Plainfield, need a little history aro...

Plainfield, need a little history around 1960

Posted in the Ogdensburg Forum

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John Inskeep class of 58

Apopka, FL

#1 Feb 1, 2008
Wow, all I see is crime on this board. I grew up in Plainfield and was a 58 grad. I would love to find some old photos of the area from around that time.
I am also tying to find out the name of a little luncheonette that was located on Park Av around 1959-61. As you faced Front St, it was on the right side between 6th and 7th st. It was not the Park Av Tea Room. It was a hangout for the school kids.
Thanks for any help,
Happy in Plainfield

Basking Ridge, NJ

#2 Feb 6, 2008
Hi there...was it Grunnings? My Grandad used to talk about Grunnings and the Tea Room.
John Inskeep class of 58

Winter Haven, FL

#3 Feb 7, 2008
No, it was not Grunning's. Grunning's. was on 5th, east of Watchung Av. This was not the Tea Room. It was on Park Av and on the right while facing Front St. Maybe 4-5 store fronts from 7th St. Here is a link to a Google map that I marked up. This is driving me nuts. Also note that it is now a parking lot. Nice going Plainfield, destroy all my memories, sheeesh.:-)

Happy in Plainfield

Basking Ridge, NJ

#4 Feb 8, 2008
Hmmm, now it's driving me nuts. I asked a good friend who graduated in 58 and she nor her husband could come up with a name. I will ask my father-in-law when he returns from vacation. He went to HS here and can probably shed some light on this one. I know he met my mother-in-law at a luncheonette, maybe it was that one! Promise to get back to you John.
John Inskeep class of 58

Winter Haven, FL

#5 Feb 8, 2008
Here is what I think. It was called Nancy's after the owners wife. I hung out there mostly around 1960-1961.

Bill Garrett 66 PHS


#6 May 14, 2009
There was no other place to eat in that first block north of seventh St. except Stires bakery, then the Park Tea Room (formerly called Galane's). The next place was up at Fifth on Park, called Nancy's. I've also heard it called MaryAnne's, giving rise to the greasers who went there being called "Mary-anners". Don't forget the Pickwick Deli was just south of Park and Seventh.
Isn't your class having a joint reunion with '60 soon?
Bill Garrett [email protected]

Maracaibo, Venezuela

#7 Jun 26, 2009
John Inskeep class of 58 wrote:
Wow, all I see is crime on this board. I grew up in Plainfield and was a 58 grad. I would love to find some old photos of the area from around that time.
I am also tying to find out the name of a little luncheonette that was located on Park Av around 1959-61. As you faced Front St, it was on the right side between 6th and 7th st. It was not the Park Av Tea Room. It was a hangout for the school kids.
Thanks for any help,
Ain't no fun when the wabbit has da gun John!!
Bill Garrett 66 PHS


#8 Aug 27, 2009
I did some research and the following places existed in 1960:
Mary Ann's at 132 Park Ave.
Manor Restaurant 307 Park Ave.
Logan's 332 Park Ave.
Red Tower cor. Park and 5th.
Al's Deli 513 Park Ave.
Stires Bakery 619 Park Ave.
Park Tea Room 625 Park Ave.

Das ist alles.

Plainfield, NJ

#9 Sep 10, 2009
I've been compiling information on the Talmadge mansion in Plainfield and I saw a quote from a Bill Garrett in an exhibit at the Plainfield Public Library. Are you that Bill? I'm interested in finding out more about Henry Pearl Talmadge II.
Vince in Baltimore

Baltimore, MD

#11 Jan 10, 2010
My wife and I have actually taken an interest in this house the last few years, but have done only the most half-hearted of research. The Plainfield Library site is the only reason I now know the proper name of the place my friends and I knew as "Old Man Hatchet's House." What little we have is about the elder Henry Talmadge. We have nothing about Henry, Jr.

From the time I moved onto the old Netherwood Hotel site in '69, until my family left NJ in '75, I heard pretty wild (almost certainly apocryphal) tales about the place.

Along with some kids I knew from Cook and Woodland schools, I also had some interesting misadventures on the lot, in early '69 before the fire, and for some years after. For the record, none of the misadventures involved fire or entry of the house.

If you find anything, will you be posting or publishing somewhere?
Elizabeth Faraone

Plainfield, NJ

#12 Jan 11, 2010
I did create a website about two years ago. Go to:

The Plainfield Public Library had an exhibit a few months ago that I think was entitled, "Plainfield, Lost But Not Forgotten." They included the Talmadge Mansion and from that exhibit I did get the name of someone who did chores as a teenager for the younger Talmadge. I've yet to contact him. I should, but I've dropped the ball on this. Anyway, tell me what you think about the information I've compiled so far.
Elizabeth Faraone

Plainfield, NJ

#13 Jan 11, 2010
Perhaps you're a wealth of information. You were playing on the Talmadge property after the younger Talmadge was removed from his home just before Christmas. As Grace Kelly said to Jimmy Stewart in one of my favorite movies, Rear Window: "Tell me everything you saw....and what you think it means." What do you think of the belief that the United National Bank had it torched. I spoke to a man who was sure this was true.

Since: Jan 10

Baltimore, MD

#14 Jan 11, 2010
The website is great. Turns out it was at the bottom of the first page of Google search results for Henry Pearl Talmadge Mansion. I would have found it eventually. You did your homework. Nicely, written too, btw.
"You were and apt pupil, weren't you? You were a very apt pupil!"
You may already know that was Jimmy Stewart to Kim Novak in "Vertigo". Of course, Grace Kelly reigns as queen of the requisite Hitchcock pale blondes, and of a few other things, as well.
I don't know if I'm exactly a wealth of information. What I have is maybe slightly above the poverty line.
In 2001, I attended a Campbellesque/Bettelheimesque/ Neo-Paganesque seminar in Mercer County about narrative and the human psyche. The stories surrounding the "OMH" house became central to the discussion, so I wrote a couple pages about what I recalled and the stories I had heard. I'll include some excerpts in future posts.
If the place was torched, I suppose UNB is as good a suspect as any, especially when you consider what we've seen banks do recently. I actually remember adults chattering about arson rumors while the fire was in progress. I was among those who watched from Belvidere Avenue and Denmark Road. Later, I could still hear and smell the fire and the battle against it as I fell asleep in my house three blocks away.
Whether it was arson or some kid breaking in and doing something stupid inside that stately tinderbox (remember all the lightning strike fires along Belvidere?), the thing that puzzles me is how a house belonging to such an affluent, upstanding family could become so Grey Gardens neglected. The grass hadn't been mowed for some time by the time I first saw it. I'm guessing that, by the late 1960s, the Talmadges were no longer so affluent or upstanding.
Belvidere Avenue mansions remained viable even during Plainfield's leanest times. And the lot sans structure couldn't have been all that hot a property, given how empty it remained for years after the fire. Was there no one who would have seen value in buying and maintaining it? Reselling it? Crassly carving it into apartments? Of course, the old Plainfield Public Library had been casually demolished a few years earlier. Different times, different values.
Elizabeth Faraone

Plainfield, NJ

#15 Jan 12, 2010
Thanks for writing back! I hope you will email me your writings to me: [email protected] I would love to read them.

I think the younger Talmadge may have had his wits about him, unlike those adorable Edie's. There will always be a chair in my heart for their souls to sit.

The interior looked well maintained. It seems as if there was a lack of money and energy to keep up such a large home and the explanation for that could be a very noble one. Or it could have no significance at all. I need to continue my research and find out if there was a mortgage on the home. This requires a trip to a nearby town.

I think so much of the storytelling that went on was gossipy and, as such, far from the truth. I'm sad to say that this mentality is still prevalent in the neighborhood.

Perhaps Talmadge family descendants hold the only truths. I wish I knew who they were......

Did you live in a blue house on the corner of Park Terrace and Berkeley Avenue?
Elizabeth Faraone

Plainfield, NJ

#16 Jan 15, 2010

All are invited to contribute.
Bill Garrett 66 PHS


#17 Jan 15, 2010
." What do you think of the belief that the United National Bank had it torched. I spoke to a man who was sure this was true.

Sorry to pick up the thread at this point in the story. I have much more pleasant memories to relate. I was on the propery the morning after the fire, and at the request of several men from UNB, I showed them the location of underground cisterns, and the location of a small building down on the property near Woodland Ave. that, according to Henry Talmadge, had a gas main and shut-off valve inside. They were concerned about safety issues, prior to demolition. For reasons that escape me now, they had me show them something inside the house, and at that point I observed that the furniture, paintings, and all the chandeliers were missing. At first I thought the fire had destroyed them, but it soon became evident that the place had been stripped. I told these men that it looked like there had been a major robbery, and they both looked at each other and smirked. I never forgot the feeling they gave me, that they knew something that they were not going to divulge to me. I later learned that the bank was the culprit. They had taken all they could, and then sold the things at auction. Who gave them the right to do that? I always thought they were covering up something they did. There is still a 200 foot deep well that was never taken care of when they backfilled the cellar excavation.
Bill Garrett 66 PHS


#18 Jan 15, 2010
The interior looked well maintained. It seems as if there was a lack of money and energy to keep up such a large home and the explanation for that could be a very noble one. Or it could have no significance at all. I need to continue my research and find out if there was a mortgage on the home.

Remarkable interior was kept just as his Mother had wanted it when she furnished it in 1883. A view into the past that only a handfull of visitors in the 1960's could enjoy. As Kahlil Gibran wrote "A place you cannot go, not even in your dreams."

Henry did what he could to keep it up, mentioning his Mother from time to time (she would have been horrified at the dirt), but it hadn't seen a maid in many years. Everything was dusty, and the air in the house was thick from wood smoke, both from the fireplace he kept burning in the library, and the cook stove in the basement which also heated his water. Lack of heat in the unused,(probably 30),rooms, and constant water from the leaks in the roof, were taking their toll. To this day, when I smell wood smoke, I think of the Talmadge house with Henry moving about in the smoky haze inside that wonderful old home.

Definately a lack of money, and advancing age limited what he could do. He had a small source of income, and I doubt it was social security. I also don't think he had a mortgage. There was a nephew in Philadelphia that got whatever was left after the bills were paid, if anything. I never met him.
Elizabeth Faraone

Plainfield, NJ

#19 Jan 15, 2010
Oh Bill, it's so nice to hear from you! What a wealth of information you are. Vince and I started communicating via email. One of my more recent emails to him two days ago contained the following:
"The original Chapel is still there and it was built when the mansion was built. I wonder if the older Talmadge funded its construction. That is another thing I have yet to research. The church has passed through the hands of a few religious groups, so I don't know if they'll have records, but I should go talk to someone there.
I will always feel a great sadness about the Talmadge home. I never dared step foot onto the property before it burned down because something in me had too much respect for privacy. If I knew then what I know now, I would have walked into the house. I'm happy you were not intimidated by the stories or restricted by concern for private property. I remember seeing a black car from the 40s parked close to the house and a gray haired man had the hood up and was working on it. I don't know who that was.
I suspect the younger Talmadge was hospitable and gentile. After all, he understood the value of the home, was devoted to it, and spent his money and energy wisely when prioritizing what needed to be attended to. Imagine the heating bills. The inside of the home was in excellent condition, according to the man who believed the local bank torched it. That means he controlled the climate well (not too dry, not too moist, not too cold, not too hot). Talmadge hired local kids to help him around the house, polishing the brass fixtures, and who knows what else. I believe he gave a photograph of the house to Harry Devlin to make it easier for him to make a painting (I figured this out because in the painting, the house is reversed, which was a mistake made by a photographer in developing his photograph of the house shortly after it was built.) Harry Devlin was introduced to the house by someone who thought the house was ridiculous, and Devlin fell in love with it.
I will always wonder why the property was overgrown. Was it a lack of money or was it the desire to be surrounded by nature - to let it take over. I've always loved overgrown yards. More than likely, it was a lack of money."
Bill: You have confirmed my suspicions that Talmadge did the best he could to preserve the house and that it was a true labor of lob. I would like to get together with you, if you're interested in talking to me. I live on Carlton Avenue and can meet you anywhere you would like. If not, we can continue communicating here or through email. My email is [email protected]
Check out my website that I'm working on:
It is severely deficient, and has so little information about the younger Talmadge.
Bill Garrett 66 PHS


#20 Jan 16, 2010
The car you saw parked in front belonged to Aidah Marks. It was a 1955 or 56 Ford and bore N.Y. license plates. It would have a dead battery from sitting, and you must have seen a man from the Netherwood gas station getting it started for her. She was called his "housekeeper", but she had been a girlfriend for many years. Old age brought them together. She would come out from the city infrequently, but then as the two of them got infirm, she just stayed there, and of course, she died of natural causes in her bedroom. That room was most likely Henry's sister, Lucy's room back in the old days.

I think it got overgrown in pace with Henry's failing ability to keep up with it. Raking leaves was an enormous job. I did it (not alone) a few times. Armies of neighborhhod kids would help for a quarter. One time he had the whole back yard deforested. It was overgrown with branbles and grass. I was out on what had once been a grass yard where they hung the laundry, and found a rusty pen knife in the dirt. Henry said it had been his brother Arthur's. It bore his intials.
By the way..I was the brass polisher you mentioned. I started out doing it for free. I would work there after school and on Saturdays and asked for no pay, just so I could be in that house. Henry, being a tight Scotsman, took me up on the offer.
Russell Dawson

Lebanon, NJ

#21 Aug 4, 2010
I grew up in Plainfield in the 60's. I remember Front Street on Thursday evening and Saturday afternoons Frontier Diner, McCorys Five and Dime, Woolworths and the goodtimes in downtown PLainfield. My mother Edna Dawson worked at Grunnigs. Miss the old days.
It was a beautiful town.
If you grew up around this time I would love to hear from you.
E-mail me at [email protected]

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