Images of America - Nutley by John Demmer

Book Review by Anthony Buccino

Demmer’s photos document almost all of Nutley’s schools. They include buildings that are no longer schools but long ago – when classes were much smaller – served that purpose.

Scenic Nutley Is Captured

In Demmer Book: Images of America - Nutley

By Anthony Buccino

In John Demmer’s new book, Images of America NUTLEY, a building looking suspiciously like Yanticaw School is set on a cleared hill with one sapling on its left. Now, why would anyone want to put a replica of a Nutley school in the middle of a Kansas prairie?

The building, in the clearing, is, in fact, Yanticaw School from around 1902. And the photo is from the days when Nutley was a New Yorker’s vacation paradise full of wide open spaces and its own country club golf course.

Images of America NUTLEY by John Demmer

Demmer’s Images of America - Nutley is the historical photo book about our town that strikes both a sentimental and a curious chord in anyone who has walked these streets. After seeing the long ago photo of Yanticaw School, how can anyone look at today’s building the same way?

Through his extensive collection of township postcards and other memorabilia loaned exclusively for this book, Demmer takes us on a tour of long-ago Nutley. From the long vanished quarries, country club and factories to the island in the middle of Yanticaw Lake to the1910 view of Brookfield Avenue, Demmer has mounted a superb pictorial history of our town.

The sites shown in many photos here are captioned as to what is shown in the photo and what is at the site now. For instance, one of the first photos is at the Nutley quarry near Park and Washington avenues, and by way of current reference is approximately where the RETS school stands today.

As the population of our town has changed during the past half-century, many people who can boast that they’ve lived here all or nearly all of their lives would be surprised to see how old many of our town’s buildings are, and the once wide-open spaces long ago enjoyed here.

Perhaps in volume two, Demmer can tap into more family histories, or the specific histories of many of the older homes as the historical society has done for the annual home tours. Along Washington Avenue, facing the New York City skyline are homes that seem like misplaced country cottages. They would seem to fit into the image of Nutley as a vacation destination from the hectic life in New York City.

For next year’s house tour, Demmer’s book can be used as the guide book. Without ever entering anyone’s home, a walking map can direct the historically challenged to sites in the book versus the view of them today.

Or, instead of waiting until a balmy spring day, anyone with a map of Nutley and a good pair of walking shoes should spend an evening mapping out a walking tour. For instance, you could look at the photo of the building stakes for Spring Garden School from about 1917, and try to stand in the same spot today. Or look at the 1957 photo below it of the completed school and compare it to the building now, the size of the shrubbery and the efficient thermal windows.

Across town you can look for the 1911 slate sidewalk in front of the Washington School. The sterile looking white building seems as if it should enclosed white-frocked men conducting DNA experiments. Ask your tour-master why the design of Washington School is so radically different from the other public elementary schools in town.

Demmer’s photos document almost all of Nutley’s schools. They include buildings that are no longer schools but long ago – when classes were much smaller – served that purpose. Included in the book is a 1940 photo of St. Mary’s School, but no photo of what was once Holy Family School – probably too new for this volume of history.

On the other hand, the old photo of the first Holy Family Church on Harrison Street confirms the oral history passed from generation to generation. Many times my dad – who said he was born in Nutley – drove our car down Harrison Street and pointed out the house that used to be Holy Family Church. The first church was built before he was born on Columbia Avenue near the former Morris Canal.

This book is not the complete history of Nutley. It is what it is, a pictorial history of the town as it once was. As that, it will do well to inspire future historians into their own research of our unique past.

Demmer’s book should be part of the town-wide curriculum along with student researching the history of their own homes, neighborhoods and schools. If their research includes visiting with a senior citizen in town who has “seen it all,” then al the more vivid will be the tales told to tomorrow’s generations as they drive down the street past an  old home that may have once been a church or school.

It is the gallery of the photos and relics of our past, including Annie Oakley with her rifle, the Velodrome aerial photo and photos of the 1902 train wreck in Nutley – plus an active discussion and possible town-wide chat piques our curiosity to not walk along blindly but walk along knowing our history and the history of our town.

1997 © By Anthony Buccino

First Printed September 11, 1997, By Worrall Community Newspapers. Restored and edited.

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