UPDATE--"The article was a Girl Scouts project written in 1959-60. Kerry Adams is now Kerry Massengale. Kerry is my sister-in-law." ~Bruce Darrow
EDITOR'S NOTE: We recently found two articles, the one below and another titled "A Historical Sketch of the Brooklawn Methodist Church", in an old file packed away labeled Brooklawn history. Both were written by Ms. Adam. There was no date on either one. However, we are assuming both were written sometime in the late 1950's early 1960's as the construction of the Westbrook Bowling Alley on Creek Road is mentioned in the first document. The story about the Methodist church will appear later this week.
By Evelyn K. Adam (Kerry)
The information which has been compiled on the following pages is the result of personal inquiry of long-time residents of the community. It is accurate to the extent that one's memory can be relied upon over the course of the years. The author's role has been only to narrate the information related.
Within this framework of references, it is my pleasure to present "A Town Is Born."
A hush fell over the assembled citizens gathered. Beneath the auctioneer's tent. The fall of the gravel had quite the anxious bidders.
"All right gentlemen, the bidding will begin."
"So a town was born."
During the first World War, housing conditions for workers in war industries were found to be greatly inadequate. To help this condition, Pusey, and Jones, shipbuilders, organized the Noreg Reality Company, and through the issuance of stock, a settlement called Noreg Village was constructed. Among the first dweller's in the village were the Dettras and the Conovers. The husband, Mr. William Dettra and Mr. Ben Conover, worked for the village.
In 1919, the stock of the Noreg Reality Company was acquired by the Fleet Corporation. The United States Government developed the village, homes, streets, the necessary public utilities, sewerage, buildings for stores, assembly hall, firehouse, and the apartment houses above the stores in the one hundred blocks of New Broadway. The children in the village attended school in the group of four semi-detached houses #302-308 Paris Avenue. The principal of the school from 1919-20 was a preacher from Philadelphia, whose name was Mr. Kruger.
In 1920, the Pennsylvania Railroad, which now had forty-two trains stopping in Noreg Village each day, changed the name of the town to Brooklawn. At this time, arrangements were begun for the public auctioning of the homes. Now, the youngsters of the town were attending school in the room above the stores in the one hundred block of Broadway. Mrs. Borden was the principal from 1920-22, and Mrs. Hannum from 1922-24. In the stores below the school rooms were a grocery store, the first bus stop was on Old Broadway in 1921, and the bus company, known as Horner's, was owned by a resident of Brooklawn, who was to become the first mayor of Brooklawn.
May 21, 1923, was the day set for the public auction of the government homes. The prospective homeowners from all the surrounding areas, along with those residents of the town who had been renting the properties, anxious to participate. Four hundred and fifty-one beautiful frame and stucco houses were the bait and Joseph P. Day was a top notch auctioneer from New York City. The auction lasted well into the early hours of the morning. Those present realized that the prices of these houses, in comparison with those at the Village of Fairview and surrounding areas, were reasonably low. Mrs. David Kerr, my grandmother, was one of the many known town's people who purchased her home at the auction.
Others, only mentioning a few were the Courtneys', Parkinsons', Conovers', Dettras', Reagans', Comeaus', and the O'Briens'. At the end of the day, four hundred and fifty-one homes had new owners. A tiny war village that started with five farmhouses, had become another hopeful American community, with little of a past, and a much looked to future.
The newly-endowed citizens wasted little time in organizing their town. They incorporated as a borough in May 1923. The Brooklawn Public School was constructed and opened. (This, a half of the building as it stands today.) There were tennis courts constructed (part of a peach orchard on the upper part of the lot across from the Bergen Street entrance of the school; stores were opened therefore, shopping was no longer the burden it had been previously, when the town's people would walk the footbridge at the end of Paris Avenue to Gloucester, or shop in Westville. The political parties had become active and in 1923, at the General Election, the Republican Party was victorious in the election of Mayor and Council. Mr. Sipple was our first Chief of Police, and Mr. "Dad" Walton was a member of the force. The first Fire Department was where Cerrone's Sweet Shop is today, with the doors facing towards Old Broadway, and of course, the railroad overpass was not there and this was a thorofare for all vehicles passing through the town. It was not until 1931 that the overpass was constructed and the main thorofare became New Broadway. In 1924, a white chapel was built for members of the protestant faith. In 1926, an addition to the Brooklawn Public School was made.
Mr. Dempsey, grandfather of Mrs. Donald C. Bakely, (wife of the present pastor of the Brooklawn Methodist Church) held the first Sunday School in the auditorium above the firehouse. On Chestnut Street, in the five hundred block, were a group of stores, a grocery store, drugstore, and a hardware store. A young fellow from Fairview was the first pharmacist in town, and later Mr. Herman Lipkin took over. Mr. Dempsey had the feed and grain store which was later purchased by Barney Goodman and Sons.
And, that of which Brooklawn is truly proud, are the most recent spiritual edifices. In 1955 the Catholic Church was finished and ready for use. This is a beautiful red brick structure on Crescent Boulevard and Community Road. Then, in 1956 the Methodist Church construction was completed and ready for use. Each of these churches has over two hundred and sixty family memberships.
The town now has a large motel, a public library, and is in the process of building a bowling alley.
So, I might conclude that today's Brooklawn is strangely and vastly different from the same area of thirty-five and more years ago; when the Toll Gate at Gloucester was the entrance to Brooklawn New Jersey, and the Inn at Westville brought you to the surveyor's line of Brooklawn.
(to be continued)