Church of New England

I grew up in New Jersey, which I think of as “New England without the universities”. There are many places in New Jersey with beauty equal to, say, New Hampshire’s. But New Jersey never had the same ethos of preservation, the same not-quite-a-mythology that explains why Norman Rockwell and his sentiments fit New England like a shoe while to the rest of the country they remain a maudlin approximation of bygone times elsewhere.

I transferred my state citizenship from New Jersey to North Carolina in early 1974, when I left our small rented house on Route 94 in Yellow Frame, out in Sussex County, the beautiful northernmost county of the state. Back then Sussex County had more cows than people, and featured fall colors and pastoral scenes worthy of calendars and post cards. Best of all it shared the with Pennsylvania. The shores of the river were settled first by the Indians and later by the , descendents of which continued to farm the islands and lowlands alongside the river, right up to the point in the 1970s when the United States government, with help from both states, condemned the land, including perfectly good towns such as Dingman’s Ferry, and let it all fall to ruin while fighting and failing to build the unnecessary. It was, and remains, a disgrace.

Can you imagine the feds, or Vermont and New Hampshire, doing the same to the ? Of course not. We’re talking about New England here.

The difference was brought home to me this past weekend when we picked up The Kid from camp in Vermont and took our time heading back to Boston. We visited Middlebury, Waterbury (including the Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream headquarters), the Rock of Ages Quarry near Barre, and various towns along the Connecticut River before having some okay Thai food in Keene. New England is truly a beautiful region, even with almost no available hotel rooms.

Much of that was recorded photographically. Here’s the set. Here’s the slide show.

Nice to know New England is there. Less nice to know that much of the same beauty has long since been paved or otherwise profaned in other states. (Of course, I also realize that much has been lost in New England as well. Just less of it than elsewhere.)

The shot above is of the Congregational Church in Middlebury, Vermont. I shot a series of photos of the church, most with white and grey clouds boiling up in the sky beyond. I wasn’t sure which was best (which is why I kept them all), but I am sure that several are better than the one the church uses for its own website.

I also did some experimental shooting with this brick building in downtown Middlebury, which is about as nice a little college town as you’re gonna find anywhere. The best of those shots, by the way, were taken not with my Canon 30D SLR, but with a little Canon Powershot SD850is. Partly that’s because the little camera likes to yield more vibrant colors than the big one; and partly it’s because the big one wasn’t fixed right and read the light wrong.

Anyway, I’m back out in California, where I am now a citizen, even though most of the next year will be spent back at the Berkman Center in Cambridge.

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5 Responses to Church of New England

  1. Our family had a summer home in Shohola, PA, and we used to drive through Sussex County to get to Milford, PA. I remember Teaneck, Fair Lawn, Franklin Lakes, Pompton Lakes, Butler, Stockholm, Beaver Lake, Franklin, Lafayette, Branchville, Culvers Lake, Hainesville, and we’d cross over to Milford at Montague. We called the section of 206 “The Whees” because if you took each of the little hills at speed, you could say “Wheee!” at the top of each one.

    My parents used to drop me and my road bike off on a Saturday morning, farther and farther back, and I’d bicycle the remainder of the way. I think the farthest they ever dropped me off was Culvers Lake. It was only 25 miles. That seemed like a lot when I was in high school. Now I’ll ride that far after dinner.

  2. Oh, and I remember the Tock’s Island Damn Project. There was much grumpiness about it.

  3. Doc Searls says:

    My father had a Delaware River fishing buddy, name of Rosenkranz. The guy’s family owned a big farm on the Delaware that had been in the family since 1600-something. They were not happy about being evicted from the property. Especially when the dam was never built after all.

  4. Doc Searls says:

    Russ, 206 was a great road, at least up in Sussex County. And most of the towns you mention are part of my early life. My sister and daughter were born in Teaneck, I lived between there and Fair Lawn, and I drove ice cream trucks in the summer through many of the other towns you mention. Hit a deer once on Route 23 in Stockholm, driving from Hackensack to Franklin to my job as a morning news guy at WSUS. Worked for newspapers reporting on everything from Wayne and Pompton Lakes to Greenwood Lake.

    Bringing back memories, dude.

  5. Later, we switched to taking 46 and after that, I80 to Dover, and then NJ15 north past Picatinny Arsenal. I remember seeing the horrific washouts along the NYS&W railroad, which put them out of business after the ’71 hurricane. Somewhere underneath that railroad was an old stone arch tunnel through which ran an abandoned road — probably because it was too small to take modern-day vehicles.

    Teaneck in the late 1890’s was Tea Neck:
    The Picatinny Arsenal was the “U.S. Navy Powder Depot” — and the modern topo map still shows the igloos.

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