Petey Semenick Sr. talks Manville History

Hey everyone. So I’m in the middle of digitally archiving lots of old “original manville residents” interviews. This one with Petery Semenick Sr. is absolutely incredible. Petey surely needs no introduction to Manville folks. For starters, he founded Petey’s bar & Casino, he was a fireman, founding member of the Rod & Gun Club, and original resident before Manville was even a real town. The interview was done by Stuart Crump, former Managing Editor of the Manville news back in March of 1979. Thanks to Petey Semenick Jr. for giving me his blessing on posting this, because it’s incredible.

Petey has a tremendous memory and his narrative of Manville history is amazing. I edited this a little bit, cutting out just the names, addresses, and really personal stuff thats really not anyones business. This interview is pretty long, but it’s a really great look at early Manville. He discusses early JM, Manville Farms, The Manville Gypsies (seriously!), the original Main St. buildings Elmcrest and Greaseheimer hotel (Chester House) Harmony Plains school, all of the Petey’s businesses, bootleg whiskey, the Rod and Gun Club, Fire Co. number 2, instructions on how to craft a baseball from scratch, the Manville Saw Mill (pictured in the video) and so many more random nuggets of great info. It’s totally worth a listen.

First Manville Band in Action

Manville-Band-2First Manville Band • Click Photo to Enlarge

Well if you’ve been paying attention to this blog awhile you know that awhile back, I found a great old professional photo of The First Manville Band. You can click that link to see the old post, which is complete with names. This version though is pretty amazing, because THIS photo of the Manville Band is of an earlier incarnation. I know this for 2 reasons. The first being that  they don’t have a uniform yet… and second, the band is a lot smaller in this photo. This photo was submitted by Rich Hamernik, whos grandfather Pat was actually in the band. He gave me these along with a couple of old Manville Royals baseball photos, which date back to the mid20’s, so I imagine this photo is circa the same time, and  possibly on the same day.

I’m still trying to sort out the location of this… but on a side note, the typography on that bass drum is phenomenal.

The Manville Royals

Manville-RoyalsClick Photo to Enlarge

I’m always excited to get some new material up here, particularly stuff I was completely unaware of. The Manville Royals were a baseball team we have not seen on this site yet. Thankfully Rich Hamernik contributed these excellent photos, which he thinks are from the 20’s. I think I agree with him. Rich’s Grandfather Charlie “Butch” Hamernik was the team’s third baseman (and allegedly a pretty good one). Unfortunately I do not have a list of names for all of the folks on the team, but I’d love to update this post if anyone can identify them! In the meantime though here is a great photo of Charlie suited up for a game… as always click the photos to enlarge! These photos are awesome Rich! Thank you!

Charlie-Hamernik-Manville-RoyalsAlso, don’t forget if you want to print, email, or share this post check the icons on the bottom!

Carl Mydans photos of Manville c.1930s

Photo by Carl Mydans • Click to Enlarge

It seems like a life time since I put up some good impactful photos on here… and I apologize about that. It seems like I get busier and busier by the hour lately. In a desperate attempt to keep something consistent going here without spending hours warming up a library chair, I checked out the Library of Congress website… and wouldn’t you know it was fruitful. I found these great photos that were Taken by Carl Mydans. All of these are from the mid 1930’s. The photo above of Main Street has actually appeared on this site before, but the quality this time around is a lot better. Also, it’s just a great photo and worthy of a rerun since we have a lot of new folks on here. Here are some more…

This real estate hut was on Finderne Ave. heading out of town. I believe this one was from 1936, you can expand the photo by clicking on it.

I believe this photo is the Federal Creosote Factory, which famously polluted the entire former Rustic Mall and East Camplain Rd section of Manville, leaving “rivers of creosote” under the ground and prompting the closing of the entire mall and a major federal clean up to happen. You can see Main St. and The Manville National Bank in the background.

The old Finderne Ave bridge driving Main street out of town towards Bound Brook. I’m not sure what year the covered part of the bridge was torn down.

I’m not sure where in Manville this exactly is, but this is just a great photo.

This photo is just entitled “inhabitant of Manville” can anyone out there identify this man?

Another old homestead photo, which seems to be related to the photo above. What a great looking well.

This photo is definitely the same barn as the one above with the gentleman standing in front. Again if anyone can identify the man or the address, please educate us.

This last great photo is obviously standing underneath some sort of water tower. My initial instinct tells me its the one on the North side by the High School, but I can not positively identify it. All of these photos were found in the Library of Congress digital archive. I’d love to hear any of your thoughts or additional information, so as always leave em in the comments section. Enjoy!

The Old Smith Homestead

The Old Smith Farm • Click all Photos to Enlarge

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.