History

Peppertown Park History

At the turn of the 20th century, Berkeley Heights was a farming community. The Park was called Peppertown because of the long racks of drying peppers commonly found in family gardens. Once dried, the peppers were then shipped by rail to surrounding communities.

This small parcel of land of approximately 2 acres was the site of the Petrone Family Farm. It was dedicated to in September 2000 to the Italian immigrants that came to Berkeley Heights whom also had a profound influence on the development of the community.

The following picture of the Petrone family appeared in Images of America, Berkeley Heights by Virginia B. Troeger pg. 15 and is from Peppertown, circa 1910. 

Peppertown-C.jpg
Petrone Family, From left to right, Frank, Agnese, and their children, Annie, Tony, and Minnie along with some hired help and a bountiful crop.

The following information was obtained from a book entitled, From the Passaiack to the Wachunks, A History of the Township of Berkeley Heigths, pg 65.

On their land just north of the railroad tracks near Sherman Avenue, Mr. and Mrs. Petrone built a large frame house in 1925 which had four apartments and space for a store. They had a grocery store there from 1930-1939. The store was then rented to tenants who had a liquor and grocery store there and later a butcher shop. In 1970, The township bought the property for the widening of Sherman Avenue and razed the building.

Mr. and Mrs. Petrone raised four children, one boy and three girls and have 26 descendants, many living in Berkeley Heights today.

Catherine Martino, granddaughter of Frank and Agnese Petrone, who still resides in Berkeley Heights, recalls living in one of the apartments and tending to the cows owned by the Petrones. Catherine stated, "The cows grazed where Kings shopping center was located and the barn was situated where Peak Medical is currently located."

Peppertown Park Dedication—September 2000

Peppertown Park was dedicated in September 2000. A large group of people gathered to hear Catherine Martino speak at the dedication.

catherine---2000.jpgCatherine Martino Addresses the Crowd at the Peppertown Park Dedication—September 2000 (Photo by Bob Stetson)

 four-generations.jpgFour Generations of Petrone's at the Peppertown Park Dedication (Photo by Bob Stetson)

A sign was erected as part of the Berkeley Heights Historical Tour that indicates that the park was established in 2000. The sign also indicates that the Berkeley Heights train station was established in 1888.

sign-U.jpg

Heritage Sign in Peppertown Park that Honors the Italian Immigrants (Photo by Bob Stetson)

Peppertown Park Clock Ceremony — July 12, 2014

The Peppertown Park Clock ceremony was held on Saturday, July 12, 2014 to celebrate the installation of the Peppertown Park Clock. The clock was conceived by the Berkeley Heights Downtown Beautification Committee as part of an effort to improve the aesthetics of the business center.

The ceremony included welcoming remarks by Midge Vicendese, who spoke about Catherine Martino, whose grandparents originally owned the land that is known as Peppertown Park. Catherine, who also served as a crossing guard for 22 years in Berkeley Heights, was given the honor of cutting the ribbon and also received a proclamation from the Mayor and Council acknowledging her contributions to the community.

ribbon-cutting.jpg Catherine Martino Cuts the Clock Dedication Ribbon with Mayor Joe Bruno (Photo by Bob Stetson)

Please click on Clock Dedication for more information on the clock's face, clock plaque sponsors, and the people that donated their time and efforts to its installation.