Uplands – Metuchen, New Jersey
Papers glowingly reported in July 1897 how Mr. and Mrs. Holden Spear “gave a lawn party for the entertainment of their numerous friends. More than 150 guests were present from Metuchen, this city, and other places, and they were charmed with the splendid hospitality extended to them.”, Tragedy befell them shorty thereafter in October 1899 when Uplands burned to the ground. The fire started in one of the upper rooms of the house and was caused by a defective flue. Papers describe how it proceeded room by room even to the state dining room, built at the house two years prior. The loss amounted to about $25,000. Despite this setback they rebuilt.
Mr. and Mrs. E.H. Spear issued cards for a dance at “Uplands,” Saturday, July 4, 1903. A similar party was held in honor of the eighteenth birthday of their son, Holden Spear in September 1904: “The spacious grand hall of their beautiful residence was thronged with guests who danced until the early hours of the morning.” A dance was held in May 1909 in which the paper reported: “The dance at Uplands on Saturday evening, with Mrs. E.H. Spear as hostess, was a brilliant affair, and was largely attended by the elite of the borough and many out of town guests.”
“Uplands Farm” made the papers again in September 1909 in response to rumors that the house was heavily mortgaged:
Brief Records,” Metuchen Recorder, Metuchen, New Jersey, September 25, 1909.
In March 1918 an Auction Sale for April 2, at 11am, was announced at the residence of the late E.H. Spear at 56 Woodbridge Ave. Among the items available were:
Hall, library, dining room, bed room and porch furniture, ranging from simplest to best: kitchen utensils, china and glass, cutlery and silver, mission and leather arm chairs, Davenports, divans, grandfather’s clock, English Wilton rugs and stair carpet, electric vacuum cleaner, oil paintings, etchings and engravings, billiard table, pool table, baby grand piano. Farm milk wagons, two engines, two silos, ensilage cutter, milking machines, stanchions, etc.
One of the best resources to help identify Uplands is the January 1929 Sanborn Fire Insurance Map.
The sale of items continued for several decades more. On May 1, 1947 the Courier-News had a classified ad for “Wagon, plow, cultivator, one set team, harness. Inquire 56 Woodbridge Ave., Metuchen.” The transition from estate to subdivision was well underway by 1947. Around that time the “20th Century Homes” development on Spear Street brought another 20 “Cape Cod Homes.” This project was undertaken by Fred W. Bates of Fred W. Bates & Son. The following year another 30 homes ranging in price from $13,500 to $16,800 were being completed. The secretary of the Metuchen planning board said of the development at the time that “Metuchen was fortunate to have a reputable builder who developed this section. He put in curbs, gutters, streets, sewers and water. The only thing lacking was sidewalks. This was because the developer sought to maintain a rural atmosphere in that section.”
Uplands persisted despite everything changing around it. Mrs. Zee Rocker was living at 56 Woodbridge Ave in 1968. Around that time the Ballet Workshop of the New Jersey Federation of Music Clubs held a meeting there. At the time a newspaper described how: “The guild is being formed to organize and run fund-raising affairs to supply proceeds with which the workshop can buy scenery, costume and other things needed for its production.”
This would be the final act, for the house was demolished and around 1977, ten residential homes were announced. These took 3 years to complete. These houses sold between $55,000 and $75,000. All that remains of the earlier estate is a small portion of a stone gate on Woodbridge Avenue near the southeast corner of of where the house once stood.
 Big Fire at Metuchen, The Spear Mansion at ‘Uplands’ Burned to the Ground This Morning, The Daily Times, New Brunswick, New Jersey, October 21, 1899, Page 8. https://www.newspapers.com/clip/38487529/spear_18991021/
 Brief Records, Metuchen Recorder, Metuchen, New Jersey, September 25, 1909. http://www.digifind-it.com/metuchen/data/recorder/1909/1909-09-25.pdf
 Housing Scene: Building Boom is Controlled in Metuchen, The Central New Jersey Home News, New Brunswick, New Jersey, May 29, 1956, Page 22. https://www.newspapers.com/clip/38670037/20th_century_19560529/
 Metuchen senior citizens housing project underway, The Central New Jersey Home News, New Brunswick, New Jersey, February 5, 1978, Page 61. https://www.newspapers.com/clip/38759579/irongate_19780205/