Monmouth County, located somewhat equidistantly between Hoboken and Atlantic City, boasts land of high significance to baseball and America. Once the spring training home of Brooklyn’s major league squad around the turn of the 20th century, nearly four decades before that gloried organization settled on the Dodgers label—having also been known as Bridegrooms, Flock, Trolley Dodgers—Allaire State Park has the ghosts of the National Pastime dancing around its environs. When vintage baseball teams, dressed in uniforms play on Allaire’s grounds, they continue the legacy.
Named for James Peter Allaire, who bought the land in 1822, the park showcases a 19th century village, complete with a reenactment of daily activities. Allaire purchased approximately 5,000 acres—it was labeled Howell Works.
The web site for the Monmouth County Historical Association calls Allaire “one of the foremost steam engine manufacturers of his time, although he was trained as a brass founder. Between 1804 and 1806, he cast the brass air chamber for Robert Fulton’s ‘CLERMONT’ and was with Fulton on the steamboat’s historic maiden voyage.”
Allaire enjoyed the confidence, friendship, and trust of Fulton, who manifested the bond by appointing Allaire executor of his will.
Expansion occurred under Allaire’s aegis—”an additional 3,000 acres of woodland to ensure the charcoal fuel supply necessary for the bog-iron production.”
Once a self-contained village of approximately 500 people, Allaire declined because of the “discovery of high grades of iron ore in Pennsylvania along with the benefit of an anthracite coal fuel source,” according to Allaire Village’s web site.
13 of the original buildings remain for visitors to take a peek into history, including tool making using 19th century methods.
Additionally, vintage baseball teams meet not he grounds once graced by the Brooklyn ancestors of Duke Snider, Jackie Robinson, and Pee Wee Reese. “To my knowledge, visitor and Villagers participating in 1831 Philadelphia Townball at Allaire Village are involved in a unique experience not replicated anywhere else in the country! Most other historical site interpretations of Townball play the 1850’s Massachusetts-style Game. We play the game that Howell Works residents most likely would have known,” explained Russ McIver in a 2014 article on Allaire State Park’s web site. McIver is an Allaire volunteer and vintage baseball enthusiast, one of many dedicated to recreating 19th century baseball.
Allaire also has the distinction of being in a county that saw a turning point in the American War for Independence, also known as the Revolutionary War. General George Washington led the rebels in the Battle of Monmouth, which highlighted a severe dispute between the general and his second in command, General Charles Lee.
Washington ordered Lee into battle. Instead, Lee led his soldiers to retreat, which ignited wrath in his commanding officer. It was a clash of strategies. On the George Washington’s Mount Vernon’s web site, Dr. Mary Stockwell explains that regret formed a cornerstone of the conflict: “Washington’s fury stemmed in part from his regret at having appointed Lee in the first place. When Washington initially proposed attacking the British on their way through New Jersey, Lee scoffed at the idea.”
Lee wasn’t alone; General Henry Knox advocated against entering a battle with troops numbering around 15,000. Marquis de Lafayette, General Nathanael Greene, and General Anthony Wayne took the opposite approach.
Washington opted for battle, which resulted in victory. “Noticing British campfires burning in the distance, Washington decided to continue the fight in the morning. But at sunrise, he realized that the redcoats had kept their fires burning as a ruse and were safely on their way to New York,” described Stockwell.
A version of this article appeared on www.thesportspost.com on July 4, 2016.
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