WWI and a New Municipal Building
For this year's Quasquicentennial Celebration, The Rock Recorder Blog will post a chronological (as much as possible) history of Glen Rock, NJ. My main source for framing this series is an unpublished manuscript in the Glen Rock Historical & Preservation Society's archive, which was written by George Hubschmitt. This is Part #13 of the series.
On April 6, 1917 the United States declared war on Imperial Germany. With the federalization of the New Jersey National Guard, there was no militia in New Jersey so local Home Guard units were formed; two companies were recruited in Glen Rock, under the command of Major Edward MacGrotty. Drills were held in Main Street Park (now Veterans Park) and the community supported the organization with enthusiastic support.
Main Street Park (Veterans Park) with band stand, 1919
After the formation of the Glen Rock Home Guard, Elmer H. Schwartz and Ralph McCoy produced a newspaper, The Glen Rocket. This small local paper was only printed from July 1918 until the end of 1919; it was originally produced for the Home Guard but it became a way for the entire Glen Rock community to keep up-to-date on enlistments and news from overseas. The first issue of The Glen Rocket was free with subsequent issues costing a nickel a copy. The Glen Rock Historical & Preservation Society (GRHPS) is pleased to have a complete set of The Glen Rocket newspaper in our archives.
In June 1918, the Glen Rock Borough Council unanimously passed a resolution that stated, in part: “WHEREAS, The people of the United States are at war with the most cruel and resourceful military autocracy that the world has ever known, an autocracy which has for many years employed for its insidious purposes, thousands of spies and propagandists to poison the minds of the people of every race and nation upon which it has directed its evil designs, and
WHEREAS, This Council deems it its patriotic duty, representing the government of the Borough of Glen Rock, by every lawful means to strengthen the hand of the Federal Government in its fight for democracy and its war on tyranny,
THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED,
That this Council reminds every citizen of their sacred duty of loyalty to our government, and the present great war cause of our country.
That it requests the people of this Borough to refrain from reading or having in their homes newspapers published in the German Language or newspapers published in any language which have upon them the stigma of disloyalty to the great cause for which our kindred are now sacrificing their lives.”
In recent years, the GRHPS has focused attention on our borough’s WWI veterans and the community’s support. You can revisit our efforts through the following links:
Our 2017 Newsletters (3 issues): https://www.glenrockhistory.org/newsletters
Previous Rock Recorder Blog Posts: https://www.glenrockhistory.org/blog/tag/WWI
Back home in Glen Rock, Isaac Kemp became Mayor on January 1, 1918. In March, Councilman Frank Ellis reported that gates were being installed at the Ackerman Avenue crossing of the Erie Railroad (that crossing, like all of the local crossings at the time, was at grade). Even with the new gates and a flagman, the crossing was still dangerous and a report in the August 1918 Council Minutes states that John Dando, a driver for the Borden Milk Company on Zabriskie Avenue (South Broad Street), was killed at the Ackerman Avenue Crossing “struck by the East Bound Milk Train at 5:20 A.M.” On August 30, 1918, Martin Jensen resigned as the police chief, following a salary disagreement, and James R. Houlihan was appointed the new police chief on September 3rd. You can read more about Chief Houlihan and his huge impact on the formation of the GRPD here: https://www.glenrockhistory.org/blog/tag/Chief%20Houlihan
Borough Clerk Herbert Pennal reported that in the November 5, 1918 election the vote on the question of the Local Option Act resulted in favor of banning liquor sales within the borough by a margin of ten votes: 131 For the Sale of Intoxicating Liquor as a Beverage vs. 141 Against the Sale of Intoxicating Liquor as a Beverage. Glen Rock became officially “Dry” at the start of the Prohibition Era. This was an unexpected defeat for the Wets, although an informal investigation found that the Wets themselves had been mis-instructing voters about how to vote due to the somewhat confusing language of the question on the ballot.
GRPD bust of illegal still on Grove Street, 1929
For some time, there had been agitation to secure property for a borough hall site. The borough had been renting administrative and meeting space (not to mention additional space for the police department and the Glen Rock jail) in the Smith-Singer Building at the corner of Rock Road and Main Street but now that the population was beginning to increase at a quicker pace there was an increased call for an actual dedicated borough hall. A number of sites were considered, however the most popular option was the 4.82 acres of the Manson property (today’s Harding Plaza). This property was in a central location and easily accessible to most residents, plus it was for sale in early 1918. As always, the purchase question revolved around costs and affordability and the discussion was going nowhere until Dennis Kennelly, who lived at 625 South Maple Avenue, offered to purchase the property and hold it until the Mayor and Council decided to move forward. Borough purchase of the Manson-Kennelly property was approved by the voters in November 1918 by a vote of 183 yea to 100 nay and Mr. Kennelly, true to his word, sold the land to the borough for the same price he had paid ($3,000) plus interest from the date of his purchase. The wording on the ballot advised that the purchased land would be used for a Municipal Building Site and a Park.
It would take until 1926 before movement was made to actually construct the Municipal Building, to be designed by local architect Clarence Tabor, Jr. Mr. Tabor was finally able to report the completion of his stately Georgian Style Municipal Building to the Mayor and Council in August 1929. The new building included administration offices, meeting rooms, the GRPD and the Glen Rock Public Library. Tabor also designed a matching train station building on the Short Cut Line to stand facing the Municipal building, but these plans (which are in the GRHPS map collection) were never realized – most likely because of the Great Depression.