Sunday, February 20, 2011

Welcome to Boonton New Jersey: Melmac Tour Stop 2 In Search of Boontonware Dishes by Ira Mency

Welcome to Boonton, New Jersey!

Home of the Boontonware dishes, these available at OurVintageHouse

I'm slowly copying my old site archives over from my old melmac site,so if you have not read part one of my Boonton melamine factory tour. If you have not taken part one of the tour, you should CLICK HERE TO TAKE BOONTON FACTORY TOUR PART ONE OF THIS TOUR NOW, and don't worry you can come back here soon.  Anyhow, I found these old photos I took several years back when I went to Boonton, New Jersey. I was on a quest to find answers about the Boontonware Melmac Factory and history in the town--after I found this card left to me in the Derek Schultz estate.
A clue left to me from Derek Schultz, a  formerNew Jersian. 
I went on a cold, rainy, August day as I was in the middle of Hunterdon, NJ and took the ride. As fate would have it the rain got into my camera and I was forced to snap grainy photos from my cellphone, so bear with me as I have tried to "spice up" the photos for your viewing pleasure.  My goal was to track down the last known place that the "Sales Offices" were for Boonton, ie: The English and English Distributor.

I was expecting a giant and huge industrial town, but instead found this quaint picturesque town on the top of a mountain, surrounded by valleys, whose official town website states that it is about 2.45 square miles.  I was shocked when I arrived.  You can tell this town has a lot of character, and history buried here. It once had a rubber factory, iron works / foundry, and booming businesses. At the time of my visit, it was home to an Allstate office and Salvage Company.  Bits and snippets of history indicate this building served many purposes over the a hardware store way back when.... 

Perhaps, a hardware store?  Courtesy of Derek Schultz Archives. 

(I also found THIS PHOTO housed by the Boonton Historical Society which shows the front of the building.) What you don't know or see is that the magic of this building is actually that it's FIVE STORIES TALL! I was in awe the way the old time buildings had been built "into" the earth.  What you only see here in the above photo is the building on 520 Main Street. Here's the side and back:

I was specifically interested in finding out where the last known sales office of Boonton was as represented by English and English.  Most of the buildings along main street on this side, are teetering on the hillside showing their age, their history, and only hints of their past.  I really thought it was ingenious the way in which these buildings were facing Main Street, but backed up into Plane Street.  I drove down the steep hill of Plane Street and went around the back of the building looking for clues. 

I thought perhaps the old addage, "Backdoor friends are best" may apply to the "R" in "520R" on the card meaning "Rear", or perhaps there was just so many individual offices "R" was just one of the many.  I do want to say the back has a potential loading dock and plenty of capabilities for storage of said dishes. Look at all those steps!  I wouldn't want to carry any heavy Boonton dishes down there!

The town's history goes back to the 1800's.  I wonder just how many different businesses were in this building? At the time of my visit, several years ago, it was home to Allstate Insurance and a Salvage Company. However, I was more intrigued by the tiny brick building that was falling apart out back. I wanted someone to heist me up to peek inside, but no one was around to help me check for clues.

I was not sure what this was, but it intrigued me. Was it ever used for melmac dish storage?

A bunch of different Boonton dishes, well made and very popular at RetroChalet.

Just for clarification, there was evidence in print that a later Boonton Moulding Co. took over offices at 30 Plane Street. This would be the building on the far right corner of Plane and Main Street as circled in red on the map below.  When I saw it, it looked nothing more than a brick office building, and was vacant/for rent. (As you can see in the photo, it was just one block down from the original English and English distributors, and you can see the back of the buildings where I was taking the photos.)  I heard this was an office that handled injection molding of plastics, but most likely outsourced the actual projects.

A new address in the Boonton saga, what is 30 Plane Street?

Perhaps I'll never have the answers to all my questions, but I believe that sooner or later the pieces will fall into place. The town's history in molded plastic goes all the way back to an early Loanda Hard Rubber Company from 1891 (founded by Edwin A. Scribner) and started the town's commitment to plastic molding.

In a nutshell, continuous rubber production, a full fledged rubber company, a growing knowledge in bakelite and plastics molding ended up keeping the town's plastic industry spreading like wildfire. This teeny tiny town was turning out world famous Boontonware years later-thanks to Edwin's son George Scribner's  Boonton Molding Company.

Boonton Things You May Like :

My Boonton, NJ  (Factory) Tour Part One 

Read this site for all other Boontonware Posts!

Read more on this evolution of the rubber and plastics industry can be read in a great article by Tammy Scully found HERE. 

View the Official Town History as per Official Town Website HERE. 

View the town though years of interesting postcards at Boonton Postcards!

View some photos from  the Boonton Historical Society !

View all of the Boonton Photos from the Community!


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  4. I grew up a few miles away in Lake Hiawatha and my father grew up in Boonton.
    I remember many things about boonton as a kid, especially the area behind the buildings on Plane st. There was a dump between plane st. and the river which my dad a I scavenged through once in a while. He would sell the motors and parts that we pulled from old machinery. I also remember an old abandoned manufacturing building that we would play in near the railroad tracks that came across the river from the main line. It was gone when I left the state in the early 80's. My dad worked for many years in a chemical company on Mechanic St. as a young man. He knew the area well and would take us kids to pick berries near the old mule tunnels built into the hillside below the town near the river. I can also remember stone tunnels built under the dump site that he told me extended to the factory areas.
    I spent many hours exploring that whole back side of town near the river and can remember it well. Though I never knew anything about Boontonware at the time, my mom had some. I only later found out about it when I bought some, finding the name on the back of some pieces I found and purchased (cheap) in an antique store in Albuquerque NM., near where I live now. My find flooded back memories of my childhood and the times exploring the areas of the old ghosts of industrial Boonton.


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