Here is a self guided Historic walking tour that will refresh your knowledge and help you stay fit.
The Woodbridge Township is the oldest municipality in the State of New Jersey. Most of the early settlers were from Massachusetts. The settlement was, most likely, named after Reverend John Woodbridge from Newbury, MA. The Township was settled in 1664 and Chartered on June 1, 1669. The original borders of Woodbridge has changed from that date. But there is a lot of history and historical landmarks within its current borders.
The same is true of the stretch of Main Street that is within the Downtown area. Some landmarks have moved out over the years. An example would be the Cross Keys Tavern in the Downtown area. George Washington spent a night here on the way to his Presidential Inauguration.
In this article we will have a look at six existing structures that have a place in the History of Woodbridge. We will begin near 1 Main St and walk up to the junction of Main St and Amboy Ave.
Soldiers and Sailors Monument
The Monument is a memorial for the Soldiers and Sailors of Woodbridge who fought in the wars of our Country. It was commissioned by the family of Lieutenant William C. Berry. He died at Williamsburg, VA, on May 5, 1862, during the Civil War. The monument was erected in 1911 over fifty years after end of the “War of the Rebellion.” The Berry siblings sold certificates to raise the cost of the monument.
At that time, it honored the “Woodbridge Boys” who fought to preserve the Union. The monument was placed at the junction of Main St, and Berry St. so that the Berry family could view it from their porch. It was also visible from a grocery store on Main St where John M. Sutton used to work. The soldier on the monument resembles him. Sutton served in Company H with the 5th New Jersey Volunteers. He saved the regimental colors at Gettysburg and Chancellorsville, but refused to be honored.
The Historical Association of Woodbridge Township renovated the monument in 2006. At that time they added new stones to honor veterans from World War II, the Korean War and Vietnam.
JJ Bitting Coal and Feed Depot, 33 Main Street
The current JJ Bitting Brewing Co. is brewery pub and restaurant. It was built in a building that dates back to 1910 when Woodbridge was still the home to a large farming community. The front part of the structure served as a feed depot, while the rear of the building was a loading area for trucks. The trains would stop next to the J.J. Bitting Coal and Feed Depot. While the coached filled up with passengers, the depot would fill up on coal and grain. The local farmers would get their supplies of grains, seed, hay and coal for their farms. It was like a Lowes or Home depot of the early 20th century. In later years, J. J. Bitting housed an oil company at the rear of the building. The local government used the rear lot to provide food and supplies to families in need. The building was abandoned in the early 1960’s. The current owners saved the building from destruction in 1996. The grandchildren of John J Bitting permitted use of the name for the modern restaurant.
Middlesex Water Company Building, 52 Main Street
Woodbridge became an industrial center during the latter half of the nineteenth century. But it did not have a water supply system till 1893. Water was a critical component to the industrial growth and wells were the source for the water. In 1894 the Township granted a contract to Woodbridge Sewer Company to lay a sewer system. But they retained the right to buy it back at any time. The committee later found that the system specs did not meet the standards set by the State. So the Town Committee awarded the contract to lay a sewer system to the Middlesex Water Company. The company began selling water to industrial customers along the Arthur Kill. The Middlesex Water Company grew with the growth of the population of Woodbridge. It purchased the present building from its previous owners, on June 14, 1930. The local Chamber of Commerce had their offices in this building for years.
The Methodist Episcopal Church, 69 Main Street
The Methodist Episcopal Church is home to one of the earliest Methodist communities in America. Reverend Joseph Pilmoor was the first to preach to the Woodbridge Methodists. As Methodism in the area grew so did the demand for more missionaries and churches.
The Woodbridge Methodists bought the Quakers Meeting House on July 15, 1784. In June 1832, William Gage Inslee and his wife, Nancy Inslee donated the land at 69 Main Street. The Meeting House was later dismantled to make way for the Church. It was dedicated on September 8, 1832, and served by first pastor, Rev. William Granville.
The wooden frame church building moved to 71 Main St to cater to the needs of a growing congregation. A larger Church was built at the present Church site in 1870. Both the structures suffered from many fires. The modern structure is a reconstruction of the Church built earlier on the site. Notable burials at the burial ground included those of patriotic Gage family.
Methodist Episcopal Church Parsonage, 71 Main Street
The Parsonage is a fine example of the Victorian homes of lower Main Street. It was built in 1882 and was in use as the house of church pastors until 1965. The history of the property extends further back in time. The first Quaker families bought it in 1707 from a former minister at the First Presbyterian Church. They built a Meeting House from 1709 to 1713. The Quakers lived in Woodbridge until the outbreak of the American Revolution. The conflict of their pacifist values with dictates of British martial law came to a head. The soldiers occupied the Meeting House in 1776, and drove them Woodbridge. The Woodbridge Quakers sold the Meeting House to the Methodists on July 15, 1784. This site is the final resting place for many of the first Quaker families who settled in East Jersey.
Woodbridge National Bank, 106 Main Street
The Woodbridge National Bank opened in 1920 with a capital of $100,000. A Stanley Miller was the architect and Michael Reisz supervised its construction. It opened for business on March 14, 1927. At that time, the First National Bank and Trust Company was operating at the corner of Pearl and Main Streets. The two banks went through a series of mergers. All the business from both the banks moved to 106 Main St under the name of Woodbridge National Bank in 1931. This was during the Depression Era. And it closed down on November 30 of the same year. The bank re-opened for business on July 1, 1937, as the Woodbridge National Bank. In 1956 it moved to a new location at the corner of Moore Avenue and Berry Street. The building is a reminder of Woodbridge’s financial and industrial past.