Honestly, I didn't think there would be much in the Secaucus Town Museum. After all, relatively speaking, Secaucus is a small town. Plus, it is not like Secaucus is ever known for anything in history books. The only history of Secaucus I knew was that it was known for pig farming a long time ago. But after just 20 minutes of glancing through the numerous exhibits and talking with three of the museum's curators, Tommy, Anna, and Scott, I quickly learned that Secaucus has an interesting history all of its own.
Photograph of Paterson Plank Road from yesteryear. Not only were there dedicated butcher shops and fish markets back then, but just look at the style of the cars. But wait! Look at the store on the far right. It's Marra Drugs, which still stands there today.
The museum first opened on July 12, 2018. Although the space is not huge, the museum is a treasure trove of glimpses into Secaucus' history. There are photographs of the town dating as far back as the late 1800's.as well as old newspaper articles. A history of the town's past mayors is nicely showcased along with old town records and documents. (One of the more noteworthy documents is an old property tax bill dated December 18, 1909 for an amount of just $13.55. I knew I was overpaying!) There are also nice displays dedicated to the Secaucus Police Department and Secaucus Fire Department.
Huber Street School from 1908, although it looks more like the schoolhouse from Walnut Grove
Personally, one of the exhibits that caught my eye were old pictures of the schools in town. I have been inside both Huber Street School and Clarendon School multiple times, and I am familiar with their layouts. It is hard to imagine that they once looked like what I saw in these old photographs. Instead of the decent facilities as I know them today, these photos remind me of the schoolhouse in the show Little House on the Prairie
. (Those of you who watch old reruns like I do will know what I am talking about.)
Another interesting thing I saw were Secaucus-branded products. That's right. Evidently, at one point in time, there were products branded with Secaucus. In toy stores, you may have seen a Star Wars version of Monopoly. Well, it seems like there is a Secaucus version of the popular game as well. I can't tell for sure, but it seems to be factory made. So I can only assume it was actually manufactured and sold at some point. Similarly, hanging on the wall is a tapestry with pictures of town highlights sewn in, such as Buchmuller Park and the old Secaucus LIbrary. And according to Scott, these tapestries were manufactured as well. I did not expect that. I have only seen branded products like these for tourists attractions like New York City.
Old-fashioned cash register, scale, and other antique equipment
Not only does the museum contain memorabilia from Secaucus' past, it also contains many interesting antiques younger generations have simply never seen before. For example, before iPod and phone cameras, there were phonographs and cameras the size of a mailbox, both of which the museum has on display. From early 20th century toys to a kerosene lamp, there are items that most people probably haven't seen in person before.
Unlike many other museums, the staff here has taken steps to make the museum kid-friendly. For example, there is a classic Atari video game system that is functional, and kids can actually play on it. In addition, there are old-style typewriters that kids can try typing on (the kind of typewriter that doesn't use any electricity and you have to press really hard on). The museum also welcomes field trips from schools and organizations like the boys and girls scouts.
Atari game system and old-fashioned typewriter that kids can play with
Given that the museum is relatively new, it is still growing as more and more exhibits are added. Interestingly, many of the exhibits in the museum are contributed by Secaucus residents. In fact, there is a growing list of contributors posted in the museum itself. So if you happen to come across any historical items about Secaucus or any unusual relics, the museum is always looking to expand its collection. You can simply drop them off at the museum whenever they are open.
If you have never been to the Secaucus Town Museum, it is definitely worth a visit. For me, it opened up my eyes to what a rich heritage this town has. I have enjoyed being a Secaucus resident for numerous years now. However, it wasn't until my visit to the Secaucus Museum that I now feel like I am part of something special. So I suggest any Secaucus resident to pay a visit yourself and find if anything clicks with you like it did with me.
The museum is currently open on Wednesdays from 11 AM to 1 PM and on Saturdays from 11 AM to 3 PM. Admission is always free. Private hours are available for schools and organizations. Just call for an appointment at 551-257-7205. For more information, you can visit the museum's website at http://secaucusmuseum.org/