Maplewood Past and Present — On Glass

Jun 1, 2007

Opportunities to see the 1915 show of glass slides of historic Maplewood images come along rarely, and they always draw a standing-room-only crowd.

The April 2007 presentation by Township Historian and long-time Durand-Hedden Trustee John Crowell Bausmith at the Maplewood Memorial Library was part of a long tradition. Mr. Bausmith had presented the slide show most recently in 1994, and previously in 1977. Thirty years before that, in 1946, his grandmother Charlotte Crowell Salter showed the slides; and 30 years earlier, in 1915, Arthur Farr first presented the program under the auspices of the Maplewood Improvement Association (now the Civic Association).

The slides, to which Bausmith added modern views for comparison in 1977, showed meadows and woods, small farmhouses and the grand mansions of Cornelius V.S. Roosevelt, built c. 1862, and Asher B. Durand, built in 1869. The first town fire engine was surrounded by proud residents, and images of local businesses such as Pierson’s Mill and its mill pond and the Crowell Cider Mill portrayed the economic heart of the town.

The 2007 presentation had a special drama – that Sunday afternoon found Maplewood in the midst of a nor’easter, and the normally trickling streams of the East Branch of the Rahway River behind the library were raging and swirling up to the graceful footbridges that spanned them. Water soon began seeping into the below-ground Memorial Hall, encroaching on the feet of the program’s spectators.

As the water crept forward from the back of the room, the audience members slid their chairs forward, moved the screen forward, and lifted the wires from the projectors up on tables. Not a single person left.

Mr. Bausmith, unfazed, continued weaving his tale, directing his wife, Jeanne, who operated the lantern slide projector, and DH Trustee Rowland Bennett, who was responsible for the carousel projector of modern-day photographs.

A drive around town afterwards showed that some changes aren’t necessarily permanent: Pierson’s Mill pond, drained in 1916, had “reappeared” due to the storm, and spread over several acres of the adjoining golf course.

These and other pictures of historic Maplewood are in the Arcadia book  Images of America: Maplewood, a compilation of many wonderful photos and maps from the 19th through the 20th century. The book was edited by Mr. Bausmith and the late Howard Wiseman, and is available in the Durand-Hedden Country Store and in local bookstores.

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