by Diane Norek Harrison
ELIZABETH-Cherry Street is one of the oldest streets in Elizabeth, as it was created back in the days of colonists who built Elizabethtown, and was a means to travel to the northwest part of the area. It somewhat paralleled the western side of the Elizabeth River and ended where it me Trotter’s Lane ear the old reservoir known as Ursino Lake, but we usually call it “the ressie.”
When Morris Avenue was made, it crossed Cherry Street on a long diagonal, and this formed two narrow points of land at that intersection.
One of the points was directly in front of our house on the other side of Morris Avenue, and the old Crane House had been standing there since before the American Revolution. It was concealed on both sides of the point by a hedge that was so tall a stepladder was needed in order to trim it.
Trimming did not happen very often, but one time that it was done, Pop sent us kids across the street to gather up some of the cuttings. He stuck them in the ground for them to grow roots, after which he then planted them along the driveway property line and also along the back half of the other side of our yard.
That hedge did quite well, and years later when a portion of it was no longer needed, a neighbor of mine in Roselle asked for it, and sent workers to dig it up and re-plant it around her property on the southeast corner of Chestnut Street and East Fourth Avenue. Its moving days were not over yet, for when that house was torn down and two others built in its place, some of that hedge was again dug up and re-planted in front of 128 East Fourth Avenue, where it still flourishes.
On the other point of land there was only a very small house only one story high with a loft under the peaked roof. The only resident that I ever saw there was an older woman named Edith,who lived there by herself. One day she wasn’t there anymore and the house lay vacant until Maxwell Simpson, the artist, used it as a studio for his work. I remember looking through one of the windows and seeing a number of paintings standing around in the room.
That house stood on a small triangle formed by Cherry Street, Morris Avenue, and Trotter’s Lane, and there was an old barn behind the house next to Trotter’s Lane, but this barn disappeared about 1826. There is a small brook that flows along the western edge of Kean University and passes under Morris Ave. and through that small triangle of land. That part of the brook is now enclosed in a large diameter pipeline, but in the good old days it was open until it disappeared into a brick-lined tunnel under the short piece of Cherry Street and ran beneath Trotter’s Lane all the way to the Elizabeth River Bridge near the dam that formed Ursino Lake.
My friends and I spent many hours laying in that little piece of brook that we ran through the triangle. There was not a great amount on water in it, but there were plenty of small rocks and stone alongside of it, and I was easy to lay a group of them across the brook and dam up enough water to float our little boats. Most of these boats we had made down in our cellar out of scrap wood picked up from any new houses that were being built nearby.
Until 1928, there was only one house on Trotter’s Lane between Morris Avenue. and the river, and we had a large field in which to play and hide in the tall grass that grew there. Once in a while Mike Ryan, who had a small farm on the corner of Morris Avenue and Trotter’s Lane, would bring over his horse and hay cutter and gather the cut hay into a large haystack until he could move it into a barn. All of us kids in the neighborhood used to climb up and then slide down that haystack, until we got tired of picking bits of itchy hay from our clothes.
I will have some winter memories from Mr. Frolich at the end of the year.
If you would like to see my column continue, I need some new contributors to show there is an interest. After Sept. 4, my column will only be printed with readers’ memories or past material since my own material is shrinking. Start sending you memories or past material for any of the towns listed below.
If you have your own memories or past material for Clark, Elizabeth, Linden or Rahway, email me at email@example.com or send copies of your material to me c/o CMD Media 1139, East Jersey St,. Suite 503, Elizabeth NJ, 07201.
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