WATCHUNG RESERVATION – Hayrides and history are just part of the program coming up at the Deserted Village for Four Centuries In A Weekend on Saturday, Oct. 19, and Sunday, Oct. 20.
For the younger set, there will be hayrides, games, cider pressing, archaeology digs, and a visit from the ghost of David Felt.
For history lovers, both days will feature talks by archaeologists and historians about the area’s history. (For schedule details go to ucnj.org/dv)
“Four Centuries at the Deserted Village is always fun. But this year, we are able to feature several historians and archaeologists who will share their research and understanding of this area of the Watchung Mountains,” said Freeholder Bette Jane Kowalski. “For history lovers, this is truly going to be a unique opportunity.”
On Saturday morning, Archaeologist Matt Tomaso will take visitors on a Walking Tour of Feltville/The Deserted Village. That afternoon, the Archaeological Society of New Jersey will host several presentations based on digs in or near Union County.
Tomaso will examine how differing world views shaped the Deserted Village of Feltville, while Adam Heinrich of Monmouth University will examine 19th century life in Union County as revealed by the food they ate.
There will also be presentations about life in early Rahway, with a special focus on the Peace Tavern–Woodruff House, by Brock Giordano, and a reexamination of the Staten Island home of a Dutch Patroon or possibly his Lenape neighbors, by Rich Veit of Monmouth University.
On Sunday, Author Robert Sullivan will discuss the strategic role the Watchung Mountains played in Gen. George Washington’s incursions against the British troops. While Americans sometimes tend to think of the Revolution as a Massachusetts-based event orchestrated by Virginians, Sullivan is quick to point out that the war took place mostly in the Middle Colonies—in New York and New Jersey and parts of Pennsylvania. In his book, “My American Revolution,” Sullivan delves into this first Middle America, digging for a glorious, heroic past in the urban, suburban, and sometimes even rural landscape of today.
Sullivan is also the author of Rats, The Meadowlands, A Whale Hunt, and, most recently, The Thoreau You Don’t Know. His writing has appeared in The New Yorker, The New York Times, New York magazine, A Public Space, and Vogue, where he is a contributing editor. He was born in Manhattan and now lives in Brooklyn, New York.
Visitors to the Deserted Village of Feltville/Glenside Park in the Watchung Reservation will have an opportunity to dig into the history of the Deserted Village, literally. Using an archaeologist’s trowel, visitors can dig through a box of soil in search of an artifact related to Feltville’s past. Children will be able to trade their finds for something in the Village’s general store during the weekend-long open house of the historic site, as part of Union County’s “Four Centuries in a Weekend” celebration.
From 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday, and from noon to 5 p.m. on Sunday, most of the Village’s buildings and grounds can be seen from a hayride, which will run continuously both days. The ghost of David Felt will welcome visitors at the general store at 2 p.m. each day, after which County staff will lead a tour of the Village.
A hands-on demonstration of apples being pressed into cider will be ongoing. Nearby, children can play old-fashioned games. Elsewhere in the Village, visitors can hear the director of the Feltville Archaeology Project explain how the site of David Felt’s house was discovered. Masker’s Barn will be open throughout the weekend.
All of these activities are offered free of charge. Light refreshments will be available for purchase. Picnic tables are available for families wanting to pack a lunch.
Feltville was a thriving mill town from 1845 to 1860. After being sold by David Felt, the village wasted away and became deserted, but was reborn in 1882 as Glenside Park, a summer resort. This business closed in 1916 and the Village was again briefly deserted until being purchased by the Union County Park Commission during the 1920’s.
Feltville’s general store and church building was restored in 1998 and subsequently opened as a visitor center. In addition to restrooms and other visitor services, this building houses an exhibit of artifacts, photographs and paintings that depict the Village’s history across four centuries.
Visitors may pick up a map and narrative at Feltville’s parking lot at any time for a self-guided tour. Restoration of the resort-era carriage house called Masker’s Barn was completed in 2011. During the restoration, the building was actually levitated and held in mid-air for months as the foundation was replaced.
All activities for the Four Centuries weekend are rain or shine. Enter the Deserted Village via Cataract Hollow Road, off of Glenside Avenue on the Berkeley Heights side of the Watchung Reservation. Wear warm clothes and sturdy walking shoes.
Information about 26 other Four Centuries in a Weekend sites is available from the Union County Office of Cultural and Heritage Affairs, telephone: (908) 558-2550, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org; or by visiting the Union County website at www.ucnj.org and clicking on “Fall Activities in Union County.”
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