The museum, which opened on July 12, features hundreds of exhibits. The public can visit on Thursdays from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m. and Saturdays from 12 to 2 p.m.
Former Mayor Paul Amico’s working desk greets visitors upon entering, along with his actual phone and high school diploma. Amico was mayor from 1963 through 1990 and died last year at the age of 103.
A sidewalk piece from Klapper’s Diner, which operated in the late 1800s on Plank and Farm Road, lies nearby.
Directly above that, there’s an election poster from perennial presidential candidate and Secaucus pig farmer Henry Krajewski. He had a series of failed runs in the mid-20th Century.
Many of the artifacts hark back to the days when Secaucus was home to dozens of pig farms, through they were phased out in the 1950s , when construction of the Turnpike changed the nature of the area to more residential, and made it possible to bring livestock and food longer distances.
Visitor Kyle Guarcello, 30, was only old enough to remember about half of the items on display. He gravitated towards the Sept. 11, 2001 editions of the Jersey Journal and New York Daily News, preserved in a 9/11 tribute section.
“I remember those newspapers,” the lifelong Secaucus resident said. “Can’t believe they saved them.” An avid sportsman, Guarcello was surprised to see vintage photographs of Kane Stadium—a multi-purpose sports facility located on Dorigo Lane--as well. “I never knew the bleachers existed as long as they did.”
Third Ward Councilwoman Orietta Tringali dropped by that same day. “It’s great to see history,” said Tringali, who works as a teacher at Huber Street School. She enjoyed the pictures of local schoolkids from years past.
“We got tons of donations from people who have lived here their whole lives.” – Anna Schwarz
The original Secaucus Museum opened around 30 years ago, according to former Councilman John Bueckner, one of the six museum directors. Former Councilman Roger Gilbert opened it with Town Historian Dan McDonough on Centre Avenue, and it later moved to Front Street.
When the town purchased the museum’s third location on Paterson Plank Road for conversion into the current Office of Emergency Management building during the late 2000s, the museum went on hiatus for a while.
“Everything was packed away in storage,” Bueckner said. Unfortunately, the items sustained damage from rainstorms and minor thefts.
Bueckner, who stepped down from his council position in 2013, approached officials during his tenure, asking them for a permanent space for the items. Mayor Michael Gonnelli eventually secured the current museum building.
“We had to clean all the stuff up and get it positioned,” Bueckner said. “You don’t just come along, take a picture, and put it on a wall. There has to be some organization.”
Bueckner helped separate exhibits by subject matter.
One of the items on display is a 2001 Secaucus Reporter article covering Bueckner beating challenger Joseph Kane for his seat.
“We got tons of donations from people who have lived here their whole lives,” said Anna Schwarz, the museum’s artistic director. She was also in charge of marketing. “Lots of stuff from attics,” she said.
The Secaucus Library donated a staircase, which is on display in the museum's center.
Residents who’ve been visiting have even recognized their own kin in some of the images.
“People have actually come in and said, ‘Oh, my grandfather is in this picture,’” Schwarz said. She moved to Secaucus from Bergen County 27 years ago with husband Tommy, another director who performs day to day work at the museum, such as scheduling.
“I never thought we would put it together in the fashion we did,” Tommy said. He was looking to get younger people engaged with the history, too. “We’re going to make past history and new history; we’re going to bring in young kids.”
Director Scott Schaffer performed installation and engineering work. Getting involved allowed the former Brooklyn resident, who moved to Secaucus nine years ago, to learn more about the town.
“It’s nice, not just for the older people, but the younger to know more about their history,” he said.
His partner, Director Charlene Hallam, said he got her involved in the project because he was so passionate about it. She does IT and photography work for the space.
Hallam moved to Secaucus from Jersey City in the ninth grade. She attended the now defunct Lincoln Jr. High School the museum displayed memorabilia from.
“It’s just a lot of memories, growing up for me,” she said. “How the landscape’s changed. It’s amazing.”
People can donate to the museum by coming in during open hours.
Hannington Dia can be reached at email@example.com