Uplands – Metuchen, New Jersey

Isaac Kremer/ March 28, 2020/ preservation, Writing/ 0 comments

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.”[1],[2] 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.[3] Despite this setback they rebuilt.

Mr. and Mrs. E.H. Spear issued cards for a dance at “Uplands,” Saturday, July 4, 1903.[4] 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.”[5] 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.”[6]

“Uplands Farm” made the papers again in September 1909 in response to rumors that the house was heavily mortgaged:

The rumor that “Uplands Farm” is heavily mortgaged is entirely without foundation. There is not one dollar mortgage on the farm or on any other property in Metuchen owned by Mr. and Mrs. Spear.[7]

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.

A few days later it was reported how “Mrs. E.H. Spear, having sold her home and household effects, will leave the borough in the near future.”[8]

One of the best resources to help identify Uplands is the January 1929 Sanborn Fire Insurance Map.

Sanborn Fire Insurance Map, Metuchen, New Jersey, January 1929, Sheet 17, showing the Uplands estate on the north side of Woodbridge Avenue, and the former Wright Robins estate to the south.

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.”[9] 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.”[10] 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.[11] 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.”[12]

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.”[13]

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.[14] 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.

All that is left of Uplands – a stone gate and wall. Ca. Nov 2019.

In our next post we’ll share a little bit more about the neighborhood, including Wright Robins estate Robins Park.

[1] Lawn Party Given by Mr. and Mrs. E. Holden Spear at Uplands, Metuchen, The Daily Times, New Brunswick, New Jersey, July 7, 1897, Page 5. https://www.newspapers.com/clip/38487407/spear_18970707/

[2] Metuchen News, The Daily Times, New Brunswick, New Jersey, July 5, 1899, Page 1. https://www.newspapers.com/clip/38766567/uplands_18990705/

[3] 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/

[4] Metuchen, The Central New Jersey Home News, New Brunswick, New Jersey, June 30, 1903, Page 3. https://www.newspapers.com/clip/38486384/spear_19030630/

[5] Gay Dance at Metuchen Home of E.H. Spear, The Central New Jersey Home News, New Brunswick, New Jersey, September 16, 1904, Page 1. https://www.newspapers.com/clip/38486908/spear_19040916/

[6] Metuchen, The Central New Jersey Home News, New Brunswick, New Jersey, May 25, 1909, Page 4. https://www.newspapers.com/clip/38487063/spear_19090525/

[7] Brief Records, Metuchen Recorder, Metuchen, New Jersey, September 25, 1909. http://www.digifind-it.com/metuchen/data/recorder/1909/1909-09-25.pdf

[8] Metuchen, Borough Brevities, The Central New Jersey Home News, New Brunswick, New Jersey, April 4, 1918, Page 4. https://www.newspapers.com/clip/38487191/spear_19180404/

[9] Classified ad, The Courier-News, Bridgewater, New Jersey, May 1, 1947, Page 26. https://www.newspapers.com/clip/38485371/woodbridge_19470501/

[10] Classified ad, Metuchen, The Central New Jersey Home News, New Brunswick, New Jersey, October 31, 1947, Page 19. https://www.newspapers.com/clip/38669409/the_central_new_jersey_home_news/

[11] Classified Ad, Metuchen, The Central New Jersey Home News, New Brunswick, New Jersey, April 30, 1948, Page 23. https://www.newspapers.com/clip/38669612/20th_century_19480430/

[12] 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/

[13] Ballet Guild Being Formed, The Central New Jersey Home News, New Brunswick, New Jersey, January 23, 1968, Page 9. https://www.newspapers.com/clip/38485752/rocker_19680123/

[14] 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/

Share this Post

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.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.