If you’ve ever strolled through Allaire Village during the warmer months you’ll have enjoyed strolling through a bustling living history museum surrounded by the green of Allaire State Park. Visitors often come to our Village to “escape” the hectic Jersey Shore summer traffic and to enjoy the peace and quiet. While I am biased, it really is a beautiful park.
It’s easy to assume (I certainly did) that during the 1830’s the Village was just as idyllic and green as it is today.
Unfortunately, that was not true.
While much of the surrounding area was farmland, the Howell Iron Works was a bustling industrial village, operating in the dawn of the Industrial Revolution. When James P. Allaire bought this large parcel of land he designed it as a iron-production source to his primary steamship making company in NYC. He parceled off the forestry in what is now Allaire State Park and designated which trees would be cut down and when. (Timber was one of the primary ingredients in the production of iron ore.)
While much of the land surrounding the Village was forest, the Village itself would have been bare of trees and grass due to the heavy traffic of carts, horses, and wagons. While today the Village is very green, in the 1830’s it would be fair to say it was dirty and dusty!
In addition, the Village would have been covered in soot from the furnaces. While today there is only one furnace standing, in 1836 there would have been four. For the most part, these furnaces would have been operating 365 days a year, spewing black smoke into the Village. Mr. Allaire’s wife, Frances passed away in 1836 due to tuberculosis. No doubt the Allaire home being in close proximity to the furnaces did not help her case.
Fun fact (though not-so fun for us)- A few years ago we were trying to plant some more gardens at Allaire and the plants kept dying. After a soil study we discovered there’s still a thick layer of soot under the topsoil from the furnace smoke…170+ years later and it’s still having an effect on the environment!
Eventually, after the furnaces shut down, nature reclaimed the Works, earning it the name “The Deserted Village”. The large sycamore trees that currently line the pathways were planted by Mr. Allaire’s son, Hal in the mid 1800’s! Today, Allaire Village is a beautiful spot to explore history and nature alike!
For more information on James Allaire and his Village, check out our website www.allairevillage.org or visit us sometime!