Saturday, August 05, 2006

House Tour - Courier - Queen City readies for September house tour

Published in the Courier News, Saturday, August 5, 2006

Queen City readies for tour of historic districts

Staff report

PLAINFIELD -- For the first time since Plainfield's first historic district was formed in the late 1970s, a self-guided house tour has been organized featuring 11 homes in the city's six residential historic districts.

The Sept. 10 tour includes homes in the Crescent Area, Van Wyck Brooks, Hillside Avenue, Putnam-Watchung, Netherwood Heights and Broadway districts.

Also included is the Society of Friends (Quaker) Meeting House, which adjoins the seven-block commercial North Avenue Historic District. Built in 1788, it has been used as a religious facility continuously since then.

"We are showcasing the architectural heritage of our city and the commitment of all of our citizens to putting their best foot forward, thereby improving the quality of all our lives," City Councilman Rashid Burney said.

The self-guided tour runs from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Beginning Monday, tickets will be available at Swain's Gallery on Watchung Avenue and the Queen City Diner on South Avenue in Plainfield, Meeker's Florist in Westfield and Century 21 on Park Avenue in Scotch Plains. Tickets also will be sold on the tour day at the Netherwood Train Station on South Avenue.

For more information, call (908) 769-0636.

Plainfield's six historic districts have a rich past.
  • Crescent Area was the first historic district registered by the City. It was built in the 1870s as a planned development of upscale residences. Job Male, Plainfield's first mayor, resided there. The district contains a variety of Victorian styles including Italianate and Second Empire.

  • Named after Pulitzer Prize-winning author and resident Van Wyck Brooks, the district is the largest of the historic districts and is famous for brick Victorian homes that capture the exuberance of the "High Victorian Era" of the late 1800s. Another characteristic are the many outbuildings.

  • The Hillside Avenue District features homes built at the turn of the 20th Century, and its generous lots and wide street lend an air of gracious luxury. Colonial Revival style architecture predominates along with examples of Queen Anne and Shingle style homes.

  • The Putnam-Watchung District primarily contains houses built as single-family dwellings by the affluent middle-class during the emerging commuter era at the turn of the 20th Century. The homes typify the Late-Victorian and Edwardian designs popular between 1875 and 1925.

  • The Netherwood Heights District is another early planned community and features homes built between 1875 and 1910. Originally dominated by the Netherwood Hotel, development follows the natural contours of the hilly terrain. The Tudor Revival homes in the district were built in the 1920s and 1930s, after the demise of the hotel, during the period of Northern New Jersey's rapid suburban growth.

  • Watchung Avenue was originally called Broadway, hence the district's name. It features substantial single-family residences built between 1895 and 1910 during Plainfield's height of development as an affluent railroad commuter suburb.

Link to online story.

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Plainfield resident since 1983. Retired as the city's Public Information Officer in 2006; prior to that Community Programs Coordinator for the Plainfield Public Library. Founding member and past president of: Faith, Bricks & Mortar; Residents Supporting Victorian Plainfield; and PCO (the outreach nonprofit of Grace Episcopal Church). Supporter of the Library, Symphony and Historic Society as well as other community groups, and active in Democratic politics.