Haunted Houses, Nobel Laureates, and the Statue of Liberty: A Journey Through New Jersey
People of different nationalities, religions and views live in New Jersey, hundreds of world famous artists, writers and musicians come from here. Each town - as a separate little America with its own traditions and characteristics, tells "Voice of America".
Manhattan is just a stone's throw away. About 9 million people live here - this is the most populous, the most heterogeneous and one of the most economically successful US states.
Sea holidays are what many Americans on the east coast remember first and foremost when they say “New Jersey.” Atlantic City with its casinos, amusement parks and roller coasters, sun loungers and striped umbrellas on sandy beaches, and in the very south - not just a resort, but a real piece of old America, where time seemed to stop.
The legendary Cape May (Cape May) - the southernmost point of New Jersey, a fabulous town with preserved Victorian architecture. And yet, according to legend, the oldest resort in the United States of America. How is it the oldest resort? Have people not traveled to the seaside before?
Nobody went anywhere for a week, and even more so on a weekend. Even from the nearest major city, Philadelphia, one had to get here on horseback for three days. However, in 1863, something changed. A railway was laid in Cape May, and in a couple of years it has become the most fashionable and crowded resort on the east coast.
In 1878, Cape May survived a terrible five-day fire in which almost the entire old city burned down. It was then that on the site of the destroyed houses, it was decided to build elegant villas in a single Victorian style.
Thanks to the efforts of the local historical society, these houses are still considered architectural monuments, and interest in the past is fueled by all means. For example, ghost fishing.
And if the mysterious Margaret lives in the museum, then, for example, high-ranking spirits can live in the Congress Hall. Indeed, the presidents of America once stayed in this huge old hotel: Franklin Pierce, James Buchanan, Ulysses Grant and Benjamin Harrison. A room in it costs from $ 859 per day plus tax.
They say no one knows Cape May better than the historian Harry Belange.
“My grandfather worked at the post office, and he was also a hairdresser,” Harry says. - My family settled here in Cape May, back in the 18th century. I am one of those who are called the descendants of people from the Mayflower.
The old theater, the main street - exactly the same as in photographs a century and a half ago, the marvelous smells of oysters, crabs, rolls and pancakes with maple syrup. Cape May also symbolizes the state’s smart economy, because the resort town earns $ 6,5 billion a year in tourism, attracting about 10 million tourists. Restaurants and wineries, fishing, history and culture, eco-tourism, beaches and the promenade are the southern point of the state and today is one of the most sophisticated and expensive vacation spots in the whole country.
The ocean, the beach, boardwalk, restaurants serving fresh fish and white wine, somewhere in the distance are an abandoned casino and an old carousel.
The city of Asbury Park is the guardian city of one of the oldest American cultural traditions: it was here that the so-called New Jersey sound was born. And this is about music.
The recipe for a New Jersey sound is simple: a little blues, a bit of jazz, a pinch of R&B and the image of a simple guy in a shirt and jeans who sings his simple rock and roll songs about joys and sorrows. The kings of the genre are Americans of Italian descent, including John Bon Jovi and Bruce Springsteen. The latter even has an album, which is called “Greetings from Asbury Park”.
Bruce is especially warm in New Jersey: he, the son of a local driver and secretary, has become a symbol of the American dream. He started as an ordinary yard guy with a guitar. Now he is collecting stadiums, and the world circulation of his drives amounted to 135 million.
“I think one of Bruce’s most important qualities is that he’s an ordinary guy. He is very talented, known throughout the world, but here, in New Jersey, he is dear to us. He is the one who grew up from the small world of local musicians and achieved success, ”says Eileen Chapman, director of the music archive.
Eileen is not just the director of the Bruce Springsteen archive, she is also one of the founders of the Asbury Park Music Foundation. This organization develops the unique cultural traditions of the city and helps children from low-income families make music.
New Jersey is indebted to Americans of Italian descent - and almost 20% of them are here - not only with good music and a tomato-basilic bias of local cuisine. He owes them also a huge layer of mass culture, without which it is difficult to imagine modern America. Danny de Vito, Travolta, Sinatra, Germanotta (this is the real name of the singer Lady Gaga) - they all have Italian roots.
One of the most famous film locations in all of New Jersey is the home of fictional Italian mafiosi Tony Soprano, the protagonist of the television series The Clan of Soprano. Those who watched probably remember very well that literally in every episode he went down the path in front of the house, in a white coat, to pick up a newspaper, which the postman carefully left for him on the border of private property.
The Nuggers Patti and Victor Retcha lived in it for 32 years, including 8 years of filming. And recently reported that they decided to sell the property. Although experts valued the property at $ 1, the owners are confident that they will be able to sell the legendary house at least twice as expensive.
The longer you travel around this state, the deeper you immerse yourself in the history of his people, the more surprising his heterogeneity. New Jersey has many faces, it is full of contradictions, paradoxes and contrasts.
Camden is a city that has acquired the status of not only the most dangerous city in New Jersey, but also the most criminal in all of America. They say that it’s gotten better now, but 5 years ago, heroin and crack were traded at every intersection. But once it was a cozy American town.
“In the early and mid-70s, we produced famous Campbell soups here, Orsey Recording Studio worked, people lived just one or two blocks from work,” says Brian Morton, coach of the children's basketball team. - Life was in full swing, it was a prosperous city for the middle class. And then at one moment everything seemed to be turned off. ”
Everyone knows and respects Brian Morton in Camden.
“When I was 9 years old, in the early 80s, the whole country was experiencing economic depression. And cities like ours have suffered the most, ”says the trainer.
Many factories closed, nearly half the population lost their jobs, drugs poured into Camden. At the age of 9, Brian tried, at the age of 12 he began not only to consume, but also to sell, at 20 he was already sentenced to 20 years in prison. But who could know that this would be the beginning of a much brighter story.
After leaving prison 12 years earlier, Brian returned to his Camden with a firm decision to do something for a city where teenagers have little choice between drugs and crime. His wife once came home and said that they were moving: they were using drugs in the city and selling drugs. And Brian replied: “Let's create a baseball league here!”
Today, his sports organization called Little Baseball League is no longer small. We started with dozens of kids, and now there are almost a thousand of them. As a result, his district, which was one of the most criminal in the city, became the safest.
Next stop is Princeton.
By the way, Princeton University at first was simply called College of New Jersey. It was founded in 1746 as one of the first colleges in the British colonies. It is hard to imagine that the first classes took place simply in the house of the founder of the educational institution, priest Jonathan Dickinson.
Today there are 75 research institutes, two national laboratories of geophysical hydrodynamics and plasma physics. Names associated with the university include Paul Krugman, John Nash, Francis Scott Fitzgerald, Haruki Murakami and Michelle Obama.
35 Nobel laureates - and Albert Einstein. He lived in this unremarkable house from 1933 until his death in 1955.
It is especially interesting to keep track of new generations of graduates. Izzy Kassdin graduated from Princeton and at 24, still a child by the standards of business America, led the local historical society.
“I only worked as a curator for 9 months and agreed to take this position, although I was not ready for it,” says Izzy. - One wonderful woman, my mentor, told me: “Stop thinking like a woman!” According to Harvard Business School, a woman applies for a vacancy only when she is 100% sure of her qualifications. ”
But this didn’t scare Izzy, but, on the contrary, became a challenge for her: “Women often miss good opportunities because they don’t think that their resume meets all the requirements.”
Under the guidance of Izzy, Einstein’s collection of things was still turned into a small museum. They say that it was at Princeton that the scientist met his last love - Russian aristocrat Margarita Konenkova. Locals who found the genius still alive and were madly proud of their proximity with him, said that, experiencing periods of separation from his beloved, he spent days on end sitting in this chair and wrote her love notes and even sonnets. He smoked at the same time his famous pipe - it is also now stored here in Princeton.
New Jersey is also called Garden State - "Garden State." Indeed, sometimes you go through its open spaces and you get the feeling that there are only greenhouses and farm fields around.
The small blue berry of tall blueberries is officially considered a symbol of the state of New Jersey. Firstly, the plant was really discovered here, on the east coast of North America, and secondly, blueberries are probably included in hundreds of local recipes. Thirdly, New Jersey is consistently one of the five most “blueberry” states of America.
Harvesting such a crop is manual labor. Each berry is removed from the bush with fingers. In the summer, when blueberries ripen, thousands of seasonal workers come to New Jersey.
The owner of the family business Paul Galetta proudly shows his field. His father and four brothers started a business in 1935, immediately after the Great Depression, to make ends meet. And by 1969 it was already the largest blueberry farm in the world. Business has been run by one family for 85 years. Now it's Paul, his cousin and two of their nephews. Only now the farm occupies 5,5 square kilometers. Boxes with simple fresh berries, selected and frozen, are scattered around the country for shops throughout the country.
“I always remember how my parents handed a box of blueberries to their friends - and these people glowed with joy as if they were given a million dollars,” says Paul. “But that was before.” In the past 5 years, our business has become very tough and competitive. ”
Out of 50 states, 31 now grow blueberries. And also Canada and South America.
It's time to move on. A little north and inland, where Flemington County is home to one of New Jersey’s most unusual locations. Chase Brickman, 22, is a child of typical New Jersey blue-collar workers. Chase works in an amazing place that turned his life into a fairy tale in the spirit of the animated cartoons of Pixar studio. He is a civil engineer in the Northlandz Museum Park, the longest toy railway in the United States, 13 kilometers of endless childhood.
This surreal plasterboard world mesmerizes modern kids who are used to gadgets. It was built by another Nuggets, now a 96-year-old eccentric and dreamer Bruce Willem.
“Bruce always said that if you have a gift, it doesn’t matter what - maybe you are a good electrician, or maybe a great locksmith, or maybe an artist like he was - you have to share this gift with the world anyway "Says Chase.
You say “industrial staff” - and the imagination immediately draws factories to the horizon, powerful factory machines and cities that grow inside production facilities. But New Jersey also witnessed another period in the industrial history of the United States. It would be more correct to call it romantic.
The great inventor or entrepreneur, in general, is the same Thomas Edison, a legendary scientist who has become a symbol of twentieth-century progress, whose fortune was $ 12 million by old age, moved to New Jersey in 1876. Then there was a continuous village, and he was not enough well-known young enthusiast. It was like an explosion - invention after invention. Edison filed 1093 patents - a comparison can be made with Silicon Valley by the number of ideas.
Not far from modern Newark, Edison actually founded his own research institute. Life has begun to boil. What was just not invented here - a telegraph, a telephone, a movie camera, a phonograph. At the junction of the 19th and 20th centuries, an ideal environment for mental work was created here, hundreds of people worked here and hundreds of ideas were polished.
In 1877, in New Jersey, Edison came up with a phonograph. The invention has become an incredible sensation. It is interesting what Edison would say if he had admitted that only about 100 years later it would be possible to listen to the same music using a mobile phone by pressing just one button. But we would never have this record, if not for the invention of the phonograph.
New Jersey has for many years been the most populous state in all of America. It attracts people like a magnet. Flocking here are young families who want to move from a cramped apartment to a country house, Wall Street brokers who want to pay less taxes, retirees, students, and those who have longed for life to be themselves.
“My husband said that we need to arrange a pride parade, that he cannot live in a city where LGBT pride festivals are not held,” says artist Miguel Cardenas. - And then we organized it. And now 19 years have passed. ”
The founder of the Jersey City Pride pop art artist Cardenas is a descendant of Cuban immigrants. Once he built a career as an architect in Manhattan, earned a lot of money and lived, as he says, in endless New York stress. Then he threw everything and moved to the other side of the Hudson River, became a teacher for children with autism in a local public school, moved to the premises of the former 19th century stables, which are now converted into apartments. And he finally became happy.
This year, Jersey City was given the status of the LGBT-friendly itself, that is, the city most friendly to the LGBT community in the whole state. Same-sex couples live here in something freer than even in free New York, some laws are softer here: for example, paid surrogate motherhood is allowed, which means that same-sex and barren couples can have children.
New Jersey, one of the oldest states in the United States, seemed to have absorbed all the stages of the country's development history, from the war of independence through the golden age of industry to the present, when the future lies with startups, bold ideas, and competent reflection on the past.
By the way, the famous Statue of Liberty is not located in New York at all - formally it stands on the territory of New Jersey. This state with its small cities, each of which is a separate country, reminds America itself, in which there is a place for every person, if only he has his own version of a dream. Let it even be a children's railway for a lifetime.
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