Historical society integral to Cranford

Photos Courtesy of Cranford Historical Society The Crane-Phillips House Museum, which is open until June from 2 to 4 p.m.
Photos Courtesy of Cranford Historical Society
The Crane-Phillips House Museum, which is open until June from 2 to 4 p.m.
The Hanson House, in Cranford, where a Victorian Tea will be held in May.
The Hanson House, in Cranford, where a Victorian Tea will be held in May.

CRANFORD, NJ — The Cranford Historical Society takes residents back almost 100 years in time. The society was formed in 1927, when Wesley A. Stanger Sr. and a group of Cranford’s citizens decided they wanted to start a collection that would preserve the town and demonstrate what a special place it’s been. It continues growing and flourishing today, and items include photographs, furniture, artifacts, books and more.

“This is a great group of people trying to keep history alive in Cranford,” said Julie Manuel Murphy, a former trustee of the Cranford Historical Society and current resident of the town.

The society is completely run by volunteer members with the exception of one paid part-time office manager. The Crane-Phillips Living House is open from September to June from 2 to 4 p.m. The Crane-Phillips House is a Victorian cottage with a vibrant green and red exterior trim and a peach colored door. Genealogical research is available as well as a research library and assistant. The grounds are open to trips for students, scouts and other youth groups.

Margaret Gerlach is the current president of the Cranford Historical Society. She was elected in 2011 and has served in the position ever since. She has made numerous contributions, such as redecorating the Hanson House dining room, conference room and archive room.

“My first experience with the Cranford Historical Society was in 1996 when the society held their ‘Lantern Light Ball,’ a fantastic Victorian fundraiser event,” she said. “The society was looking for volunteers and members to help out with this event. I volunteered and fell in love with the society and their members and joined the society. I have been an active member since.”

As a lifelong resident of Cranford, Gerlach is very passionate about preserving the history of the town. She has worked with the Eagle Scouts and Girls Scouts to create a walking tour of the museum, a vegetable garden and a picket.
“It has been an honor for me to be president of the Cranford Historical Society. My leadership has brought the impossible to fruition,” she said. “Cranford is a unique town with a lot of history dating back to the Lenni Lenape Indians, to the first settlers in 1620 to the Revolutionary War when General George Washington’s army camped out. We are still making history to the present day. My vision for the society will continue for what is best for the society and the community of Cranford by preserving our town’s history for generations to come.”

This month, a walking tour is scheduled to take place May 22 at the Crane-Phillips House. Participants are guided past homes and landmarks while being informed about the history of the town. This tour will be led by Cranford Historical Society Trustee and Education Chairperson Christine Glazer. This walk was created for an Eagle Scout project by Matthew Parlapiano and town historian Lawrence Fuhro.

“My love of Cranford and history inspired this walk,” Matthew said.
On May 21, the second Victorian Hat Box Tea will be held at the Hanson House from noon to 2 p.m. It will feature guest speaker Costume Curator Gail Alterman. She will inform the audience about the costumes seen on the television series, “Downton Abbey.”

It plans to be an elegant afternoon of tea, sandwiches, and dessert. Dressing in Victorian dresses and hats is optional. Three hat boxes full of items will be raffled off as well as a few other prizes. Guests must R.S.V.P. for this event by May 3. For more information, call 908-276-3307.

Victor Bary, curator of the Cranford Historical Society and a member of Cranford’s Historic Preservation Advisory Board, presented, “How to Research the History of Your Home” last month at the Cranford Community Center. The presentation was sponsored by both the Cranford Historical Society and the library.

“From the Unami Indians to the more prominent people of today, Cranford has been called home by many different people over the years,” he said.

To join the society, simply provide a name, address and phone along with the desired membership. Membership costs coincide with type, such as annual, patron or great-benefactor. There is a renewal form for existing members available on the official website.

Next month, the annual garage sale fundraiser will be held at the Hanson House on June 4 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Acceptable donations include unwanted household items such as furniture and decorations as long as it’s usable and in good condition. No appliances will be accepted. Donations can be made from May 9 to 12 from 3:30 to 5:30 p.m. Monday through Thursday. Volunteers for the event are also being sought.

With the help of the caring community of Cranford, there is no doubt the event will be a success. With the help of fundraisers such as this, Cranford can afford to preserve its history for years to come.