Borough of High Bridge ~ 97 West Main Street, High Bridge, NJ ~ Phone: 908.638.6455 ~ Fax: 908-638-9374

Borough Hall Business Hours: 8:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.

Union Forge Park

Photo 1

HISTORY of Union Forge Park:
Washington Avenue
Sports Field Side

In 1742, William Allen and Joseph Turner founded an iron company out of a small forge in High Bridge, expanding its size and renaming it Allen and Turner.  The original foundry later became Taylor Iron Works and then Taylor-Wharton Iron and Steel Company .  The landscape around the factory changed quite a bit over the past century.

Foundry Pond

Pond in front of factory from a late 1700s drawing

Pond in front of factory from a late 1700s drawing

This photo gives an idea of how deep and vast the pond was.

This photo gives an idea of how deep and vast the pond was.

A huge pond for cooling the iron and other metal products used to be located along Washington Avenue in front of the Taylor Wharton facility. At Fourth of July celebrations, employees and their families held swimming and boating races in the Foundry Pond.  During the Depression in the 1930s, WPA labor filled in the pond and it became just a muddy field.

Today, part of the former pond has become a huge area for sports.  Groups such as the High Bridge Middle School’s baseball and softball teams, men’s baseball, and women’s softball play on the fields.  In the fall, the Hunterdon Huskies use this location for their football games.

High Bridge’s first library was located on the edge of the Foundry Pond.

High Bridge’s first library on the edge of the Foundry Pond.

High Bridge’s first library on the edge of the Foundry Pond.

The library as it looks today, 100 years later.

The library as it looks today, 100 years later.

In a small building on the edge of the huge pond, High Bridge opened its first library in 1914. This was the idea of Lucy Taylor, wife of Knox Taylor owner of the Taylor Wharton Foundry. Mary Flowers was the first librarian. During the first year, the library was so popular that 288 patrons used it, and it was able to stock 650 donated books and 124 volumes from the NJ State Library Commission.  In 1938, the library relocated to the top floor of Borough Hall.  High Bridge’s library moved to its present location adjacent to Borough Hall in 1965 and is now part of the Hunterdon County Library System. The first little building on the pond is long gone.

Main Office Building and Shop E

Walking on the path behind the ball fields on the east side of Washington Avenue, visitors will come to two vacant buildings.  Although the edifices are across the river from the main facility, both were once part of Taylor-Wharton Iron and Steel Company.  One is the vast concrete structure Shop E, which was used for steel grinding and as a machine shop.  The railroad tracks that lead right up to the front door are still visible.  Taylor-Wharton produced the steel for the building’s structure.

Shop E, 1917, in its hey day.

Shop E, 1917, in its hey day.

The other is a stone building, first build around 1725, which had held the administrative offices.  The office building was originally two stories tall, as seen in the photo.  A wing was added in the 1890s.  In the 1920s the front porch was removed and replaced with circular steps of stone.  A third story was added at this time.  The stone tablet over the arched doorway reads, “Taylor-Wharton Iron & Steel Co. – Founded 1742.”  When Taylor-Wharton closed in 1972, the office building was abandoned.  Today it is on NJ’s top list of endangered structures, and it is nationally recognized as an historic building.

They sit as historical reminders of an industrial site that provided employment, importance, and pride to the borough for over 250 years.

The office building stands proudly and elegantly with its new entrance and third floor. Note the ivy covering the walls.

They sit as historical reminders of an industrial site that provided employment, importance, and pride to the borough for over 250 years.

Union Forge Park: Across the Street: Playground / Soccer Side

Across the street, along the Raritan River where the playground now is, the High Bridge Fire Co. held dances in a pavilion near the river.   On Saturday nights, people would dress up and come out to High Bridge to listen to bands, socialize, and dance.  Hundreds of people attended, as seen in the photo, and the cost was about 10 cents a dance.  The dance pavilion was taken down shortly before World War I.

In what is now the soccer fields, a circus would come to town twice a year to entertain the citizens of High Bridge.  It was a small circus, but very thrilling for the small town attendees, many of whom never travelled far from the borough. Every summer huge crowds would attend the Firemen’s annual Carnival on this site.

Enjoying the bands at the dance pavilion.  Note the crowd of people it attracted.

Enjoying the bands at the dance pavilion. Note the crowd of people it attracted.

Many thanks to Mike Hann, Terry Sheets, and the Pictorial History of High Bridge, N.J. book for information on putting together this article.

Lisa Zambito
Environmental Commission member