By Bill Swayze, mctb contributor
#1 Finding Gargoyles
It’s rare to find gargoyles in Morris County, but they’re up there, clinging to an old church rectory in Morristown and decorating the stone exterior of a museum in Madison. Gargoyles, griffins, monks and maybe a dragon or two, to be exact, waiting to be seen. Since it is the season of all things spooky, here’s an idea. Make a day of it, bring a date or your little critters, or both, plus your smart phone.
And look up. Starting in the old 1916 wing of the Morristown and Morris Township Library on South Street. Ten gargoyles built into the arches are joined by 14 monks competing for attention in the Gothic Revival structure. Well, they are not, technically, gargoyles. They are, strictly speaking, called “grotesques.” Gargoyles serve an actual purpose, preserving the structural stonework by rerouting rainwater away from the masonry walls of a church or building, protecting the mortar.
Yes. They are scary gutters. Anyway, back to the misusing the word and calling them “gargoyles.” Which you will find more just around the corner and down Maple Avenue, on the exterior of the rectory of the Assumption Church. They are difficult to miss. Ask Father Dennis Crowley. He lives there. The rectory was built in 1890. There are four concrete gargoyles and two terra cotta dragons up there. “They are loving, benign spirits that look ferocious to scare away evil,” he said. “I think they have done a good job.”
Then, about eight minutes away by car, in Madison, you can get an even better view of them at the Museum of Early Trades and Crafts, formerly the Madison Public Library, on Green Village Road. You’ll find eight gargoyles around the clock tower and a larger gargoyle above the museum entrance, which is more clearly carved with visible features and wings, according to museum director, Deborah Farrar Starker.
Also, there’s a griffin in the museum garden. It is an original late 19th century terra cotta form that once adorned the James Building, located across Green Village Road. That building opened to the public in 1899, one year before the library that’s now the home of the museum.
Interesting story. Many years ago, one of griffins was hit by lightning and damaged. They were all removed and replaced with stone replicas. However, one original was kept and donated to the museum, when our conservatory was built in 1997.
A griffin is a mythical creature with the body, tail of a lion; the head and wings of an eagle; and an eagle’s talons as its front feet. Because the lion was traditionally considered the king of the beasts and the eagle the king of birds, the griffin was thought to be an especially powerful and majestic creature. Griffins are known for guarding treasure and priceless possessions–perhaps one reason they adorn some famous and historic buildings, Farrar Starker said.
The building, which is listed on the state and national registers of historic places, is very interesting inside as well. I’m sure the expert gargoyle hunter has the whereabouts of a couple other creatures carved in stone. There’s a church in Madison and a college back on Route 124 that might be worthy of your attention. If you find them, let me know.
#2 Cider Mills & Applejack
Every year, the historic Ralston Cider Mill Museum in Mendham Township circles a day on the calendar to let the public watch the components squeeze out apple cider. That day is Oct. 14. What makes the mill unique is it operates with the original equipment.
The three-story rubble stone mill was built in 1848 as a grist mill, then converted around 1910 to produce apple juice that flowed to large vats for fermentation. The result was hard cider that was either aged and shipped in barrels, or distilled to make Applejack. The drink put Mendham Township and the mill on the map.
The mill was closed in 1938, and later acquired by a non-profit trust to restore and preserve it as a working museum.
It’s quite a sight to see all the belts, pulleys and shafts powered by water and driving the chopper, conveyors and presses crank out cider. Last year, more than 150 visitors watched the mill press more than 100 bushels of apples, each weighing 40 pounds, to produce 300 gallons of cider by the end of the day.
The Oct. 14 event runs 1-4 p.m. There is a suggested donation of $7 per gallon of cider. Visitors are asked to bring their own containers. Admission is $10. Children 7 and younger get in for free.
The mill also is open on Saturdays and Sundays in October, 1-5 p.m. For more information please visit http://www.RalstonCiderMill.org.
#3 Pub Crawl on Friday the 13th
Friday the 13th is a perfect night to drink craft beer and avoid odd men in hockey masks in Morristown, where the fourth annual Hopped Up Highlands Pub Crawl will be held, yes, on Oct. 13. The five-hour event that also includes a scavenger hunt starts at 6 p.m. at Revolution, 9 South Street. It includes stops at the Stirling Tavern, George and Martha’s American Grille and, lastly, at 11 p.m., at the End of Elm at 140 Morris Street. The pub crawl draws between 80 to 150 people.
Tickets will cost $20 per person before Friday the 13th, and $25 the day of the event, which the organizers say will draw attention to the goal of saving and protecting drinking water. Participants will have an opportunity to sign a clean water banner.
“Craft beer fans understand that we can’t make great beer without having great water. This is a celebration of fabulous beer in the Highlands,’’ said Julia Somers, executive director of the New Jersey Highlands Coalition.
The coalition represents a network of local, regional, statewide and national organizations. Their mission is to protect the New Jersey Highlands and to preserve the drinking water both for the 850,000 people in the Highlands and more than four million people in surrounding areas who depend on Highlands water.
For more information, go to the coalition’s Facebook page, https://www.facebook.com/NJHighlandsCoalition/ and click on Events.
#4 – DJ’s & Books
Phonograph DJ MAC will be back in Morristown, in the local library come Oct. 22, with his two 1905 phonographs and a collection of sounds 100 years old to help the library celebrate its centennial this year.
Michael Cumella, the host of WFMU Radio’s Antique Phonograph Music Program for more than two decades, will start his show, 100 Years Ago in Music: Phonograph DJ MAC, at 2 p.m., playing 78’s of the time period on his two 1905 disc phonographs.
An expert on the music and culture of the 1910s-1920s, Cumella will also tell historical stories of the time period and its early jazz music.
DJ MAC was a popular part of the Library’s 100th Anniversary “Speakeasy” last fall. This new program is being sponsored by the Friends of the Library.
#5 Pumpkin Illumination
This event is a must, Pumpkin Illumination, along the reflecting pond in front of the historic Vail Mansion in Morristown on Oct. 29.
This is the eighth year families and folks with their carved pumpkins will descend on the South Street site at 5 p.m., this year to the sounds of The Lintet, a New York-based live jazz ensemble. Artist Dan Fenelon is back for an art workshop to put some final touches on masks he helped students create in the schools. There’ll be a parade around the pond with Morristown Mayor Tim Dougherty before the pumpkins are illuminated. The event is free and organized by Morris Arts, which sponsors a wide range of programs across the Morris County.