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New Orange Industrial Association

New Orange Industrial Association

A Short History of the New Orange Industrial Association
By Richard J. King (c) 2013

The New Orange Industrial Association (NOIA) was the precursor to the modern day Borough of Kenilworth and the main reason for the building of the New York & New Orange Railroad, which eventually became the Rahway Valley Railroad. A real estate scheme, the NOIA purchased hundreds of acres of New Jersey farmland with the intention of reselling it for residential, commercial, and industrial purposes. The founders of the association believed that they would build a model city to which thousands would flock to and in the process the founders stood to make a great deal of money on the scheme.

Founders & Backers of the
New Orange Industrial Association*

Charles W. Manahan, Jr.

Charles Millard Tompkins

Ray Tompkins

Matthias H. Arnot

Robert Grimes

William S. McCord

Platt V. Bryan

George W. Robinson

William W. Cole

Albert M. Bennett

Edward J. Dunn

James B. Rathbone

Howard H. Hallock

*Known founders, there may have been others

The roots of the NOIA can be traced to the mind of Charles W. Manahan, Jr. who was formerly a hardware salesman of Norwalk, Ohio. Manahan went east to Elmira, NY with grand plans of building a model village. Manahan’s scheme attracted many notables of Elmira’s Social Elite including Matthias H. Arnot, Platt V. Bryan, William W. Cole, Robert Grimes , William S. McCord, George W. Robinson, Howard H. Hallock, Albert M. Bennett, Ray Tompkins, Edward J. Dunn, James B. Rathbone, and Charles M. Tompkins to invest in the project which was formed as the Elmira Industrial Association.

The subsequent success of the Elmira Industrial Association, which led to the formation of the village of Elmira Heights in 1896, prompted the associates to embark on a similar project in 1894. The associates sent Manahan south to New Jersey to scope out possible sites to build upon within the shadow of Gotham itself: New York City. Manahan eventually found a suitable location in southwestern Union Township, NJ to build and the New Orange Industrial Association was formed in 1894. The association was named after the town which Manahan had relocated to, East Orange. The associates believed by naming the town after the Oranges it would attract more investors if they associated their project with the more well-known New Jersey towns of Orange, South Orange, West Orange, and East Orange.

Rather quickly three and a half square miles of land, comprising of some thirty farms, were acquired by the association for immediate development. Plans to develop this land were drafted by the associates for what they wished to include in their proposed manufacturing village. Their plans were anything but modest.

To put all of their ideas together, a young Civil Engineer by the name of James Wallace Higgins of nearby Roselle, NJ was called upon to create a "master plan" for the proposed town of New Orange. What the 23-year old recent graduate of Rutgers University drew up was certainly a "grand plan." His plans called for wide thoroughfares, a large man-made lake called "Lake Wewanna" complete with its own Yacht Club, an Opera House, a grand City Hall, lots for hundreds of homes, several proposed factory sites, an Electric trolley line, and a railroad which Higgins called the "Belt Line Railroad." One of the financiers of the project referred to the plan as "one of the most substantial he had ever examined."

The associates, not having raised enough capital among themselves, began to raise money for their project through the selling of stocks and bonds in their association. An excerpt from an Elmira, NY newspaper reveals how the associates enticed people to invest in the project, "The mechanic or laboring man, who may wish to invest his money in this association can do so and receive the same privileges and benefits as do the largest investors . . . The extraordinary advantages offered in the investments make them of double value to the purchaser, and the sales are unusually heavy as a consequence. One of the best holiday gifts that could be made would be a block of shares in the new association. Make the most of the present opportunity as the stocks are going rapidly." (Elmira Daily Gazette, December 14, 1894).

By 1896 a great deal had been accomplished as is revealed in the following excerpt, "A project to found a model city in New Jersey . . . is now under way. For this purpose a tract of land about three and one-half miles square has been secured . . . The place has been named New Orange . . . More than one hundred acres have been reserved for industrial purposes, the intention being to erect model factories there. The remainder of the land will be devoted to residence purposes. The New Orange Industrial Association . . . will construct a belt railway passing by the doors of the factories and connecting with the Central of New Jersey . . . the Lehigh Valley, and the Lackawanna Railways."(New York Times, May 3, 1896)

Indeed by 1896 the project of the New Orange Industrial Association was well underway, roads constructed, large quantities of homes being built, and factories being erected. Among those early factories built in New Orange were the "Big Four" and included the Circular Loom Company, the Ricca Manufacturing Company, the New Orange Decorative Leather Company, and the Charles E. Wright Company, as well as others still being built.

The associates painted a pretty picture of their project in the many newspapers in which they were published, in an attempt to entice buyers and investors. However the true status of things in New Orange was far different than from what the associates wanted the public to know. An article published in the New York Herald on August 12, 1899 revealed much about the status of the town, "Peculiar methods employed to induce workingmen to invest in the new town of New Orange, N.J. . . . Details of the scheme . . . Town is sparsely settled . . . after 3,000 persons have jointed the scheme, and about one-half of the total amounts due under their contracts has been paid, there will be a drawing, and those who have given up their money will learn exactly what they are to receive in return. They may find themselves owners of corners on what are intended to be leading business thoroughfares . . . or they may find that a portion of what is now a swamp is all that they can claim… The projectors declare that there will be no blanks. They tell customers that the poorest lots will be worth every cent paid for them, while those who draw the prizes will be able to realize many times the amounts they have invested . . . A large portion of those who have paid their installments have never seen New Orange and know nothing about it aside from what they have been told by the agents who have induced them to part with their money. They have, however, seen the fine maps of New Orange, showing many wide avenues . . . public parks . . . a City Hall . . . and a long lake. There are factory sites and hotel sites and facilities for growth in every direction. It is already a wonderful town – on paper . . . I finally reached New Orange . . . Washington Avenue, on which the hotel fronts may someday hum with traffic. It is cut through for a short distance, and runs to a post office, opposite a dismal swamp, surrounded by high grass, from which mosquitoes fly in clouds . . . Here and there are small frame houses, a few of them tenanted, but the majority vacant and awaiting the influx of the crowd . . . The building of the town has been slower than was anticipated by some." (New York Herald, August 21, 1899)

Things with the New Orange Industrial Association continued to deteriorate after 1899. The association found itself in legal proceedings between itself and the Baron de Hirsch Fund over some one hundred houses that were sold to the fund by the association.

Some of the original directors had passed away as well, President of the Association and former General Manager of the NY&NO, Charles M. Tompkins died on July 1, 1900 after a bout with appendicitis; the famous bridge builder, Robert Grimes, who was a major investor in the association and a past president of the NY&NO suffered a paralyzing stroke in December, 1898 and passed away on December 8, 1903; but the most devastating blow was the death of Charles W. Manahan, Jr., founder and General Manager of the New Orange project, and secretary of the NY&NO and NOFJ. Manahan’s health had deteriorated in the last months of his life and he passed away on November 14, 1901 in East Orange.

Howard H. Hallock, a major investor in the association from the beginning, took charge of the New Orange project after Manahan’s death in 1901. Hallock dealt with the New Orange Industrial Association’s financial turmoil for three years before it was realized that things were not going to improve. Then in 1904 the remainder of the original investors brought Levi W. Naylor, a native of England, into their midst. Together they formed the "Kenilworth Realty Corporation" to carefully manage the sale of the remainder of the old New Orange Industrial Association’s land holdings, and with its much more modest ambitions than its predecessor, the Kenilworth Realty Corporation met much more success and gave birth to the borough of Kenilworth which was formally incorporated on June 18, 1907.

The New Orange Industrial Association and the Rahway Valley Railroad

The grand schemes and in some cases, outlandish plans, of the New Orange Industrial Association and its investors weighed heavily on the formation and fate of the New York & New Orange Railroad. The NY&NO was formed in 1897 and it and the NOIA were heavily intertwined. The main purpose of the NY&NO was to provide a rail link between the town of New Orange and the Central Railroad of New Jersey as well as the Lehigh Valley Railroad, both in Roselle Park. The railroad would provide the factories located in New Orange an access link to the vast markets beyond the borders of the village.

The industrial recession of 1899, which led to the reorganization of the NY&NO as the New Orange Four Junction Railroad in 1901, coupled with the NOIA falling greatly short of expectations led to the ultimate failure of the New Orange Industrial Association. In 1904 the NOIA was reorganized into the newly formed Kenilworth Realty Corporation.

Once the NY&NO was reformed into the New Orange Four Junction Railroad in 1901 the railroad became increasingly disillusioned with the New Orange Industrial Association. As the association floundered the NOFJ looked for ways to secure its own future, namely through an extension to the Delaware, Lackawanna, and Western Railroad in Summit which it planned to build. Attempts at this endeavor would not be met with success for the NOFJ, partly due to the financial instability of the company.

Management of the NOFJ, William W. Cole and Horatio F. Dankel, associated themselves with Louis Keller to form the Cross-Country Railroad in 1902. Keller wished to provide his Baltusrol Golf Club transportation opportunities that would come with a railroad. The Cross-Country Railroad was planned to bridge the gap between the NOFJ in New Orange and the DL&W in Summit. Unfortunately backers for the project became dissuaded and the Cross-Country Railroad folded before it was ever built. This ultimately led to the formation of the Rahway Valley Railroad on July 18, 1904. The RVRR and NOFJ would consolidate on March 1, 1905. The Rahway Valley Railroad would extend the line to Summit by 1906.This is how the New Orange Industrial Association relates to the Rahway Valley Railroad.

News Articles

Name of Article Newspaper Date
Mr. Arnot's Purchase Elmira Daily Gazette December 1, 1894
A Model City New York Times May 3, 1896
Pounding New Orange Sunday Herald May 8, 1896
A New City Rhinebeck Gazette 1897
Upsala College to Move New York Times November 5, 1897
Ricca Manufacturing Company Utica Sunday Herald July 31, 1898
Murdered in a Race Riot New York Times September 3, 1899


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