumming. I have no pictures. Only portraits of me and my sister taken in the third grade at the school.
        More later. Ed.

  14. I lived in Manville on North 6th Ave. from birth in June 1947 until May of 1960- – just one month prior to my 14th birthday- when we moved to Bridgewater. I attended Roosevelt Elementary school , and among my classmates up until 4th grade were many Blacks as well as a few Whites from the Project. Some of the Whites I knew who had lived in the Project at some time were originally from the coal mining region of Pennsylvania and had come to New jersey to find work. I’ve often wondered whatever happened to my Black classmates like Willy, Tyler, Donald, Coley, Diane and Janette. Janette was the best speller in Mrs, Stryker’s 2nd grade class and had a crush on me. Some of the mothers accommpanied us kids on our 2nd grade class trip to the Bronx Zoo, and Janette’s mother was one of these. Jenette chose me as the only White kid to be in her group. We had a great time at the Bronx Zoo.

    By the time I attended 5th grade at the Manville High School annex, all the Blacks had “disappeared”.

  15. My grandfather worked in the creosote factory when he came from Poland. He built a house on 2l0 Filak Ave (still standing sold by my family to Ted Petrock some years ago). I went to Dunellen HS and one of my best friends, Veronica St John lived in the Projects. I remember visiting her there. Her parents came from Ireland and they had a large family and Mr. St. John worked in JM as many members of all our families worked there.

  16. wow, I recently became aware of this site, and it sure takes me back. I entered this world via somerset hospital in may of 1941. my family relocated to California during the war . returned shortly after the war and found ourselves living in the projects. my mother was a lifetime Manville resident,until death in 2000. her brother was Floyd shimalla. one of the first , if not the first law enforcement officers in Manville.When we first moved back , we where located smack dab in the middle of what then referred to as the ‘colored section” ,we must be careful what we say these days. It turned out to be a positive experience. Some of my best friends were black . I did not know what predudice was until I entered the army, there was the van der veer family ,roy ,irving palmer,barbara .willie nelson,yes, willie nelson,just to mention a few. Then on the whiter side there was the gibbons family. and later when we where relocated to the ” white section ‘ , there was the mascola family , mencils,scoonmakers . I began my education at Roosevelt school to the projects school to main street school . to get to main street school we crossed the tracks then threw the vfw parking lot. spent one year at Dunellen hs ,and the three at Manville hs . graduated in 1959 , in the upper 90% of class . Entered the army in oct 59 and stayed for three years . upon discharge came back to Manville for a short time and relocated to south plainfield and retired from the police department after 26 years , as a captain . I now retired in florida growing old, and living the good life . just a good old boy from the projects that done good. just to mention something about the candy store on the corner of brooks blvd. and 7 th . poni ran the store at first . tex and vera took over because poni was just to old . I believe tex and vera were relatives. does anyone remember the little grocery store across the street. I think it was tyburski’s.

    • I was born on north street in 1941. went to Roosevelt school then to Main Street 1 year at Dunellen and finished last 3 years at Manville. this site really brought back a lot of memories . Tex and Vera were brother and sister and i believe Poni was their mother , they sold mostly candies and ice cream, it was my favorite store , Tyburski’s sold mostly groceries, i remember he was hard of hearing and had to wear a hearing device around his neck. after high school i joined the Marines for four years, at that time if you didn’t further your education you most likely would have been drafted, so i beat them to the punch. growing up in Manville was a great experience something that i will never forget.

      • when I graduated Manville high in 1959,a few of my friends talked joining the marines.I believe you were one of them.I wound up spending two years plus in the army.Volunteered for the draft.They took me right away.Two years sounded better then four.The year book said you where interested in joining the Air Force,what happened? Well anyway it was nice seeing something posted from someone I knew in past.Hope your doing well.

  17. Richard,
    I lived at 33 N.11st. from 1944 to 1957. All my friends lived in the project, Played with Donnie Gibbons and Larry Savage from the project just to name a few. Moved to Somerville in 1957. After the USMC ended up in Va. Bought all my candy at Poni’s store. She was a crabby old lady.

    • As I stated in my previouls entry, April 6 2010, I lived in the homes from 1944 to 1945. A black man named Mr Gaither was
      the project manager. He had a son, my age, that I sometimes
      played with after school. I attended Main Street Elemetary school, third grade. The projects were mixed. Whites, Jamacans, and American Negroes. My father worked at the Johns Mansville Chemical plant. I do not know where the Jamacans worked, nor do I know where the blacks went to school. The Jamacans played cricket on Sunday. There was a family with an Irish name that lived in the next row in front of us. Can not think of their name. We were there on VJ Day. I recall the streets filled with celebration. We returned to our previous
      in Middlttown New York shortly after.
      Ed.

  18. My Mom spoke of those homes. Some of the people worked at the creosote factory, it sounds like living there was actually fun! And Miss Collins later went to Main Street school. Had her 2 years, she was my favorite teacher! I now live in the creosote section of Claremont, which was a nightmare doing cleanup

    • Donna. What years did you attend Main Street School? I was
      there in the third grade from 1944to 1945. Can not remember the
      teacher’s name. However, I do recall that she was very nice and
      and a very good teacher. Slim and pretty.
      ED.

  19. I lived in Manville from 1944-1958 @ 33 N. 11 Ave. Taking a trip down memory lane on Google maps with the little man, I see that the water tower is gone. That was were we (with all the kids in the project) used to play. Anyone have any info. or deconstructions pictures?

  20. I can’t believe I found this site. I lived in the projects from 1946 until 1957. I was just telling my daughter a few days ago about living in Manville. I remember Miss Collins. What a great teacher she was. I think our address was 195 Manville Homes. At night we played kick the can under a street light until we had to go home. The Gibbons kids were our best friends and we kept in touch into the early 60’s. It sounds like everybody remembers the candy store. We would swim in the Raritan River which had a large tree with a rope tied to it and swing out and drop into the water. Swim trunks were optional back then. Sometimes we would hike miles, cross over route 22 to the chimney rock quarry and swim there. Remember we were only kids around 10 years old and that stuff is unheard of these days. I told my daughter we were like the Bowery Boys that were on TV years ago. She had no clue what I was talking about. One summer evening my brother and I heard music and singing at a building near the project school. We checked it out and it was a black church congregation in a large room. We sat down to listen and a black man said we had to leave because we didn’t have shirts on. We ran home, put on tee shirts and went back to the large room. The colored man saw us and smiled. What a great memory. I have gone back with my wife to where the projects were. All the good times came back to me. She couldn’t believe we walked all the way to Chimney Rock to go swimming. Will more people please respond to this site?

    • I lived in the Manville Homes from 1944 to 1945. i attended the Main Street Elementary School, 4th grade. I think that we may
      have swam in that Raritan River. A neighbor, a middle aged woman by the of Ms Druman or Gruman, taught me and my sister how to swim in that river. That black man who told you to put your shirts on may have been Mr Gaither, the project manager. He and his family lived in the row of homes behind us. An admirable man. I played with his son after school. He was the same age as me. Mr Gaither had an acquarium hobby. Raised guppies and swordtails. Influence me to take up that hobby in later years. He was also the foot ball coach of the boys Homes football team. I do not know who they played. I recall the Jamacans playing cricket on the week ends. I do not know where the Jamacans worked. My father worked at the Johns Mansville Chemical plant. I recall the big celebration in Homes on VJ day in August 1945. We moved back to Middletown NY at the end of August.

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