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West Orange NJ History

West Orange NJ history 1905 race

This circa 1905 Postcard shows the "Annual Automobile Race and Contest", an interesting  commentary on just how quickly the Automobile became popular in West Orange. The large building in the center still stands and houses the West Orange Pharmacy. Main Street is at right, Eagle Rock Av at left, and Harrison Av straight ahead.

A Short History of Eagle Rock Reservation

1894 -- The trolley line to the foot of Eagle Rock Avenue had been placed in operation. This line was an extension of the Washington Street end of the Orange Crosstown and ran via Washington Street on its own right-of-way along what are now Watchung Avenue, Chestnut Street and Cherry Street to Harrison Avenue and via that street to its intersection with Eagle Rock Avenue. The idea behind the construction of the Eagle Rock line was to provide cheap transportation to Eagle Rock, which had become an attraction for Sunday picnickers because of its high elevation and magnificent view of the growing metropolitan area. The promoters of the Eagle Rock line realized the impracticality of running a trolley to the top of the ridge because of the steep grade. Instead, they counted upon their patrons' climbing the last hundred feet up a zigzag path constructed along the side of the cliff.
1895 -- The first purchase of land by the newly formed Essex County Park Commission took place.
1903 -- Eagle Rock Park was used by Thomas Alva Edison to film part of the first motion picture "The Great Train Robbery." 
1907 -- The entire tract was finally assembled. Frederick Law Olmsted created a preliminary design for the Reservation which was further developed by the Olmsted Firm in the early 1900's.
1909 -- An historic old casino that sat on the crest was built. This was an open masonry shelter with a series of arches. (The term "casino" refers to an Italian style county dwelling or summer house) The Reservation became a famous spot where week-enders congregated. It's popularity was helped by the nearby Crystal Lake park. Visitors would travel by trolley from the Newark area via the Orange Line to Harrison Avenue where passengers  transferred to the Eagle Rock Trolley line. Automobile enthusiasts of that period held races up the cobblestone roadway of Eagle Rock Avenue terminating in Eagle Rock Park.
1917 -- Thomas Edison conducts secret experiments for the US military using the open expanse of Eagle Rock Park, West Orange.
1920's -- The Reservation becomes more accessible as Automobiles regularly bring picnickers to the summit. Privately owned Crystal Lake eventually falls into disuse with the municipality taking over the property.

Circa 1906 - Eagle Rock Reservation Lookout


Circa 1905 - Just below Eagle Rock Reservation. This photo shows the tracks of the Eagle Rock Trolley on Mountain Rd as clearly seen on the US Topo map revised in 1897. The start of the "100 Steps" are seen at right.


Circa 1905 - This "Ice Cream Pavilion" delighted many picnic goers at Eagle Rock Reservation over one hundred years ago

West Orange Casino History Highlawn 1920.

Circa 1920 - The 'Casino', an open masonry structure on the summit of Eagle Rock. The term "casino" refers to an Italian style county dwelling or summer house. The building was built in 1909 and renovated in 1986 and turned into the Highlawn Pavilion Restaurant.

West Orange NJ Trolley Vintage History 1906

Eagle Rock Trolley, a short line that ran from the intersection of Main St & Eagle Rock Av up to Undercliff Av at the bottom of the Reservation. Circa 1906

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