Manville News, December 26th, 1941

BANNER-12-26-14Ok folks. Here is a digital version of the old Manville News. This one is great for several reasons. First of all, I have been eager to get to this one since it contains a train wreck in the Manville train yard… which is also known as Port Monmouth Junction (for all you fellow train nerds). Growing up over on Angle Ave. in lost valley, right across from the tracks, I had always heard about this one… it spilled tar everywhere.

Another reason this issue is great is that it concludes the entire year of 1941… so I get to feel like I actually accomplished something. In reality I’m only about a third or so through the stack. Still, it somewhat feels like a milestone.

One more reason this is great, is that it features a little blurb about Chester Trojanowski. Father of Tommy from the Chester House bar. The bar was named after Chester ala it’s name “The Chester House”

Allegedly he was quite a roller skater, and was performing in town in the following week. You can view and download the Issue via the following link. manville-news-12-26-1941-ocr

The “Old 1623” Johns-Manville plant switch engine

jm train crew niceThe Old 1623 • Click Photo to Enlarge

This post is for all my fellow train lovers and railfans. This photo is from the collection of Neal Ranauro, and was reprinted in The Manville News for the Manville’s 50th anniversary celebration issue. As stated in the above caption this photo was taken back in 1938 by Ranauro and features the John’s Manville work train and crew. Affectionately known about town as “the old 1623” this work horse and it’s crew manned the 12 miles of track within the JM yard moving the 1200 or so different types of products to the appropriate lines to be moved out across the country. This is a great and iconic photo. Another great one from Neal Ranauro… that guy was the best.

Just for good measure here is one more shot of “The Old 1623” about to take flight. She truly is handsome.


Manville Shanty Town Fire?


Manville Fire • Click to Enlarge

Awhile back I did an article on the old Manville / JM Shanty Town that had sprung up on the site of the old creosote factory. Which most of you know later became the Rustic Mall, and then became a Superfund site, and now sits empty as a nice fenced off, perpetual middle finger to the people of Manville. If you’ve never heard of the creosote factory it made the black slime that they use to waterproof and coat railroad ties and telephone poles… and I think some other stuff. It closed sometime around 1960 and looked like this…


Federal Creosote Factory 1954 • Click Photo to Enlarge

According to some of our readers on here, who have had relatives on the Manville P.D. the shanty town were a bunch of folk who lives in boxcars and old handmade shacks. There were a lot of fights, and it was just a rough part of town. Dangerous. The police were summoned back there… a lot.  If you have never heard this place I encourage you to click that link in the previous paragraph to see some photos.

Rumor has it the place burnt to the ground. People died. A lot of people were hurt. I’d be going out on a limb here to assume the above photo was the actual fire that burned the shanty town down, so I’ll just say it could be. Regardless it’s a great photo Taken by Neal Ranauro, to whom we owe a great deal for his very comprehensive collection of almost everything Manville.

Thanks to Gary Carmon for bringing this photo to my attention. He also is deeply interested in Manville’s history and has a great site with some more of Ranauro’s photos, which are not featured on this blog. You can see those HERE.

Johns Manville Shanty Town?

1st download 3875Click Photo to Enlarge

One of the biggest Manville urban legends that has continued to escape me is one about a “shanty town” that had sprung up around the JM property. I think I have possibly tracked down some photos. I cannot confirm this is it, using context clues here is what I came up with. In the photo above on the left is what looks like the asbestos bays from JM that backed up to the tracks that run over Main street. It looks like the Watchung Mountains in the background there. On the right if you really look you can se the other train line that cuts through the Lost Valley. To be honest when I look at these photos it seems more like this whole site is on what would’ve been the Federal Creosote Factory land, which was nestled in between the two train lines right before what was then know as Port Reading Junction (or basically the Manville train yard).

From the lose hearsay and unreliable information I have gathered over the years, I’ve heard that this was essentially built by workers out of old train cars and scrap wood and that it had eventually burned down. If anyone has any stories of can confirm that this is actually the shanty town, please comment on this. Here are a few more shots. They will all expand if you click on them. Thanks Anne Sullivan for contributing these.

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Wilbur Smith and the Van Nest Mill

IMG_1292Click Photo to Enlarge

I have already posted a couple of articles on here about Van Nest’s Mill, and it’s tragic collapse into the MIllstone river. You can see the most comprehensive post HERE. But I just wanted to share this great photo from a 1982 newspaper article. Everyone seems to remember Wilbur Smith, but I don’t think I had ever seen a photo of him until I found this article. I just thought this was a pretty great shot.

John Royce, Manville’s first landlord was a crook.

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…

Manville buildings 1969-1970

The Elmcrest Inn, Feb. 1969 • Click to Enlarge

Hey everyone. So it’s been a busy few weeks for me, but I finally got around to scanning this envelope full of Manville photo slides that were recently unearthed from an old dusty cabinet in the Somerset County Historical Society. It was pretty frustrating trying to get nice scans of these, but after much rigging I got clean prints and the fruits were pretty amazing. First of all you can see above I got a nice transfer of that Elmcrest Inn photo… which I’m probably most excited about out of the bunch. Here are the other good ones… these will all enlarge a bit if you click on them. The second scan is another Manville favorite place which still exists. The Chester House.

This one is sort of a bad photo, and a little blurry, but people ask me about it alot. And it’s really the first good color photo on this site of The Polish Home. The polish home is also a defunct Manville building, which was located right across from Roosevelt School.

Just got an update on the following building from Antoinette (Rogalski) Vinciguerra! She says…  “The house was over 200 years old when it was demolished, a very sad day for my family. My grandparents Joseph and Loretta Rogalski, moved to the US from Poland and purchased that house which was also a place of business known as the Roadhouse. It was also larger than in the picture. One third of it burnt down in a fire. The Roadhouse was a happening place from what I hear back in its day. It had ballrooms, a saloon and was an inn. The front side of it, not pictured, had a large wooden porch with several large columns. It also had a stepping stone in front of the porch which was used by stage coaches.”

This next one caught me really off guard, and I feel so dumb for never paying attention to this, despite seeing it so many times in my life. I always heard that Camplain Rd. was so named “Camp Lane” because it literally was the campsite of the Continental Army. It’s a little hard to read in the photo, but this sign that sits right outside of Classical Glass on Camplain Rd. reads.. “Encampment area for Pennsylvania troops of the Continental Army from about December 15, 1778 until June 1, 1779.” If anyone in Manville tries telling you nothing ever happened in Manville you bring em here.

Ok. this next one is another mystery house, although it is entitled “The Fiero House” taken Feb. 1969. I’m not sure if this still exists or what the signifigance is but here is a photo.

And last, but most definitely not least is this great photo of the Main Street School (formerly located at the site of the Main St. parking lot). A lot of folks on here attended this school, and I know it’s been a fan favorite on here. The is pretty much the best color photo I’ve seen of this place yet.

I’m not sure who took these photos, so I cannot give a proper credit. If you took them let me know and I’ll be sure to get your name on them. Also, a huge thanks to the Somerset County Historical Society for trusting me with these slides, thinking of me when they were unearthed, and inducting me a trustee. If anyone out there is interested in getting involved with the society, we are looking for fresh faces & ideas. Please get in touch!

Oh, one last thing before I leave you alone. I’ve been talking to some great older folk who keep telling me about some friends around town that have these incredible photo archives, who would be dying to show them off. If you are one of these people, please get in touch with me I would LOVE to come hang out, have about 10 cups of coffee and chat about Manville… AND see some great photos. If you would like to share photos on here as well please get in touch with me. I will credit everyone, I have all kinds of digital archive technologies, and I would be happy to print extra copies or provide you with the digital versions of your photos on a disk. Please help preserve the history of this town. Also, I have specifically heard the name Smolinka as a person who has a great archive of photos. If anyone knows them or anyone else with photos please communicate to them about this site. I know a lot of older folk don’t like to, or are unable to use computers, which pretty much cuts my lines of communication to them. Thank you.

Pig Lady Road… The Movie

Click Storyboard to Enlarge

How would it be if we just took a slight break from the history of Manville to help preserve a local legend. Hell, if you ask me it IS Manville History. While Dukes Estate is a lot less scary these days, I know there’s not a one of you out there that can’t claim the Pig Lady as a Somerset County teenage right of passage. Everyone talked about Pig Lady in the 80s I even remember a lady telling my grandmother one time with a dead stone serious face that she saw a half human animal running around in back of Dukes. We used to trade our versions of the story around the illegally ignited campfire over a Budweiser down in the woods. Yep, if you’re from Somerset County Pig Lady is some serious stuff boyee. The legend is finally about to meet national attention.

MHS graduate Steve Makowski, who has moved on (prosperously) to making movies and short films in the big city, and his partner Thomas De Napoli are slated to start filming in September for a short film about the pig lady legend. Its going to be a light hearted amalgamation of several versions of the Pig Lady legend, to be accompanied by a short actual documentary on the different perspectives on the myth. When I heard Steve was making the film, I called him up and demanded to be part of the production in whatever way I could… to which he said “sure help me interview some people, I might be busy blowing up a car” So I bring to you folks two challenges…

1. Help tell me your version of the Dukes Estate/Pig Lady story… or just leave a comment on this post. If you got your storytelling pants on, volunteer yourself to be interviewed in September. I can’t guarantee you will make the documentary portion of the film… but maybe. Email me at

2. Here is a link to the Kickstarter page for the movie to help out with funding. There is a mock up trailer, synopsis, writers credentials, and other fun facts. You don’t have to donate anything unless you’re feeling generous, but please check out the page… and please spread the word. In all honesty if you share the link around on your facebooks and whatnot you’d be doing these guys a huge favor, and helping the Pig Lady story get spread around. Here is the LINK.

These guys have experience showing at Sundance Film Festival, and are hoping to have this short film done it time for this years submission. Help make this a big deal.