Mountainside, New Jersey Town
The Borough of Mountainside celebrated its Centennial with a year-long series of events in 1995 in recognition of its separation from Westfield on October 22, 1895. Water supply, street lights, sewers, and the taxes relating to them were the precipitating concerns that led to the split.
The “Freeholders” of that area of Westfield voted affirmatively on September 24, 1895. Following that, an election of Borough officers was held on October 22 at Beaman’s Blacksmith Shop, behind present-day Mountainside Drug. Joseph W. Cory, the first mayor, held that position until 1901. He served again from 1906 to 1909. In addition to a mayor, councilman, clerk, and treasurer, elected officials included a constable, a surveyor of highways, a commissioner of appeal, and an overseer of the poor. After the organization of the government of the borough, departments necessary to conduct the governing functions – such as police, fire, and education and public welfare – were gradually added.
In 1910 Mayor C.A. Baechtold asked Robert Laing about organizing a Volunteer Fire DepartentA large group worked on the idea, and in May 1915 the department was incorporated as a non-profit organization. A used chemical engine found in Westfield (purchased price: $35) was pulled by a horse and buggy belonging to Henry Weber. This unit was used until 1918, when Weber bought a Thomas Flyer truck with an engine containing two seventy-Gallon chemical tanks. Later a Ford chassis was built into the equipment. The total cost for this customizing amounted to $1,500. Mountainside’s Fire Department now operates state-of-the-art equipment out of a modern Fire House located on New Providence Road.
“An ordinance by the Borough Council in 1934 created a Police Department Charles Honecker was appointed first chief. Prior to that, chief marshals, justices of the peace, and recorders looked after affairs pertinent to this area. A new building to house the Police Department was completed in 1996.
In 1938 the Fire Department began planning for rescue work in case of accidents, illness, or other emergencies, and in December of that year A Rescue Squad was fully organized after the training of police and firemen in first aid. The Rescue Squad now has its own building near the Borough Hall and a modern ambulance.
“In the days before Mountainside became a borough with its own government it was part of the Township of Elizabethtown, which was organized in 1693, covered a wide area, and included the West Fields. The Locust Grove, Branch Mills, and Baltusrol sections of the West Fields, rural communities composed mostly of farmers, later became Mountainside. The Dutch preceded the English in some areas of New Jersey, but the majority of settlers here were English. Descendants of some early pioneers still live in the area.
Some early eighteenth century houses are still standing in Mountainside but others have given way to modern buildings, both residential and commercial. One of the earliest homes, built by pioneers James and John Badgley in 1738 near where Trailside Museum now stands, became a garage for the Union County Parks Commission. Arson destroyed it in 1984. The Deacon Andrew Hetfield House, built about 1760, was used by the Hetfield family or in-laws until 1936. From then through the early 1980’s it was an antique shop called the Dutch Oven. When developers bought the property in 1984, they planned to demolish the house. Fern Carter Hyde, chairman of the Mountainside’s Historic Preservation Committee, persuaded the Borough Council to save it, and on June 29, 1985, the house was moved to Constitution Plaza near the Mountainside Library. The Hetfield House is now on the National and State Registers of Historic Places,
Many early residents, such as Andrew Hetfield, Ichabod Clarke, and Jonathan Woodruff, served in the Revolutionary War. Residents also served in both World Wars. A portion of Route 22 is named Blue Star Drive in honor of World War I veterans
“Education has been important to Mountainside residents since the eighteenth century. Locust Grove School District Number 15, established in 1760, was housed in a white schoolhouse along Springfield Road, later called Route 29, and finally identified as Route22. In 1900 a red brick schoolhouse was built by the Town of Westfield and the Borough of Mountainside Boards of Education at a cost of $3, 448. The two boards separated in 1904. The schoolhouse was remodeled in 1924, and an additional building was constructed next to it. Known as the Echobrook School, it became the headquarters of the Board of Education when decreasing school population forced its closing as a school. Subsequently, two schools, Deerfield on Central Avenue and Beachwood on Wood acres Drive were added. At present onlyDeerfield is in use.Echobrook was demolished in 1995 to make way for renovations to Borough Hall, which was located in addition to the original building, and Police Department headquarters, located on the original site. Over the years Mountainside high school students have attended Governor Livingston High School in BerkeleyHeight’s
Edwin Downer, Jr., son of Samuel, organized the first Sunday School in Westfield Township in 1818 with Mrs. Abigail Bagley. It met at her home on New Providence Road behind what is now the Trailside Museum. Around 1825 the Sunday school was moved to the schoolhouse later known as the Bee Hive. When the Bee Hive became unfit for use, a new schoolhouse was built, but the SundaySchool was discontinued. On February 26, 1871, the Sunday school reorganized as the Locust Grove Sunday School under the auspices of theWestfield Baptist Church. When that church felt it could no longer maintain it, it became a Union School. In 1891 Mrs. Kate B. High donated the land upon which the Locust Grove Chapel stood for many years. Funds were raised for construction of a chapel. The building cost about $2,500 and was dedicated in September of1901. When Route 29 was widened in 1929 to incorporate a westbound lane, Mountainside Union Chapel became an island. Services were still held there until the 1970’s, when the Chapel was forced to move because of State plans to ultimately widen and improve the highway. A new building was constructed on Spruce Drive, and with change of name to Mountainside Gospel Church, it was dedicated on April 28, 1974. Twenty years earlier, in1954, a survey of residents showed that another Protestant church was desired, and the Community Presbyterian Church was built. In 1961, Our Lady of Lourdes was built to accommodate Mountainside’s Catholic population, and an elementary grade school was also established.
Because a major thoroughfare – Route 22 -bisects Mountainside, this has influenced the way the borough has been developed. Industries have been established on both sides of the highway and on some of the streets leading from it. Most of the borough above the highway, except for the area immediately adjacent to it, is residential. Mountainside Center has valuable establishments serving the needs of the community: a drug store, bakery, delicatessen, cleaners, beauty parlor, grocery store, gift shop, flower and gift shop, restaurants, insurance office, service stations, and liquor store. The furniture repair shop run by Don Maxwell is one of the oldest businesses in the Borough. Bliwise Liquors (now new owners) was originally a general store and has an 83 year history. Mountainside Center was upgraded during the Centennial Year with new sidewalks, new lighting, and an improved system of traffic lights at the intersection of Mountain Avenue and New Providence Road.
The library had its beginning in the old school on Springfield Road, but now has its own building on Constitution Plaza and is computerized. Special reading programs for children are offered and the Friends of the Library sponsor musical programs and hold annual book sales. Proceeds help to support the purchase of special library equipment and other needs.
There creation Department sponsors ski trips, theater trips, trips to baseball games, and bus trips to places north and south. It also supervises the community pool and tennis courts and publishes a monthly newsletter. The Borough has a Baseball Youth League which is active during the spring and summer.
Past Mayor Robert F.Viglianti believed one of the reasons for Mountainside’s success is the ‘tremendous amount and quality of men and women we have had over the years giving so much of them for their community.’
Among those who volunteer their time, in addition to the members of the Borough Council, the Fire Department and Rescue Squad, are members of the Historic Preservation Committee, theBestowers,and organizations like the Parent – Teacher Association, the Mountainside Music Association (which puts on a biennial musical show, the proceeds of which are used for scholarships and equipment for the schools), the Friends of the Library and other organizations that in one way or another add to the quality of life in Mountainside.
One of the special places in Mountainside is the Children’s Specialized Hospital (CSH). It is the epitome of volunteer endeavor as well as a caring institution. Established in 1891 as the Children’s Country Home, CSH moved to the Thomas Drew Farmstead on New Providence Road in 1896. It began by giving urban children an opportunity to enjoy country air during the summer months. Gradually, CSH changed from a summer home for underprivileged children to a place for the treatment of infantile paralysis, and ultimately, tithe rehabilitation of both children and adults whose motor abilities are affected by accidents or illnesses. From the beginning, people from Westfield and Mountainside have contributed countless hours to helping patients and raising funds for equipment and other needs of the hospital.
The Centennial Year of 1995 offered many varied events for the residents of the borough to celebrate. A Gala Ball, parade and picnic, a golf outing, and a Heritage Festival with a fair, a dine -around, fireworks, a circus, and the opening of the time capsule from the 75thanniversary were among the planned events. In December the contents of the time capsule were displayed at the Hetfield House, drawing record crowd. A large committee worked enthusiastically for two years to plan and organize the events of the Mountainside Centennial Year. They were thanked at a special meeting of the Borough Council in January 1996 at which time items were collected for a time capsule to be opened in2020