Sunday, April 4, 2010

Crooked Brook II

[ Crooked Brook starts here. ]

The Crooked Brook. Look, there it is. See it?

That's where we left off last time. A round grate in the pavement hidden around back of St James's Gate. We can do better.

The Crooked Brook looked pretty good in Memorial Park, didn't it? And it's going to look pretty good in this installment too. Just hang on a few minutes. We have to find our way from this grate to where it comes out again.

Here's what you do. From the St James's grate, walk up into the parking lot of the Woman's Club, staying in the lowest part of the paved ground. If you can find this next cover, you'll hear the brook once again.

South Orange Township. The name was changed in November 1922 to Maplewood Township. That's an old cover. The brook went underground sometime between 1912 (the Sanborn map) and 1922. We also know this from the St James's Gate building appearing in photographs dated not long after 1912.

The drawing below is a detail of a bird's eye view of Maplewood published in 1910. It shows where we've been so far and where we are going.

The mouth of the Crooked Brook is at the lower left, just to the right of Baker Street. You can follow it up, under the railway, and across Maplewood Avenue. The drawing has Inwood Place (not named) a little too close to Highland Place, so the brook is squeezed in that block, but you can see it take a big bend to the right just about where the Woman's Club is now, and after that it runs under Durand Road and then to the right side of the image.

If that big bend is accurate, and it may not be, the brook seems to have run originally on the north side of the Woman's Club, where there is today a hollow with trees and grass. But from the South Orange Township cover to the next place we can identify, it would be a straight shot under the club's parking lot past the south side of the building. It would have been easy to relocate the brook if the property was not yet built on.

The property was vacant. The Woman's Club building dates from 1930. I don't know why this large lot near the shops and station was still available at that time. The houses in the area date from the 1920s or earlier. It might just have been an owner who did not want to sell, but I wonder if the ground was soft.

In the view below we are standing near the front of the Woman's Club, looking across the street at the space between 61 and 67 Woodland Road. The brook can be heard flowing under that round cover in the road. More importantly, beyond that wooden fence in the distance, the brook is in the open again.

I admit it: to get the second photo I had to walk a few yards up the private driveway. You can see the brook from the public sidewalk though. It's just hard to get a good picture.

You can't walk along the brook here without going into people's lawns, so go around the block to see it again where it crosses Durand Road. Above, see that tan house in the distance? Below, here it is on the right. This is the Durand Road bridge. Both these views are looking downstream (almost all these views look upstream since that is the direction we are going.)

Before we continue, while we're still looking back downstream, let's take some field notes for future generations. Below, the Crooked Brook is shown in light blue from the portal in Memorial Park (bottom) to the portal in the property opposite the Woman's Club (marked as 60 Woodland Road). The location from Memorial Park to the north side of Maplewood Avenue is based on the Sanborn map (Crooked Brook I). The three dark circles are the covers where we could identify it: the simple one behind St James's Gate, the South Orange Township one in the Woman's Club parking lot, and the one in the street in front of the Woman's Club. Notice that the brook forms a property line between 63 and 67 Woodland Road, and between 28 and 32 Durand Road.

Back to Durand Road. On the north side of the bridge, a pair of narrow streets bracket the brook for one picturesque block, viz Brook Lane and Brookside Road.

At the end of the block, Brookside Road ends at the grounds of the Jefferson School, but it's not a dead end, since traffic can turn into Maryland Road. Brook Lane continues alone on the east side to reach four more houses, and ends in a loop. (The Brook Lane house numbers conform to Brookside Road because the addresses were formerly given as Brookside Road. After many years of trouble with deliveries and emergency services, the east side was given its own name a few years ago.)

I have never seen a map that shows the details here correctly, so see below. The very thin brown line with the loop at the end shows the course of Brook Lane correctly, although if this is right the street is laid on private property. I added the thick brown line to show footpaths that connect the end of Brook Lane to a path from Woodland Road to the end of Virginia Road. The footpaths are on rights of way for streets that were never built. Brookside Road is in two parts.

Here's the Crooked Brook north of Maryland Road, from the Brook Lane side. The footpath crosses over on a wooden bridge that is a smaller cousin to the one we saw in Memorial Park.

The round thing at the footbridge is a sewer, built up to the level of the proposed street. The footpaths and bridge must be here to provide access to the Jefferson School, which you can see in the left background in the last picture above.

Below, we look north from the footbridge.

To see more, we need to walk around the block to Jefferson Avenue. Below, we look downstream at the brook on the south side of Jefferson Avenue.

As we turn to the north side of Jefferson Avenue, we see... no brook! It's gone! But we will not be defeated. We will find it, I promise you. Next time.

My photographs were taken on March 20 and 27, 2010. The bird's eye view is by H S Wylie, for the promotional booklet Picturesque Maplewood, 1910. The present-day property maps are from the Township of Maplewood.

Next time: Crooked Brook III.


  1. A town document, Historic Preservation Plan, dated 2008, says one of these concrete bridge walls has the date 1915 on it. I didn't notice it. And I said the date was between 1912 and 1922.

  2. I posted on the botanical gardens II
    My thought is perhaps you can send the photos to that subway site "" or named something like that.
    They have a great site with every station past and present. However, they have not one photo of the Bronx park spur of the Third avenue El
    Your great photos would round it out nicely. Please consider this
    Glen Heinsohn
    Wappingers Falls NY