Saturday, November 10, 2018

Historic Loss



Fred Branch, authority of town’s history, dies at 93

Photo by Daniel Jackovino
In an undated photo, Fred Branch works on a model of the Bloomfield Cemetery gatehouse. Branch died on Sunday leaving the work unfinished.


BLOOMFIELD, NJ — Frederick Branch, architectural model-maker, foremost Bloomfield historian, and life-member of the Historical Society of Bloomfield, died at his Sunset Avenue home Sunday, Nov. 4. He was 93.

A graduate of Bloomfield High School, Class of 1943, Branch was born Aug. 26, 1925. He lived in Kearny until 1927 when his family moved to the Bloomfield home where he would reside his entire life.

His start as a model-maker was propitious. Branch said he was taking a class in the craft when the instructor looked at his final classroom project, the model of a living room, and told him, “That will get you a job.”

Branch took the model to the Jersey City studio of Theodore Conrad and was hired. According to The New York Times, the model-making studio of Conrad was where “many modern landmarks assumed their earliest three-dimensional form.”

Among these landmarks was the gravesite of President John Kennedy in Arlington National Cemetery. For that project, Branch was responsible for modeling Arlington House, the Robert E. Lee Memorial, which overlooks the gravesite. Conrad told him that within the depiction, he was most proud of the work done on the Lee Memorial. Branch worked for Conrad from 1959 to 1970.

In 1970, he began working for the Bloomfield Public Library as head of its audio/visual department. He coordinated the restoration of the Little Theatre, located in the basement of the Children’s Library. He is responsible for the plaster designs that decorate the theater, a craft he learned from an uncle, Philip Mullenthaler, who decorated NYC movie houses, including the Roxy Theatre, and in Bloomfield, the Royal Theatre. Branch left the library in 1985.

He also worked for the Newark Museum as a restorer. His model of the Ballantine House is exhibited where the two buildings are joined by a passageway.

As a member of the historical society, Branch was the editor the newsletter, “The New Town Crier.” Famously, at least within the society, in a fit of pique he quit as editor by publishing his resignation. A plaque has been proposed by the society board, dedicated in his honor, to hang in the museum.

Branch also co-authored two books, “Bloomfield,” and “Bloomfield Revisited,” for the Arcadia Press “Images of America” series. For the first, he worked with Jean Kuras and Mark Sceurman; for the follow-up, with Kuras.

Kuras, the current president of the historical society, recalled Branch this week in a telephone interview. She had arrived at his home shortly after he died.
“He loved Bloomfield,” she said. “What he knew, he knew from his heart as well as his mind. That makes a difference.”
She also recalled one time when Newsletter Editor Branch wanted a color photograph in the publication. In order to do that, the picture had to be printed separately, cut out, and then hot-glued into 80 newsletters. The work was done on Branch’s dining room table. Heating the glue kept setting off the fire alarm and fumes kept the both of them leaving the house for fresh air.

“It was agony,” Kuras laughed. “But it was a beautiful newsletter.”
Bloomfield Councilman Rich Rockwell, a Bloomfield historian himself, said in an email that Branch taught him much of what he knows about township history.

“I was always impressed with his encyclopedic memory for names and dates,” Rockwell said. “Often when a history question comes up among colleagues, after some research through the index of old newsletters, we usually discover Fred wrote an article about it.”

Branch also was instrumental in locating the unmarked grave in Bloomfield Cemetery of Alexander Jackson Davis, an eminent 19th century architect.
That discovery helped have the cemetery designated an historic site. Branch will be interred there, in the family plot, in a private service.

Friday, October 26, 2018

Clarks Pond October 2018


Photo of Historic Clarks Pond - Bloomfield, NJ

Photo used with permission from a video by Betto Cario (Facebook)




Saturday, October 20, 2018

A Local Bloomfield Bank - 1954


Became Midlantic, became PNC.


Bloomfield Sportsmen - Published in 1949


In St. Valentine's Golden Jubilee Book - 1899-1949

Note: Walter Van Grofski's stance looks like Lou Gehrig's


Friday, September 14, 2018

Vintage Baseball! Tomorrow, September 15th in Bloomfield



Vintage Baseball at Wrights Field!

Saturday, September 15, 2018, 1:30 PM (rain date September 22)
Wrights Field at the foot of Weaver Avenue


Check out other Fall events in Bloomfield...HERE



History buffs and sports fanatics alike can appreciate a fast-paced and historically accurate vintage baseball game at Wright’s Field as the HSOB welcomes vintage baseball clubs the Bloomfield Buzzards vs. the Hoboken Nine on Saturday, Sept. 15. The event is open to the public and free of charge, but don’t expect modern baseball—this game will be played like it’s 1864! Bring the kids and spend an old-timey Saturday with the HSOB at Wrights Field.

Saturday, June 23, 2018

Bloomfield's Schwacha - Watercolor on Paper - 1947


"Peaceful Cove"




And now framed...




Saturday, May 12, 2018

Bloomfield Stables




Mark Sceurman via HSOB

63 Park Avenue - 1922 - The E.R. Peckens Home.


"...where Baby Maurice Weaver is living with his mother."







Thursday, April 19, 2018

Art Deco Athletics


Bloomfield High School main entrance steps.




Saturday, April 14, 2018

Our "Pit"


Modern gyms can be bland, antiseptic, utilitarian. Here is our 1920's Bloomfield High School Gymnasium"The Pit"

Color photos by Jerry Simon











Saturday, April 7, 2018

Friday, April 6, 2018

Funding ideas needed for the Church on the Green


Our 1796 Church needs help. 

Money yes. But ideas are needed to raise the money






Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Save the Date - March 27th 2018


Historical Society Gears up for an Exciting Spring

Did you know that the first batting cage, catcher’s mask and even professional baseball itself, originated in New Jersey? On March 27 at 7:30pm in Bloomfield Civic Center, 84 Broad St, the HSOB will present historian Linda Barth speaking about her book “A History of Inventing in New Jersey: From Thomas Edison to the Ice Cream Cone.”

Learn about the New Jerseyans who brought sound and music to movies and built the very first drive-in theater, the vacuum cleaner, plastic and Band-Aids, ice cream cones and M&Ms. Barth's book will be available for sale at the event, which is free and open to the public. Refreshments will be served.

Contact 973-743-8844 or info@hsob.org for information about membership and upcoming meetings.