Passaic Township's historic resources are as varied as its topography. From the small vernacular farmsteads clustered at the fringes of the Great Swamp National Wildlife Refuge to the high-style Queen Anne and Shingled "cottages" on Long Hill; from the 19th century industrial town of Stirling to the picturesque crossroads hamlet of Meyersville, Passaic Township presents widely differing historic and cultural resources within a few miles of each other. Although its name is derived from one of New Jersey's major rivers, the land along the river is today wild and undeveloped, and there is no access to the river or sense of its geographic proximity to the settlement in the Township.
Before the township was established in 1866, this southern portion of Morris Township was a sparsely settled agricultural area. In the late 18th century a series of mills along the Passaic River gave the village of Millington its name. Long Hill Road, connecting the Passaic River valley settlers with Elizabethtown and Newark,, began as an Indian trail along the ridge of the prominent hill. In the 18th and early 19th centuries, it was a stagecoach route east-west across the township, with stops at the Hickory Tavern (1430-12) and at a now-demolished inn on the corner of old Forge Road. Another early road ran along the Passaic River, but it was supplanted in the 1840's with construction of the Valley Road north of the river itself.
Modest development of the area began after 1871 When the West Line Railroad, a spur of the Erie-Lackawanna, was laid out from. Summit to Bernardsville. Stations were built in Millington (1430-48), Gillette and Stirling. The railroad and cheap labor attracted industry to Stirling, first in the form of a button factory, and then a silk mill. After the original building burned, the Stirling Silk Manufacturing Company was erected in 1896. Silk was woven into cloth, and then shipped to Hoboken by train for further processing. Stirling was created at this time as a company town: streets were laid out in a grid pattern, and small frame cottages constructed for workers in the silk mill (1430-31), many of whom were immigrants from southern Europe.
At the same time , another group of very different immigrants were also discovering Passaic Township. These were wealthy city dwellers in search of sites for summer homes. The heights of Long Hill, with a view across the wooded Passaic Valley, appealed to many,, and expensive houses in the Shingle style and Colonial Revival style began to appear by the 1890 ' s (survey numbers 1430-59, 1430- 72, 1430- 73, & 1430- 75 ). A more modest summer colony was established on the hillside south of Meyersville (1430-08), with small bungalows and shingle style cottages crowded along streets with idyllic names like Ideal Street, Home Street and Youngsters Lane. one of the first major residential subdivisions, Homestead Park, grew out of the summer estate of the Cammeyer family. The original Queen Anne style cottages (1430-13) survive, but their hillside grounds began to be filled in with houses in the 1920's. Construction in the Homestead Park area continued until the 1960's.
The churches in Passaic Township reflect the cultural origins of the population, which is as diverse as the geography. In the western end of the township, All Saints Episcopal Church (survey was constructed in 1905 to resemble an English country church-This was founded by the well-to-do residents of the turn-of-the-century summer houses. At the east end of the the township, in Meyersville (1430-08), is the simple frame church which houses the Presbyterian congregation, the descendants of the farmers and tradesmen who first settled the area in the 18th century. And in the mill town of Stirling, the Catholic Church was founded in the 19th century, although their original building is no longer standing, and a new church is presently under construction.
HISTORIC PRESERVATION COMMENTS
Passaic Township Still retains plenty of open space, and views from Long Hill can still be had with no trace of 20th century development. The environmental concerns for the Passaic Watershed and the Great Swamp have preserved some of the open space and setting for surviving historic houses, so difficult to save when development pressures face a community. The small, vernacular houses in Stirling, while not as picturesque as the great houses on the hill, are a very important resource both historically, and as a real solution to the need for low-cost housing in the area. They should be preserved for just that purpose, and not demolished or enlarged and gentrified beyond recognition.
Detail from the 1868 Atlas of Morris County, showing the southern portion of the township of Passaic, which today covers the entire municipality. Note the complete absence of Stirling, today the largest village within the township.
REFERENCES AND ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
The Industrial Directory of New Jersey., New Jersey Bureau of Statistics, Trenton, N.J., 1901.
The Jerseyman, August 27, 1886, p. 2.
Passaic Township: A Short History, Passaic Township Historical Society, 1964.
"Passaic Township's Plunge Into Silk Industry", Daily Record, March 30, 1986.
The following residents of some of Passaic Township's historic houses were particularly helpful in sharing information about their own homes and their community: Martha Claggett, Mary K. Glogovcsan, Charles Romer, and Russell and RoseAnna Thomas.