Residents Enjoy Another Festive Open House at Township’s Historical Museum

The mood was as friendly as the day: sunny, bright and cheerful, with a healthy measure of awe.

It was a true blue-sky day Sunday as the Jefferson Township Historical Society swung open the doors of the former George Chamberlain residence, now the township’s museum. But an ‘open house’ of the authentically restored 19th Century Victorian home was not the only attraction on a late summer afternoon, September 8.

Other highlights of the open house event included dedication of a new arbor in the museum gardens, as well as release of a multitude of colorful Monarch butterflies in the garden.

Dozens of residents mingled about, discussing events of the summer, browsing Miss Elizabeth’s Shoppe, sampling homemade treats and touring the museum itself.

Inside the Museum

Several society members served as guides – docents in Victorian dress – ushering visitors from room to room in the three-storied house, pointing out historical artifacts.

Parents and grandparents alike had youngsters in tow, explaining the reality of life over 100 years ago.

The Jefferson Chronicle heard one youngster exclaim in amazement to an amused grandparent: “But there are no closets in these bedrooms!”

One youngster wondered about the purpose of an iron perched on an old ironing board, while another recognized an early pedal-operated sewing machine. “Yes it’s a sewing machine,” her grandparent replied, promising, “I’ll teach you how to use mine when you are a little older.”

Indeed, the tour may have inspired some younger generations to further pursue their own histories, or, at the least, instilled an impression of living history.

Outside in the Garden

The meandering guests eventually gathered in the garden area as the new arbor was ‘christened’ with watering cans by Roberta Shaw, Gardener 1 of the museum’s garden club, and historical club president, Christine Williams.

The new arbor, noted Carol Keppel, the museum’s director, is dedicated to the garden club. She applauded the club’s work in keeping the garden authentic to the Victorian era, reflecting the authenticity of the museum itself.

Shaw thanked members of the club for their gardening passion and the historical society for providing room for the garden. She remarked that maintaining the garden is a year-round endeavor, with proceeds from the club’s flower sales going back into garden maintenance.

Township mayor Eric Wisusen, on hand for the ceremony, thanked all for preserving the integrity of the museum and its grounds. “I’m a lifelong resident of Jefferson,” he told the crowd, noting he remembers what the site looked like before it was refurbished by the society. And with a nod to his mom, the mayor congratulated the garden club and the dedicated work of its members, noting that his mother is a ‘master gardener’ as are club members.

Adios, Monarchs!

 Much to the delight of kids in attendance, (And truth be told, most of the grownups as well!), the afternoon was capped off with the release of Monarch butterflies nurtured and raised by former Jefferson school teacher, Eileen Grady.

Grady told The Chronicle that when teaching, she always started the school year off for her class with release of butterflies, no doubt putting students in an upbeat frame of mind.

As Grady removed each butterfly from its netted habitat, she placed it in a willing – sometimes anxious – hand. “Don’t worry,” she lulled to the more timid hand, “butterflies don’t bite! They won’t hurt you.”

Some butterflies flew off immediately, while others lingered on the hands or clothes of their temporary handlers, much to everyone’s delight.

Eventually, all the butterflies did what butterflies do, and headed south for the annual flight to Mexico; but not before lingering around the garden for a while enjoying the blue sky of a late summer day, much like the rest of us.

Editor’s Note: The Jefferson Township Historical Society and its Garden Club welcome residents to join the society as members. Connect with them at a meeting or program, enjoy the camaraderie and learn more about how the society supports the history of Jefferson Township. For further information, refer to the Jefferson Township’s Historical Society website at, or call Christine Williams, Jefferson Township Historical Society President at 973-697-0258. The museum is located at 315 Dover-Milton Road in Oak Ridge.

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Maria Weiskott is a Jefferson Township resident and a forty year veteran of the publishing profession. An award-winning journalist and editor, she served in top managerial positions at numerous business-to- business newspapers and magazines including Reed Elsevier and Fairchild Publications. Early in her career she operated a local newspaper in the Passaic Valley towns of Little Falls, Totowa and the former West Paterson. Following retirement, she launched a “ghostblogging” service that provides social networking update and blogging services for small and medium sized businesses. Maria travels widely with her husband and is a passionate photographer. She can be reached at