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Archive for new jersey

A Geological Enigma in New Jersey

By Linda Tancs

One of the oldest mines in the United States, Sterling Hill was first worked before the 1730s, a source of local employment for residents of Ogdensburg, New Jersey. It is one of the most famous mines in the world and a geological enigma, with 350 different mineral species found there (a world record for such a small area) and more than two dozen of those found nowhere else on Earth. Closed in 1986, it was the last operating mine in the state and produced 11 million tons of zinc ore. It’s also famous for the abundance of mineral species documented as fluorescent, highly coveted by collectors. Named to both the state and national registers of historic places, guided tours last about two hours and include one hour in the underground zinc mine, 30 minutes in the large exhibit hall and about 10 minutes in the museum of fluorescence. Mineral collecting is also available amidst 200 tons of high-grade zinc ore, much of which contains fluorescent mineral.

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A Natural Landmark in New Jersey

By Linda Tancs

Protected and administered by Rutgers University, Hutcheson Memorial Forest Center boasts more than 500 acres of conserved land, much of it uncut forest, one of the last in the Mid-Atlantic. In fact, the old growth forest is the only uncut upland forest in New Jersey, and it appears on the National Park Service Register of Natural Landmarks. Public tours led by university faculty and researchers occur throughout the year on designated Sundays. The meetup point is at the forest entrance located at 2150 Amwell Road (Route 514), just east of historic East Millstone.

Twin Lights

By Linda Tancs

Prior to the 1820s, the only permanent lighthouse in New Jersey’s Highlands was Sandy Hook Light. Thereafter, an increase in shipping led to the construction of an additional light in the area, Twin Lights, two lighthouses separated by 320 feet. The original design provided for one tower with a fixed light and the other with a rotating light so that mariners could easily differentiate between the single Sandy Hook Light and the dual lights of the new station. More than just another lighthouse, Twin Lights made history when the first Fresnel lenses in the United States were installed in the towers. The lights gained notoriety again in 1893 when the site was selected as the location for the first official reading of the Pledge of Allegiance as America’s national oath of loyalty. Another cutting-edge development occurred in 1935, when the U.S. Army began field-testing radar at the site. The radar experiments held at Twin Lights not only helped the Allies win World War II, but they also led directly to modern innovations that enable air traffic control.

Huguenots and Hackensacks

By Linda Tancs

In 1709 a group of French Huguenot merchants bought a tract of land in present-day New Jersey from the Hackensack Indians. Later in the 1700s a portion of that tract (Ho-Ho-Kus in Bergen County) became the site of the Hermitage, a significant example of the Gothic Revival style, with tall gable roofs, diamond-paned windows and pointed Tudor arches. The historic colonial home was a rest stop for George Washington when he passed through Ho-Ho-Kus in 1778 after the Battle of Monmouth. Among other notable figures to visit the house during the Revolutionary War were James Monroe, William Paterson, the Marquis de Lafayette, Alexander Hamilton and Aaron Burr. Today a National Historic Landmark and house museum, the Hermitage is a rich source of history and the site of numerous Native American artifacts found bordering the property. Tours are available year round Wednesday through Sunday.

Jersey City’s Oldest Apple

By Linda Tancs

In the 17th century the Dutch village of Bergen occupied an area south of Journal Square in present-day Jersey City, New Jersey. Historically, the village’s location provided perfect ground to keep an eye on the Loyalists during the Revolutionary War, particularly from a one-story, one-room deep farmhouse built of locally cut ashlar sandstone. That old Dutch homestead (subsequently enlarged) became known as the Apple Tree House, listed on both the state and national historic registers. Bounded by apple orchards and a cider press, legend has it that George Washington and Major General Marquis de Lafayette met under an apple tree on the front yard to discuss war strategy. Once owned by the Van Wagenen family, one of the area’s original settlers, Jersey City purchased the property in 1999 and has renovated it for use as a museum.

A Wetland of International Importance

By Linda Tancs

Located along the Delaware River estuary in Pennsville, New Jersey, Supawna Meadows National Wildlife Refuge is designated a Wetland of International Importance. Vastly comprising slightly brackish tidal marsh, this unique habitat contains a mixture of fresh and saltwater plants and wildlife and is an important resting and feeding area for waterfowl, shorebirds and other wildlife. In fact, it has been identified as the most important habitat for wintering American black ducks. Two foot trails through the refuge’s varied habitats provide excellent opportunities for wildlife observation. This time of year the Forest Habitat Trail offers choruses of spring peepers and southern leopard frogs.

New Jersey’s Last Mill

By Linda Tancs

Ralston Cider Mill is New Jersey’s last remaining cider mill. Located in Mendham just minutes from historic Morristown, it’s the site of the state’s once thriving cider and applejack industry, where millions of gallons of apple cider, applejack and bootleg New Jersey Lightning were produced until 1938. Still evident is a hidden still that allowed the mill to operate through Prohibition. It’s the only operational cider mill functioning as a privately funded museum and educational experience for students of all ages. Volunteers lead tours, explaining the production process and history of the mill.

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