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The Deserted Village of Feltville: A New Jersey Family Day Trip

deserted-village-feltville-new-jersey-watchung

Hiking the Trails of New Jersey to Visit the State's Past

The deserted village of Feltville, which was also known as Glenside Park at one time, is in the northwest portion of the Watchung Reservation, a 1,945-acre park in central-north New Jersey that is largely undeveloped. The village was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1980.

Although the park has playgrounds and a golf course, the main activities in the reservation are hiking and horseback riding. There are a number of trails, including a six-mile one that is very popular. The one we like the most is a one-mile walk through Feltville, which was never really abandoned in its almost 300-year history.

All photos in this article were taken by us unless otherwise noted.

Deserted Village Feltville Graves

Deserted Village Feltville Graves

The First Buildings and the Cemetery

A Confusing Start to Visiting a Deserted Village!

The first building a visitor will encounter when walking from the park's parking lot nearest Feltville was the village's post office back in the 1800s. It is also the first indication of why the sobriquet ''Deserted Village'' is a misnomer -- the building is inhabited and the occupants look like they have a lovely vegetable garden in the backyard.

The pamphlet the park provides says not to disturb any building that looks inhabited, so we've never taken a photo of the home. Next to it is the park's former general store, which also served as its church (see photo below). This building isn't occupied and looks like it may be opened at times by the park, but we've been here several times and it always seems closed.

From there we cut off the paved road and walk up a trail to the village's ''cemetery.'' I put that in quote marks because there's no bodies under these gravestones. The park has erected this site to inform the public, and all but one of the gravestones here are replacements.

The first settler here was Peter Willcocks, who built a mill along the park's Blue Brook in the 1730s. The cemetery represents the Willcocks and Badgley families, who were the first to populate the village.

Interestingly, the only original stone is for John Willcocks, who died in June 1776. According to park literature he is believed to have died from wounds suffered during George Washington's retreat from Fort Lee, New Jersey, during the Revolutionary War.

Photo credit: The photo of the church below is from the park's website.

The Village's General Store/Church Restored

The Village's General Store/Church Restored

The Village's General Store/Church Restored

Deserted Village Feltville Trails

Deserted Village Feltville Trails

Enjoying Nature With a Dash of History

Hiking off the Paved Road

The main road to the rest of the village is paved, but we prefer to take one of the many trails through the woods. You have to be a bit adventurous to go on the trails, or a veteran of the reservation, because the map of the park is almost useless and the trails are poorly marked. Hikers on a number of websites and blogs have pointed this out, and we find it true almost every time we go.

We tend to wind our way down to Blue Brook, the main stream in that part of the reservation, then just work our way west upstream to the village. The nice thing is that the trails are pretty popular so if you do get a bit lost you can always ask a fellow walker.

One thing we always find funny: The park has all these signs that say dogs must be kept on a leash, and we have never seen a dog on a leash on any trail! The dogs run around, getting wet in puddles and streams, and almost always are way ahead of their owners. We don't mind unless they try to jump up on us.

John Willcocks, Who Gave His Life in the Revolutionary War

John Willcocks, Who Gave His Life in the Revolutionary War

John Willcocks, Who Gave His Life in the Revolutionary War

Deserted Village Feltville Blue Brook

Deserted Village Feltville Blue Brook

Blue Brook: A Boy's Favorite Playground

Why We Usually Take a Roundabout Route

The main reason we always take a trail to below the village is that Blue Brook is a favorite spot of the youngest member of the Goldenrulecomics family.

There's just something about young boys and water, and if you have seen our review of Niagara Falls' Cave of the Winds (here) then you know how much he loves getting wet.

Once we get down to the brook he spends a lot of time skipping stones, watching sticks flow down the current and climbing on the logs. His main enjoyment is seeing just how close he can get to falling in the water, much to the consternation of his mother!

On this visit, he has a buddy with him, so we linger even longer than usual before heading up to the village's homes.

Thankfully There's a Sign to Tell us This is a Stream

Thankfully There's a Sign to Tell us This is a Stream

Thankfully There's a Sign to Tell us This is a Stream

Deserted Village Abandoned House

Deserted Village Abandoned House

Visiting the Former Homes of Feltville

Up the hill from the Blue Brook are the former homes of the village's residents. Originally built for millworkers, the homes were renovated in the 1880s after Feltville was bought by a man named Warren Ackerman. Ackerman renamed the village Glenside Park and pitched it as a summer resort for people from New York City.

Each house was split down the middle, similar to duplexes. With new porches and railings, the buildings were similar to cottages in the Adirondacks. The resort offered tennis, golf, fishing, hiking, horseback riding, and it thrived until World War I.

Oddly enough, it wasn't the war that did the resort in. It was the automobile. People who once visited the resort now were able to drive down to the Jersey shore.

In the 1920s the resort was sold to the local park commission. The houses were rented out and the village was fully occupied until the 1960s, according to park literature. Now it looks like only one-half of one of the workers' houses still is occupied (judging by the nice mailbox in the front).

Down the trail a bit is the Masker's Barn, which was built circa 1882 and used as a stable for the summer resort.The building was modernized by the local county, which uses it as classroom for archeology classes.

There is an archeology site nearby but we didn't visit on this trip. Instead we headed back to the parking lot to head home. The walk we did took about 90 minutes, but a good bit of that was letting the boys play in the water.

A Video History of the Deserted Village

Watch this to find out how Feltville came to be called the deserted village!

Deserted Village Watchung

Deserted Village Watchung

The Impact of Moving Water on the Brook's Edge

The Impact of Moving Water on the Brook's Edge

The Impact of Moving Water on the Brook's Edge

For More Information

We Almost Stepped on This Snake on the Trail

We Almost Stepped on This Snake on the Trail

We Almost Stepped on This Snake on the Trail

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I hope you enjoyed reading this review as much as we enjoyed our travels and writing it. Now it's your turn!

Thanks for visiting!

Now It's Your Turn!

CoolFool83 on May 17, 2014:

I sure need to travel more. I'm missing out on a lot!

sierradawn lm on April 28, 2014:

I love exploring the many ghost towns of Nevada but have never been to Feltville. Intriguing lens!

Sherry Venegas from La Verne, CA on April 19, 2014:

We have Bodie as our deserted town on the West Coast. Ghost towns are very intriguing.

cmadden on March 06, 2014:

Looks like an interesting place to visit.

Lynda Makara from California on February 24, 2014:

What a great outing. Looks like you really enjoyed yourselves there.

MarcellaCarlton on January 31, 2014:

I didn't even know they had places like this in New Jersey. It is unlikely that I'll make it to the east coast since I broke my back, but I know I would love this place. Well done, my dear!

Kathryn Grace from San Francisco on January 28, 2014:

I am curious to learn why they have a cemetery with gravestones but no bodies, and what happened to the body of the man killed in the Revolutionary War? Very interesting story of your visit there. The hikes look positively enchanting.

Mary Norton from Ontario, Canada on November 11, 2013:

I would love to take this path. Maybe, one day.

Nancy Carol Brown Hardin from Las Vegas, NV on October 19, 2013:

Very interesting, I'd never heard of it before. Excellent lens and photos.

Pam Irie from Land of Aloha on October 19, 2013:

What an interesting lens. Honestly, I'd never associated the state of New Jersey with hiking before and I see what I've been missing. How wrong was that? :)

Raymond Eagar on August 06, 2013:

Very interesting .

Nancy Tate Hellams from Pendleton, SC on July 26, 2013:

I sure enjoyed reading about the Deserted Village of Feltville. Very interesting and it sounds like a great family outing.

Shelly Sellers from Midwest U.S.A. on July 18, 2013:

Who knew there would be a deserted village in New Jersey! I haven't been there, but it looks like an interesting visit.

boskaosbola on July 12, 2013:

It's an interesting place, kind of creepy though watching the video. This is the first time I heard of this deserted village.

Rose Jones on July 10, 2013:

Well, I live in California, but if I am out East - it is on the list.

Rose Jones on July 10, 2013:

Well, I live in California, but if I am out East - it is on the list.

ria on July 07, 2013:

I don't think this is too far for me, I will have to check it out someday.

lesliesinclair on July 06, 2013:

The landscape around Feltville looks like a soothing place to visit. It's easy to imagine why you keep returning.

Lorna from USA on June 28, 2013:

It's an interesting place, kind of creepy though watching the video. This is the first time I heard of this deserted village.

KonaGirl from New York on June 18, 2013:

I had never heard of Feltville before. It sounds like a fascinating place. I really enjoyed reading about it here.

sukkran trichy from Trichy/Tamil Nadu on June 18, 2013:

well written review lens. your photos and details are tempting me to visit this deserted village.

sybil watson on June 16, 2013:

Feltville sounds fascinating - I love combining nature and history too.

clevergirlname on June 15, 2013:

I've never been to New Jersey but would love to get my hands on the old buildings!

PinkstonePictures from Miami Beach, FL on June 15, 2013:

What an interesting place. Something to add to the places to visit list. Thanks.

Socialpro54 LM on June 01, 2013:

Beautiful pictures, nice lens too, would like to go there, but I'm from Belgium, so it's a bit too far for me ... maybe I can visit it once

Cynthia Haltom from Diamondhead on May 31, 2013:

Sound like a road trip is in store for us. We love to visit places like this.

WriterJanis2 on May 29, 2013:

This looks like a place I would really have fun exploring.

angelatvs on May 28, 2013:

Interesting... I will add this to "my places to visit list". Thanks for sharing!

TV-Tech on May 28, 2013:

I really enjoyed reading this!!!! I love history and the history all around us. I live outside of Richmond, VA, and you've sparked my interests to explore more here,,,,and there.

CherylsArt on May 25, 2013:

It's nice to explore old places. Thanks for sharing about New Jersey.

Lorelei Cohen from Canada on May 24, 2013:

I love old buildings and ghost or other historical buildings are one of my favorite spots to visit. I really enjoyed the pictures here. What a fantastic place to visit.

Peggy Hazelwood from Desert Southwest, U.S.A. on May 23, 2013:

Love your commentary on the stream sign. ;o)

MaggiePowell on May 23, 2013:

Very nice... deserted towns in California have a much different feel to them.

ConvenientCalendar on May 23, 2013:

I enjoyed the pictures!

techskwidly on May 22, 2013:

Nice lens. Looks like a great place to go adventuring and get lost for a while.

RinchenChodron on May 22, 2013:

Looks like a great historic place with great hikes and nature.

LadyDuck on May 21, 2013:

I never heard about Feltville desert village before, this must be a great place to visit.

Keith Winter from Spain on May 21, 2013:

Very interesting. Great lens.

Barbara Walton from France on May 20, 2013:

Fascinating! Wondered why it is not re-inhabited. Is Feltville more of a museum village? It looks so wonderfully green and peaceful.

allaneaglesham lm on May 20, 2013:

A very informative lens of just the right length.

dakadare on May 20, 2013:

I love New Jersey! Well done on Lens of the Day!! Cheers

anonymous on May 20, 2013:

I love the the Deserted Village has people living there, that is just a fun turn of events. Old cemeteries are a natural place to visit to gain some history. I would take the trail through the woods to, just because I love wooded trails and finding a sign to let me know that's a creek would get a picture for sure. Congratulations on a great Imminent feature! :)

Ellen Gregory from Connecticut, USA on May 20, 2013:

Looks like a very interesting place to visit

Angela F from Seattle, WA on May 20, 2013:

Sounds like a great place to explore.

mrdata on May 20, 2013:

Congrats for your LOTD! Wonderful historical area to visit.. Thanks for your sharing!

Genesis Davies from Guatemala on May 20, 2013:

I love exploring places like this. How cool that some people still live there. It would be neat to have your home in such a historical spot.