A Summer Stay in Summit
Wednesday, August 1, 2012 • 8:39pm
Before Summit was even named, it was a place for summer escape. July 1837, a train named Orange crawled over ‘the Summit’ and began a centuries-old flow of passengers between New York City and our lovely town. The grit and noise of the city faded away then to leafy green solitude, with ‘high land’ and ‘pure air,’ and we know the same holds true today. So if you’re not planning on a vacation this summer to the sea or to the mountains, take heart, you’re in good company. Summit’s summer has historically been a destination for folks for well over a century now.
The village of Summit had many charms to offer the early visitor. You may have considered Summit’s casino, which sat along Woodland Avenue. A rambling affair modeled after Newport’s casino, The Casino Club had rolling green lawns dotted with families in summer whites, playing croquet and tennis. In those days mothers would buy summer poplins at Frumkins Dry Goods store – which was a key purveyor in town and founded by the great-grandparents of Janie Rachlin, owner of The Jeanette Shop. Around the corner, The Beechwood Hotel was a grand affair with room for 250 guests and a stable housing 50 horses and carriages for parties travelling to and from the city. It was noted in town papers that financial setbacks set in due to the bicycle craze of the Gay Nineties, when the masses sought destinations amenable to the new fad. The hotel building was taken down in the 1950’s to make way for the Kemper Insurance Building, now Bouras Properties.
The city vistas we now enjoy looked much the same way as they did by the beginning of the 20th Century, by which time most of our downtown’s significant buildings were erected. Springfield Avenue was a light macadam street (while most of the other streets were nearly all dirt) and the first post office had a prominent place on the corner of Maple Street, now home to Roots Steakhouse and Coldwell Banker Realtors. Winberie Restaurant & Bar occupies the ground floor of the original Van Cise Building, arguably one of the finest buildings in town, which housed an 800-seat theatre on the second floor, as well as bowling alleys, coffee shops and a reading room. In 1909 the name of the building changed to the Summit Opera House, and opened with a “high-class, continuous vaudeville act and the latest moving pictures.”
Back to the present, we here at SDI imagine Summit Farmer’s Market as a lively reminder of our earliest days, when local farmers came to town to sell their fresh produce and vegetables to the many great residences and hotels in Summit. The artisanal food purveyors that now populate our market each week probably use some of the same methods as our earliest merchants. (Please note that the market has temporarily relocated to the Bank Street and Beechwood Road parking lot, to make way for updates in the parking lot on DeForest.)
Other aspects of our great Downtown remind us of our earliest roots, and are evident on any summer stroll around the streets of Summit. We urge you to consider our past, and take the time to notice the details of our fine town, such as the recent addition of planters along Broad Street, bursting with rose blooms, or the colorful tree wells scattered throughout the downtown. At Summit Downtown, Inc., we envision ourselves as stewards of a long history of service, providing our residents with top quality goods and an impeccable shopping experience. Enjoy!
Established in 1986, Summit Downtown, Inc. (SDI) is a non-profit organization dedicated to the ongoing development and promotion of the business community in the downtown of the city of Summit, NJ. Summit Downtown has long been considered a center of fine retailers of goods and services, and SDI is dedicated to the ongoing promotion of Summit as a destination of distinction. Visit us to learn more at www.summitdowntown.org.
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