Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Essex County Anderson Park Travels Back in Time on Victorian Day - May 17, 2015

Essex County Anderson Park Travels Back in Time on Victorian Day
Free, Family-Friendly Activities Celebrate Park’s 110th Anniversary
Sunday, May 17, 2015

Antique high-wheel bicycles, live Dixieland music, Victorian games, a demonstration cricket game, birthday cake, and a tree planting will be part of Victorian Day, a celebration of the 110th anniversary of Essex County Anderson Park, which opened in 1905 as part of the pioneering Essex County Parks System.

The public is invited to this free event on Sunday, May 17th from 12:00 noon to 3:00 pm to sample pastime pleasures as they might have been during 1905 in this Olmsted-designed park, now on the National Register of Historic Places. Visitors are encouraged to spread out a blanket, unpack a picnic, and enjoy a leisurely afternoon. The event is sponsored by Friends of Anderson Park, the Essex County Department of Parks, Recreation and Cultural Affairs, the Montclair Historical Society, Bike&Walk Montclair, the Northern New Jersey chapter of the Victorian Society, the Montclair Cricket Club, and Studio Montclair.

Members of The Wheelmen riding vintage high-wheel bicycles at an event in 2014. They will be displaying antique bicycles at Victorian Day in Anderson Park on Sunday, May 17. Courtesy The Wheelmen.

“Essex County Anderson Park has an important role in Montclair’s history, providing beautiful open space for a range of recreational activities and influencing the development of other parks in the municipality. Victorian Day is an opportunity to showcase the history of the park and provide the public a glimpse of how it was used a hundred years ago,” Essex County Executive Joseph N. DiVincenzo, Jr.said. “We are pleased to be partnering with the Friends of Anderson Park and a host of community organizations to present this special event to commemorate the park’s 110th anniversary,” he noted.

The event features members of The Wheelmen, who collect and ride bicycles made before 1918, displaying a line-up of vintage bicycles, including a penny-farthing, or high-wheel. The Wheelmen have a special connection to Anderson Park: The landscape architect Downing Vaux, who played an instrumental role in the park’s creation, was a founding member of the League of American Wheelmen in 1880. In the decades before cars dominated, that group and other bicycle enthusiasts advocated for paving bumpy dirt roads. Wheelmen will be present to talk about cycling in Victorian times.

In its early days, Anderson Park had a handful of grass tennis courts on what is now a playing field and meadow. On Victorian Day, the greensward will be the setting for classic lawn games from the 19th and early 20th centuries, such as quoits, graces, croquet, and badminton.

From 12:00 noon to 3:00 pm, Brian Nalepka of the Richard Stillman Band will be leading a lively Dixieland trio.

At 12:30 pm, a maple tree-planting ceremony will take place with officials from Essex County and Montclair Township. “A primary mission of Friends of Anderson Park is to restore the landscape designed by John Charles Olmsted for future generations to enjoy,” said Scott Kevelson, president of Friends of Anderson Park. “We hope that this anniversary tree will provide visitors with shade for the next 110 years.”

Starting at 1:00 pm, the grounds will become the setting for a demonstration cricket match with the Montclair Cricket Club. This British sport was avidly played in Anderson Park from 1905 to 1921, back when the athletes belonged to the Bellevue Cricket Club. The game may have been imported by British train engineers who came to work on the expanding railroads. In Upper Montclair, one of its biggest champions of the sport was R.U. Delapenha, an importer of fancy British foods who founded the Bellevue Cricket Club.

“Cricket came to an end when Charles Anderson, who donated the land for the park, complained to Essex County,” said Lisanne Renner, the historian for Friends of Anderson Park. Baseball was prohibited, too. “We presume Anderson didn’t want windows getting broken at homes bordering the park.”

One day before Victorian Day, on Saturday, May 16th starting at 10:30 am, the conservancy’s historian will lead a free walking tour of the park. The hour-long tour will describe how Anderson Park came to be, how it shaped Upper Montclair, and how it led to the formation of other Montclair parks. For the Saturday tour, meet at the boulder at the park's northeast entrance. Light rain does not cancel, but heavy rain reschedules the tour to Victorian Day (Sunday, May 17th) at 10:30 am.

Essex County Anderson Park is located at 274 Bellevue Avenue, at the corner of North Mountain Avenue, in Upper Montclair. For more information about the May 16th walking tour or the May 17th Victorian Day, contact Friends of Anderson Park at 973-477-7207 or  e-mail info@friendsofandersonpark.com. For more information about the Friends, visit www.friendsofandersonpark.com.

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