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.


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 News, December 12, 1941


Ok, that last post was kind of thin for following up a few month hiatus. So I decided to digitize another issue of the Old Manville News. This one is from the week of December 12th, 1941. There are a number of great articles in here including a debate to put in the underpass on Main Street (you know the one the trucks alway crash into). Previously it had just been a regular crossing just like the one over on 13th, which started to cause a major traffic jam every time a train came through, which if you think about it… back then, right next to a major factory, would have been a LOT. Back in the early days of this blog I did a big huge post about it… you can see it HERE

Here is a link to the digital issue Manville News 12-12-41 OCR

In the meantime I’ll remind you that the text in these issues are mostly searchable if you are looking for names or specific information. You can download them, and I recently realized that on most phones you can actually view the pages right on your phone. I’m working on a system to make these actual posts searchable as well… it’s proving to be a challenge. In the meantime enjoy.

Camplain Rd. Paving / Sewers

1st download 4095

Well the collective Manville opinion (from folks of which I highly believe and respect) is that the following photos were taken on Camplain Rd. around the area which is currently South 11th or so, and that the man pictured above in the suit is Mike Kachorsky. The construction co. handling the job was called Renda. With a little help from the magic of google maps “street view” I seemed to have been able to confirm the location.

As some you have pointed out that house on the corner of Camplain Rd. & 13th is in fact still there. These photos were sent to me from the collection of Anne Sullivan. The location mystery was solved entirely by the readers. I an forever grateful for all of the contributors on this blog for teaching me… you guys basically made this post. The community aspect of this site is what keeps it going. Thank you.

1st download 4096

As you may recall if you are a follower of this blog I previously posted some photos of Washington Ave where the roads were all dirt. If you missed that you can see them here. These photos are from the same collection / time period (1939-1941). It would stand to reason that they would pave the roads and install the sewer system at the same time, so I think we can safely assume this was all being done at once, and within the aforementioned time frame.

Here are a bunch of photos of the workers. I can’t identify any of them, but surely some of them were local guys. Like always if you can identify them, please leave a comment so I can get it straight in the description. OK here goes… all of the photos will expand if you click on them!

1st download 4098

1st download 4100

1st download 4099

1st download 4072

1st download 4074

1st download 4073

1st download 4103

1st download 4102

1st download 4097This following photo was really the dead ringer for the location. That house on the left currently still exists on the corner of 13th and Camplain Rd. Of course in this photo… 13th had not been constructed yet!

1st download 4075Whew! that was a super long post. That last photo looks like the other end looking up the hill. The creation of roads in Manville is probably a thing everyone takes for granted nowadays, but I bet it was no fun trying to get your auto unstuck from the Jersey mud. Thanks to Anne for this great documentation of Manville’s history. Thank you for looking!

1st download 4101

1930’s Manville Flood

1st download 4081

Main Street looking south towards JFK • Click to Enlarge

While flooding seems to have become a much worse and more frequent problem in Manville, to some degree it did already exist. Since these come from Anne Sullivan’s photo collection which is loosely dated “1939-1940” This can basically been from one of two storms. And if I had to take a wild guess I’d say it was from the so called 1940 New England Hurricane. Which at least as of a few years ago was the wettest storm in New Jersey history, dropping a record 24 inches of rain on Ewan, NJ. Of course, there was also the Great New England Hurricane of 1938, which was terrible as well, but it doesn’t seem to fit the timeline of the photos. This is a pretty great shot though and you can see the Weston Train Station way up at the top of the photo. The following photos will expand if you click on them.

This next photo is basically the same exact location. I don’t know what this bus is, but I guess it was some sort of public transportation.

1st download 4107

This is another great photo… Basically the same view. Anyone know this guy?

1st download 4556

Here is a few looking the other way up Main Street. You can see the onion from the top of the old Church on the left…

1st download 4213

1st download 4215

A couple more young men… These guys look like trouble. Anybody know them?

1st download 4214

And one last photo. I can’t figure out the location on this one, but maybe Dukes Parkway?

1st download 4217

Quigley’s Bike Shop

When I was a young boy of an age old enough to venture off my immediate Manville block, I quickly realized that it would be much to my advantage to procure myself a bike. I pleaded my case to my parents and grandparents, and much to my surprise my grandfather quickly responded “Sure we’ll go down to Quigley’s tomorrow”. I think what I was hoping for was one of those little 15″ versions of a BMX bike, but when I got down to Quigley’s that afternoon what I saw scarred the hell out of me. There was a pile of bikes in the middle of the floor 3 times as tall as me. They looked mangled, and most of them bore the name Schwinn. I didn’t understand. I thought we went to the wrong store. But my grandfather assured me that “how dare I question this place… this is QUIGLEY’S. This is THE bike store.” He was right. And quigley’s outlasted every bike store that ever came to Manville, especially in reputation.

Lets’ take a look at a short history of the Quigley family as poached from

When Lester Quigley came to town in 1927 to take on the job of postmaster, his son George came along with the family and opened up his bicycle shop here. Young George had already been in business for a couple of years in Neshanic. His father had let him convert a chicken coop into a shop and had helped him put up a sign along Amwell Road — how else was a boy of 16 going to be taken seriously as a businessman and be able to get credit and buy wholesale. In those days the Manville Post Office was at the Johns-Manville plant. At first it was in A Building, and later the Asbestos Hotel. Lester Quigley in time became J-M employment supervisor, but son George did not want to work there, he kept right on with his bicycles. 

For several years now I have been trying to nail down a timeline for Quigley’s. The store I remember was on Main Street and had been there forever. According to a newspaper article on the shop written in 1979 the store had been on Main Street for 39 years, which would mean he moved over there in ’40. I recently received a collection of photos from 1939, which depict the shop as being on the corner of Knopf and North 6th Ave, on the site which later became Al’s market. For a store that I actually physically remember I’m sad to say that I do not have any photos of the Main St. location. But these photos are great. The video above is from Petey’s Film made around the same time as these photos by the Semenick family. You will notice some characters in these photos are in the film, namely the adorable little girl, who has now been identified as Quigley’s daughter Antoinette! (thanks to the Mizerek family for the help!) Ok. Let’s get to some photos. They will expand if you click on them. Lets start with some shop photos…

1st download 3959

1st download 3960

1st download 4148

I believe is the man George Quigley himself…

1st download 3900Im not sure who this next guy is, but this photo is just great…

1st download 3894

and finally, Quigley’s daughter Antoinette… who I actually fell in love with after looking at these.

1st download 4146

1st download 4152

1st download 4145

1st download 4092

1st download 4093If anyone can Identify these people please leave a comment. If anyone has any other Quigley’s (or any other Manville photos for that matter) photos, please submit them to These photos were submitted by Anne Sullivan. On behalf of everyone who views this blog, I thank her for these amazing photos.

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.

1st download 3874

1st download 3876

1st download 3877

1st download 3878