by Edward Graf
The Passaic County Historical Society Newsletter, No. 1, Vol. 1970
After early settlers took over their lands in the backcountry, their first concern was for better means of transportation. Earliest transportation was on foot or horseback by old Indian trails, where wagons could not travel in order to get iron ore, lumber and produce from the farms to the Passaic River at Acquackanonk Landing, where sailing ships could carry these products to market.
One early road came through the Notch, then along the Valley Road to what is now known as Van Houten Avenue, which went directly to Acquackanonk Landing.
Drivers transporting the iron ore from the mines of northern Jersey, complained of the lack of places along the route where they could stop to rest, eat and often “lay over” for the night on their slow arduous passage over these bad roads.
Cornelius A. Vreeland, who had been working on the docks at Acquackanonk Landing, got the idea of establishing a tavern at Great Notch, receiving a hotel license in 1798. This tavern met with great success and supplied a long felt need, not only for the wagon drivers, but also for the travelers by stage coach who had to attend to business in the larger settlements. The hotel became popular and was sometimes used as a court by Justices of the Peace for residents in the area.
Vreeland continued the tavern until 1818, at which time he sold out to Simeon Brown who conducted business there until 1839, at which time it was taken over by Henry F. Piaget. The buildings with about thirty acres of land were sold for $4,000. The annual meetings of the Township of Acquackanonk were held here during April of each year.
Henry F. Piaget continued the business of the tavern and also a large farm for a dozen years when, on Sunday, he sold a farmer a sherry cordial to relieve colicky pains, for three cents. For this act the farmer had him indicted since selling liquor on Sunday was unlawful. On Piaget’s own admission of guilt he was fined $200.
Disgusted, Piaget quit the tavern business and sold it to his son Frank, a jeweler from Albany, who came here and ran it about 1852. Frank at the same time transferred his regular business of watch making to Montclair, operating both the tavern and watchmaker’s shop for ten years.
The tavern was then leased to George Kesse who continued it until 1868, when it was taken over by another son of Henry’s, Francis H., who was at the time a farmer and lived near the tavern.
Francis kept the Piaget Hotel until March 23, 1987, disposing of the old hotel to George F. Skidmore. Thus, after some fifty-eight years, the hotel went out of the Piaget family, ninety-nine years from the time that it had been started by Cornelius Vreeland.
Union Hotel at the Great Notch
The subscriber begs leave to inform Travellers and the Public in general, that his House will be continued open, as usual for their accommodation, although he could not obtain a License, believing it must have been owing to some mistake, or if not, then through the secret, false and malicious representations of a few individuals, who would take the bread out of myself and family’s mouths if in their power. But I trust and hope that such will not be the case. The Hotel or Tavern now occupied by the subscriber, has so continued for upwards of 50 years – it is in the central part of the township of Acquackanonk, and all the Township Meetings and Committee Business are held there, as well as the Fall Election to be held there. And the subscriber will defy any fair or legal complaint has or can be made against the house, either since he has had the honor of keeping it, or for the long period that it has been in existence – that he is and has at all times been provided with all the requisites of a Public Inn. There is no house now licensed between he villages of Acquackanonk and Little Falls, nor from Paterson to West-Bloomfield – consequently the subscriber will continue his Hotel as usual, except the retailing of ardent spirits as is prohibited by law.
HENRY F. PIAGET
Great Notch, between West Bloomfield and Paterson.
May 5, 1845 12:30