"We have the upcoming 150th anniversary of Weehawken in 2009 and we wanted to get this book out," said Lauren Sherman, who has been a member of the commission since the mid 90s and is the current acting chairman.
Spearheading this project and writing the book are Sherman and fellow commission member Ellen Gaulkin.
They are creating the book in conjunction with the Weehawken Historical Commission, said Sherman.
Sherman and Gaulkin were invited to speak at the next town council meeting. They will make a formal presentation about the book and the Weehawken Historical Commission and the town council will start discussions about the initial plans for the 150 anniversary celebration.
The meeting will be held on June 26 at 7 p.m. at City Hall.
According to Mayor Richard Turner, at the next meeting they will discuss plans for the upcoming celebrations and if anyone is interested in volunteering they can contact him. He added that plans will continue throughout the summer as various volunteer committees are formed.
"It is a wonderful thing that they are doing," said Turner about the book project. "They have both been involved in various capacities in town and in various ways. And what exemplifies them - they will be donating the all the proceeds [from the book] back to the commission so we can continue."
Turner said that the famous duel between Alexander Hamilton and Aaron Burr in 1804, which was re-enacted in 2004 during the 200th anniversary of the event, was a tremendous undertaking and involved over 100 volunteers.
"What we are going to do for the 150th anniversary is similar to what we did for the duel," said Turner. "One of the things that we stress with the residents and one of the main characteristics of Weehawken is that we foster that feeling of community."
The 150th anniversary is a celebration of when Weehawken was incorporated into a township, which took place on March 15, 1859.
According to Sherman, the idea of the book was discussed some years back, and in recent months the inclination to begin the project took on a greater urgency with the upcoming celebration.
"This book is [part of a series] called Images of America published by Arcadia Publishing," said Sherman. "What they do is a paperback book filled with images [using] black and white photos and captions."
She added that the book is organized into chapters and the writers will also provide an introduction that will highlight some of Weehawken's history.
"Weehawken has a pretty interesting and fantastic history and it deserves to be recognized outside of the community," said Sherman. "It's nice for people who can't go on a computer to have all these images in a book that they can enjoy."
Images of America is one of Arcadia's most popular series, which chronicles the history of hundreds of individual communities throughout the States through vintage black and white photographs of places and events.
Several of these books have already covered other neighboring towns of Hudson County, and highlight historical aspects of the town from certain time periods.
Since Weehawken will celebrate their 150th anniversary in the coming year, the Historical Commission felt it was the right time to have one of these books highlight Weehawken.
"I submitted the proposal [in April] and they accepted us," said Sherman. "There was apparently a lot of interest [in the project] because the editor said they were looking for someone to do Weehawken."
Searching for pieces of history
Sherman and Gaulkin are currently in the midst of collecting photographs, and putting the book together for the anticipated release date in March, 2009. Sherman said that she hopes to have the release date coincide with the actually anniversary on March 15.
However, like with any great project, it cannot be done alone. Sherman and Gaulkin are calling upon the residents of the Weehawken community to help them gather materials for the book, especially old photographs or postcards that tell the story of Weehawken from the late 19th century to 1959.
"We are looking to see if anyone in Weehawken has photographs from the late 19th century going up to the centennial, which was in 1959," said Sherman. "We are planning on including pictures of the Lincoln Tunnel [when it first opened]. We are looking for photos from before or during that time period, specifically streetscapes and interesting photos of the way Weehawken looked then."
Some postcards may be included in the book, however, photographs are preferred, and anyone who contributes materials will get credit for their contribution in the book.
The commission currently has approximately 125 pictures from their collection that they are planning on using, she said. In addition, Fellow member, Al Berg, has also contributed Weehawken memorabilia that he has been collecting for over 10 years. He also runs a website, www.weehawkenhistory.org, where he posts his historical treasures for people to see. The website also includes some of the images planned for the book.
"We have a requirement of a minimum of 180 images for the entire book," said Sherman. "Deadline for submissions is the beginning of September, but we would like to look at photos as soon as possible."
Sherman and Gaulkin ask that no one submit newspaper articles because those won't reproduce well in the book.
"We are really looking for original photos or images," said Sherman.
Preserving the past
Sherman and Gaulkin will be putting together the book themselves following a guideline provided to them by Arcadia Publishing, who is paying for the book's publication. After they complete it, the book will be sent to the company for editing and production.
Arcadia Publishing is the leading local history publisher in the United States, with a catalog of more than 5,000 titles in print and hundreds of new titles released every year.
"I've seen all these books around and all these towns represented, said Sherman. "Weehawken has a fabulous history and no one is seeing it, so this anniversary is the perfect time."
In addition to images of the past, the book will also touch upon historical events that took place in Weehawken, including the famous duel between Alexander Hamilton and Aaron Burr.
Sherman said that she does have some images of the dueling ground, and the Hamilton monument which will be included in the book.
She added that a highlight to be included will be the "water tower, which is a very iconic image in Weehawken." Also interesting are images of the amusement park The Eldorado, which opened in 1891. She said that the location of the former famed park was from Boulevard East west to the bottom of Highwood Avenue by Duer Place and Liberty Place.
Copies of the book will be available for purchase at Barnes & Noble and Border Books.
The Weehawken Historical Commission will coordinate with Mayor Turner and the township several events throughout the year to celebrate the 150th anniversary including a book party. They will be selling the books at the events, as well. Royalties from the sales will go to the Historical Commission.
"We probably have some of the most robust groups in town," said Turner about residents' willingness to volunteer. "Everything we try to do is to foster that community feel. If it wasn't for the volunteers, we couldn't do everything that we do. We provide means for people to get involved. It is a lot of people putting in a lot of time and energy."
The Weehawken Historical Commission was appointed by Mayor Richard Turner in the mid 90s. Previously, Weehawken had several history based organizations, including a historical society which had collected a number of town memorabilia. Those items are now part of the commission's collection.
Anyone interested in submitting photos to the project may contact Ellen Gaulkin at (201) 864-1039.
For more information on the Weehawken Historical Commission please leave a message at the Weehawken Public Library at (201) 863-7823. For information about volunteerism, call the mayor's office at: (201) 319-6006.
"This is a community based on volunteerism," said Turner. "We encourage it. We foster it. We coordinate it."
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