We were welcomed back at the NJ State Firemen’s Home after almost a two-and-a-half-year absence. The last time we had had a meeting at the home it was the February meeting of 2020, right before the pandemic shut everything down.
The Bergen County Firemen’s Home Association at the August 2022 Barbecue
It was nice to be back at the NJ State Firemen’s Home again but we still had to follow protocol and everyone wore masks. We discussed organization business including the upcoming Christmas party. This party is especially popular with the residents because of the good cheer, a visit from Santa, wonderful entertainment and food and our annual gift to the residents which are extremely popular.
Because of COVID protocols are still in place, we were not allowed to interact with the guests as we had at the two summer barbecues. The home provided the entertainment that the Association paid…
It has been a tough summer. I pulled a muscle and it has been hard to do long walks around Manhattan so I kept it to short walks around my neighborhood. As I have improved, I have been able to get more done and have started to drive again. I was able to make the trip to Boonton, NJ for the Bergen County Firemen’s Home Association Barbecue.
So off I went adjusting the car seat higher with a pillow and an ice pack. It was a short trip with no traffic and the pain has now subsided with more walking. When I arrived at the home for the barbecue, I had to walk around the property to loosen up a bit.
Still it was a marvelous day and the most beautiful weather sunny and clear and 72 degrees. The residents loved being outside to enjoy the fresh air, music and food and the members liked that we still could socially distance and converse with the residents outside as long as there were not too many gathering (we want to keep our retired firefighting brothers safe too). Please check out my blog on the August BCFHA Barbecue:
The Bergen County Firemen’s Home Association August Barbecue at the NJ Firemen’s Home August 15th, 2021:
After the barbecue was over, I decided to head back to Downtown Boonton to explore the downtown on a weekend and get some stretching for my legs and back in before the long ride home. Downtown Boonton, which has been discovered by the artists and hipsters is going through a major change as we speak. There is so much to see and do.
Downtown Boonton, New Jersey is showing a new rebirth from the local shops of the past to new restaurants, galleries and shops popping up all over the downtown. Known for the local ironworks that once made this a company town, somehow this small hamlet was discovered by artists and galleries have been popping up on the main street.
Downtown Boonton in Fall 2022
What I like about Boonton’s downtown is the diversity of old and new mixed together and that the main street is a sloped and curving so that you can see the remains of the iron works and the park below. The views of the mountains and trees lined valley’s are spectacular in the summer with swaths of green trees all over.
I discovered Downtown Boonton by accident when I decided to drive around when I had time to spare before an event last year. I had read something about the Boonton Historical Society in a magazine (See my review on TripAdvisor and VisitingaMuseum.com). So I visited the Historical Society after our April meeting last year and attending their 2019 Open House for Christmas. That was a nice event with docent tours, light refreshments and musical performances. Since then I have been back a few more times to explore the shopping district.
I have started many trips at the Boonton Historical Society located at 210 Main Street. This interesting little museum is a treasure trove of local history with displays on the history of the local Iron Works, the Trolley Car industry and its role in the development of transportation in the area and displays on the history of the local police, fire and local schools. There are also some interesting pictures of the changes in the downtown area. They also run great walking tours.
Boonton Historical Society at 210 Main Street at the Christmas Open House in 2022
The Boonton Historical Society is the old Taylor House
I have visited the museum during both the 2019 and 2022 Christmas Open House which was an interesting afternoon of Docent tours of the museum’s Trolley and Railroad exhibition memorabilia and then a wonderful concert from a local musician with refreshments following. COVID had stopped this for two years and people were glad that it came back
Santa arrived at the Boonton Historical Society
One of the Board members performed at the Christmas Open House in 2022
In the Summer of 2021, I took a walking tour of the old Iron Works factory with a local historian. We toured all the spots in Grace Lord Park that had been built up to support the factory along with ruins of the old structures of the complex. It was sad that these will be knocked down for a new condo complex (see my review on TripAdvisor and VisitingaMuseum.com).
On my last three trips exploring the downtown, I have been admiring the statues of dogs and cats that line the street and flank all the buildings. The Boonton Arts Creative Placemaking Initiative organization in partnership with Boonton Main Street Inc. has been showcasing artists who have created these works.
Dog sculpture in Downtown Boonton, NJ
The Boonton Post Office is flanked by dog statues
The Dog Days of Summer & Some Cool Cats’ is a public art exhibition showcasing artist’s customer designs on life sized statues displayed on the main street. Artists are sponsored by the public.
“Dog Days of Summer & some Cool Cats” exhibition downtown
Once the artist received a sponsor, they get the opportunity to bring their design to life. For the duration of the summer, the sculptures will be available for adoption on the Boonton Arts Etsy page. The project has now raised $70,000 for local animal shelters and over $6,000 for local schools (Boonton Arts).
“Dog Days of Summer & Some Cool Cats” outside the Boonton Post Office
Across the street from the Historical Society at 309 Main Street is Eric’s Jamaican Cuisine which serves breakfast, lunch and dinner. It specializes in roasts, stews, fish dishes and the patties look amazing. The smells of food cooking and spices from the background grill will make your mouth water.
I stopped in on a recent visit and had a Beef and Cheese Jamaican patty ($2.50) and it was delicious. The crust was so light and flaky and had a nice portion of filling inside. The Chicken and Jerk Chicken patties were sold out so I tried one of the Fried Dumplings ($1.00). It was a round deep fried crisp dough that was perfect with a little jam.
The service could not have been nicer and the woman working the counter went over the menu with me. I love the smell of the spices when you enter the restaurant.
The downtown shopping district has an eclectic mix of the restaurants and shops. One of the first places I ate lunch at when I was touring the downtown on my first trip was Pasquale’s Pizza at 307 Main Street #1. I stopped in for a slice of pizza and a Coke and the pizza here is really good. The slice was full of flavor with a nice gooey consistency. The service was very pleasant and on a cool Sunday afternoon was one of the few places that was open. The service is very friendly.
Walking up the hill from the train tracks, you will look up at the winding main street at an interesting mix of historical buildings that are in the process of renovation or have been brought back to their original beauty.
For lunch one afternoon, I ate at Wah Yan Kitchen at 601 Main Street. This little hole in the wall take out restaurant services delicious Cantonese food at very reasonable prices for lunch. The afternoon I was there I had a Shrimp Lo Mein with a side of Pork Fried Rice and an egg roll. The one this that differed Wah Yan Kitchen from many of the take out places I have eaten at is the portion size was very large and the dish did not skip on the ingredients. There was lots of chopped roast pork in both the fried rice and in the egg roll. Everything was delicious. The family who runs the restaurant could not have been nicer to me.
On a recent trip to Boonton, I stopped at Egg City at 605 Main Street for a late breakfast. It was a beautiful sunny day and I sat by the widows watching the world go by. I ordered the Eggs with Chorizo which came with a side of potatoes and wheat toast. The scrambled eggs came in a hard scramble with plenty of spicy Chorizo sausage chopped inside the eggs. Adding some of the hot sauce provided on the table, it added an extra zing to the dish.
The Scrambled eggs with Chorizo Sausage makes a nice combination
Boonton at one time must have been a very cultural center for the arts in the region having a theater, opera house and a well established library all located within the downtown area. With the Morris Canal cutting through the town and the Ironworks at the bottom of the hill, the traffic in the downtown at the turn of the last century was extremely busy being a place of trade and shipping.
The Darress Theater at 615 Main Street has been closed during the COVID pandemic but was still open in late 2019 when it was showing some classic films. It was closed when I visited the town over the last year and a half though.
The theater was opened in 1919 as a vaudeville house with many famous names on the circuit visiting the town like Burns & Allen and Abbott & Costello. After WWII, the theater became a movie house showing first run movies until the local malls took that business away in the 1980’s. Before it closed due to COVID, it had been showing classic films and live shows (NJ Daily Record).
As you make your way up the hill, you will pass the picturesque Boonton Library at 621 Main Street. The library opened in this building in 1894 in a small section of the structure. The property was bought from the Iron Company in 1849 by Eliza Scott and was used for stores. Then the building was bought by local resident James Holmes in 1856 and in 1870 and was converted into the family homes. Upon his death in 1893, he willed the building and a sum of money so that the building could be used as a town library (Best Public Libraries/History of Boonton Library).
The Boonton Public Library at 621 Main Street (next to the Darress Theater)
The impressive old building holds a periodical area, a Children’s and Teen Library and a sitting area for patrons. You can still see from of the impressive details of the old building when walking around the library.
Another wonderful restaurant that I tried one afternoon after a long walking tour of Grace Lord Park was Roma Pizzeria & Restaurant at 709 Main Street. They have the most delicious cheese pizza and their garlic knots are really good. The pizza has the most amazing sauce that tastes of fresh tomatoes, garlic, a bit of hot pepper and olive oil. It really gave each bit a rich flavor. The family that runs the pizzeria is really nice too and I was able to eat at one of the outdoor tables and admire the view of the area.
Right down the road is the old Engine/Hose Company One firehouse at 713 Main Street. This original firehouse of the Boonton Fire Department was built in the 1890’s. It was renovated in 2012 and was formerly Maxfield’s Restaurant. The building is currently empty but you can still admire the stonework of the old building and the details that showed its once fire fighting past (LoopNet.com).
The old Engine/Hose Company One at 713 Main Street
Next to the firehouse is another reminder of Boonton’s cultural past is the Boonton Opera House at 715 Main Street. This architectural gem was built in 1850 as Independence Hall which was used for various functions. Then in 1890, the owner added a third floor and christened it “Mrs. Green’s Opera House”. The building was fully renovated in 2016 by business owners in the area and now houses offices and retail space (Daily Record). Check out the buildings details on the other side of the street.
The Boonton Opera House at 715 Main Street (next to the firehouse)
After my walking tour of the Iron Works Company with the Historical Society and a nice lunch at Roma Pizzeria & Restaurant, I sampled Scoop House at 813 Main Street. Scoop House is an old fashioned ice cream parlor with homemade ice cream and unusual flavors. The menu includes all sorts of sundaes, shakes, ice cream sandwiches and waffle & ice cream combos.
I had an unusual flavor called “Cookie Monster”, which was a purple ice cream with cookie dough batter in it and crushed chocolate chip cookies. Talk about different and delicious! The prices are also very fair at a time when other ice cream shops are charging premium prices.
I passed other businesses that were closed on most weekends and made my way to Grace Lord Park which is located at the top part of Downtown Boonton. From the sidewalks you can see the river path through the park and as you get closer to the bend, the waterfall near the bridge. This relaxing little park was once part of the Iron Works Company and where we started our walking tour of the area with the Boonton Historical Society.
The front part of the park as you enter from the downtown is lined with paths, a children’s playground, a wooded area, historical signs of the site, the gazebo where concerts take place and our meeting ground for the tours and the falls.
The Falls of Grace Lord Park in Boonton, NJ
On a perfect sunny day, a group of us joined the Historical Society of Boonton, NJ on a tour of the former Iron Works Company and of a section of the Morris Canal that ran through the town during the turn of the last century.
On my more recent trips to the park, I just enjoy walking around the Falls area and taking a short hike down the paths into the woods and admire the river. On a nice day, there are plenty of families running around the park.
The Gazebo at Grace Lord Park
In the summer, there are all sorts of concerts in the park and on the weekends there is the Farmer’s Market.
I visited the Farmers Market on the Saturday on Labor Day weekend but the town cancelled the market at the last minute. Still there were a few vendors that had set up and I was able to sample their wares. The Schieferstein Farm from Clark, NJ had all of their fruits and vegetable lined up in bins and they had the most flavorful white peaches for a dollar. It was juicy and sweet and there is nothing like a Jersey Peach when it is in season.
Don’t miss the Schieferstein Farm stand for the sweetest Jersey Peaches
I returned the next week and there were many more vendors selling all sorts of wares at the Farmers Market. I visited Gizmo’s Pet Products for gourmet pet treats, Race Farms out of Blairstown, NJ for another sweet juicy yellow Jersey Peach ($1.00) and Urban Gypsy Arts by artist Vicki Stafford who sells handmade knit and crocheted hats and scarves, handmade earrings and pins.
A Crocheted Voodoo doll by artist Vicki Stafford, the perfect gift for Halloween
Along the way there were other vendors selling Empanadas, Italian dinners, gourmet cheese, homemade pickles and freshly baked breads and pastries. There really is something for everyone at this Farmer’s Market. There was guitar band performing that morning for the patrons with original songs and a small play area with a Cornhole set up for the kids. The Boonton Farmers Market is a nice way to spend an early Saturday morning.
On my way back down the hill through the downtown area, there are several bakery and gift shops to explore and have a quick dessert before you leave town.
Heavenly Temptations at 712 Main Street is a perfect place to duck into when it rains as it did on two afternoons when visiting Boonton. It has a extensive bakery section with cupcakes, muffins, scones, cookies and croissants. The shop also has an extensive collection of gift baskets, books, local art products and other assorted gifts. It is also a big meeting place for locals (Heavenly Temptations website).
Creations by Sabrina is like walking into a bakery that treats their bakes goods like displayed jewels in a the case with beautiful and elegant looking cupcakes and cookies for sale. Each cupcake has its own unique look and flavor.
Another establishment to enjoy pastries with a Spanish flair is Pergamino’s Bakery & Café at720 Main Street.
I had ducked into Pergaminos during a rainy afternoon when they were closing down for the afternoon and the people working there no only let me walk through while they were cleaning up but I could buy what I liked and they would not rush me out.
What attracted me to Pergamino’s was the Columbian pastries and hot foods that the bakery restaurant carried. On my first trip, I tried a Guava Plate, which was a flaky pastry split into two and filled with cream cheese and guava jelly. It was flaky and sweet but I was not crazy about the cream cheese in the dessert.
I was also able to try their Beef and Cheese Empanadas, which I ended up taking home with me. They warmed up in the oven perfectly and I liked the spiciness of the beef which was accented by the home made hot sauce they gave me.
On the second trip, I tried one of their Apple Turnovers, which from what the staff said were really popular and I could see why. Surrounded by a sugary puff pastry, these sweet apples are rolled in cinnamon sugar and butter and baked until a golden brown.
When you reach the middle of the downtown area, you can see the remnants of the old Morris Canal that used to run through town.
Where the old canal was located
When I was taking my tour of the Boonton Iron Works, this section of the canal was filled in years ago but at the turn of the last century, the canal was busy taking iron and other raw materials from the area to market. This is what made Boonton Boonton.
The sign for the Morris Canal
This section of the canal was called Morris Canal Inclined Plane 7 East for the machine that allowed the boats to navigate the canal to overcome changes in the elevation (Boonton Historical Marker).
Morris Canal Inclined Plane 7 East that parallels the downtown
As I made my way down the hill, back to the car, I passed the popular Don’s Sandwich Shop and music store. I stopped in one morning after visiting the Farmer’s Market and had a Bacon, Egg and Cheese sandwich on a soft chewy roll. It was the perfect breakfast on a cool morning.
They made the sandwich with provolone cheese instead of the the traditional American cheese and with a little mayo added the perfect zing to the sandwich. The couple that runs the shop could not have been nicer to me.
There is even a music shop within the store, Drummer’s Corner, which is located in the corner of the sandwich shop.
Adding to the many historical sites in Downtown Boonton is the Boonton Civil War monument located in the middle of the shopping district.
The beautiful historic buildings by the Civil War Memorial
This interesting piece of town history was erected in 1876 and was “In grateful remembrance of their fellow citizens who volunteered in defense of The Union of the War of 1861-1865 Honor to the Brave 1876” (Monument). This touching monument is a tribute for those who were lost in the Battle of the States.
As I walked back to my car, I took time to glance at the scenic views from the main street of the foliage and mountains that make the backdrop of the downtown area. I can see why the artists are starting to move into town and the amount of art galleries that are starting to open (most were closed on the weekends on my last two visits).
Downtown Boonton, NJ in Fall 2022
The edge of Downtown Boonton to the north during the Fall 2022
Take time to walk east of the downtown to visit the historic homes of former factory workers of the Iron Works which are now being snatched up and renovated. When I drove through the downtown one last time and made my way up the hill, I drove past Grace Lord Park. Up the hill through the Essex Street neighborhood above downtown were blocks of old Victorian homes and mansions line the streets overlooking the park.
The Hill section of Downtown Boonton
The Hill section of Downtown Boonton
The Hill section of Downtown Boonton
There is so much to see and visit when walking Downtown Boonton and with the influx of new residents and the energy of the present ones, it is making Boonton, NJ a vibrant and interesting town to visit.
On the Sunday of Labor Day weekend, I stayed to watch the Boonton Fire Department Labor Day Parade and that was a lot of fun. The Department marched in the parade and fire departments from all over the County joined in with their fire apparatus. It was a beautiful day for the parade.
The Boonton Fire Department had their classic apparatus in the parade
I also visited right before Halloween in 2022 and there was a lot going on in the downtown area. There was a festival going on in the park during the weekend and the park was decorated with all sorts of ghouls and goblins.
The “Trick or Treat Trail” event in Grace Lord Park
The Goblins in the park
the Goblins in the park
The Ghouls of the park
The beauty of Grace Lord Park in the Fall
The beauty of Grace Lord Park in the Fall
During Christmas time, Downtown Boonton is also beautifully decorated.