The first English settlers showed up in this area at a crossroads identified today as Ridgedale Avenue and Kings Road. The makings of a town were taking shape by 1740 and the residents called it “Bottle Hill.” It could be the only Bottle Hill in America today but in 1834, by the margin of one vote, the town opted to join the scores of other towns named after President James Madison.
In 1856 the first greenhouses were built in Madison and soon long-stemmed roses were shipping to markets around the east. By the end of the 1800s there were more than fifty commercial greenhouses growing millions of roses, more than anywhere in the country. Madison was now known as “Rose City.”
Outside the greenhouses there were plenty of spectacular gardens on posh estates where wealthy New Yorkers were coming to live. Fifteen miles due west of Times Square, Madison was primed to be a commuter town on the expanding railroad lines.
Today the rose growers are all gone but the town retains plenty of its past in a
downtown designated a Commercial Historic District where Madison has been touched by the wealth that surrounded it. Our walking tour will begin where so many visitors first experience Madison - at the train depot...
Delaware, Lackawanna & Western Railroad Station
51 Kings Road
The Morris & Essex Railroad began service in 1836 with horse power on the rails between Newark and Orange. By October 1837 the line had reached west to Madison. F.J. Nies, company architect of the Delaware, Lackawanna & Western Railroad, designed this Gothic station of rock-faced ashlar in 1916.
WALK ACROSS THE STREET.
Hartley Dodge Memorial Building
50 Kings Road
Marcellus Hartley Dodge, Jr.’s mother was Ethel Geraldine Rockefeller, daughter of William Rockefeller, co-founder of Standard Oil with John D. His father was the chairman of the board of the Remington Arms company. After graduating from Princeton in 1930 Dodge began indulging his passion for aviation, a pastime his mother found too dangerous and she sent him to France as a diversion. While there Dodge was instantly killed in an automobile accident when his roadster struck a tree. The grief-stricken parents built memorials to their son on the Princeton and Columbia campuses and spent $800,000 to fund the construction of this Georgian Revival showcase of imported marble and Maine granite. It is used as town offices.
FACING THE HARTLEY-DODGE BUILDING, TURN RIGHT AND WALK OVER TO GREEN STREET.
The Presbyterian Church Of Madison
19 Green Avenue
This is the fourth church building for the congregation that broke off from the Whippany Church in 1747 and was settled in their own Bottle Hill meetinghouse by 1749. That would be the only church in the village for the next 75 years. The present sanctuary dates from 1954; between it and the 1929 Parish House next door hangs a bell from the congregation’s second church, constructed of brick in 1825.
Webb Memorial Chapel
northwest corner of Green Avenue and Wilmer Street
James Augustus Webb got his start in New York City with his father who had invented a practical alternative to candles and whale oil in 1830 called “camphene” but the lighter fluid was known to the world as “Webb’s burner.” The younger Webb built and operated refineries for the manufacture of the burning fluid and after moving to Madison in 1852 became entwined in the business and banking community of New Jersey. Webb in turn brought his son into the family business after graduating from Princeton but the young man died at the age of 27 in 1887. Webb hired prominent New York City architect Josiah Cleveland Cady to design a new Sunday School as a memorial to his son. Cady delivered a Richardsonian Romanesque-style building of Newark brownstone with rounded arches, truncated pillars and a Norman-inspired tower.
TURN RIGHT ON WILMER STREET. TURN RIGHT ON GREEN VILLAGE ROAD.
Saint Vincent Martyr Church
26 Green Village Road
The Catholic church traces its presence in Madison to 1805, one of the oldest parishes in New Jersey. Architects Jeremiah O’Rourke & Sons of Newark adapted the style of Christ Church in Oxford, England to this imposing sanctuary in 1906. John V. Corbett, who was well-know around town as the builder of many important private and public buildings helmed the construction site raising the Indiana limestone church on a foundation of Hoptacong, New Jersey granite. The 124-foot tower is festooned with gargoyles.
James Library/Museum of Early Trades and Crafts
9 Main Street at southwest corner of Green Village Road
English-born Daniel Willis James rose to the head of his grandfather’s Phelps-Dodge Copper Company and in the process became one of America’s wealthiest men. James endowed his adopted hometown of Madison with many gifts, starting with James Park in 1887. The library came along in 1899; characteristically, James did not put his name on the building but instead had inscribed in stone the words “Library” and “Free to All.” Boston architects Brigham & Adden drew up the plans for the Richardsonian Romanesque design and John V. Corbett was again in charge of assembling the rock-faced granite and ashlar. Of note are the gargoyles atop the original entrance tower and the Seth Thomas clock n the tower that still runs off its original weights. The final price tab for the building and lot was $65,000. The building is owned by the Borough of Madison and has been home to the Museum of Early Trades and Crafts since 1970.
CROSS OVER MAIN STREET.
14 Main Street
James A. Webb founded the Madison branch of the Young Men’s Christian Association in his home in 1873. It began a peripatetic existence over the next few decades before landing in this $75,000 Neoclassical home, partially funded by Webb, in 1908. Local architect H. King Conklin drew up the plans and John V. Corbett handled the brickwork. The Y has since relocated to a modern facility on King Road, the same street James A. Webb lived when hosting the first meetings.
TURN RIGHT AND WALK UP MAIN STREET, PAST THE INTERSECTION WITH GREENS VILLAGE ROAD.
southeast corner of Green Village Road at Main Street
To provide operating funds for the new library Daniel Willis James directed architects Brigham & Adden to create a commercial block across the street. They delivered a unique curved 11-bay Flemish-influenced building with griffins and rounded finials trading spaces along the fanciful roofline. While the first floor houses shops and businesses, most prominently W.H. Larison’s long-time drugstore, the upper floors served as a community hall and home for town offices until the Hartley Dodge Memorial Building came online in the 1930s.
55 Main Street
This commercial building was constructed by William J. Brittin, descendent of Colonel William Brittin, one of the trio of brothers who settled in Bottle Hill in 1802. Completed in 1898, the YMCA was an early tenant as was the New Jersey Bell Telephone Company. F.W. Woolworth operated a store here for nearly a half-century.
60-64 Main Street
The Burnets, early settlers to the area, were of hardy stock. After his son Aaron established a fulling mill to make felt around 1740 father Aaron Sr. came to Madison from Southampton, Long Island, around 1747, when he was 92, to join his son. This corner contained the home of Mathias Burnet during the 1800s and he operated the town post office here. In 1897 Mabel Burnet Apgar usurped the corner with this yellow brick commercial block. The horizontal appearance is enhanced by bands of red bricks and an elaborate bracketed wooden cornice.
Van Wagner Building
1 Waverly Place at southwestern corner of Main Street
This Italianate commercial building dates to the 1870s; after a fire in 1879 it was expanded upward and picked up a decorative cornice highlighted by drop pendants. The building stands out on this prominent corner by being finished on all four sides. In 1979 Joseph Falco became a pioneer in historic preservation by dialing the building back to its 1870s appearance, including Victorian-era colors.
TURN RIGHT INTO WAVERLY PLACE.
Old Methodist Church
7 Waverly Place
When this building with its distinctive round-arched top dates to 1844. It has seen more than its share of tweaking, beginning in 1870 when the whole shebang was jacked up and a brick first floor built underneath. When Madison burned in 1877 quick-thinking firefighters ripped off its tin roof and draped it over the south (your left) side of the building to shield it from encroaching flames.
Cook Building/Lathrop Building
15-17 Waverly Place
This was the site of Oriental Hall, a roomy town assembly hall that perished in the Great Fire of 1877. Rebuilding took place almost immediately by George P. Cook at #15 and Judge Francis Lathrop at #17. The attached buildings share a common foundation and fish-scale covered mansard roof. But on the way down the two begin to diverge beginning with the cornice and window treatments.
Madison Trust Company
20 Waverly Place
The Flanagan Building occupied this site until a fire in April 1914. With the flames threatening the whole business district. The Morristown Fire Department sent assistance and eight powerful steamers were in use and it was reported that “the firemen were hampered by intruding citizens, who had to be sprayed with water.” The Madison Trust Company moved down from the corner of Main Street to this Neoclassical vault in 1931. The entrance is set between a pair of Ionic pillars through bronze doors.
TURN LEFT INTO LINCOLN PLACE.
U.S. Post Office
10 Lincoln Place
This small stone building is a souvenir of the United States government’s small-town building spree during the Great Depression. Their desire was to bring significant works of architecture to towns that lacked such important buildings, although that was certainly not the case in Madison. Alan Mills, chief architect of the U.S. Treasury Department, is credited with the Colonial Revival design.
14 Lincoln Place
J.J. Lyons owned theaters in Morristown and Westfield in 1925 when he targeted Madison as one of the new commuter towns that was ready to boom. He secured a site hard by the train station and set out to bring a big city feel to Madison movie-goers. His 946-seat movie palace featured lounges in the restrooms and an opulent interior designed by Hyman Rosensohn. Unlike many of its small-town brethren the Madison has trundled on through the years and Clearview Theaters still operates a four-screen movie house here.
RETRACE YOUR STEPS TO WAVERLY PLACE AND TURN LEFT. WALK UNDER THE RAILROAD OVERPASS AND TURN LEFT ON KINGS ROAD TO RETURN TO THE TOUR STARTING POINT.