6 East Main Street is an interesting building in Mendham Township. Owing to the presence of low hills and narrow valleys, along with an abundance of water, a mixture of commercial buildings and residential structures were built in the Brookside area over the past two hundred and fifty years.

Ward Blacksmith Shop

Picture from the early 20th Century

Lewis Loree built 6 East Main around 1873 next to a mill race. He had operated a blacksmith shop on seventy acres in Washington Valley, until he sold it. Then he moved his smithy to Brookside and to his new building. Lewis continued blacksmithing into his eighties, but retired when he became blind. William (Billy) Ward was apprenticed to him. When Lewis died in January 1877, Billy took over the business. The building is still referred to as the Ward Wagon Shop today.

The building is an asymmetrical, two-story frame structure completed in the vernacular style. The side next to the mill race is at a sharp angle to conform to the passing of the mill race. It has a gable roof and a stone foundation. Originally, it had a dirt floor. There is no basement.

It was built as a blacksmith shop on the main floor with second-floor space for wagon repair. Wagons were light and could be pushed up a ramp to the second floor. This kept the wagons off the dirt floor and out of the way of the blacksmithing.

The mill race had been built many years before to power several mills close by. This mill race could have been a power source for the blacksmith shop, even though Loree lacked the water rights to use it. The owners with deeded right of use to the mill race may have permitted him its use for a fee or via barter.

Tim Timpson recorded the comments of local residents in his Brookside History. Madeline Post detailed the process for rimming a wooden wheel. First a rim would be fashioned to a size a little smaller than the wooden wheel, perhaps from local iron. After placing the rim on the ground, ten- & twelve-inch sticks would be placed around the rim. Then, kerosene would be poured over the rim and the sticks and ignited. Once the wood burned away, the white, hot rim, which had expanded in the heat, would be placed around the wheel. As the rim cooled, it would shrink and fit tightly.

Billy Ward’s shop was a favorite stop for children after school. They could watch him smithing at the forge. He would tell them stories too. Raymond Woodhull remembered manning the bellows as Billy fashioned iron implements.

The advent of the motor car led to the demise of wagons for everyday use in the early 20th century. The building became at least partially vacant when Billy ended his business. This was an opportunity for local government.

The State of New Jersey incorporated the center of Mendham Township as Mendham Borough in 1906. Thus, the Township needed a place to meet and would eventually operate there at 6 East Main.

The Fire Company, Brookside Engine Co. #1, was formed in 1916 to serve the Township which was growing in size. Their first location was space in Byram’s Carriage Shop next to Paugh’s double house on West Main Street.

The Township Committee approved the purchase of a used fire truck for $200 by the Fire Company in the late teens. After the purchase, the fire company took this fire truck to Ward’s for body repair work. The Ward Wagon Shop closed a few years later.

The Township then moved into and operated in a second-floor room, along with the municipal court. The Fire Company took over the former blacksmith shop on the first floor. They held their meetings around the wood stove in the second-floor room, contributing 25 cents a month for dues. The Township Library was located in a small room on the first floor next to the truck bay. It was eventually replaced by the post office. There was also an apartment next to the second-floor meeting room. This arrangement lasted for thirty years.

1950’s photo of Brookside Engine Co. #1 – note the Post Office sign.

The Fire Company fought many fires during this time. There were two notable conflagrations in the immediate area. In 1942, the Brookside Community Church next door burned to the ground. Seventeen years later, a fire started in Community Club across the street. The firemen may have been out of town bowling, but they returned quickly and with Mendham Borough and Ralston saved the heavily fire damaged building.

6 E. Main Street was sold in 1951 to Mr. & Mrs. Robert Liedel by Mr. & Mrs. Kenneth Hulbert. Robert Liedel was a member of the three-member Township Committee. The real estate agent was a Hulbert relative, Durwood C. Hulbert. He was also the postmaster and would move the post office back to the closed Brookside General Store in the 1960’s.

The Liedels wanted to renovate the building to preserve it and maintain the historic colonial charm of Brookside. In the 1940’s and 1950’s the post office was located in the smaller room on the first floor. The Township Committee still rented the second-floor room for meetings, as well as the bay for the Fire Department. John Stockton, who was a volunteer fireman, rented the apartment for his family.

The Township Committee acquired the local schoolhouse on Cherry Lane in the early the1950’s for the municipal government. At their new location, the Committee had their offices and a meeting room for them and the court. They also created spaces for the library, and for the Fire Company, which included a meeting room, a kitchen, and two fire engine bays. This became the 3rd location of the Fire Company.

6 Main Street became partially vacant again when the Township moved into its newly renovated Town Hall. It did not remain so for long. The first-floor dirt had been replaced earlier with concrete. The larger space, which was formerly used by Billy Ward and then the Fire Company, was now occupied by an antique store. The smaller room remained the Post Office. There were stairs to the second floor with two apartments available for rent.

Brookside Community Church annex

Contemporary picture of 6 East Main -Brookside Community Church Annex

Mrs. Hildegarde W. Badenhausen, wife of Otto, who was the former owner of the Ballentine Brewing Company, lived in her Tingley Road estate, Hilsfarm. The family accounts were at the First National Iron Bank in Morristown. As she advanced in age, she no longer wanted to travel the seven miles to the bank’s main office on South Street in Morristown. At her insistence, the Bank purchased 6 East Main and opened a branch, replacing the antique store. The branch manager, Carl Schwarzberg, was popular with the residents. I had my first bank account there and learned the value of balancing a check book. Midlantic acquired the property in 1980’s when it merged with The First National Iron Bank.

Lynda Menton remembers bringing Pico, the Zimmerman’s dog, on her frequent visits to the bank branch. Pico waddled between the Zimmerman and Menton homes. The Mentons accorded special privileges to Pico including lying on their beds and furniture which was not permitted by the Zimmermans. Pico was a favorite with the branch staff who always gave her a biscuit. She would even show up by herself for an afternoon biscuit.

One night the police responded to an alarm at the branch. They surrounded the office and called for backup. There was no sign of breaking and entry, only the alarm. The branch was quiet in the still of the night. When Carl arrived, the front door was opened. Pico waddled out and off into night. He had fallen asleep in the office, unnoticed, when the alarms were set for the night. The police knew Pico well, as most days she also visited the police station for a biscuit.

The branch remained open after Hildegarde’s death in January of 1980. It was a small and hardly profitable branch. However, when Carl retired, Midlantic Bank closed the branch in the late 1980’s. The residents missed it and wondered what might take its place.

Early on July 4th, 1990, a banner was found hanging on 6 E Main Street. It announced that “Burger King Coming Soon.” A Burger King in Brookside? Murmurs turned to curiosity, turned to questions, turned to shock, turned to sadness, turned to anger. “Burger King? Not in our town!” The commotion grew along with the crowd. The residents looked across the street at the reviewing stand, thinking that they should know something about it. Some did.

Brookside natives and volunteer firemen, Ritchie Steinberg, Chris Steinberg, Jay Noble, and Bruce Schmeal wanted to play a prank. Jay had a banner from Burger King. Bruce airbrushed the words “Coming Soon.” They hung it during the night with other friends. The commotion exceeded their expectations. Just a joke, but it made the front page of the Observer Tribune.

The Brookside Community Church purchased 6 East Main Street in 1994 from Midlantic National Bank for $162,000. They used the first floor for offices for many years. Now, the local school is planning to use the first-floor space for their offices. The two apartments are rarely available for rent.

Today, one hundred and fifty years after its construction, 6 East Main Street remains a viable commercial building and a symbol of the Liedel’s vision to maintain the historic colonial charm of Brookside.

Sam Tolley – August 2023

Sources:
Tim Timpson History, with comments of local residents, including Ernie Maw

Local newspaper clipping, 1951

Comments of Ritchie Steinberg, Pat Zimmerman, & Lynda Menton

History Commemorating the Fiftieth Anniversary of Brookside Engine Co. #1

Burial records of the Badenhausen Family

Wikipedia