Thursday, November 4

Ye Old Washington Inn

> > Still Stands < <

AKA Timothy Ball House

Now a private residence
425 Ridgewood Ave
Maplewood, NJ

Hines: Open all year, noon to 8:45 p.m. If you are a native of this part of New Jersey you doubtless know all about the old Timothy Ball House where once long ago George Washington discovered that his hosts, the Balls, were his cousins. It is one of those half-timber, half-stone houses you find in this vicinity, with a fireplace so large this it is said a horse used to drag great logs through the open door up to the hearth. Lunch 85¢ up. Tea 35¢ up. Dinner $1.00 up.

This building has been standing handsomely since 1743! It is widely recognized as a local landmark and much has been written in recent years to the benefit of preserving its heritage. A very pleasant surprise for me, as too many of the ol' Hines haunts have long vanished. Furthermore, I discovered an excellent blog whose author has beat me to the punch! Please visit local historian Joe B's article that extensively documents this and other 18th century stone houses. I have not been able to find much on the operation of the restaurant Washington Inn, as everyone is so taken (and rightly so) with the extraordinary history of the building. Even Hines makes no mention at all of the quality of food or hosts, or a particular dish he was partial to. But for the early American architecture enthusiast, this is an exciting listing for the sheer amount of information that exists on the structure.

From the Federal Writer's Project (2007) "New Jersey, a Guide to Its Present and Past:"
"Maplewood's most historic spot is the TIMOTHY BALL HOUSE, built in 1743 and excellently preserved. At this two-and-one-half-story Colonial farmhouse of frame and stone, George Washington was a frequent visitor during the Revolution. The commander in chief was related to Timothy on his mother's side. The building was altered in 1772 and again in 1919 when it was opened as Washington Inn [restaurant]. Outside the old house still stands the historic walnut tree to which Washington used to tie his horse."
It is easy to confirm that the original house was indeed, built in 1743, as an inscribed stone still exists in the first chimney wall. Another stone dates the addition to the home in 1772 in the second chimney on the opposing end.

In November 2008, the Township of Maplewood published a Historic Preservation Plan documenting the Timothy Ball House and other properties.
It is available in its entirety online here. Some fun facts gleaned from it:

This area of Maplewood was a charming little enclave of families already deeply rooted by 1800. Of additional interest: The Ridgewood Road area of Maplewood was the boyhood home of Asher B. Durand (1796-1886), the famous painter of the Hudson River School of 19th century American art. After a lifetime of painting portraits and Catskill and Adirondack landscapes that made him famous, Durand returned to build his retirement home in Maplewood, where he lived out his years.

The Walnut Tree Hines referred to...
The mature black walnut has long been considered a natural Maplewood landmark. Local legend states that the tree is associated with the age and history of the house. George Washington is said to have hitched his horse to it when visiting the houses’ occupants. At some time in the mid to early 20th century a bronze plaque was affixed to its western side bearing the following words in raised letters:

The Washington Walnut
This tree is supposed to be as old as the Timothy Ball House.
"George Washington, during the Revolutionary War, while his headquarters were at Morristown, here visited his relatives, the Balls, both before and after the Battle of Springfield and frequently hitched his horse to a ring which for many years was attached to this tree. This tree was used as a dividing line by the congregations of the Presbyterian churches of Orange and Springfield, it being approximately three miles from each church. Those on the south side were expected to go to Springfield and those on the north side to the Orange Church.”
Rev. George W. Clark, Great Grandson of Timothy Ball in “Struggles and Triumphs of a Long Life” Published 1909

The New York Times has archived an interesting article regarding the sale of the property in 1919. Apparently written by one of the original family's descendants, it discloses a rich and varied cache of information about Washington's movements in the area during the Revolutionary War, the Ball family, and early 20th century improvements to the area. (The link leads to a preview & PDF.)

Durand–Hedden House & Garden organization also has a fantastic narrative of the Timothy Ball House. Including this tidbit: "It was built in 1743 by a grandson of Edward Ball, who settled in Newark in 1666 (just six years after the English took over the Island of Manhattan from the Dutch and renamed it New York) and was a signer of the Fundamental Agreement Among the Puritans." which goes to show just how far back the Balls go. Amazing!

Tuesday, July 20


> > Demised < <

Approximate Site: Riverside Mall
Route 4
(North) Hackensack, NJ

Hines: Open all year, 11:30 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. except Christmas. You can get a snack or a regular meal in this Colonial type of restaurant. Try their apple pie and coffee. Lunch and Dinner, reasonable.

I suspect this restaurant was somewhere near the Riverside Mall in, what was considered, "North Hackensack." Built in 1936, it boasted the latest comforts including air-conditioning and soon became a very popular eating spot for dinner as well as banquet events for local organizations and clubs. Nystrom's also featured a soda fountain shop with home-made ice cream for which folks would come from all over the county. Not sure when it closed or was torn down, if anyone has more info on that...

Very recently Ed Flynn of posted an article on the soda fountain's of Jersey's past. In it, he reminisces about Nystrom's as well as other popular spots. A fun read: check it out.

Additionally, I discovered this piece by way of GoogleBooks. From Prominent Families of New Jersey, by William Starr Myers, published 1945 (just 2 years before my D.H. guide!)

As manager of Nystrom's Restaurant, on Route 4, North Hackensack, Lucile Nystrom operates what is recognized as one of the leading eating houses in this region of New Jersey.

Miss Nystrom has taken over complete management of Nystrom's Restaurant in the absence of her brother, Captain Marden Roscoe Nystrom, former manager until he entered the army on May 1, 1942.

Nystrom's Restaurant was established and began operation on July 15, 1936. Captain Nystrom had charge of the erection of restaurant building and all preliminaries to its opening. All modern conveniences were established by Captain Nystrom, including air-conditioning and sound-proofing apparatus. Captain Nystrom is a graduate of Ridgefield Park, NJ High School, of the Agricultural College in Cornell University, and hold's a master's degree from Columbia University. Following his education Captain Nystrom was successively employed as research worker in the Port Authority of NY and then in accounting of the R. H. Macy & Company for eight years prior to the opening of the restaurant.

Nystrom's Restaurant was established and has continued to the present to serve the best possible foods at very popular prices. This was the ideal of Captain Nystrom and has continued under Lucile Nystrom's operation.

The Afton

> > Demised < <

Site of a HSBC Bank
2 Hanover Road at Corner of Columbia Turnpike
Florham Park, NJ

Hines: Open all year, except Mondays and Christmas, noon to 8 p.m. Cinnamon buns are good here and so is the pastry. Tea-roomy perhaps, but not too dainty as to portions. Lunch 85¢ to $1.10; Dinner $1.10 to $2.00.

A wee bit of municipal history should first be reviewed. Florham Park was incorporated in 1899. Previously the area had been called Afton, which is why many businesses still bear the Afton name. Prior to that it was known as Columbia since 1802, but when the population reached 350 in 1877, the people changed the named to Afton (from the song "Flo Gently Sweet Afton") so that they could have their own post office.
Note: This makes research a tad muddy… like searching for Collins in Ireland.

Incidentally, the name Florham comes from Florence [Vanderbilt] and her husband Hamilton McKown Twombly who established a sprawling 840 acre English-style country retreat in 1887. The future town was the result of combining this property with that of Dr. Leslie Ward's [a founder of Prudential Insurance] — "Brooklake Park," a slightly less modest 1,000 acre estate.

Regarding the restaurant that was open for roughly a century…
I may have encountered the first case in which it might have been better for the business to quietly slip into the past. The last online reviews for The Afton were in 2000 and were anything but complimentary. Bad Food/Worse Service pretty much sums it up. I suspected something was amiss in finding The Afton has no website of its own and barely any web presence at all. A quick search on the address tells me it is now the site of a bank. It is sad to discover that a Hines listing fell to commercial development by first disgracing its own reputation. But it's a tough industry, especially over 100 years.

Read more about the entertaining history of Florham Park

Friday, July 16

Mary Elizabeth Restaurant

> > Reinvented < <

Now split into offices.
96 Engle Street
Englewood, NJ

Hines: Open all year for lunch and dinner, except Christmas Day. All meals served with the freshest of vegetables. Pecan pie a specialty. Air-cooled dining room. Reservations on holidays. Tel. Englewood 3–2941. Lunch 75¢ to $1.75; Dinner 8 to $1.75.

The building no longer hosts diners of any kind today. It would appear to be split into various offices as I'm finding listings for a dentist, nutritionist and tutoring center at the same address.
Unfortunately nothing has turned up regarding the Mary Elizabeth so far, but the case shall remain open.

Thursday, November 12

Madora Patton Restaurant

> > Reinvented < <

Now a Mexican restaurant called Rincon Paisa
414 North Broad Street
Elizabeth, NJ

Hines: Open all year except Saturdays and Sundays, 11:30 am to 2:00 pm, 5:30 pm to 7:30 pm. An attractive air-conditioned restaurant serving a variety of good luncheon and dinner dishes. During the summer, meals are served in the shade of an old grape arbor, May to October. Lunch 75¢ to $1.25; Dinner $1.35 to $2.50

This building is still home to a restaurant although it has changed its audience to reflect the cultural shift in the Elizabeth area. I would imagine a Mexican restaurant would have been pretty exotic in Hines' day. By the looks of those hours (no weekends? dinner only served till 7:30?) it's a wonder they lasted such a long time!