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Docents explore New Jersey history


Sure, most of us know that George Washington slept here, but how many of us know that the most famous duel between two of our nation’s founding fathers took place in Weehawken, New Jersey?

And did you know that despite being located in one of New Jersey’s most densely-populated counties, Montclair was one of the state’s 19th-century models for what we now know as “suburbia?”

In January 2004, Thomas Repasch, Ron Goldberger, Susan Nowicki, and Jane McNeill — volunteers of the Docent Program at The New Jersey Historical Society — will present Lunchtime Programs exploring topics of special New Jersey interest.

The Docent Program, created by the Historical Society last year, provides adult volunteers with training in New Jersey history, public speaking, and interactive teaching techniques, according to Janet Rassweiler, Director for Programs and Collections.

“Our docents bring their own wisdom and experience to the Historical Society,” said Rassweiler, who also acts as volunteer coordinator. “Passion for a subject can make all the difference, and our docents are quite passionate about New Jersey history. Because no two docents are alike, the sky is the limit on what we can offer!”

Goldberger, a retired marketing executive from Springfield, has helped extend the organization’s community outreach efforts with off-site presentations to various rotary clubs and senior centers throughout Northern and Central New Jersey.

“Staff size and time constraints often limit the number of off-site presentations the regular staff can make,” said Claudia Ocello, Curator of Education. “Ron’s presentations help us to make personal connections with communities that we might not otherwise be able to reach.”

Another docent, Thomas Repasch of Westfield, said he volunteers at the Historical Society to help preserve the rich legacy of Newark’s architectural and industrial heritage. Currently serving as Deputy Counselor at the U.S. Mission to the United Nations in New York, Repasch spent last summer researching “Made in Newark,” a fall bus tour offered by NJHS that traveled to various industrial companies in Newark.

“Tom’s enthusiasm for the bus tour was amazing,” said Ocello. “He worked on the entire project, from start to finish. Volunteers are so vital to non-profits because they allow us to broaden and enhance the programs that are offered to our diverse audiences.”

Susan Nowicki, a current Ph. D. candidate in art history at the City University of New York from Montclair, is the latest addition to the Docent Program. In January, she will get the chance to present information from her dissertation: “Montclair, NJ: The Development of a Suburban Town and Its Architecture.”

Jane McNeill, who conducts Saturday walking tours of historic downtown Newark, will discuss the history of Newark’s Branch Brook Park, a park which was designed by Frederick Law Olmsted, the same architect who designed New York’s Central Park.

To learn more about industrial Newark, Branch Brook Park, suburbia, and the nation’s most famous duel, and more New Jersey history, make a lunch date every Wednesday at The New Jersey Historical Society. Guests are welcome to bring their lunch. Light refreshments are served.

In January, please join NJHS for the following lunchtime programs:

“Industrial Newark”
Wednesday, January 7, 2004
12:15 p.m. to 1 p.m.
Guest Presenter: Thomas Repasch
Featuring highlights from the bus tour “Made in Newark,” which explored companies such as Tiffany and Company, Benjamin Moore Paints, and Ballantine & Son, that made Newark one of the Northeast’s major industrial centers.

“Two Men Fated to Duel”
Wednesday, January 14, 2004
12:15 p.m. to 1 p.m.
Guest Presenter: Ron Goldberger
In honor of the 200th anniversary of the infamous duel between Aaron Burr and Alexander Hamilton, Ron Goldberger will discuss each man and events leading up to the duel that took place in New Jersey.

“To Sprawl or Not: 19th Century Suburban Towns of New Jersey”
Wednesday, January 21, 2004
12:15 p.m. to 1 p.m.
Guest Presenter: Susan Nowicki
Essex County may now be one of the most densely populated counties in the state, but certain Essex County towns were used as models for progressive suburban design. Susan Nowicki, a Ph.D. candidate at CUNY, will present an overview.

“Branch Brook Park: It’s More Than Just Cherry Blossoms”
Wednesday, January 14, 2004
12:15 p.m. to 1 p.m.
Guest Presenter: Jane McNeill
This staple of Newark’s landscape was designed to be innovative and functional. Jane McNeill will present an overview and history of this popular park.

All programs take place at 52 Park Place in Newark and are free and open to the public. For more information, please call Lily Hodge, Adult and Special Needs Programs Coordinator, at (973) 596-8500, ext. 234.

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(973) 596-8500 - Fax: (973) 596-6957
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