View from Above
Last night I was at Zaytinya (my fave restaurant) and so was Michelle Obama, safe and sound after her close call at Andrews Air Force Base. Let’s hope this is the last air traffic control incident we hear about for a long time. And let’s be thankful someone like Millicent Fenwick wasn’t flying. Her attempts learning to fly didn’t go well. After several accidents, she was banned from two airports and gave up her wings. Despite everything that’s going on in the skies today, I’d still rather be flying.
John Fenwick is often remembered for this recently renovated rest stop which offers food, full-service cheap gas, and free window-washing to travelers on the NJ turnpike, but who was he?
Greetings from New Jersey! For anyone who travels the popular I-95 corridor on the New Jersey Turnpike, you know the many rest stops along the way. What you may not know is that each one is named after an individual with a New Jersey connection.
The first rest stop on the NJ Turnpike north bound side is the “John Fenwick.” Long before I wrote about Millicent Fenwick, I stopped at the John Fenwick rest stop. And once I started writing about Millicent, the Fenwick rest stop was a staple of my DC to NJ drive to see Millicent Fenwick’s private papers, then in the attic of her Bernardsville manse and now housed at the New Jersey Historical Society.
Fans of Millicent Fenwick often ask if John Fenwick was her husband? He wasn’t. Her husband was Hugh Fenwick who hailed from northern California. John Fenwick lived centuries earlier (1618-1683). During the colonial period he helped settle southern Jersey and what is now Salem and Cumberland Counties. Millicent’s son and I tried to trace a connection from Hugh Fenwick to John Fenwick, but weren’t able to put all the pieces together. Millicent and Hugh’s marriage only lasted six years so she didn’t feel a strong connection to the Fenwick family. However, she would have appreciated John Fenwick’s values, he granted religious and civil liberties to everyone who lived in Salem County.
If you find Burger King, you’ll also find more info about John Fenwick
Updated November 15, 2011
I just returned from another trip to NJ and, of course, I stopped at the John Fenwick rest stop. If you want to learn more about John Fenwick just read this sign next to Burger King, not to mention it makes the burger line move faster.
Millicent Fenwick’s first cousin was John Henry Hammond, a legendary music producer and talent scout long before Simon Cowell and American Idol. Among Hammond’s many discoveries were Billie Holiday, Count Basie, Benny Goodman (who married John’s sister Alice), Bob Dylan, and Bruce Springsteen. Hammond was also a key player behind the Newport Jazz Festival which started in 1954. Five years later the Newport Folk Festival was started and both continue to this day. It was at the Newport Folk Festival that I first heard Joe Pug, a young singer/songwriter, strum his guitar and play the harmonica. Last night he played at the Black Cat to a sold out hometown crowd of mostly twenty-somethings (like him). The opening act, Strand of Oaks, was a guy named Tim who has been in the business for decades. Just how long was clear when he sang a song about “wanting to kill John Belushi’s drug dealer.” The girl in front of me asked her boyfriend, “Who is John Belushi?” Fortunately, he knew.
Now that I’ve returned to Washington, Millicent Fenwick reappears. This time in book form. I returned home to find a copy of “A New Jersey Anthology” waiting for me. It’s a selection of chapters about New Jersey’s rich history from the Revolutionary War to Twentieth Century politics including a chapter about Millicent Fenwick, “The Conscience of Congress,” by yours truly.
The last chapter is about the ongoing Mount Laurel case focused on low-income housing. The case became mired in zoning issues, fair housing, and what some referred to as economic discrimination. I remember hearing about “Mount Laurel” and that the topic was always a spark for heated conversation, but now I know the roots of this battle. Eventually “Mount Laurel” housing came to my hometown too, but not before New Jersey passed a Fair Housing Act in 1985.
My favorite chapter in the anthology is about the “Trial of the Century.” No, not O.J. This is an anthology about New Jersey and in the garden state that is the Lindbergh baby kidnapping case tried in Flemington, New Jersey. Until last year you could watch a reenactment at the historic courthouse itself (and I did). The only difference is the ending. In real life Hauptmann was found guilty, and later executed, for the kidnapping and murder of baby Lindbergh. In the theater version, the audience turned jury decided. The day I went, Haumptmann was found not guilty. How times have changed.
While tickets to the play are no longer an option, in 1935 the trial was the hottest ticket in town and among those in the courthouse when Bruno Hauptmann testified was a 13-year-old boy, Nicholas Katzenbach. To find out how he ended up in the courtroom you’ll have to wait for my book to come out.
The only sound breaking the silence are the trains
After a week of solitude and serenity I was ready to return to the hustle and bustle of the city. I’ll miss the sweeping landscape of the Blue Ridge Mountains, the open fields, and, even the trains!
I’m glad the government didn’t shut down like this place. Hard times here in Nelson County are nothing new and were even the basis for The Waltons. The creator, Earl Hamner, grew up here during the Depression. Unfortunately abandoned buildings like this one dot the landscape.