Hear ye, hear ye, good people of Weehawken! Last Sunday, March 15, more than 600 residents came to Weehawken High School to help kick off a year-long celebration of the township’s founding 150 years ago. Attendees were treated to photographs, food, children’s activities, and historical re-enactments by the town leaders of today.
Kicking off the celebration was the Town Crier, played by Patrick Boll, who called upon “all citizens” to join him on a journey into the past.
“Weehawken has always been a small family community, and we [continue to] preserve that 150 years later,” said Mayor Richard Turner, who spent the celebration in 19th century garb complete with a top hat. “[The celebration] shows Weehawken’s pride in being a small community. Whether it’s 269 people or 14,000 people [today], we are still a small town community.”
At the event were federal and state dignitaries including U.S. Sen. Robert Menendez and Rep. Albio Sires, who presented proclamations to the town.
“As you visit around, I think of a great community steeped in history,” said Menendez. “[Weehawken] found a way to give itself the makings of a great metropolis, while still maintaining that hometown feel and the values of family.”
Proclamations were also sent from U.S. Sen. Frank Lautenberg and Gov. Jon Corzine, as well as from the state Assembly and Senate.
Joining in were the families of Weehawken’s past mayors, who saw great milestones including the opening of the Lincoln Tunnel under Mayor John Meister.
“And you have been stuck with yours truly since 1990,” joked Turner.
Birth of a town
On March 15, 1859, Governor William A. Newell signed an act, which had been earlier passed by the New Jersey Senate and the House of Assembly, to create a new township in the county of Hudson to be called The Township of Weehawken.
“Our diversity has grown, and it has grown for the better.” – Mayor Richard Turner
“Our diversity has grown, and it has grown for the better,” said Turner. “Individuals from over 50 different countries are represented in Weehawken.”
In addition, the town saw many historical events including the 1804 duel between Aaron Burr and Alexander Hamilton.
Turner and the Weehawken Township Council conducted a re-enactment of the first town meeting, which was held on April 13, 1859 at the home of Mr. Charles Perry, hotelkeeper in the Elysian Fields section of the town.
The committee re-enacted certain scenes that took place over subsequent meetings from 1859 to 1864, highlighting important ventures including the first ferry service to Manhattan.
During that era, the town operated on a budget of $450.
“Those were the good old days,” said Township Manager James Marchetti.
Guests were treated to performances by the Weehawken High School Chorus and a look at the new Weehawken History book put together by Lauren Sherman, Ellen Gaulkin, and Willie Demontreux.
Following a slideshow presentation, people involved in the celebration went on stage to sing happy birthday to Weehawken, and shared cake with the audience.
The event was put together by the Weehawken Historical Commission and took about four months to prepare.
The township plans to hold other events and contests in the future to celebrate the historic anniversary.