Friday, May 23, 2008

Main Street, Orange, back in the day

I had the opportunity to visit with Karen Wells, Orange's historian.  She has a collection of maps from 1914.  Their generous scale, beauty and detail offered us a wealth of information.  We could see the great houses that lined Main Street giving way to commercial buildings, as the estates moved to Seven Oaks, Orange's built-in suburb, which was laid out by Frederick Law Olmsted according to Karen.  It was fascinating to ponder what was there and what wasn't.  Her house had been built, but my childhood home on Olcott Street had not.  Oakwood Avenue School was there, but Friendship House was not.  Nor had the Parrow Street housing projects been built -- they didn't go up until 1951.  We searched for the major churches.  What we call "Orange" was once the center of a much larger area, and the great churches were centralized in the core.  The churches stayed when the residential areas split off to make their own cities.  Karen pointed out that a number of these historic houses of worship is equipped with a magnificent organ.  We wondered what it would take to create an organ festival on Main Street?

Thursday, May 22, 2008

A River Runs Through It

Main Street in Hackensack is pointedly urban.  I hadn't thought much about its river connection until I had the opportunity to get a bird's eye from a friend's apartment.  From the eighth floor of a Main Street apartment building with a panoramic view, I could see the river's curves and grassy banks define a terrain just east of center city.  The contrasting parts of the city -- waterway and street -- had a pleasing harmony in the midst of a jumble of stuff: the NY skyline, steam from a factory of some kind, and the odd patchwork of the Hackensack's urbanism.  My friend said they had taken the apartment for the joy of the view.  "One night there was a full moon reflecting off the river -- it was so beautiful, but we hadn't seen that before."