Truman Tertius Pierson Building, 397 Main St, Metuchen, New Jersey

Isaac Kremer/ December 3, 2021/ Writing/ 0 comments

Portrait of Truman Tertius Pierson, ca. September 1909.[1]

The building at 397 Main Street in Metuchen is tied with one of the most interesting figures in the early 20th century business and political history of Metuchen. Truman T. Pierson (1884-1967) was the oldest of three sons and four daughters of John Noble Pierson, a terra cotta modeler and architect, and his wife Lucy Clara Kempson (1855-1896) whose family was from Metuchen. Truman was born in Indianapolis and his brother Aylin Pierson (1886-1955) born in Chicago. Six months after Aylin was born in 1886 the family moved to Metuchen, home of their mother Lucy Clara Kempson. Her father was publisher of a paper for the insurance industry in New York, lived in Metuchen, and died in 1890. There were still Kempson family members in Metuchen, including St. George Kempson who continued to live in the family home on Woodbridge Ave at a location called “Daniels Hill.” St. George and his wife Amy were recorded as living there in the 1900 US Census.[2]

Truman T. Pierson started simply enough as a newsboy in Metuchen during the Spanish-American War in 1898, then became a messenger. After that he became a newspaper correspondent and then a reporter for a Perth Amboy paper. This is where his work took an interesting twist. He became clerk in the Middlesex Water Company at present-day 410 Main Street, rising to assistant superintendent under Robert M. Kellogg. Around this time he took an interest in politics “with the vigor of an old campaigner” as one newspaper account mentioned.[3]

Pierson met Edna M. Bennett while in Asbury Park, and the two became engaged. They married February 12, 1905 in New York. Truman Pierson in an article about his nuptials reports he “is connected with the Middlesex Water Company and is also engaged in journalistic work.”[4] They were also reported to reside in Metuchen following their marriage.

The 1905 Census of New Jersey shows Pierson and his wife living in a building on Main Street along with two boarders.

1905 New Jersey Census

A building first appeared at 397 Main Street between 1903 and 1910 according to a review of the Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps. We can restrict those dates even further thanks to a postcard dated 1905 that shows the house at 399 Main Street but still a vacant lot at 397 Main Street.

In January 1907 Edna was pregnant and likely needed help with the household so they sought a “girl for general housework.” Applicants were instructed to apply to “Mrs. Truman Pierson, Main street” likely at their residence above 397 Main Street. Their daughter Muriel Virginia Pierson was born June 20, 1907.

Advertisement seeking girl for housework in January 1907.[5]

Advertisement seeking to borrow $3,000 in March 1907.

Later that same year in 1907 there were signs that Pierson might have been short on money or in a need to raise capital quickly. In a classified ad titled “Wanted” he sought to borrow $3,000 on first mortgage for a “best paying Main street, Metuchen, business property.” Truman offered an interest rate of 6 per cent and asked people to apply to the Truman T. Pierson Real Estate Agency which he managed.[6] He apparently was successful shoring up his finances.

In 1912 he was involved in representing New York real estate men who bought property in Metuchen that they were working to improve with sidewalks.[7]

This postcard dated 1905 shows Main Street with trolley tracks down the middle and after curbs had been put in around 1903.[8] Courtesy John Brinckmann.

Metuchen News Bureau

The Metuchen News Bureau provide coverage that ran in The Daily Home News out of New Brunswick. Often the Metuchen News Bureau was named in coverage, such as in the article “Big Group Saw The Aviators” on August 7, 1911. Truman Pierson was named as the official representative of the News Bureau.[9]  Pierson was invested in providing entertainment options for the rapidly growing Borough. A moving picture show opened on Saturday, January 7, 1911 in the Pierson Building. The announcement in The Central New Jersey Home News said: “A moving picture show is to open on Saturday in Postmaster Pierson’s building, near the post office. Entertainments are to be given evenings and matinees on Saturday.”[10]

Pierson had his appointment as U.S. Postmaster renewed for a second term under President Taft, though he ultimately declined the appointment clearing the way for Howard I. Campbell. The transition was a peaceable one, despite the fact that Pierson had beaten Campbell twice previously for the same office. There was a suggestion in the article about recent campaign for county committeeman, and how “Influences from outside the borough were at work to defeat Pierson because he has always been an organization man.”[11]

Democratic Party

In the election of 1912 the Democrats set up their headquarters in the Pierson Building. Though the same article notes, “the Bull Moosers, Democrats, and Prohibitionists have not enough money on hand to pay the rent.”[12] For the US Congress race there was a local candidate – Mark Prentiss who ran on the Bull Moose ticket, until he was encouraged to pull out of the contest in favor of another candidate prior to election day. It didn’t matter because Congressman Scully won that race and several more to follow serving until the 1920s.

Postcard showing advertisement for Truman T. Pierson “The Real Estate and Insurance Man.”

Truman T. Pierson Building

An biplane race occurred on August 5, 1911, from Manhattan to Philadelphia in Curtiss biplanes. One article suggested: “A fine place to get a good view of the flying machines is the big yard adjoining the Pierson building and the Lyric theatre.”[13] When aviators Charles K. Hamilton, Lincoln Beachy, and Hugh Robinson flew over Metuchen an elaborate viewing event occurred. The Metuchen News Bureau provided a bulletin service with the Lyric Theater. A special arrangement with the New York Herald and the New York World kept local people informed “right up until the time the airships had passed over the town.”

In summarizing the event afterwards it was said how:

It was a big day for Metuchen and the enterprising Metuchen News Bureau received many compliments for its clever bulletin service, made possible by an uninterrupted wire service with Herald Square. The News Bureau in turn communicated information to a Plainfield newspaper office, where bulletins were shown.”[14]

Clearly this was not entertainment for the sake of just having fun. There was a clear political agenda that Pierson had as well to win favor of fellow residents and voters. Interestingly, following the article on the biplane event the next article in the same column recounted about writing in the Metuchen Recorder  supporting a commission form of government for Metuchen.

During the special election on September 12, 1911 in which Commission government for the Borough was on the ballot, Truman T. Pierson got into a conflict with ex-Chief of Police John T. Gedney. The two got into a conflict on Main Street, “during which several blows were struck.” Pierson made an atrocious assault charge against Gedney.[15] Later, Pierson made formal charges against Enos Fouratt, borough marshal. A statement made that on September 8, just before the special election, while Pierson and his wife were heading to their office in the Metuchen Bank building (the present 406 Main Street), in the vestibule on the way to his office “Enos Fouratt was standing in the doorway of the said bank building in uniform on duty, and was in a state of intoxication, so much so that upon leaving the building and passing out the door he fell on the sidewalk.” That day Pierson claimed “in the presence of my wife, he used vile, profane and indecent language.” A few days later Fouratt “publicly threatened that if he met me the next day he would lay my head open with his club.” Finally, on election day after Pierson was assaulted by John T. Gedney who “knocked me about the head and eyes fully nine times,” Fouratt made no attempt to arrest Gedney. Next, Pierson claimed that Fouratt “holding his club in his hand, grabbed me by the arm, saying and cursing me, ‘If you don’t keep your mouth closed, I will put you down; I will put you out you bastard.’”[16]

In a packed standing-room only common council meeting at Robins’ Hall, charges Pierson made against Marshal Enos Fouratt were heard. Each of the charges were refuted and Fouratt was found not guilty. Then serving Mayor Wilson and his supporters claimed that Pierson’s allegations were hatched for political purposes “since Mr. Wilson is the Republican candidate for reelection and Mr. Pierson is working hand and glove with his opponents to bring about his defeat.”[17] Pierson was not satisfied with the resolution and continued to pursue his case to the New Jersey Supreme Court.[18]

Pierson’s troubles continued to pile up. In April 1912, he filed a lawsuit to recover the value of a much-prized Irish setter that had been poisoned.[19] Despite political and personal setbacks, business appeared to be proceeding apace in June 1912. An announcement was made about election of officers for the Cozy Homes Company of Metuchen. Truman T. Pierson was elected President; Charles A. Sibley as Vice-President; and William R. Bayes as Secretary and Treasurer. A large tract was reportedly purchased where “Six houses will be built at once.”[20]

Pierson was chairman of the Roosevelt Campaign Committee for the Bull Moose Party.[21] Once the Raritan Roosevelt Club was formed in 1912 Pierson was also a voting member.[22] That did not prevent him from supporting Democrats. They had their headquarters in his building during the 1912 election.[23] Pierson participated in a rally of Prohibition Party in October 1912.[24] Clearly his support of the three parties was a strategy to counter the then Republican Mayor and others in his party. This of course is ironic given Pierson’s appointment as Postmaster by a former Republican US President and his role as committeeman for the Middlesex County Republican Party.

The building at 397 Main Street gained several new tenants on December 1, 1912. Offices for several entities moved there including the Metuchen Gas Light Co., The Truman T. Pierson Co., Justice C.C. Weber, Metuchen News Bureau, Cozy Home Co., Prudential Insurance Co., National Surety Co., John Noble Pierson & Son, architects, William J. Brabyn, carpenter, Chief of Police John J. Flaherty, William A. Bennett, plumber, Silas D. Grimsteed, counsellor at law. All of these offices and businesses moved from the Metuchen National Bank Building at 406 Main Street where they had been previously to 397 Main Street.[25] Given that Pierson previously had a ground floor office at 406 Main Street it is reasonable to assume that he also had his office in the ground floor here.

Notice of move of businesses to the Truman T. Pierson Building, December 1912.[26]

These arrangements did not last long. By September 1913 Silas Grimstead had his attorney office at 1 Clive Street in Metuchen. Grimstead did continue an association with Pierson, however, filing a suit against Kate Saxon. The suit was for uncollected commission of $475 related to sale of her Metuchen estate to Bull Moose candidate for Congress Mark Prentiss.[27]

Adams Express Company

In March 1913 it was announced that the “Adams Express Co. is now located in the Truman Pierson Building, on Main street.”[28] George Tremblay, Jr. was the local agent at the time. Among the items they shipped included currency, some of which went directly to the Metuchen National Bank.[29] This tenant was short lived for by March 1, 1914 they gave up the office, curtailed delivery facilities, and parted with their salaried agent. Services were carried on with private parties on a contract basis. They cited “inroads made on the business by the parcels post” as the reason for scaling back.[30]

Article on the Metuchen Newsdealers’ War, July 1913.[31]

An incident one local paper called the “Metuchen newsdealers’ war” occurred outside of the Pierson Building. On June 29, 1913, three mencharged” the newsstand and made off with nearly all the papers in front of the Pierson building and headed in the direction of Rahway. “Until new supplies of papers were received there was a near-famine in Sunday papers.”[32] This was a continuation of the “Metuchen newsdealers’ warthat had been running for several months up to that point.[33] On the other side were New York papers and William Randolph Hearst, publisher of the New York American, Journal, and numerous other papers. He came to the defense of the four Metuchen newsboys accused of stealing Pierson’s papers. Of these Harry Kimbell was held on charges for deliberately carrying away forty Sunday newspapers from the Metuchen News Bureau. He was held on $300 bail to await the action of the grand jury.[34]

Perhaps their greatest public promotional activity was the Majestic Summer Garden. On July 3 and 4, 1914, a “grand concert” was given by “the highest priced Victrola in Middlesex county under the personal direction of Ramon Montalvo, Jr., the Victrola King of New Jersey.” An electrified fountain “built of rocks and concrete, with a pool containing gold fish, beautiful flowering plants, and water clear as crystal oozing from the fountain.” At night “many colored electric lights will illuminate the garden.”[35]

Advertisement for opening of the Majestic Summer Garden, July 2, 1914.[36]

Politics became very personal in February 1914 when a horse Pierson owned was let out of his stable (near Hanson Ave and what is today Sidney Place) to suffer and succumb to the winter cold. Pierson in responding to the event was reported as saying:

I am at a loss to understand how anybody, no matter what his feeling against an individual, could make a poor dumb beast suffer to gratify desire to work out a spite. As to who perpetrated this latest outrage I am not prepared to say until after the police finish their investigation, and as to the motive of the guilty person or persons I do not care to say. This is only one of a long chain of undeserved mean acts. Threats have been made and were made three years ago to drive Truman Pierson out of business and out of town. Actually efforts were made to take the very roof from over the head of wife and child. Once I was warned that my barn would be in ashes. If it was generally known exactly what I have been up against I believe there would be some big surprises. I don’t care for the threats. I can even stand the uninterrupted string of petty indignities, but this latest is too much. But as to my future I cannot make it too clear that I will remain in business and in this town which I have done so much for in spite of everything and everybody. I will not be driven out and while I have a breath left I am going to stick.”[37]

The horse had been used for delivery of the Metuchen News Bureau, putting Pierson under additional financial distress at loss of this important service. [38] What animal cruelty could not achieve, operation of the real estate market and sale of the estate that Pierson’s (rented) house was located on prevailed. In 1914 A.C. Case sold his estate to a new owner. Pierson relocated to Main Street where he was recorded as living at 395 Main Street in 1915.

The Metuchen News Bureau occasionally shipped products into Metuchen for distribution, such as when they shipped in Rockaway oysters in September 1914.[39] The last deliver associated with the Metuchen News Bureau as announced in local papers was dated January 22, 1915.[40]

Despite saying he would not be “driven out,” by early 1916 he was living in Plainfield where he was “Notary Public” and “Commissioner of Deeds.”[41] He kept his writing and reporting practices up, for the Plainfield Courier-News listed Pierson as editor of the “Sporting News Department” in January 1916.[42]

Pierson Leaves New Jersey

With the onset of World War I Truman Pierson relocated to Quincy, Illinois, where he worked for the Chamber of Commerce there. This led to an interest in roads. Pierson was instrumental in promoting the Mississippi River Scenic Byway together with his brother Aylin, an architect, between 1920 and 1926. This was a smaller part of a $100 million plan for “good roads.”

Truman Pierson later in his life served as deputy assessor for the city of Minneapolis and in 1958 retired from the Minneapolis Post Office. He unsuccessfully ran for public office. Pierson helped found Allied Cat Lovers International in 1938 and served as its president before it merged with the International Human Education Foundation. He was an officer of the Mississippi River Scenic Highway Foundation, the International Human Education Foundation and the Minnesota Grand Jurors. He died May 8, 1967 in Minneapolis.[43]

Impact of Truman Pierson on Metuchen

In assessing the gains and losses associated with the two decades Pierson was most actively involved in Metuchen it is a mixed record. He helped to modernize the postal service and initiate direct delivery services that continue to operate to this very day. This is a convenience that while many take for granted, has had a significant impact. One might speculate he sought to build a building at 397 Main Street that might have housed a future Post Office. This honor was taken instead by David Powers who built a similar structure on Main Street several years later (that was later torn down) and which Pierson’s father and brother designed.

Of his influence with the Republicans as a committee member, this waned and he ended up publicly opposing the Republican Mayor of Metuchen and aligning with the Democrat, Prohibition, and Bull Moose Party in the 1912 election. He advocated for a commission form of government in 1912 though the voters stuck with the Mayor and Council form which still exists today. The Majestic Summer Garden that he built in 1914 had a building constructed on the spot less than a year later. And the real estate and insurance business that Pierson had started ultimately folded.

Finally, what about his efforts to attract industry and support a positive business environment? After his departure a Chamber of Commerce was formed and took on the role Pierson played for several decades more.

In some ways Pierson was ahead of time – understanding the value of the newspaper, self-promotion, and the benefits that come from hard work. In other ways Metuchen was not ready or could not contain the enthusiasm of Pierson. That required Pierson move to Illinois and other states in the Midwest in search of opportunity in the decades after he left Metuchen. Perhaps the greatest takeaway from Truman T. Pierson is how controversy followed him, and how he managed to use that and his bully pulpit as a newspaper writer to feed the reading public with stories that kept them waiting for the next story – some of which he wrote himself or was the subject of.

The “Metuchen newsdealers war,” the “Metuchen bread war” are just a few examples of how controversy he generated which drove readers and profit. At times Pierson got involved in conflict with entities far too great for him to overcome – such as the Republican Party in Metuchen, the Republican Mayor of Metuchen, and the Hearst newspapers in New York. The cost of this conflict were some vicious and very personal attacks against Pierson. His dog and horse were killed. Ultimately Pierson had his property and standing in Metuchen threatened causing him to leave. There are cautionary lessons to be taken from how Pierson conducted his business in Metuchen that still have relevance today.

Morris Margolious

Aylin Pierson, an architect and the brother of Truman Pierson leased the store at 397 Main Street to Morris Margolius for one year beginning March 1, 1915, at a yearly rent of $396.[44]Morris Margolius promptly opened a cash grocery store and advertised himself as the “people’s low priced high quality grocery of Metuchen.” Opening of his store marked the start of the “Metuchen Bread War” on March 1, 1915. Bakers in Perth Amboy, Plainfield, and Metuchen refused to supply him with bread “because the other grocers in Metuchen object.” When they stopped supplying him he contracted with a baker in Hoboken and cut the price to four cents. Margolious made a complaint to the United States district attorney and Prosecutor W.E. Florance, of New Brunswick charging bakers in Perth Amboy, Plainfield, and Metuchen with refusing to supply him bread “because the other grocers in Metuchen object.”[45]

When the 1915 Census of the State of New Jersey was enumerated on June 17, 1915, John Gedney Margoulis and his wife Bessie, and clerk David Wolf were all living at 397 Main Street.

1915 Census of the State of New Jersey showing Pierson living at neighboring 395 Main Street. Morris Margoulis, his wife, and clerk are seen living above 397 Main Street.

George Hanemann built a bakery to the west in 1915 by designs from Alexander Merchant.[46] The 1915 Census of New Jersey shows Pierson, his wife, and daughter living there the same year in 1915.

Classified advertisement, January 1916.[47]

Business apparently did not take off as Margolius had imagined, for in January 1916 he was seeking to let half of his store, which he called “suitable for a restaurant. None in town.”[48] The lot to the south of the Pierson building became site of combination store, bakery, and residence built by George Hanneman, the baker. An announcement was made October 1914 that construction would start soon and be completed by April 1 the following year.[49] 

In 1916 Joseph Hoffman bought “from Aylin Pierson a two-story brick building on Main Street, Metuchen, adjoining Robin’s (sic.) Hall.” The cost was $6,400 and the sale was made by Jacob M. Klein of Perth Amboy.[50]

Photograph showing the Full Service Diner, Hanemann Building, and Truman T. Pierson Building (from left to right) circa 1918. The water tower in the background appears to advertise ice cream.

Advertisement for the Metuchen Market.[51]

Metuchen Market, Joseph Hoffman

Hoffman had a very difficult time operating his market from this location. A classified ad in The Central New Jersey Home News in 1917 advertised for a “store and six rooms to let, separate or together.” Unable to find someone to buy the business, the ad changed somewhat in May 1918, to only looking for a butcher. When that advertisement did not work, it got more plaintive: “Butcher wanted by Thursday” in the Friday paper on August 23, 1918. Then in March 1919 it was back to trying to sell the four-tub butter icebox that was “used very little.” The market was being advertised for sale again in July 1921. By September 1922, the advertisement was “FOR SALE – Business with building or without building. Meat and groceries.” A few years later in March 1925 they were still trying to rent the 6 unfurnished flats on the second floor.

Classified advertisement seeking a butcher, May 27, 1918.[52]

Classified advertisement for Hoffman Market, July 21, 1921.[53]

Advertisement for sale of business and building at 397 Main St, September 1922.[54]

Classified advertisement for sale of building, March 5, 1925.[55]

Ultimately the Great Depression did Hoffman in. The property was sold at Sheriff’s Sale on October 6, 1932. The East Jersey Building and Loan Association took control for $11,329.[56] The East Jersey Building and Loan Association was the buyer and owner of the property for a short time.

Alberta and Ralph Crowell

W. A. Crowell is later associated with 397 Main Street and neighboring 393 and 395 Main in December 1932. At that time this was among the properties under consideration by the US Department of the Treasury for location of a US Post Office. Ultimately the Fred C. Ayers property at the corner of Woodbridge and Main beat them out.[57] It is interesting to consider how the Post Office might have been located here given the association with a one-time postmaster.

The Metuchen Independent Democratic Club had their headquarters as 397 Main Street. Five Democratic mass meetings were held in October 1934, just before the election the following month. The Metuchen Independent Democratic Club heard from Samuel Hoffman and Freeholders Kalteissen and Samuel Wiley.[58]

Metuchen Wine Merchant, Inc.

In February 1933, Congress passed the 21st Amendment to repeal the earlier 18th Amendment which legalized national Prohibition.[59] A beer license was granted by the Borough Council to James A. Devey then owner of 397 Main in November 1933. By 1934 “Metuchen Wine Merchant, Inc.” was operating from this location.[60]

A judgment was obtained in January 1935 by the Consolidated Liquor Distributors for $172.96 against the Metuchen Wine Merchants and James A. Davey at 397 Main Street.[61]

Joseph J. Hoffman, the previous owner of 397 Main Street, died in Trenton on October 17, 1935. He had been ill for the previous four years. Hoffman was survived by his wife, Viola Hoffman and five children. His resurrection mass was held at St. Francis Church in Metuchen and he was buried at Hillside Cemetery.[62]

Central Beauty Parlor

The Central Beauty Parlor was located at 397 Main St as evidenced by an advertisement from May 15, 1936. The proudly promoted their 1-Minute Permanent Wave with “No wires over your head. No chemicals. Cool and pleasant.”[63] Less than a year later they were seeking a “Beauty operator” for a “steady job for right person.”[64]

Classified advertisement seeking beauty parlor staff, March 17, 1937.[65]

Advertisement for Genuine Frederic’s 1-Minute Permanent Wave, May 15, 1936.[66]

As evidence how political tides were shifting in Metuchen, the Metuchen Republican Club had their first meeting of the fall on September 23, 1938, in their headquarters at 397 Main Street. A newspaper article recognized how “campaign headquarters have opened at this address by the renting of a vacant store.” Up for election were a Republican mayor and two councilmen who were present for the meeting. Congressman Charles Aubrey Eaton, a Congressman up for re-nomination also spoke at the meeting. He represented New Jersey’s 4th congressional district from 1925 to 1933, and the 5th district from 1933 to 1953 and participated in the creation of the United Nations. Borough Councilman Charles Taylor, candidate for Mayor, and Huyler E. Romond, candidate for Council were among speakers at the meeting. Also present were A.H. Rack who opened the meeting and presided until Republican Club President Huyler E. Romond arrived.[67]

Mrs. Jacob Kornblatt, whose residence was at 397 Main Street in May 1939, was elected president of the Metuchen Recreational Sponsoring Committee at a meeting in Borough Hall.[68]

The Central New Jersey Home News, February 28, 1941

By 1941 another beauty shop, “The Vanity Beauty Shop” was located at 397 Main Street. In an advertisement on their opening week they offered “Beauty Culture advice and proper ‘Hair do’ suggestions for your own personality, given without charge.”[69] The owner, Joseph Lo Castro had been proprietor of Joe’s Barber Shop for 11 years prior to opening Vanity in 1941.[70] Less than a year later his wife Kathleen K. Lo Castro filed for divorce. The address of Joseph Lo Castro at the time was listed as 397 Main.[71] A few weeks later a marriage announcement identified Dorothy White as “the owner of a beauty parlor at 397 Main St., Metuchen.”[72]

Lloyd Kornblatt, son of Jacob Kornblatt who lived above 397 Main Street with his wife was admitted to Rutgers University. He was inducted into Alpha Zeta, an honorary agricultural society in 1942.[73] The following year he was among local men who were called to Fort Dix and enlisted for service in the Army.[74] Two months after that his brother Irwin Lionel Kornblatt was also enlisted for service in the Army and sent to Fort Dix.[75]

The first of numerous advertisements for “Hull Radio appeared in the August 3, 1944 issue of The Central New Jersey Home News. That same ad ran unchanged through at least December 12, 1946.

Advertisement for Hull Radio Service, August 3, 1944.[76]

Jacob Kornblatt paid a “two-dollar fine and $1.75 costs… for passing a red traffic light.” His residence at the time was 397 Main Street.[77]

Thirty-five Rutgers graduates to receive degrees in July 1945, six of which were awarded to men now in the armed services, Lloyd Kornblatt being among these. He received a B.S. in agriculture at the ceremony.[78]

Edward J. and Mae E. Drake

Alberta and Ralph Crowell sold the property in 1946 to Edward J. Drake and his wife Mae. They were also owners of the business Drake’s Middlesex Hardware that would operate from here and neighboring 395 Main Street for the next several decades. Richard Linkhart is identified as living at 397 Main St in April 1946.[79] Pfc. Irwin Kornblatt was released from Army service at Fort Dix on April 30, 1946.[80]

A year later Oscar Gurshman was in a truck crash in Monroe Township on Englishtown-Spotswood Rd. Their tire blew and the truck crashed into trees. Then aged 37 and a war veteran, Oscar had been living at 397 Main Street prior to his death.[81]

Hull Radio appeared to be nearing the end of its run in October 1948. Their classified ads had not being running regularly since 1946. The ad that ran October 9, 1948 had the reference, “wholesale price, must vacate.”[82]

Advertisement for Hull Radio, 397 Main Street, from October 1948.[83]

In August 1949 George Zagoren was living at 397 Main Street. He was fined $5 and 43 cost on a charge of passing a red light.[84]

Dr. Edward J. Bilderback

Dr. Edward J. Bilderback of Keyport opened his office for the practice of dentistry on May 4, 1953 at 397 Main Street in Metuchen. He was a U.S. Naval Reservist.[85]

Middlesex Hardware & Paint

Middlesex Hardware & Paint was listed as having their store at 397 Main Street in Metuchen in an advertisement from May 1953.[86] Later in March 1966, the business name changed to Drake’s Middlesex Hardware, Inc. with an address 395-397 Main St.[87]

John W. Breen died in August 1954. At the time of his death his residence was listed as 397 Main St.[88] His son Pvt. Vincent Breen attended combat training with the 1st Infantry Training Regiment of the Marines at Camp Legume, North Carolina. Following training he was transferred to a permanent duty station.[89] A few months later it was reported how Pfc. Vincent Breen was in an artillery exercise at Fort Bragg with the 10th Artillery Regiment of the 2nd Marine Division.[90]

A sibling of John Breen, Miss Anne K. Breen was wed to Andrew B. Halek of Edison. At the time Halek was serving with the Marine Corps and stationed with the military police at the Brooklyn Navy Yard.[91]

Y.D. Blum was a resident at 397 Main St in Metuchen in November 1958. They were involved in an accident on November 27, 1958 at W. Union Avenue and Washington Street in Bound Brook.[92]

A few deed transfers in the late 1960s are of interest. First Edward and Mae Drake transferred the property to Robert E. Drake, Gwendolyn J. Drake, William J. Beattie, and Claire M. Beattie on December 21, 1967.[93] A few months later all of these individuals transferred the property to Edmae Realty Corp, the name which was an amalgamation of Edward and Mae.[94]

A robbery occurred at the Axia Federal Savings & Loan Association in Metuchen on September 15, 1978.[95] A few months later Axia Federal Savings advertised for a teller to operate from their location at 397 Main St in Metuchen in November 1978.[96]

P&L Investment Company

With Drake’s Middlesex Hardware now permanently closed, Edmae Realty Corp sold the building at 397 Main Street on June 17, 1985, to Stanley E. Lease and Richard F. Plechner who formed the P&L Investment Company.[97] Shortly after that a tenant was secured – Buttery’s Bake Shoppe.

Advertisement for The Buttery Bake Shoppe from October 2, 1996.

Buttery’s Bake Shoppe

Buttery’s Bake Shoppe with locations at 8 Eastman St in Cranford and 397 Main St in Metuchen, celebrated their 10th tear of business in October 1996.[98] Terri Scheller and her husband co-owned the business. As a business that makes all their food fresh daily, all food left over at the end of the day was donated to shelters, soup kitchens, and hospitals.[99] Later Isabel Paredes came to own and operate the business.

P&L Investment Company transferred the property to P&L Investors LLC on April 10, 2017.[100]

A brush with fame occurred in early 2020 when Paul McCartney was photographed outside of Buttery’s Bake Shoppe. John Manza, owner of Be My Guest at 10 Pearl Street took the photo that became a viral hit. Even the Governor of New Jersey visited Manzo in Metuchen to talk about the exchange he had with Paul McCartney. Less then a month later, however, non-essential businesses had been shut down due to the COVID-19 global pandemic. It was shared shortly thereafter that Buttery permanently closed.

Pastry by Lu following their renovation and opening of the new store in 2021.

Pastry by Lu

The building remained vacant for several months. In January 2021 Luisania Moronta and her husband Juan Carlos started to plan to open a new bakery at this location. On April 8, 2021, they officially opened to the public for the first time.

Truman Pierson Building, February 2022.

Chain of Title for Truman T. Pierson Building, 397 Main St, Metuchen

Block 116, Lot 20

 R.R. Delypot1850Map
 F. Merritt1861Map
  1868Beers, Ellis, and Soule atlas of Middlesex County
  1876Everts & Stewart Map
 No building1903Sanborn
 Building appears1910Sanborn
 Aylin Pierson  
 Alyin Pierson leased store to Morris Margoulis1916???
Aylin Pierson   
 Joseph J. Hoffman  
Joseph J. HoffmanMike Kolchak and Rose Kolchak1924-12-23Book 795, Page 269, lease of store and property at 397 Main Street for $1
  1925-12-15Easement for driveway, Book 861, Page 345
Bernard M. Gannon, SheriffEast Jersey Building and Loan Association[101]1932-08-11$11,060.36
 Alberta S. Crowell and Ralph L. Crowell, her husband,  
Alberta S. Crowell and Ralph L. Crowell, her husband,Edward J. Drake and Mae E. Drake, his wife.1946-04-26Book 1311, Page 141
Edward J. Drake and Mae E. Drake, also known as Mamie E. Drake, his wifeRobert E. Drake, Gwendolyn J. Drake, William J. Beattie, and Claire M. Beattie1967-12-21Book 2605, Page 641
Robert E. Drake, etal.,Edmae Realty Corp1968-01-08Book 2609, Page 1069
Edmae Realty Corp.Stanley E. Lease and Richard F. Plechner as P&L Investment Company1985-06-17Book 3440, Page 790
Stanley E. Lease and Richard F. Plechner as P&L Investment Company,P&L Investors LLC2017-04-10Book 6963, Page 832
 Pastry by Lu opens2021MDA

1876 Everts & Stewart Map showing former Railroad Depot (from ca. 1850) on railroad right of way and north of that “Est. N.R.” for estate of Nathan Robins.

Sanborn Fire Insurance Map, 1903, Sheet 3

Sanborn Fire Insurance Map, 1910 502 ½ Main St (old numbering system) highlighted and Truman Pierson insurance office at 536A highlighted.

Locations Where Truman Pierson Lived

1884Indianapolis, Indiana 
 Chicago, Illinois 
190035 Elm AveUS Census
1905Main StNJ Census
1908William StCity Directory
1910Hanson AveUS Census
1915395 Main StNJ Census
1916648 West Front Street, Plainfield[102]Newspaper
1918 Sep1268 ½ Jersey St, Quincy, ILWWI Registration Card
1920 US Census
1930 US Census
1940 US Census
19425634 Nicollet Ave, Minneapolis, MNWWII Registration Card

US Census, 1910, showing Truman Pierson, his wife Edna, and daughter Muriel living on Hanson Avenue in Metuchen.

Sanborn Fire Insurance Map, 1920, Sheet 7

A little detective work helps to locate the house that Pierson and his family resided in around 1910. The Sanborn Fire Insurance Map from that year does not cover that area, however, the 1920 Sanborn Fire Insurance map does. And, even though Pierson and his family had already left Metuchen by then, one can ascertain the location of their house by observing several important facts. First is a house located facing Hanson Ave. This is one of several houses also mentioned in the 1910 U.S. Census. Second is the presence of a 2-story outbuilding or stables. As the reader recalls this factored prominently in agricultural activities undertaken by Pierson. A caretaker cottage is just north of that and a caretaker was also referenced in relation to the stable. Finally, and most interestingly, when an axis is drawn from present-day Pierson Avenue to the south, this intersects very near the house at Pierson Ave and Hanson Ave. While development of Redfield Village in intervening years erased portions of this street, the geometry points to this being the location where Truman T. Pierson and his family resided during the most prosperous and challenging time in Metuchen, when Pierson reached his peak of influence before leaving Metuchen many years later.

648 West Front St, Plainfield

1268 ½ Jersey St, Quincy, IL

[1] A.C. Yard Is Named New Head of Jersey Postmasters Association, Asbury Park Press, September 4, 1909, p. 1.

[2] – 1900 United States Federal Census

[3] Nothing Slow about Postmaster Pierson, The Courier-News, November 11, 1908, p. 2.

[4] Miss Bennett Weds Young Journalist, The Central New Jersey Home News, February 13, 1905, p. 1.

[5] Classified advertisement, The Central New Jersey Home News, January 25, 1907, p. 3.

[6] Wanted, The Central New Jersey Home News, March 23, 1907, p. 1

[7] Sidewalk Sentiment, Metuchen Recorder, June 29, 1912, p. 1.

[8] Metuchen, The Daily Home News, July 17, 1903, p. 3.

[9] Hot Shot From Rev. Dr. Mason, The Daily Home News, October 10, 1912, p. 2.

[10] Metuchen, The Central New Jersey Home News, January 5, 1911, p. 5.

[11] The Central New Jersey Home News, April 3, 1911.

[12] Everybody’s Talking Politics in Metuchen, The Daily Home News, October 10, 1912, p. 10.

[13] Metuchen Will View, Perth Amboy Evening News, August 4, 1911, p. 1.

[14] Big Crowd Saw the Aviators, The Daily Home News, August 7, 1911, p. 6.

[15] Pierson and Gendey in a Little Mix-Up, The Central New Jersey Home News, September 13, 1911, p. 1.

[16] Make Charges in Metuchen, Perth Amboy Evening News, October 3, 1911, p. 7.

[17] Find Fouratt is Not Guilty, Perth Amboy Evening News, November 4, 1911, p. 3.

[18] Metuchen Case Off for the Term, The Central New Jersey Home News, January 2, 1912, p. 2.

[19] Seeking Poisoners of Metuchen Dogs, The Central New Jersey Home News, April 15, 1912, p. 8.

[20] To Build at Metuchen, The Courier-News, June 24, 1912, p. 1.

[21] Roosevelt Man Cut; Assailant Arrested, The Morning Post (Camden, New Jersey), May 29, 1912, p. 10.

[22] Metuchen Has a Bull Moose Club, The Daily Home News, July 23, 1912, p. 4.

[23] Prohibition to Raise Banner, Perth Amboy Evening News, October 9, 1912, p. 2.

[24] Perth Amboy Evening News, October 11, 1912, p. 1.

[25] Notice, Perth Amboy Evening News, December 3, 1912, p. 5.

[26] Notice, Perth Amboy Evening News, December 3, 1912, p. 5.

[27] Truman Pierson Wants Pay for Brining Mark Prentiss to Metuchen, The Daily Home News, April 16, 1914, p. 7.

[28] Moving Pictures in M.E. Church this Evening, The Daily Home News, March 13, 1913, p. 4.

[29] $1,000 Package Had a Joyride, The Daily Home News, March 20, 1913, p. 1.

[30] Adams Express Co. Closes Its Office, The Morning Call, January 31, 1914, p. 1.

[31] Newspaper Famine in Metuchen, The Courier-News, July 1, 1913, p. 4.

[32] Newspaper Famine in Metuchen, The Courier-News, July 1, 1913, p. 4.

[33] Newspaper Famine in Metuchen, The Courier-News, July 1, 1913, p. 4.

[34] Hold Newsboy After Hearing, Perth Amboy Evening News, July 15, 1913, p. 4.

[35] Grand Opening of the Majestic Summer Garden, The Central New Jersey Home News, July 2, 1914, p. 14.

[36] Grand Opening of the Majestic Summer Garden, The Central New Jersey Home News, July 2, 1914, p. 14.

[37] Pierson Stable Entered; Horse Sent Out to Die, The Central New Jersey Home News, February 27, 1914, p. 18.

[38] Pierson Stable Entered; Horse Sent Out to Die, The Central New Jersey Home News, February 27, 1914, p. 18.

[39] Just Arrived, The Daily Home News, September 19, 1914, p. 9.

[40] David Power for Postmaster of Metuchen, The Daily Home News, January 22, 1915, p. 1.

[41] Advertisement, The Courier-News, February 1, 1916, p. 7.

[42] Sporting News Department, Plainfield Courier-News, January 11, 1916, p. 12.

[43] Truman T. Pierson, May 10, 1967.

[44] Metuchen Building Leased, Perth Amboy Evening News, April 8, 1915, p. 2.

[45] Metuchen Bread War May Get in U.S. Courts, The Central New Jersey Home News, April 9, 1915, p. 2.

[46] Building in Metuchen, Perth Amboy Evening News, February 19, 1915, p. 5.

[47] Stores for Rent, The Daily Home News, January 6, 1916, p. 11.

[48] Stores for Rent, The Daily Home News, January 6, 1916, p. 11.

[49] To Build New Store, Perth Amboy Evening News, October 26, 1914, p. 9.

[50] Real Estate and Building News, Perth Amboy Evening News, March 30, 1916, p. 8.

[51] Advertisement, The Daily Home News, New Brunswick, New Jersey, November 10, 1916, p. 17.

[52] Advertisement, Perth Amboy Evening News, May 27, 1918, p. 6.

[53] Classified advertisement, The Daily Home News, July 21, 1921, p. 10.

[54] Classified advertisement, The Daily Home News, September 6, 1922, p. 15.

[55] Classified advertisement, The Daily Home News, New Brunswick, New Jersey, March 5, 1925, p. 14.

[56] Properties sold at Sheriff’s sale, The Central New Jersey Home News, October 6, 1932, p. 20.

[57] Numerous Sites Are Offered for Metuchen Post Office, The Courier-News, December 1, 1932, p. 4.

[58] Dill, Moore Talk in City Tomorrow, The Daily Home News, October 12, 1934, p. 18.

[59] Sewage Matters At Council Meet, The Courier-News, November 7, 1933, p. 17.

[60] Tax Rate to Drop 25 Points, Budget, The Courier-News, February 6, 1934, p. 7.

[61] Metuchen, Judgments Obtained, The Courier-News, January 15, 1935, p. 11.

[62] Joseph J. Hoffman, The Daily Home News, October 18, 1935, p. 43.

[63] Advertisement, The Daily Home News, May 15, 1936, p. 26.

[64] Classified advertisement, The Daily Home News, March 17, 1937, p. 18.

[65] Classified advertisement, The Daily Home News, March 17, 1937, p. 18.

[66] Advertisement, The Daily Home News, May 15, 1936, p. 26.

[67] Campaign Opens, The Courier-News, September 26, 1938, p. 13.

[68] Recreation Group Elects Officers, The Daily Home News, May 18, 1939.

[69] Advertisement, The Daily Home News, February 28, 1941, p. 18.

[70] Vanity Beauty Shop Opened in Metuchen, The Daily Home News, March 2, 1941, p. 5.

[71] Seeking Divorce, The Daily Home News, January 2, 1942, p. 3.

[72] Dorothy White Engaged To Edmund Wachter, The Courier-News, January 17, 1942, p. 5.

[73] Honorary Society Holds Initiation, The Daily Home News, December 15, 1942, p. 6.

[74] Names of Men to Report At Fort Dix Are Listed, The Daily Home News, August 5, 1943, p. 14.

[75] Draft Board No. 2 Lists Men Called, The Daily Home News, October 6, 1943, p. 10.

[76] Advertisement, The Daily Home News, August 3, 1944, p. 12.

[77] Traffic Court Penalties Paid, The Courier-News, June 29, 1945, p. 16.

[78] 35 Rutgers Graduates Receive Degrees At Chapel Ceremonies, The Daily Home News, July 5, 1945, p. 1.

[79] Winners Given In Survey of Newspaper Ads, The Sunday Times, April 21, 1946, p. 11.

[80] Local, Area Men Get Discharges, The Courier-News, May 1, 1946, p. 2.

[81] Two Metuchen Residents Die In Truck Crash, Plainfield Courier-News, July 26, 1947, p. 1.

[82] Classified Advertisement, The Daily Home News, October 9, 1948, p. 10.

[83] Classified Advertisement, The Daily Home News, October 9, 1948, p. 10.

[84] 4 Drivers Fined for Traffic Infractions in Raritan Twp., The Daily Home News, August 23, 1949, p. 2.

[85] Dr. Bilderback To Open Metuchen Office, Matawan Journal, April 30, 1953, p. 8.

[86] Advertisement, The Daily Home News, May 5, 1953, p. 7.

[87] Advertisement, The Daily Home News, March 20, 1966, p. 43.

[88] John W. Breen, The Daily Home News, August 30, 1954, p. 15.

[89] Metuchen Store, The Daily Home News, February 20, 1955, p. 23.

[90] In Artillery Test, The Daily Home News, June 18, 1955, p. 2.

[91] Anne Breen To Be Bride, Plainfield Courier-News, February 24, 1956, p. 10.

[92] Two Cars Damaged in Collision, The Daily Home News, November 28, 1958, p. 6.

[93] Book 2605, Page 641

[94] Book 2609, Page 1069

[95] Three-time loser Victor Statkus admits to fourth bank robbery, The Home News, April 3, 1980, p. 15.

[96] Classified advertisement, The Home News, November 20, 1978.

[97] Book 3440, Page 790

[98] Advertisement, The Home News, October 2, 1996.

[99] Bite into pleasure at Buttery Bake Shoppe, The Home News, November 20, 1996, p. 63.

[100] Book 6963, Page 832

[101] Properties sold at Sheriff’s sale, The Central New Jersey Home News, October 6, 1932, p. 20.

[102] Advertisement, The Courier-News, February 1, 1916, p. 7.

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About Isaac Kremer

A nationally recognized downtown revitalization leader, downtowns Isaac managed achieved $350 million of investment, 1,300 jobs created, and were 2X Great American Main Street Award Semifinalist and a 1X GAMSA winner in 2023. His work has been featured in Newsday, NJBIZ, ROI-NJ, TapInto, and USA Today. Isaac is a Main Street America Revitalization Professional (MSARP) with additional certifications from the National Parks Service, Project for Public Spaces, and the National Development Council.

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