By: Melissa A. Kay
Take a tour to remember as you experience and engage in history this September 21st and 22nd. As the 10th anniversary of Pathways of History delights participants as they travel back in time, the excitement is encouraging, proving that the concept of covering iconic landmarks and museums of all sizes is something people are curious about. This year’s theme: A 10th anniversary celebration of the Pathways tour, participating museums/historic properties and their local histories, volunteerism, and community.
Morris County has a rich near-300 year history which deserves attention and admiration. As the Pathways of History tour has evolved over the past ten years, this year’s version will feature 18 groups and 20 historic properties to peruse with passion at each “pit stop.” Each year, the tour has become more expansive and educational, with surprises along the way, as well as a sense of strength in community pride as the path is covered. As you make it to and through each venue, you will follow the handy tour map to help you reach the next destination and plan your tour most efficiently. This year’s guide is a ‘quad-fold,’ so it fits conveniently into your pocket or purse.
Pathways of History Coordinator and member of the Publicity Team, Gretchen Longo is hard at work along with Jennifer M. Coultas and Donna West making things go as smoothly and successfully as possible. Longo excitedly explains the original concept and creativity behind the Pathways of History tour, “The idea for the Pathways of History tour began as the offshoot of a project at the Oscar A. Kincaid House of History in Boonton Township. In 2009, I was chair of the committee to prepare a grant-funded ‘museum use plan’ for our unique 1785/1837 farmhouse. It was an eclectic group – an architect, an engineer/artist, a master gardener, a museum volunteer, a retired businessman, and me. At our first meeting, I was shocked to learn that most of the committee had never visited the historical museums in our neighboring communities. So, we embarked on a field trip! The idea for a tour developed that Saturday in November. At each stop, I asked the museum volunteers if they would be interested in putting together a ‘Museum Loop Tour’ to bring attention to the fabulous historical gems my group saw on that trip of discovery. All of the museums were enthusiastic and interested, and plans for a 2010 September event began. The Pathways of History is the little tour that grew! The yearly line-up of participants has changed from year to year – keeping the tour fresh and incredibly unique.”
She continues, “Pathways of History has provided a decade of access to some of Morris County’s most unique and interesting small, volunteer-run, and always admission-free historical museum properties. Some are privately owned and supported, some are municipally owned and run by local historical societies, others are operated by historical commissions, but whatever the makeup, they are proudly managed and staffed by savvy, knowledgeable, and enthusiastic volunteers.” Such spirit is what keeps Pathways of History going strong year after year, and this 10th milestone experience is sure to make way for many more tours to come in the future, perhaps incorporating new sights and stops along the tour. As more people take the tour, they’ll share their experiences, prompting others to look into the past.
The participating venues along the Pathways of History tour cover the communities of Boonton, Boonton Township, Denville, Dover, Florham Park, Kinnelon, Lake Hopatcong, Mine Hill, Montville Township, Mount Tabor, Parsippany, Pequannock Township, Randolph, Rockaway Township, Roxbury Township, and Washington Township. The majority of the museum buildings along the tour are listed on the New Jersey and National Registers of Historic Places – these various venues showcasing a variety of architectural periods and styles are renowned for their unmatched anthology. The interest in these particular places goes far beyond Morris County, making the tour all the more special.
For those who have taken the Pathways of History tour before, there is no reason to skip out on the 2019 event, as there is more to see, learn, and share. There are considerable changes that are must-sees, including the remarkable restorations at Boonton Township’s Oscar A. Kincaid Home of History, L’Ecole Kinnelon Museum, Florham Park’s Little Red Schoolhouse, Rockaway Township’s Ford-Faesch Ironmaster’s House, Mine Hill’s Bridget Smith House, Montville’s Museum, and Washington Township Land Trust’s Obadiah LaTourette Grist Mill. Two of the founding groups – the Historical Society of Boonton Township and L’Ecole Kinnelon Museum have the distinct honor of having participated in every Pathways of History tour for the past ten years, an accomplishment in itself.
From still-standing 18th century structures to old-time schoolhouses and railway stations to church ruins, there will be plenty of the past to see and explore. The Pathways of History tour is billed as family-friendly, with something to interest everyone along the self-guided auto tour. Expect to see enthusiastic docents along the tour to guide and welcome you, some even dressed in on point period costume for an extra picture of the past. For those with young children coming along, kid-friendly activities throughout will make the tour more fun, as they learn with wide-eyed enrichment and feel entertained all the while.
While every stop and subject matter to see will be a delight, some extra-special things to take note of include New Jersey’s original inhabitants – the Lenape people, evidence and exhibitions of Morris County’s important involvement in the American Revolution, iron mine recreations and forges, an early 20th century doctor’s examination room, and old-fashioned hearthside cooking ware. Don’t miss the Richardson History House or how the Morris Canal along with industry, mining, railways, commerce, and agriculture have impacted the local communities throughout the generations.
Longo shares the important Pathways of History mission statement: The Pathways of History self-guided tour, featuring historic places in Morris County, was created to broaden the marketing and educational exposure of small, volunteer-run museums which are self-sustaining, and always admission free. Her personal sentiment on the Pathways of History experience is summed up as such, “For me, one of the happiest and most satisfying products of the Pathways of History tour is that it proves that all of the historic groups continue to be ‘linked to each other and to the past.’ The Pathways group has benefited immensely from the tours – not only through visitor interest, but through friendship, sharing and the exchange of ideas and advice. Our history link travels through cyberspace now: social media from Sioux City, South Dakota and the webmaster/graphics designer and part of the publicity team from Canandaigua, New York! Those volunteers have moved from Morris County, but still hold fast to their ‘link.’ The 2019 10th anniversary Pathways of History tour is going to be really fun this year. We have so much to celebrate! And the groups want the visitors to celebrate, too.”
Head over to the Pathways of History website for more information at www.pathwaysofhistorynj.net and see the tours from previous events as well as this year’s lineup. The past is full of milestones and memories, making the heritage tour a to-do this September.
Tours will operate on Saturday, Sept. 21 from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. and Sunday, Sept. 22 from noon until 4:00 p.m. Admission is free.