Historic Wanaque Borough

Early European Settlers | Exploration and Conveyance | Historic Wanaque Borough
Iron Works | Lenni Lenape | Railroad in Wanaque | The Lost Children
Wanaque Reservoir | Works Cited

Main St MidvaleMain Street, Midvale
This is a view of Ringwood Avenue in the early 1900’s looking northbound. In the center can be seen Shippee’s Pharmacy, still standing today, and farther up the street, the present day location of the Wanaque Public Library. Right foreground shows Ray’s Hardware. Main Street was a dirt road with no sidewalks, in these bygone days.

Early Days
During the 1800’s, the principal industries of this area, then known as Pompton Township, were mining and charcoal burning. A large amount of charcoal was manufactured and sold to the Iron Works. Two mines were located in the immediate area.
The first Freeholders for Pompton as a Township in Bergen included Anthony C. Beam, Freeholder continuously for 23 years from 1802 to 1824. When the Township passed into Passaic County in 1837, John V. Beam was our Freeholder. Joseph B. Beam, Conrad Beam and Josiah Beam all served as Freeholders in the 1850’s.
In the mid-1800’s, the railroad ran through Midvale on the way to Greenwood Lake. Where there had been only 64 families living through the early part of the 19th Century, many new settlers began to arrive with the railroad. Some of the new residents were employed by the Wanaque River Paper Mill owned by Robert D. Carter.

PapermillWanaque River Papermill
The quiet valley, nestled between the Windbeam Mountains on one side and the Westbrook Mountains to the north-west, had begun to wake to the industrial growth of the late 1800’s.
Above, we see a view of the Wanaque River Papermill as it was in the early Twentieth Century in the years just before the construction of the Wanaque Reservoir. The Papermill was dismantled as the work on the Reservoir progressed. It was formerly situated in the area where the Raymond Dam and landscaped area with fountains can be seen from Ringwood Avenue. The Mill was owned by Robert D. Carter, the first Mayor of Wanaque Borough from 1918 to 1920.

Public School Endowment
There is an interesting bit of history about the Haskell Public School pictured here. According to amateur local historian and genealogist Richard Townsend, whose great-grandfather John Townsend appeared on the Democratic ticket for Judge of Election in 1882, the Haskell School property was sold to the Borough by Cornelius Van Wagoner for $1.00 with the stipulation that the property only be used for a public school.

Public School, Haskell, New Jersey in the early 1900’s.
If ever the school is lost to fire or otherwise destroyed, it is to be rebuilt within six months and can only be replaced by another school. If these particularare not kept, then the deed to the property is to revert to the Van Wagoner family.

Public School HaskellThe present day Haskell Public School still stands on this ground.


Wanaque Schoolbus in the 1930’s.

History of Wanaque Borough
Chestnut TreesThroughout the 1800’s, the area roundabout was known politically as Pompton Township. Pompton Township included Bloomingdale, Ringwood, Wanaque, and Pompton Lakes. Pompton Lakes separated from the township in 1895. During the early 1900’s, the people of the remaining three municipalities determined that it would be more convenient to separate into three communities rather than try to conduct their public affairs over such a widespread area.
It was not a simple procedure because boundary lines had to be agreed upon and all indebtedness and assessments had to be apportioned. Also, school appropriations had to be redistributed, Fire Department and Police Department had to be established, and Borough officials elected. An election held in February 1918 by the Passaic County Board of Elections approved the separation from Pompton Township of three Boroughs: Bloomingdale, Ringwood, and Wanaque. This action was confirmed by three acts of State Legislature on February 23, 1918. The governing body chosen for Wanaque in 1918 was Mayor Robert D. Carter and Councilmen William Crawford, Edwin W. Wheeler, H.A. Piper, Arthur Redner, David Ringle, and Edward Ricker.
The Wanaque Reservoir was in the planning stage. The North Jersey District Water Supply Commission had been created by the New Jersey Legislature in 1916 and by 1920, the first construction contracts would be awarded. World War I was in progress. Wanaque, once a sleepy little hamlet, was becoming an active town.

Railroad Avenue
Here we see two views of Railroad Avenue in the early 1900’s. In the photograph above, we are looking down Railroad Avenue. Shippee’s is in the foreground on the left side of the street, and beyond, also on the left, is Dondero’s. Both buildings are still in use today, as a pharmacy and as a tavern. This photograph comes to us from the Louis P. West collection.

Railroad Ave

In this photograph, we are looking up the street in the other direction from a position in front of Dondero’s Tavern which we see across the street in the foreground. In this photograph, Shippee’s can be seen at the far end of the street on the right hand side on the corner of Ringwood Avenue. Railroad Avenue was so named because it served as the direct approach to the Midvale Railroad Station, which was active from 1872 to 1966. The view in this photograph is from the perspective of the Railroad Station itself, looking away up Railroad Avenue.

Railroad Ave from the Station

To view a sequenced display of Borough photographs, click here.

Main Street, MidvaleImage to the left shows a view of Main Street from the corner. Main Street was the old name for Ringwood Avenue when it was still a dirt road. Shippee’s is in the right foreground. Before this building was Shippee’s, it was called Tice’s.
This photograph comes to us from an old postcard that was produced in the early part of the Twentieth Century.

Facing north, we see here a view of upper Main Street, Midvale as it was in the early 1900’s. This photograph is from the Louis P. West collection. Some of the houses pictured can still be identified on what is now Ringwood Avenue, north of the Library. This is the same stretch of road that now bears the flow of motorists traveling to and from work, morning and afternoon.

Main St, Midvale

This view shows Gaston Drew’s Feed Mill. House on the left in photograph can still be identified at the corner of Ringwood and Lines Avenues.

Gaston Drew's Feed Mill

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