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Jersey Through History: Waterloo Village

The town of Stanhope has many long, winding roads with plenty of sites to see. But if you know where to look, one particular road leads to a historic gem; a village hidden between Sussex County’s high mountains and flourishing rivers. During the 18th century, Waterloo Village was an ironworking settlement on the Muscenetcong River. Now, it is part of Best of NJ’s Jersey Through History collection.

Known as Andover Forge during the American Revolution, the village’s first iron forge was built in 1761. Within the next 20 years, villagers built a charcoal house, sawmill, gristmill, blacksmith shop and three stone homes. However, the site was closed down in 1795, after nearly 35 years of operation. Despite the shutdown, the gristmill remained active to assist the area’s farmers.

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Jersey Through History: Waterloo Village

This went on well into the 19th century, until a man named John Smith acquired the land. He envisioned making the site a transport hub, with a railway, canal and roads meeting in a central location. In 1831, a year after Smith built the General Store, the Morris Canal was made along the village. Smith also went on to renovate many of the buildings on the property. Finally, in 1855, the Morris and Essex Railroad laid its tracks through Waterloo, fulfilling Smith’s dream.

Then came the American Civil War, increasing both manufacturing and shipping needs. To the benefit of Waterloo, countless supplies and goods traveled through the canal and railroad in support of the Union. Following the Civil War, Smith’s children took over the property, expanding upon the grounds by adding several Victorian-style homes.

Delaware, Lackawanna and Western Railroad soon took over the rail line, moving it out of Waterloo. Following that, in 1903, the Morris Canal shut down. Within a decade, the village had more tenants and fewer blue collar workers on the grounds. By the mid-20th century, the Smith family lost their wealth and the property was foreclosed on.

However, Waterloo Village soon found new buyers by the names of Percy Leach and Louis Gualand. After growing up in the village, they attempted to purchase the whole property piece by piece in the 1960s. On their own, Leach and Gualand were able to acquire about half of Waterloo Village; meanwhile, the state soon acquired the other half. Not long after, The Waterloo Foundation for the Arts was established; the foundation’s goal was to lease the property and operate it as an arts and public music venue.

The Village Today

Presently, Waterloo Village is operated by the New Jersey State Park Service (SPS). They work with Friends of Waterloo Village Inc. (FOWV), a 501(c)(3) corporation. This fundraising partner organizes efforts to help restore the village and the structures within it. The village is also part of the Allamuchy Mountain State Park, a 2,440-acre nature preserve.

Waterloo Village entrance sign just off the road

Waterloo Village includes roughly a couple dozen buildings, in both Colonial and Victorian styles. These buildings range from farm houses and homes to mills and a Methodist church. The village’s single road runs along the Morris Canal, with trails branching off through the site. Depending on what time of year you visit, you might see farm animals or geese, ducks, and swans roaming freely.

The grounds are smooth and easy to traverse, inviting visitors of all kinds. Guests can stroll along the laid paths, peer inside some of the oldest buildings and step inside others. The area also makes for a lovely destination wedding ceremony.

Thanks to significant restoration over the years, Waterloo Village continues to grow. The SPS, FOWV, Sussex County and the NJ Department of Environmental Protection all work to improve this impressive landmark. As it stands, Waterloo Village remains a remarkable part of New Jersey history.

Want to continue your journey through New Jersey’s most historic sites? You can now visit Jersey Through History: The Complete Series.

All Photos: © Patrick Lombardi / Best of NJ