I was on my way into Haledon when I came upon a sign for the National Spring Company. It seemed a little odd there would be a water spring in such a highly-developed area, but, well, I was driving along the ridge of the Watchung Mountains. There's a wooded area at the peak, so maybe there's a geologic reason the water would be better there than somewhere else.
My destination was the Botto House, now home to the National Labor Museum. I've meant to get there for a while, but the timing never seems to work out. Somehow I screwed up again and it wasn't open, so I found myself knocking around as I considered my next destination.
Then at the corner of Tilt Street and Southside Avenue, I saw something very out of place in a residential neighborhood: a white cinder block building set within a grassy park. It had what appeared to be two spigots and a trough, as well as a couple of official-looking signs. To me it looked like a larger version of those old milk-dispensing machines I vaguely remember from my childhood.
Of course, I needed to check it out. What I found was the Tilt Street spring house, owned by the Borough of Haledon.
The mention of a spring house usually brings up the vision of a little shack in the woods, or maybe in the back field of a farm, but here was one in the middle of a tightly-developed area. The signs outlined the operating hours (7:30 a.m. to 8 p.m.) and restrictions (four gallons, drawn into one gallon containers). It didn't look particularly hygienic, but then it didn't look all that grody, either. And of course, there were no handles to the faucets. To control access, those would be issued by the borough to residents.
When I looked into the history of Haledon a little, the presence of the spring house and National Spring made a little more sense. Founded in 1908, the borough was originally part of the now-defunct Manchester Township, and developers promoted the community's fresh air and good water as compelling reasons to settle. Despite the proximity to Paterson, it was a clean, peaceful respite from the city's noise and congestion.
The Belmont Avenue trolley offered convenient access to the mills, attracting many of the skilled workers who were immigrating from Europe to work in the silk industry (and leading to the Botto House's role in the Paterson silk strike of 1913, but that's a story for another day). Land along the flatter part of town was separated into 25x100 foot lots, providing a respite from congested city living. Larger tracts farther up the mountain were developed with villas for the wealthy. The estate of Garret Hobart, U.S. Vice President under McKinley, was in Haledon and eventually became part of William Paterson University.
So... what of the spring? There's basically nothing about it on the borough website, beyond a 2007 notification of the presence of coliform bacteria at a testing of the spring. You'd have to wonder about the continued purity of the water, given how built out the area is. Most springs are within a large buffer area of undeveloped land, and even a well known natural spring in Essex County's South Mountain Reservation has been closed off due to concerns about water quality.
Anybody know what's become of the Tilt Street spring?