in Cranford, NJ
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Known at the turn of the century as the Venice of New Jersey, the
Union County Township of Cranford grew up around the meandering
Rahway River. In 1720, John Crane of nearby Elizabeth Towne (now
Elizabeth) built a grist mill on the north side of a ford in the
river and a sawmill on the south side. That mill at Crane's Ford
provided grain for Washington's troops during the Revolution.
Cranford remained a backwater until 1838, when the
Elizabethtown and Somerville Railroad made it accessible to New
York City. "The railroad and the river led to Cranford's development,
first as a recreation center and later as a commuter suburb of New
York City," said Lawrence P. Fuhro, president of the Cranford
In 1871 Cranford was incorporated as a township
and "by 1885," Mr. Fuhro said, "76 residents commuted
daily to New York City." For many who built their homes along
Rahway, the river quickly lost its charm. There was frequent flooding
until the late 1970's, when the town, with aid from the Army Corps
of Engineers and several state agencies, built detention basins
and dredged the river.
The most important
of the many historic buildings is the 1740 Williams Droescher Mill,
on Lincoln Avenue. Now owned by a messenger sevice used as an office
building, it is the oldest continuoisly operated commercial building
in New Jersey. Its cast-iron water turbine is still in place. Movers
in Cranford, NJ