Memory Park

The Gray Swamp
The reedy bog meadow, extending northeast from Kirby Hollow on lower Trinity Street to Warbasse Junction near Lafayette, was formed behind a recessional moraine of the Wisconsin glacier. When retreating the ice front halted for a time just south of Lafayette, a shallow lake filled this basin. Meltwaters deposited gravels, clay and sand over the lake bed. The early settlers and hunters called this muckland the Gray Swamp, "from the peculiar color of the thich growth of white birch."

A black clay containing much organic matter was dug from the southwest margin of the Paulinskill meadows in Newton and burned for common brick or pottery. On June 10, 1866, Allen Ridgeway completed firing the first kiln of bricks at his new yard in Newton. He was succeeded by O. B. Wintermute, of Frankford Township, in April 1881. In August 1883, Mr. Wintermute sold his brickyard and appliances to Abram Losee and his son, Franklin, who continued operations here until about 1915.

Early Recreational Uses
The clay flats at the margins of the bog meadows have long had recreational value. In December 1871, a flume was placed in Moore’s Brook below Ridgeway’s Brickyard, which backed up the water in the creek and overflowed more than an acre of meadow, forming a beautiful skating rink, convenient to the town. The water was no more than one to two feet deep (except in the channel of the brook). This makeshift rink at the brickyard was seasonally used for many years.

The semicircular roadway around the Babe Ruth Ballfield is a remnant of a racetrack that first opened about 1879. Newton horsemen built a new racetrack, named Woodlawn Park, which opened August 29, 1895. Because of the level surface and available improvements, notably a grandstand, Newton baseball was also played at Woodlawn Park.

Memory Park
In November 1925, Martha Knight, of the Newton Public School, noted the lack of recreational facilities for the children of Newton and urged the establishment of a public park and playground. A commission was appointed to explore the possibilities. In March 1927, the location of the baseball diamond at the foot of Moran Street was judged to be ideal for the development of a public park and recreation ground.

Newman E. Drake, founder of the Drake Baking Company, was the benefactor of Newton’s recreational grounds. He was born in Andover on December 16, 1860, a son of John B. and Elizabeth (Stackhouse) Drake. At twenty-one years of age, he journeyed to New York City and learned the baking business. Purchasing a recipe in England, he became famous for manufacturing “Drake’s Cakes.” In 1881, he married Elizabeth Herben, of London, England, the daughter of a Belgian named Adolph Herben. After many years residence in Brooklyn, Newman Drake purchased the Dr. Milton Armstrong house at 27 Linwood Avenue, built in 1889. In July 1917, he made considerable improvements to his recently purchased home, remaking the house in Colonial Revival style. The work was done by carpenter Thomas Farrell.

Newman E. Drake acquired 10.84 acres along Moore’s Brook from William T. Hixson on September 5, 1928. On November 5, 1928, Newman and Elizabeth Drake donated this tract for use as “a playground and general recreation field under direction of the Town of Newton.”

On January 29, 1929, the newly created Newton Recreation Commission took custody of the park from Newman Drake. On Memorial Day 1929, Newton Boy Scouts planted seventy elm trees at the Newton Recreation Field. The trees were set twenty feet from the boundary on the north, west and south sides of the playground and a single row was set from the Big Brook to the roadway to partition off the portion of the field that was soon to be outfitted as a playground. Newman Drake, president of the Board of Recreation Commissioners and donor of the field, supervised the work, along with Sidney S. Samuelson, secretary, and Daniel Fisher, Commissioner. By this date, the grandstand, bleachers and fence had been refurbished, two concrete dugouts constructed, and the baseball diamond repaired. A contract was also let for the base of a 100-foot flagpole. Newman Drake died at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City on March 17, 1930. His wife, Elizabeth Drake, died October 29, 1940. In July 1931, Henry I. Boresch was appointed supervisor of children’s activities at Memory Park for the summer season.

In October 1932, Mrs. Laura Morris, regent of the Chinkchewanska Chapter D. A. R., and Chairman of the Washington Bicentennial Committee, visited Memory Park with Dan Fisher and selected sites for twenty-six elm trees to commemorate the twenty-six young men from Sussex County who lost their lives in the First World War. She proposed to bring in a large boulder whereon a bronze tablet listing their names would be mounted. In November 1932, Mrs. Morris had the boulder ready and requested the names of any local servicemen who were killed in action or who died in service prior to July 1, 1921. She reported that two more names had been added to the original list. A ceremony dedicating the trees and monument at Memory Park was held on Armistice Day, November 11, 1934.

On December 16, 1933, Santa Claus arrived by plane at 3 p. m. over Memory Park. He stepped onto the wing and waved to the crowd below, then parachuted down gracefully, landing within a few feet of an auto supplied by Dow’s Service garage. He mounted a platform and distributed 100 tickets to the Newton Theatre.

The playground at Memory Park was opened in June 1934 under supervision of Henry Boresch. On January 23, 1936, the Town Committee and Recreation Commission held a joint meeting to discuss purchase of a tract of approximately 12 acres owned by William Hixson, lying adjacent to Memory Park on the east and west. This land was considered for the use of a football field, instead of using a portion of the baseball field for that purpose. By December 1936, Day E. Hixson completed construction of a skating rink in the new section of the park.

The Town Garage and storage building was built in December 1937 by the Works Project Administration, sponsored by the Town of Newton. In July 1940, a bandstand was built near the grandstand in Memory Park. On Sunday, October 6, 1940, Babe Ruth appeared at an exhibition game of baseball at Memory Park in support of the Newton Elks’ Crippled Children’s Fund. In October 1944, Linus Kays, street foreman, brought clay from Andover Township to refit the ballfield.

The Newton Municipal Pool, built at a cost of $66,833 (including the initial donation of $40,000 from Mr. and Mrs. Harry L. Jones, of Middleville), opened for its first full summer season on June 25, 1960. It was dedicated August 14, 1960.

Henry Boresch, physical education teacher and wrestling coach at Newton High School, died January 26, 1992, aged 89 years.

Copyright 2000 Kevin W. Wright. All rights reserved.