Orange holds bike tour featuring historic landmarks

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ORANGE, NJ — Thankful for the great weather, the Orange Recreation Department and the Orange Historic Preservation Commission held their annual Tour de Parks Historic Bike Tour on Saturday, Oct. 2. In addition to the fitness and exercise benefits, participants enjoyed historical landmarks throughout the city’s parks.

According to Councilwoman Adrienne Wooten in an Oct. 4 interview, the bike tour “is a citywide event where we put the city’s rich history on display. The bike tour includes visits to a number of important sites which date back to the 18th century. The bike tour carried riders throughout all four wards of the 2.2-square-mile city.

“COVID-19 prevented the first scheduled tour (in 2019), but the last two years went well,” Wooten said. “About 50 bikers, hosts, historians and volunteers in bright orange shirts emblazoned with the Orange historic tour logo brightened up our streets as we kicked off the annual tour of historic places.”

Riders were able to partake in sightseeing and take in what the city of Orange had to offer, including historic landmarks at Orange Park; First Presbyterian Church and Cemetery on Main Street and Scotland Road; Orange Memorial Hospital Historic District at 180 S. Essex Ave.; Orange Railroad Station at 73 Lincoln Ave.; the U.S. Radium Corp. site at 412 Alden St., College Park; Metcalf Park; Valley Memorial Park; and more.

According to Wooten, the Metcalf family, for whom Metcalf Park is named, is one of the oldest families in the United States. The Valley Memorial Park site in the Valley Arts Districts was, according to Wooten, “once the industrial hub of this part of the county, known as the Orange Valley, and featured a variety of manufacturing facilities.”

Riders also saw the Berkeley Tennis Club, St. John Church and the Orange Fire Department.

“Berkeley Tennis Club, founded in 1917, is nestled in the quiet residential neighborhood of Orange,” Wooten said, adding that St. John Church, at 94 Ridge St., “was founded in 1861, and the church was dedicated in 1869. It is one of the most beautiful churches in New Jersey.” The fire department was founded in 1872.

According to Wooten, this tour was especially needed following so much time indoors during lockdown.

“I feel that this year’s bike tour is especially needed because people have been locked down for over a year. This tour allowed us to relax and experience the sights, sounds and smells of our city. It was special this year because of the support we received from our stakeholders,” Wooten said.

Mayor Dwayne Warren spoke happily of the many children who participated in this year’s tour, learning the history of their city from deft presenters.

“Additionally, I am always fascinated by the level of detail that our historic presenters demonstrated. I was equally humbled by the high level of community partnership participation that was responsible for a generous reserve of bicycles, snacks, gear and bike safety resources,” Warren said Oct. 4. 

Councilwoman Jamie Summers-Johnson also spoke of the children who participated in the event.

“This year’s historical bike tour was great because of the number of children that participated,” she said Oct. 4. “Many received free bicycles from PuroClean of Morristown. Seeing them obtain a new bike and get to try it out was a treat also. I also enjoyed hearing from the historical commission as they gave mini-presentations at every stop.”

It is the historical element that Warren finds so rewarding at this event.

“The best way for the community to appreciate the city is to be on the ground in touch with physical structures and places that make Orange historically significant,” Warren said. “As mayor, I am especially appreciative of the Orange Historic Preservation Commission and our historic presenters. I refer to Karen Wells as the ‘unofficial historian’ because she and her band of volunteers do the research and compile valuable gems of historical information that is interesting to all generations.”

Wooten agreed with Warren.

“This is important for residents of the community to take part in because it allows residents to explore the city in a different way. You can become more intimate with your surroundings as you become more familiar with the history of our city,” Wooten said. 

Photos Courtesy of Adrienne Wooten