Historic Jersey

Deciding the Fate of the Glimmer Glass Bridge

glimmer glass bridge

Courtesy of Judi Benvenuti

Fran Drew is on a mission. The Manasquan resident hopes to save Glimmer Glass Bridge, a historic connector between her town and Brielle. Built in 1883, the bridge crosses the Glimmer Glass, a shallow tidal inlet of the Manasquan River; when raised, the bridge allows ocean access to local boaters.

The span’s unique design features a drawbridge, added in 1938, lifted by a pair of cables connected to a counterweight along an elliptical track. Referred to as a cable lift bascule bridge, it is thought to be the only one of its kind in the United States. 

The bridge closed for more than six months in 2014 after an overweight truck caused damage. After a $2 million repair, the bridge reopened, then closed again in 2017 when an inspection determined its pilings were dangerously deteriorated. Another $3.5 million was spent on repairs and Monmouth County began studying whether to repair or replace the bridge. 

In 2008, when the bridge was added to the National Register of Historic Places, Drew began working to preserve it. She and her husband, Jack, formed the Committee to Save the Glimmer Glass Bridge, claiming their $5 million plan to preserve it would be more cost-effective than replacement.

“The estimated price tag to replace the bridge is more than $20 million,” says Drew. Citing an engineering study, Drew claims that repairing the existing structure also requires less downtime, approximately 30 weeks during the off-season, as opposed to three full years to replace it. 

The replacement project is currently at a standstill—and the bridge remains open to traffic—while the county confers with the U.S. Coast Guard about options. Asks Fran: “Should we reject all common sense and get rid of a treasure that is in our own back yard?”

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75 Years Later, Local Veterans Recall D-Day

Peter Fantacone, at his home in Mays Landing, displays a picture of himself as a young radioman in the U.S.Navy. Fantacone, now 93, returned to Normandy several years ago to tour the invasion beaches and other battle sites. All photos by Chuck Solomon

It started shortly after midnight on June 6, 1944. By the end of the day—D-Day—more than 160,000 American, British and Canadian troops had landed on five beaches on the coast of Normandy, France, in the face of relentless German resistance. An additional 24,000 airborne troops landed inland. Casualties were enormous: Among the Allied troops, an estimated 10,000 men were killed, wounded or missing in action after the first day of the Normandy invasion, including more than 6,600 Americans. By late August, the Allies had landed more than 2 million men in northern France, with more than 226,000 casualties. But D-Day gave the Allies the foothold they needed. For 11 more months, they pushed eastward toward Berlin, until Germany surrendered on May 7, 1945. Now, 75 years later, only a handful of Americans from the original D-Day invasion force remain among us. Below, we salute two of those brave men, New Jersey residents who, as young servicemen, put their lives on the line in defense of freedom.

Peter Fantacone

Radioman, USS LCI-492, U.S. Navy

Peter Fantacone was 17 when he joined the Navy in 1943. One year later, the Pennsylvania native had completed his training as a radio operator and was crossing the English Channel in a 158-foot LCI (Landing Craft Infantry) bound for Omaha Beach. The diesel smoke and rough seas were nauseating. “We were bouncing around like a cork,” he recalled in a 2017 interview. As the LCI reached the beach, lines of troops descended its ramps, only to be cut to ribbons by enemy fire. Fantacone remained aboard at his radio as the Americans struggled to gain a foothold on the beach. Offshore, the LCI flotilla was an inviting target for the big German guns. Three LCIs went down in the waters around Fantacone. He recalls watching as LCI-85 capsized, its red-painted bottom sinking beneath the water. That night, as the ships came under air attack, they filled the sky with tracer shells. For Fantacone, a longtime resident of Mays Landing, “it looked like a thousand Fourth of Julys rolled into one.”

Santillo plans to return to Normandy this month for the 75th anniversary commemoration of D-Day.

John Santillo

237th Engineer Combat Batallion, U.S. Army

Santillo at home in Brick with Nina, his longtime companion.

As if the artillery shells and machine-gun bullets weren’t enough, John Santillo had another huge worry as he scrambled off his landing craft into the water off Utah Beach: The 22-year-old Newark native couldn’t swim. All around him, the water was stained with the blood of his comrades. “What I seen coming in looked like the Red Sea,” he tells New Jersey Monthly. Santillo and his fellow combat engineers were assigned to clear a path through mines and other obstacles to help the invasion force advance off the beach. Santillo survived the havoc at Utah Beach and proceeded inland with his battalion, eventually crossing the Rhine River into Germany in spring 1945. Now 96 and living in Brick, he plans to return to Normandy this month, where he will speak at a ceremony in St. Mère Église as part of the 75th anniversary commemoration. It will be his first trip to Normandy since D-Day.

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Historic Home, Once a Hub of Black Activism, Reopens in Red Bank

New apartments peek out behind Maple Hall. Courtesy of Tyler Osborn

In the first decade of the 20th century, a stately house with a mansard roof on the west side of Red Bank was a gathering place for African-American intellectuals and activists working to secure the rights their nation denied them.

“This was the hub,” says Walter Greason, a Monmouth University professor and the president of the T. Thomas Fortune Foundation. The foundation oversees the T. Thomas Fortune Cultural Center, which officially opens May 23 in the meticulously rehabilitated house. “This was the vision of what [Fortune] thought was possible in terms of racial equality in this country.”

Timothy Thomas Fortune was born into slavery in Florida in 1856 and rose to become the influential editor of the New York Age, the leading black newspaper of its time, and the founder of the National Afro-American League. “Before there was the NAACP or the Niagara Movement, there was Fortune,” says board vice president Gilda Rogers, referring to the civil rights organizations that followed Fortune’s group. “He’s been called the bridge to the modern-day civil rights movement.”

Fortune lived for 10 years in the Red Bank home he called Maple Hall. Despite the efforts of a small group of preservationists, the house was on the verge of demolition in 2016 when local developer Roger Mumford came forward with a plan. He would build a 31-unit apartment building (with Mansard roof) at the rear of the 1-acre lot, and restore Maple Hall at the front. “What I try to do,” says Mumford, “is find economic solutions to things that I believe in.” He would not disclose the cost of the restoration.

Fortune was a close associate of many prominent African-Americans of his era, including Booker T. Washington, W.E.B. DuBois, Ida B. Wells and Marcus Garvey. Fortune’s “core message,” says Greason, was a belief that “African-Americans can stand on their own feet and create their own independent institutions if not obstructed by racist violence, terrorism and policies.”

The new cultural center is intended as a venue for discussion and advocacy—much as it was in Fortune’s time. Says Rogers, “We want to be able to bring some of that kind of energy there again.”

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Robeson Remembered: How Rutgers is Saluting an Oft-Overlooked Giant

He graduated as valedictorian, but had initially been barred from living on the Rutgers campus because he was black. He was twice an All-American, but was benched at a game against a Southern team because he was black. He was one of the strongest voices in the college glee club, but couldn’t tour with them because he was black. He was a lawyer whose employers made it clear he would never advance in his field because he was black. He was an international activist for human rights whose passport was taken away. He was among the greatest performers of his day, but was prevented from performing at the height of his career. Paul Robeson was arguably the greatest Renaissance man of the last century, but his legacy has been virtually erased from American history.

This year, which marks the centenary of Robeson’s graduation from Rutgers, the university is working to restore Robeson’s rightful place in history with a series of forums, conferences, musical performances, dramatic presentations, lectures, commissioned portraits and the unveiling of Paul Robeson Plaza, a monument celebrating the achievements of Rutgers’s most accomplished graduate on ground he almost certainly once walked. The plaza’s construction—a gift from the class of 1971 Milestone Campaign Committee, led by alumnus Jim Savage, with ample assistance from the Rutgers African-American Alumni Alliance (RAAA)—prompted what executive vice chancellor Felicia McGinty describes as “an opportunity to uncover Robeson’s legacy and share it with the world.”

“He graced our campus under the most hostile and isolating conditions,” notes Kendall Hall, RAAA president, “yet he excelled.”

Indeed, given the obstacles Robeson faced, his achievements are all the more extraordinary. The son of a runaway slave, he was born in Princeton in 1898 and grew up in Westfield and then Somerville, where he excelled in the town’s public schools and won a full scholarship to Rutgers. He was only the third African-American to attend the university and the first to play football there. Though he endured physical abuse at the hands of his teammates, he was elected twice to the honorary College Football All-America Team. (He later played professionally for two seasons.) A gifted athlete, he was also a college standout in baseball, basketball, and track and field, earning more than a dozen varsity letters.

Robeson was also a scholar, known, even in his undergraduate days, as a powerful debater and orator, elected to both Phi Beta Kappa and Cap and Skull, Rutgers’s elite honor society. After graduating, Robeson earned his law degree at Columbia University and worked briefly for a New York law firm, but quit when a white secretary refused to take dictation from him.

The term Renaissance man is often overused, but for Robeson, it is apt. “He was an actor, singer, athlete, ethnomusicologist, an anti-fascist, anti-racist, anti-militarist political activist who risked his life participating as a performer at the front lines during the Spanish Civil War,” says Norman Markowitz, an associate professor of history at Rutgers.

In his 1933 film debut in Emperor Jones, Robeson, as title character Brutus Jones, transforms himself from railroad porter to chain-gang convict to despotic ruler of a Caribbean island. Photo courtesy of John D. Kisch/Separate Cinema Archive/Getty Images

Thanks to television and video, Robeson is probably best remembered as a performer, particularly for his stirring bass-baritone rendition of  “Ol’ Man River” in the 1928 London stage production and the 1936 film adaptation of the musical Show Boat. He is also acclaimed for the title role in Othello in a Broadway production that ran from October 1943 through June 1944. Notably, he was the first African-American in the 20th century to play Shakespeare’s most famous black character. But it was his trailblazing as an activist that would kindle a deliberate campaign to render him, in Markowitz’s words, “an unperson.”

“He paid that price,” says Edward Ramsamy, chair of Africana Studies at Rutgers-New Brunswick, “because, to some extent, he was ahead of his times in calling for the sort of transformations that those in power were not willing to accede to.” In the 1940s, he met with then President Harry Truman to lobby for anti-lynching legislation. According to Markowitz, Truman suggested Robeson leave issues like lynching to the governments of the United States and Britain, which, he claimed, had the best interests of black citizens at heart. Robeson responded with the observation that the British Empire at the time was denying freedom to hundreds of millions of dark-skinned people in its Indian colony. At that, Truman walked out of the meeting. (An anti-lynching law finally passed the U.S. Senate in 2018 but has yet to be voted on in the House.)

Robeson was also ahead of his time in viewing the nascent U.S. civil rights movement as part of a global struggle—a struggle that involved not just black men and women but all those who were fighting for the right to a fair wage and an equal place in society. In 1929, he was living and performing in London when, after a matinee performance of Show Boat, he encountered a group of protesting Welsh mine workers who had been blacklisted by their employers following a general strike in 1926. He joined the protest on the spot and, according to biographer Jeff Sparrow, continued to support the mine workers for many years to come.

He was also chairman of the Council on African Affairs, an organization formed to fight colonialism in Africa and racism in the United States. He visited the Soviet Union for the first time in 1934 and claimed it was the only place he’d ever been treated as simply a man rather than a man of color. He embraced Communism because, says Ramsamy, “of the promises it made, at least on paper, for a more equitable society”—at a time when America wasn’t effectively living up to the promises it had made in the 14th and 15th amendments, which afforded equal protection under the law and extended the right to vote to black men, respectively.

In the Cold War era, when Senator Joseph McCarthy wielded the House Un-American Activities Committee as a cudgel against prominent men and women who’d even flirted with socialism, Robeson’s unrepentant Communism earned him the enmity of those in power. The State Department rescinded his passport, and the FBI pressured concert venues not to allow him to perform, effectively destroying his ability to earn a living. He was stricken from the list of college All-Americans. When Rutgers awarded Robeson an honorary masters degree in 1971, says Markowitz, “it was done quietly, within offices, and with no ceremony of any kind.” (The federal government honored Robeson with a postage stamp in 2004.)

Before the opening of Paul Robeson Plaza, you would have been unlikely to find many students at Rutgers who knew anything at all about Robeson. Raheem Nugent, a Jamaican-American graduate student who works at the university’s Paul Robeson Cultural Center, says that, growing up in Brooklyn, he’d known nothing about Robeson except that a local high school (now closed) had been named after him. Bernice Venable, a Rutgers alumna and member emerita of the Rutgers University Board of Overseers, says that, “as a kid growing up in Somerville, I’d never heard anything about Robeson, even though I’d come from the very streets he’d walked on.”

Venable says she has a dream that, “henceforth we will not have a young man or lady saying, ‘I don’t know who Paul Robeson is.’” Still, Venable acknowledges the troubling aspects of Robeson’s biography alongside his achievements. In February, for example, the Washington Post published an opinion piece criticizing Rutgers for skirting the issue of Robeson’s support of Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin. In fact, says McGinty, criticism of Robeson as a Stalinist has become “a familiar trope,” and it’s something the university plans to address in a variety of ways in the year and beyond.

“I welcome the conversation because this is an educational institution,” says Venable, “and this is what we do.”

If it’s essential to acknowledge Robeson’s support for Stalin, it’s also necessary to celebrate the supporting role he played in American history. “To some extent,” says Ramsamy, “he was the architect of the modern civil rights movement, laying the intellectual and political foundations of that movement in the 1940s.”

For Raheem Nugent, Robeson laid a path that led directly to his own experience at Rutgers in 2019. “I think about how, as a black man 100 years ago, he did the unthinkable,” Nugent says, “and it makes me think that maybe I can do the unthinkable, too.”

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How Stockton University Landed on Atlantic City’s Boardwalk

Stockton University president Harvey Kesselman at the school’s new campus on the southern edge of Atlantic City. Photo by Dave Moser

Stockton University spent the first four months of its existence in 1971 camped out in an eight-story Atlantic City hotel that, like the city itself, had begun to fray. Tourists still checked in to stay on the top two floors, but the rest of the hotel was temporarily transformed into classrooms, offices and dorm rooms. On the ground floor, Mickey Finn’s bar and restaurant was commandeered as a makeshift library. On the September day some of the first students arrived, they were treated to the spectacle of the Miss America parade sashaying past on the Boardwalk.

“The Mayflower, at St. James and Tennessee,” Harvey Kesselman says, shaking his head at the memory of the hotel where he started his first semester at Stockton, in the inaugural class of the southernmost state college. “It wasn’t really condemned, but it almost seemed that way.” Kesselman ended up spending his entire career at Stockton, where he now serves as president.

As he recounts those threadbare, pioneering days at the Mayflower, Kesselman stands before a panoramic window in a sleek and airy new building, surveying the campus Stockton opened in fall 2018. The new campus marks a return to Atlantic City, 24 blocks south of the long-since demolished hotel where it was born. “We didn’t get here in a straight line; we got here circuitously,” says Kesselman. “Sometimes that’s the way the world works.”

The new three-story academic building, with an atrium interior that subtly evokes a cruise ship, occupies the site of the old Atlantic City High School, where Kesselman did his student teaching while studying at Stockton. Across Atlantic Avenue, a 533-bed dorm with sweeping ocean views fills the Boardwalk block that had once been home to the Mayfair Apartments and the President Motor Lodge. Buses shuttle regularly to the main campus 15 miles away on the mainland in Galloway.

The new campus was built on vacant land at the southern edge of the city, a departure from an earlier proposal that would have carved the space out of the shuttered Showboat casino. After the Showboat plan imploded spectacularly four years ago, Stockton’s then president lost his job, and the university’s board of trustees tapped Kesselman as interim replacement. (He has since been named to the permanent post.) The administrator has held so many different positions across so many years that he is often referred to as Mr. Stockton.

“Most of us were very, very happy when he didn’t go to Maine and instead stayed here at Stockton as president,” says Donnetrice Allison, professor of communications studies and Africana studies and president of the faculty senate. Kesselman had been serving as provost and executive vice president, but planned to leave to become president of the University of Southern Maine. “Harvey was definitely the right president at the right time, given how everything ended.”

In July 1971, Richard Dovey took a Sunday drive with his father from their Burlington County home to the college he was planning to attend, but had not yet seen. “There were four log cabins on one side of the lake, and you could see some steel above the pine trees on the other side,” he recalls. “My dad said, ‘You’re not going to school here in September.’”

His father was right. Dovey enrolled, but by the time classes started, the school had moved to the Mayflower. “In the elevator, you had these middle-aged people with suitcases coming from Wilkes-Barre or Binghamton or wherever, and then you had these long-haired kids riding to class,” says Dovey, president of the Atlantic County Utilities Authority and former president of the Stockton University Foundation. Classes switched to the Galloway campus after the first 12-week trimester, but Dovey continued to live at the Mayflower, hitching rides back and forth. “We didn’t have any rules. We were on our own, but that was also the philosophy of the school: You were an adult and should be able to figure out life yourself. You had to grow up quick or fall by the wayside.”

That philosophy was what attracted Harvey Kesselman, who first heard about Stockton after high school when he was working at a Long Beach Island gas station. One of his regular customers was an administrator who was helping to get the new school started and who saw in the long-haired kid filling his tank, and heard in the conversations they had, a kindred spirit he thought would fit well there. 

“We were founded at the height of the Vietnam War, and we had veterans coming out of the service who obviously wanted to be treated as adults. On top of that, you had the whole counterculture anti-authority movement,” Kesselman says. “The whole concept of in loco parentis was gone. It was idealistic, obviously, but it certainly allowed a lot of student input.” 

Kesselman commuted to classes in the Mayflower from his home in Manahawkin. “Being part of that group, on the ocean like that—it’s not like anywhere else, and to actually replicate that experience almost 50 years later is simply mind-blowing,” he says.

He briefly taught high school math and social studies before taking a temporary job in 1979 at Stockton as a tutor and advisor in the Educational Opportunity Fund program, which helps support students from disadvantaged backgrounds. The long lines of enthusiastic students waiting outside Kesselman’s office convinced the president to hire him full time. He never left, rising steadily through the ranks and earning a doctorate in higher-education administration. 

“I’ve gotten a lot more out of Stockton than I’ve given to Stockton,” he says. He still carries his first staff ID card with the long hair and beard that are long gone. “I don’t know who I am sometimes other than Stockton.”

“I would be telling you an untruth if I said I ever thought that Stockton would be returning to the city, because for so long the city’s image was dominated by gaming.”

Through its early years
, Stockton had a reputation as the hippie college in the pines, separated by a causeway and a couple of generations from the mid-century, cocktail-lounge ethos of Atlantic City. It kept its distance after gambling arrived and casino jobs started luring students away before they graduated.

“I would be telling you an untruth if I said I ever thought that Stockton would be returning to the city, because for so long the city’s image was dominated by gaming,” says Frank Gilliam, a Stockton graduate and the mayor of Atlantic City, where the fiscal drain from several casino closures led to a state takeover of the local government in 2016.

But as gambling shriveled and Stockton grew, bumping up against the Pinelands building limits imposed on its Galloway campus, Atlantic City beckoned with fire-sale prices. “You’re talking about a $1.2 billion piece of property at its height for $18 million,” Kesselman says, referring to the onetime value of the Showboat and the price Stockton paid for it in 2014. “And if there’s no covenants, that’s a pretty good deal.”

But it turned out there was a legal covenant preventing the property from being used as anything but a casino, and after much controversy and acrimony, Stockton flipped it in January 2016 to a new owner, Showboat Renaissance LLC, a corporation set up by developer Bart Blatstein. “It would have been difficult to create a university utilizing a casino for both academic and residential living,” Kesselman says. “And it’s never going to be us.”

So instead of converting a defunct casino into a college, Stockton looked south, to a vacant parcel for which a series of ambitious casino projects had been proposed over the last 30 years, but never built. It didn’t buy the property on its own this time, but joined a nonprofit development company, AC Devco, in a $220 million public-private partnership that also resulted in an adjacent new headquarters for South Jersey Gas. Stockton’s share for its new 6.2-acre home, eight blocks south of the Tropicana, was $178 million for the development and construction of the campus.

“Any time you have new construction anywhere in the city that hasn’t really had a whole lot of non-gaming construction, it sends a very favorable message to the market,” says Gilliam. “It’s a godsend, because it’s not very easy for any municipality to turn its branding, as well as its expectations, around.”

Similar public-private partnerships have expanded the footprint of Rutgers and Rowan universities in New Brunswick and Glassboro. “I’m seeing more of this: campuses that are looking to invest off campus in other parts of the community,” says Thomas Harnisch, director of state relations and policy analysis at the American Association of State Colleges and Universities. “It can help create new businesses that can help weather economic downturns better than the current portfolio of businesses in Atlantic City.”

Stockton has brought almost 150 jobs to the city, and South Jersey Gas has added another 200. Additionally, AtlantiCare has opened an urgent-care center in a street-level storefront of the new parking garage the university and the gas company share. Several new neighborhood businesses have opened, including a pizzeria and an ice cream shop, and several others are expanding or renovating.

As Kesselman stands at that wide window in the new building, he points across the street at O’Donnell Memorial Park, a triangle of green anchored by the rotunda of the World War I memorial. Now he is ticking off the bordering properties where he hopes Stockton might expand in the future. It reminds him of another city park, Washington Square in Manhattan, around which New York University grew.

“Think about it—it’s got that potential. And we’ve got one thing that [Manhattan] doesn’t,” he says, sweeping his arm toward the oceanfront. “Take a look at that.”  

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Celebrating 50 Years of the PATCO Speedline

PATCO train at Lindenwold Station in April 1969. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia

Ben Franklin once referred to New Jersey as “a keg tapped at both ends,” a metaphor that, of course, referred to the state connecting the major ports of New York and Philadelphia.

Today, northern New Jersey residents have a wealth of transportation options linking them to New York: multiple NJ Transit commuter train lines, PATH trains and bus routes. There are fewer transit options from South Jersey into Philadelphia. There’s the NJ Transit Atlantic City Rail Line (which has not run since September 2018) and a handful of bus lines. But the real lifeline is the PATCO Speedline, which first connected Camden County to Philadelphia 50 years ago, and now carries more than 10 million riders a year.

On February 15, 1969, the PATCO Speedline began full operation with a first trip from Lindenwold to Center City Philadelphia. It came at a time in the 1960s when the first migration out of cities had begun, yet suburban residents still worked in Camden and Philadelphia and needed to be connected to them. Since opening operation 50 years ago, the PATCO has helped transform Camden County, making towns like Collingswood and Haddonfield more commuter-friendly for residents.

Photo courtesy of PATCO

It also made it easier for commuter students like myself to get to Camden County’s major university, Rutgers–Camden, which sits a block away from Camden’s City Hall PATCO station. When I was a graduate student at Rutgers–Camden, my peers and I relied on the PATCO to get to and from classes and internships. And because it operates 24 hours a day (one of only six U.S. rapid transit systems to do so), I never worried about working too late on campus and missing my train home.

Owned by the Delaware River Port Authority, the PATCO Speedline is operated by the Port Authority Transit Corporation and has 13 stations in Philadelphia and Camden County. It crosses over the Ben Franklin Bridge.

In 2005, PATCO began planning a new route that would serve Gloucester County and end at Rowan University in Glassboro, but it has yet to happen.

In 2013, PATCO announced a $194 million refurbishment project, updating interiors and braking systems in all 120 PATCO cars. The final run of the non-refurbished cars took place in June of last year.

Photo courtesy of PATCO.

To mark its 50th anniversary, PATCO is offering flashback fares from 6 am to 11 am tomorrow, Friday, February 15. At that time, riders can enjoy original fares that were in effect in 1969 when the speedline first opened. PATCO employees will also be at eight New Jersey stations (Lindenwold to Broadway) from 7 am to 9 am handing out commemorative reproduction of the original timetable.

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12 Reasons to Love New Jersey History

Explore the Garden State’s history—from the creation of the Jersey jughandle to the birth of the blueberry business and South Jersey’s Underground Railroad.

Courtesy of publisher of “Ten Tea Parties: Patriotic Protests That History Forgot”

On December 22, 1774, a feisty group of South Jersey patriots burned a load of British tea bound for Philadelphia. Among them was a future governor, Richard Howell, namesake of the Monmouth County township of Howell. The New Jersey upstarts were a little slow to get into the rebellion act. Their tea party – a protest against British tyranny—came one year and six days after the more famous Boston Tea Party. Oh well, news travelled slow in pre-revolutionary America.

“Washington Crossing the Delaware” by Emanuel Leutze.

The famed patriot might be making a lot of noise on Broadway these days, but in his own lifetime most of his exploits took place in his adopted state, New Jersey. The immigrant Hamilton attended school in Elizabeth and lived as a teen in Liberty Hall, now a museum on the campus of Kean University. As a captain in the Continental Army, he crossed the Delaware with George Washington and engaged the enemy at Trenton. When Washington wintered in Morristown, Hamilton was his trusted aide-de-camp. In 1778, Hamilton fought valiantly at the Battle of Monmouth and was promoted to lieutenant colonel. After the war, as Washington’s Secretary of the Treasury, Hamilton established Paterson as America’s first planned industrial city. Alas, in 1804, Hamilton suffered a fatal wound in his famous duel in Weehawken with longtime political foe Aaron Burr.

The Abigail Goodwin House in Salem.

Photo by Kathy Moore

The Underground Railroad was an informal network of safe houses for African-Americans fleeing bondage in the decades before the Civil War. South Jersey was a major stop along the way, with numerous clandestine destinations for the runaway slaves. South Jersey abolitionists, including Harriet Tubman, herself a fugitive from slavery, operated the secret routes and safe houses. From South Jersey, the freed slaves were led north to cross the Hudson River into New York and continue their trek, some traveling all the way to Canada. 

Photo by Marc Steiner

It’s hard to believe, but the awesome Palisades cliffs along the Hudson River in Northern New Jersey were once on their way to being blasted into gravel by quarry operators. Only the late-19th century lobbying of visionary groups like the New Jersey State Federation of Women’s Clubs convinced the legislatures of New Jersey and New York to protect the Palisades. In 1900, governors Foster M. Voorhees of New Jersey and Theodore Roosevelt of New York (the future president and creator of the National Parks System) formed the Palisades Interstate Park Commission. Armed with a $125,000 donation from banker/philanthropist J.P. Morgan, the commission secured an option to buy the largest of the quarries, which it eventually shut down.

Speaking of the Palisades, those noble rock outcroppings gave rise to the term “cliffhanger,” coined when the actress Pearl White was filmed dangling precariously over the cliffs in “The Perils of Pauline,” an early series of silent films shot in Fort Lee, the pre-Hollywood capital of America’s film business. Jersey’s film biz dates to 1893, when Thomas Edison built the world’s first movie studio, Black Maria, in West Orange. Today, the state is better known for the Jersey-bred stars it has sent to Hollywood, including Meryl Streep, Jack Nicholson, Susan Sarandon, Danny DeVito, James Gandolfini, Tom Cruise, Anne Hathaway, Queen Latifah and Ethan Hawke. 

Elizabeth White checks the blueberry crop at Whitesbog, circa 1928. Her experimentation yielded blueberries that were firm enough to market, yet tasteful.

Photo courtesy of The Whitesbog Preservation Trust.

Elizabeth White is hardly a marquee name—but she should be. The daughter of a South Jersey cranberry farmer, White had a knack for scientific research. Working with botanist Frederick V. Coville, she tested hundreds of blueberry bushes growing wild in the Jersey Pine Barrens until she found the perfect varieties to cultivate and market. In 1916, White grew the first commercial blueberry crop, giving birth to the modern blueberry business. 

Grover Cleveland, 1837-1908.

Depending on how you count it, there have been one or two. Caldwell native Grover Cleveland, who served non-consecutive terms as president number 22 and 24, is the only chief exec born in New Jersey. Woodrow Wilson, the 28th president, is a native Virginian, but served as president of Princeton University and governor of New Jersey. And then there’s Long Branch native Garret Hobart, who served as vice president during President William McKinley’s first term. Hobart died in office in 1899. Theodore Roosevelt replaced Hobart on the Republican ticket in 1900, and ascended to the presidency the following year upon McKinley’s assassination. Undoubtedly, that opportunity would have gone to Hobart had fate not stepped in.

A pensive McBride, lost in the music during a January gig at the Village Vanguard.

Photo by Stu Rosner

New Jersey can hardly claim to be the birthplace of jazz, but the Garden State has been fertile ground for jazz artists, most prominently Count Basie, who was born in Red Bank and cut his musical teeth playing up and down the Jersey Shore. Other Jersey-bred jazz greats include Newark-born vocalist Sarah Vaughan and saxophonist Wayne Shorter—not to mention Hoboken’s Frank Sinatra. Sax player James Moody and be-bop trumpeter Woody Shaw were Jersey transplants, and giants like Duke Ellington, Lionel Hampton and Billie Holiday were frequent guests on the Jersey scene during the big-band era. The state’s jazz legacy continues today with resident artists like Christian McBride and Dave Stryker.

Photo courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons: Takahiro Kyono.

Can you say Bruce Springsteen? The Boss, of course, is the biggest name on the Jersey rock scene, but let’s not spare the applause for Jon Bon Jovi and his band, as well as such Jersey Shore contemporaries as Steven Van Zandt and Southside Johnny. Other names to be reckoned with from Jersey’s rock, pop and R&B past include the Four Seasons, the Shirelles, Dionne Warwick, Whitney Houston, Joe Walsh and Tommy James.

Out of state drivers can be baffled by Jersey jughandles.

Illustration by Peter Oumanski

Only in New Jersey do you have to turn right to turn left. The jughandle turn was introduced on Jersey roadways in the 1930s and today is as much a part of the Garden State as full-service gas. Our sources tell us there are more than 600 jughandle turns in New Jersey—the most of any state. You say you can’t figure out how to navigate a jughandle? Fuhgeddaboudit. You must be from Pennsylvania or something.

Photos by Axel Dupeux

For more than a century, immigrants have been the lifeblood of New Jersey, enriching our culture, shaping our politics, seasoning our food and expanding our labor force. Today, immigrants represent 20 percent of our population—a ratio surpassed only in California and New York. New Jersey’s foreign-born population is extraordinarily varied, as illustrated by the top five countries of origin as of 2015: 12.5 percent Indian, 8.4 percent Dominican, 6 percent Mexican, 4.5 percent Filipino and 4 percent Korean. 

Photo by Joe Polillio

That would be the place with all the sand—not the TV show. The Shore stretches more than 130 miles across four counties. Vacationers starting coming to the Jersey Shore in the 19th century, bound for early resorts like Cape May and Atlantic City—home of the original Boardwalk, first constructed in 1870. Long Branch was another popular early Shore destination, most notably among U.S. presidents. Seven of them vacationed in Long Branch, from Ulysses Grant to Woodrow Wilson; sadly, James Garfield died in Long Branch, where he was taken by private train in September 1881 to recover from an assassin’s bullet. The Shore has weathered changing demographics, violent storms and even reality television, but it remains everyone’s favorite reason to love New Jersey.

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