A Man & His Camera

Date: Sep 30, 2012
Time: 10:00 AM - 5:00 PM
Location: Bernardsville Public Library

Historic Photos Reveal Somerset Hills of a Century Ago: Photos by Fred Pitney Crater

Throughout September one can see surprising, beautiful and historic century-old images of the Somerset Hills on display during a shared exhibit at the Bernardsville Public Library and in the Peapack-Gladstone Municipal Building.  Included will be more than 80 photographs taken by Fred Pitney Crater, who lived in Peapack-Gladstone in the first decades of the 20th century.  With his camera he captured people, places, vistas and events from the area with artistry and skill.

The photographs were printed from century-old negatives in the Local History collection of the Bernardsville Public Library which were previously inaccessible to the public.  The Crater Collection now numbers close to 500 negatives, all donated to the library by family members and friends.

In Bernardsville, the Crater photographs highlight bucolic agricultural scenes, well-known buildings, and community life: Horses and carriages await the arrival of “The Millionaire’s Express” outside the Bernardsville railroad station.  Athletes jump through barrels at what appears to be the Far Hills fairgrounds.  A photo taken high above Ravine Lake shows a miles-long view across the distant hills.  Two massive oxen pull a wagon through a barnyard—the cat at their feet seeming completely unconcerned.

The exhibition also includes several scenes from farther afield, including a view of Grant’s Tomb taken from across the Hudson River when the West Side was a bare palisade; a log cabin in Chester, New Jersey, which was built before the Revolutionary War but was still being lived in when the photo was shot; and roadside action shots of the Vanderbilt Cup auto race in Long Island.

The Peapack-Gladstone exhibit includes images from that borough exclusively, as part of a centennial anniversary celebration of the borough’s founding.  The photographs include shots of the Firemen’s Carnival, a young couple in a carriage trotting along “Lover’s Lane,” and many still-recognizable buildings and streetscapes, including sweeping views of the Blairsden and Natirar estates.  The exhibit is sponsored by the Peapack-Gladstone Historic Preservation Commission and the borough’s 100th Anniversary Committee as one of a number of celebrations taking place in the borough throughout the centennial year.

“Fred Crater had a great eye for the telling detail,” says Local History Committee Chairwoman Pat Bankowksi.  “There is a photograph of the Peapack Base Ball Club where the nine players and their coach are standing outside a building.  It was only while examining the photographic details that we noticed the young boy peeking out of the window behind them.”

An opening reception for the Bernardsville Library exhibition will be held Sunday, September 9, from 2:00 to 4:00 p.m. in the library’s community room, where the Crater photographs will be view on during regular library hours unless a meeting is in progress.  For additional information, contact the Bernardsville Public Library at 908-766-0118 or visit www.bernardsvillelibrary.org.

In Peapack-Gladstone, the photos will be on display during normal business hours throughout September at the Municipal Building on School Street.  For additional information, visit the borough’s website at www.pgborough.com.

Photo caption: Fred Pitney Crater captured this early 1900s scene along Mountain Top Road in Bernardsville.  The building behind the carriage is the Upper Lodge at “Blythewood,” the estate of Henry Kunhardt until 1916 when it was sold to Col. Anthony Kuser and renamed “Faircourt.” The iron gates still stand, at the corner of Mountain Top and Overleigh Roads.


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