Tuesday, November 17, 2009

In Print: Hulking Landmark Removed from Garwood Sky

Residents watch Water Tower come down.

As Garwood water tower comes down, histroy remains

By Leslie Murray

November 17, 2009, 2:15PM

GARWOOD- Coming to the stop sign at Oak Street, drivers scanned the two lanes of traffic on North Avenue. While waiting to move through the intersection, most stopped for a long pause to stare upward at the large crane that worked to demolish the aged water which stood at the site.

On Tuesday, November 17 the water tower at the site commonly known as the Garwood Paperboard factory was torn down. Just after 11:00 a.m. the hulking landmark, which often drew less than favorable remarks for its rusted appearance, was wiped from the sky line of the borough.

The tower predates the borough of Garwood by three years, erected in 1900 when the Aeolian Company, manufacturer of player pianos and player pipe organs, built the factory that still stands today. While it has long been part of the borough’s landscape the water tower never served to protect the residential neighborhoods, kept instead to douse fires at the factory below.

During a meeting of the Garwood Borough Council Mayor Dennis McCarthy announced that a date had been set for the tower’s removal as safety concerns mounted. McCarthy explained that the council had given the site’s owner the chose to repair or remove the rusting structure.

The demolition had long been planned but the permits required for closing North Avenue for a short period took time.

Against the back drop of a clear blue sky, crews spent the morning circling the base of the 100-foot-tall tower. As the day moved forward the workers made their way around the cat walk attached to the reservoir of the tower, the pale green letters on the tank just visible on the rusted metal.

Residents from the surrounding streets as well as curious passers-by stopped to watch the work. At several points, ominous creaking from the metal frame brought most other noise to a halt.

On the sidewalks below, onlookers including Councilman-elect Timothy Hak watched with mixed emotions.

“It’s a piece of Garwood history,” Hak said as he watched the crews.

Others at the scene, making their way to nearby stores for a cup of coffee in the crisp morning air were less attached to the water tower, calling it an “eyesore” that should have been removed long ago.

Cranford native Steve Ryder watched the work with other visitors, talking about what the site’s significance. Ryder, who is in the mechanical music field, explained that the Aeolian Company was one of the guiding forces for early Garwood.

“People who live in some of these houses in Cranford and Garwood don’t realize that their homes were built for Aeolian workers,” he explained, shielding his eyes from the sun as he watched the crews.

So much of the town centered around the factory there was even a movement to have Garwood named Aeolian and the founders left their mark across Union County, Ryder added. William and Henry Tremaine, who both served as presidents of the company, were prominent figures in Westfield. Edwin S. Votey, who developed the Pianola and served as vice-president of Aeolian, was the first person to own an automobile in Summit.

While the water tower does not hold much significance for the site, Ryder explained that front office of a factory and the smoke stack in the rear of the property near the NJ Transit rail line, which spelled out Pianola until the first letter was knocked off some years ago, draw visitors who collect mechanical musical instruments.

“This is a regular stop off,” Ryder said of Garwood.

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