MARKER TELLS THE HISTORY OF THE COLONY ASSOCIATION IN CHATHAM TOWNSHIP
By Tracy Ness/Independent Press
October 28, 2010
The Chatham Township Historical Society is up and running with its historical marker campaign installing the second marker, this time at Colony Pool. The marker was donated by the Chatham Township Committee and tells the story behind the Colony Association that began in 1922.
Two members of the association, Valerie Kondrat Anjoorian and Blanche Thomer Blumenfeld are still living on the properties their family purchased. Anjoonian's family joined in 1930 while Blumenfeld's father was an original member of the colony beginning in 1923.
A third member Bert Abbazia explained that his father Bernard Somer was one of the founders of the Association. "He helped to start the colony in 1922 and I still have all of the meeting minutes and paperwork from those early years," he said. Abbazia is currently working on a book about the experimental colony and hopes to find a publisher.
The Colony Association was a communal living experiment founded by Russian and Eastern European immigrants between 1922 and 1969. An advertisement in the Jewish Daily Forward in 1922 offered the purchase of 150 acres in the township that initially drew 70 members who drew lots to determine their individual plots. More than 190 two-acre lots were for sale $200 each comprising most of Spring, Maple and School Streets.
In 1928, the members built a community house and swimming pool and donated land to the township fire department where the Southern Boulevard substation is located. The pool was a popular feature serving as a summer camp retreat where children were taught swimming and boating skills along with Hebrew culture and art. Although a thriving community for close to 40 years, membership began to dwindle and in 1969 the township purchased the land to develop the Colony Pool Club.
Yet to be funded are signs for the world famous Madame Bey’s boxing camp on River Road, the old greenhouse section that included the Behre, Smith, Heyl, Hentz and Mastriano rose farms, and the Elias Boudinot House on Green Village Road, whose occupant was the president of the Continental Congress when the Constitution was adopted.
Anyone wishing to sponsor a sign or make a tax deductible donation may send a check to the Historical Society of Chatham Township, PO Box 262, Chatham, NJ 07928.