Posts tagged ‘art’

November 16, 2012

The Summit Beacon

8-inch tall model of Summit beacon

Model (~8″ tall) of Summit beacon, as seen in the Summit Historical Society’s Carter House museum.

“So Josy,” you ask, “what’s with the, uh, pile of sticks? It’s not a very good-looking pile of sticks.”

Here’s the deal:

Summit, NJ, is so named because it sits on— get this— a SUMMIT of the second Watchung mountain.

Which means— if you’re Summit, and you happen to be 8.5 miles from a Revolutionary War stronghold like, say, Morristown, NJ… you can send smoke signals like “HEY MORRISTOWN! THE BRITISH ARE COMING!”

Or, instead of explicit smoke signals, you could just light a beacon and fire a cannon, and just assume that Morristown knows what that means.

Summit beacon in the background of a diorama

Summit beacon painted in the background the Carter House’s “Diorama of the Revolutionary Period, 1780-1782.”

Consequently, Summit was host to “Signal Beacon No. 10,” one of George Washington’s 23 beacons upon “the most conspicuous hills across New Jersey.”

While I’m not sure that Summit’s beacon single-handedly won the Revolutionary War, Summit is very proud that it was one of the beacon sites.


Consider the following:

Item 1. The emblem/ logo/ official seal of the City of Summit is in fact a nod to Summit’s beacon heritage. (I initially mistook the design to be a stylized bowl of soup.)

Summit emblem 01 Summit emblem 02
Summit emblem 03 Summit emblem 04

I suspect that the emblem actually references the tar-barrel beacon used at the same site during the War of 1812. My reference (see article at the bottom of this post) hints that everyone thinks the two beacons are one and the same, and apparently THEY’RE NOT.


Item 2. The northwest corner of Beacon Road and Hobart Avenue (the former Twombly residence) is marked by a commemorative plaque.

1776 -  Here in the time of the American Revolution stood the Signal Beacon, and by its side the cannon known as the "Old Sow," which in time of danger and invasion summoned the patriotic "Minute Men" of this vicinity to the defense of the country and the repulse of the invader. 1896 -  This monument was erected by the New Jersey Society of the Sons of the American Revolution and dedicated to the memory of the patriots of New Jersey. Removed to this spot from its original location and re-dedicated July 4th, 1908.

Here in the time of the American Revolution stood the Signal Beacon, and by its side the cannon known as the “Old Sow,” which in time of danger and invasion summoned the patriotic “Minute Men” of this vicinity to the defense of the country and the repulse of the invader.
This monument was erected by the New Jersey Society of the Sons of the American Revolution and dedicated to the memory of the patriots of New Jersey. Removed to this spot from its original location and re-dedicated July 4th, 1908.

How the plaque appears from the road

Context shot— how the plaque appears from the road.

According to my source (again, see bottom of post):

The original plaque… was “dedicated to the memory of the patriots of New Jersey” by the S.A.R. in 1896, and was mounted on a boulder on the exact site of the beacon. This was stolen in 1900, but was soon replaced with the present (slightly different) one. Then in 1908, when Henry B. Twombly built his home on the site, the boulder and plaque were moved forward to their present location in the stone wall along Hobart Avenue.

So that’s that.


Item 3. Last year (2011), Patricia J. McWhorter painted a mural of the beacon prominently in the middle of downtown Summit.

Mural of beacon in downtown Summit

Mural of beacon in downtown Summit.

Patricia J. McWhorter

Signature on mural above.


By the way— the reference I keep referring to is none other than this photocopy of an article on display in the Carter House museum. Presumably it’s from the Summit Herald:

Views of Summit's Yesterdays  Symbols and a reminder of Summit's role in the Revolution--  Although Summit was never a battleground in the Revolutionary War, its contribution was great, for it was the second Watchung Mountain on which it is located that blocked the efforts of the British to reach Morristown and invade Morris County. And to make this barrier completely effective, it was necessary for General Washington to set up a signal beacon accompanied by a resounding cannon to warn the countryside of any attempt by the British to storm the mountain's weak spot at the pass now called Hobart Gap. His "Signal Beacon No. 10" (erected 1779) was one of a chain of 23 such beacons located on "the most conspicuous hills across New Jersey." It and the "Old Sow" cannon (1777-1780) were located on the high ground adjacent to the pass, on the northwest corner of the present Beacon Road and Hobart Avenue, close to the spot now marked by a commemorative plaque. The original plaque (shown above) was "dedicated to the memory of the patriots of New Jersey" by the S.A.R. in 1896, and was mounted on a boulder on the exact site of the beacon. This was stolen in 1900, but was soon replaced with the present (slightly different) one. Then in 1908, when Henry B. Twombly built his home on the site, the boulder and plaque were moved forward to their present location in the stone wall along Hobart Avenue. The beacon, though often depicted as a barrel of tar atop a pole (tar barrel used at same site, but later, during War of 1812), was really a four-sided pyramid built log-cabin-style of 16-foot and then progressively smaller logs, within which brush was burned to produce a warning column of smoke visible to residents and troops behind the mountain, between Summit and Morristown. And the cannon was a carriageless 18-pounder set on the western slope of the hill, which wallowed in the ground like an old sow. What became of the "Old Sow" cannon is uncertain, but its successor, the "Crown Prince" (1780-1818) can still be seen in the Ford Museum in Morristown. Note: The cannon and beacon models shown were made for the Bicentennial by Howard Welsh of Summit. (Contributed by the Summit Historical Society) Note: For the full story of Washington's beacon alarm system, see "The Revolutionary War Beacon at Signal Station No. 10," by Margaret W. Long of Summit.

Views of Summit’s Yesterdays.

I also had a conversation with Patricia Meola, a member of the Summit Historical Society, who clued me into the beacon’s significance at all.

I’m not sure how to cite either one of these sources, but I didn’t make this stuff up, I swear.

November 14, 2012

This beautiful state

Painters at Batsto Lake (10/26/12)

A month before Hurricane Sandy, I said:

Hey! I’ve got all these vacation days I need to use before the end of the year! What shall I do with them?

I decided:

I know! I’ll take a bunch of day trips around New Jersey!

I’ve lived in NJ my whole life, and I’ve barely seen a fraction of what this state has to offer! Heck, I’ve only ventured south of Sea Girt, what, three times?

And with all the photos I take on these expeditions, I’ll turn ‘New Providence Daily Photo’ into ‘New Jersey Daily Photo!’ Won’t that be great!

So during the week and a half before Hurricane Sandy, I enthusiastically climbed Barnegat Lighthouse on Long Beach Island, hiked around High Point State Park, and toured the Pine Barrens during cranberry season.

And then New Jersey was decimated by a hurricane.

So I might not be doing a lot more of that.

In the meantime, I am bursting at the seams with Jersey Pride, and I’ve stockpiled a bunch of tourist-y photos (like the one above) that I never got to show you guys.

Batsto Lake, part of Historic Batsto Village in the Pine Barrens, attracts local painters. (See, I have photographic evidence.)

October 1, 2012

Harvest Festival 2012 – Weaver

The delightful and talented Ms. Omi Gray

(The following dialogues have been paraphrased from memory, as faithfully as possible to the actual quotes, but they are not actual quotes.)

I had the opportunity to meet Omi Gray during the Harvest Festival this weekend, and I regret that I can’t transcribe the entire 20-minute conversation here. Omi is a New York-based artist who lives through weaving, felting, and jewelrymaking, and loves it. Art, she says, saved her life; beading and silver clay are her first loves, but felting and weaving are excellent for mind-clearing therapy too.

“My first loom was a manual loom,” she said, “but it was so hard to set up and actually weave, I just never did it. It sat around collecting dust. This one, I saved up and bought for myself as a retirement gift. Best money I ever spent!

“It’s so easy to use, doesn’t require a lot of training. That big one, behind you,” [I turned around and faced a fifteen-foot woven banner, draped across her tent] “some Saturday afternoons, in Central Park, I go and set up my loom. The public can come and just sit down and weave, just create art, just take turns producing something long and beautiful and colorful in a few hours. It’s that simple.”

“Wow!” I said.

“…I use all kinds of materials. I have a machine that can cut any material into 5mm strips… hold on, let me see.” Omi stood up and walked over to the long woven Central Park banner.

The long banner

“Here,” she said after a few moments. Sure enough, a portion had been woven from slender strips of fabric.


(That’s her own peyote beadwork on her ring, by the way.)

“Over here,” she continued, “I had some yarn that got tangled. So I just threw it in the loom and wove it right in!”

Tangled yarn

“I like metal, too, so I wove some wire into it, over here,” she pointed. “I think it’s kind of fun! You can sculpt it however you like.” We stood there for a moment, pinching folds into the wire.


“So… do you just do photography for yourself?” she asked.

“Yeah, yeah, just for me, mostly.”

“Are you any good?”


She shot me a Look.

I laughed. “I’m still learning. I’ll be good someday!”

September 30, 2012

Harvest Festival 2012 – Potter

Simon B. Keller, giving a brief pottery lesson at the Union County Harvest Festival

The Union County Harvest Festival was today! I’ll be posting my photos from the event over the next few days.

This ceramic artist, Simon B. Keller, was one of the many friendly artisans showing his work. (I featured him last year, too! I had a longer conversation with him this year, though.)

I'm terrible at pottery, so I have great respect for those who do it!

Mr. Keller learned his craft in Japan, he says, where students don’t start at the bottom and work their way up— they start below the bottom. He wasn’t permitted to touch the clay until he’d paid his dues, learning the other odd jobs around the studio. It’s an understandably frustrating process, but it isn’t until you understand that aspect of the craft that you can appreciate how all the cogs of the art— the small but important aspects that you might otherwise ignore— fit together to form a whole.

Although Mr. Keller has been creating ceramics for twenty years, in recent years he’s started instructing at Plainfield’s duCret school of Art, the oldest private art institution in New Jersey.

August 29, 2012

Les envols


There’s a new-ish group of sculptures near Summit’s Village Green.

Les envols

You might think they look like penguins (how silly of you), but apparently they are a “reflection on the multiplicity and complexity of the human character (”

They’re part of sculptress Pascale Fournier’s Les Envols body of work.

According to Google Translate— I’ve forgotten most of my French— “envol” translates to “flight,” so interpret that as you will.

More complete essays (and images) of the sculptures can be found on and Ms. Fournier’s portfolio site.

August 16, 2012

Campbell’s Pond pumping station 3

Faux HDR, yo

More Campbell’s Pond pumping station.

I was pretty intrigued by how to treat this shot. It would’ve been a perfect opportunity for HDR imaging… if my camera shot RAW, and if I had the software to process HDR, and if I’d had a tripod with me.

1/100 sec, f/3.5, ISO 400 1/1000 sec, f/3.5, ISO 400

I ended up cutting and pasting and compositing these two images by hand, which required INCREDIBLE PATIENCE (I am not patient). If you get close to the final image, it doesn’t hold up at all at full resolution. But seriously, who cares?

August 15, 2012

Campbell’s Pond pumping station 2

Spring has sprung

The Campbell’s Pond pumping station has been neglected and gutted by fires for at least half a century, as far as I can tell.

Maybe these springs used to help support the roof; the springs are down, but the roof is still up (barely).

I love light beams! Glad I don't live here, though.

…For legal purposes, I only admit to having entered the pumping station once, in June, when the door was wide open. Currently, there’s a pesky fence around most of the building, so any goofball who breached this shiny new fence would not be able to use the innocent “but the door was open” excuse. Therefore, I must have taken these pictures in June.

July 5, 2012

Chalk in the street

Chalk on South Street!

When I meandered into downtown New Providence for its fireworks display, I was unexpectedly delighted to find South Street covered in chalk art.

Obviously, the thing was targeted towards children, but I couldn’t resist adding my own octopus-y contribution.

Octopus on South Street! Or is it a squid? I dunno, something with tentacles.

Hee hee hee!

June 21, 2012

Fairy sofa

Home sweet home

Did you know there are tiny fairies living in Essex County? We found their hangout last week.

Just some legs for a sense of scale.

Seriously, though, I’m told there’s a large community of artists around and about the Millburn area, and a lot of them come to the South Mountain Reservation to play. So if you’re hiking through, keep your eyes open for slightly unnatural sights. 🙂

June 20, 2012

Campbell’s Pond pumping station

Inside the Campbell's Pond pumping station, South Mountain Reservation, 2012

The brick pumping station at Campbell’s Pond in the South Mountain Reservation is a ripe target for urban explorations. It features an enticing climb-through-able hole, about five feet from an existing trail, so even hikers who weren’t planning on checking out an abandoned building that day might suddenly feel compelled to do so. (That’s what happened to me, anyway.)

For safety reasons, I can’t recommend it to local explorers. The unstable wooden floor has given way in several places; photos taken just a few years ago show more flooring than there is now. But if you happen to be passing by, and you’re curious about how and why the pump station came to be… here’s what I found out:

If you Google “Campbell’s Pond pumping station,” you’ll generally come up with urban exploration photos that say it “once supplied water to the City of Orange.” Okay, yeah, so what?

Campbell's Pond pumping station in the South Mountain Reservation, identifiable by its big old smokestack.

To give some background, water from the Orange reservoir (situated a little further north, on a west branch of the Rahway River) flows through a 16-inch water main, downhill through Millburn, and eventually ends up in Orange. Initially, the main supplied Orange by gravity alone, but as water consumption grew, water pressure in the city decreased. Additionally, the city of Orange sprawled out across higher lands that couldn’t get their water from gravity-driven water.

To combat these problems, the reservoir was supplemented by a smaller reservoir along a western branch of the Rahway River: Campbell’s Pond (sometimes called “Bass Pond”), which was dammed in 1882. Here, “a pumping station was established having a capacity of about two million five hundred thousand gallons per day, and the water was… pumped from the Campbell’s pond reservoir into the sixteen-inch main” (Vroom, 1909, 372). All this helped to increase the water pressure.

According to the record of a Supreme Court case, even in 1907, they had started laying the newer 20-inch water main (which was completed c.1923 [Elliot, 2010, para. 5]), and they planned “to abandon the present pumping plant at Campbell’s pond” (Vroom, 1909, 375).

While I don’t know exactly how long the pump station has in fact been abandoned, if the newer main wasn’t finished until 1923, this old pump station was probably around for at least that long, which could explain the origins of the creepy dam/bridge across Campbell’s Pond.

Word on the street is that it has been gutted by fires (arson?) more than once. Whether or not these fires led to its ultimate abandonment, I couldn’t tell you.

But it’s at least a little more of a story than “it once supplied water to the City of Orange.”


Elliot, W. (2010). “Orange Lifts Water Advisory, Repairs to Finish this Week.” Local Talk News.Com.

Vroom, G.D.W. (Reporter). (1909). “Herbert Lighthipe, prosecutor, v. the City of Orange, the Crocker-Wheeler Company and the Western Electric Company, respondents.” Reports of Cases Argued and Determined by the Supreme Court and, at Law, in the Court of Errors and Appeals in the State of New Jersey, vol. 46. Soney & Sage: Newark, NJ. Google Books, pp.365-375.

%d bloggers like this: