Preserving Our Local Towns’ Historic Landmarks Through Wooden Miniatures
Mr. Local History Project: Meet Brooks Betz, a Westfield, NJ resident with strong ties to Cranford. He is helping to preserve and promote Cranford and Westfield’s history through a non-profit organization called Mr. Local History . Mr. Betz founded the Mr. Local History Project alongside three other individuals in order to promote local history with a “social twist”. All of their fundraiser efforts focus on raising funds for scholarship grants they award each year to seniors that work with them to preserve, promote and engage younger audiences to appreciate New Jersey history.
This is a non-profit organization established in 2019 and is made up of all volunteers. The Board of Trustees of Mr. Local History includes one from Paterson, one from Basking Ridge, one from Warren, one from Springfield, and two from Westfield (Mr. Betz and Meg Wastie). They created a wooden miniature keepsake program, in partnership with the world-famous Cat’s Meow Village Company of Ohio, to support local history and grow the New Jersey Historic Village Collection. I’m excited to share the opportunities for you to grow your own collection of Cranford/Westfield miniatures while helping the Cranford Canoe Club gain historic status!
Ties to the Cranford Canoe Club
It just so happens that Brook’s family was the last private owners of the Cranford Canoe Club. He started working there at age 11 in 1972 until his family sold it in 1990. Brooks recalls riding his bike there after school and his dad would give him a ride home. “Looking back there are so many fun memories and friends that I’ve made there that I still engage with regularly. Everywhere I go, if they know Cranford, I tell them, and they smile.” His favorite childhood memory is the daily life surrounding being at the Canoe Club and also playing on the Cranford Hockey Club! You can read about Brooks’ thorough history of the Canoe Club and his reflection of life at the club here: Link
So how does the Cranford Canoe Club and the Mr. Local History Project relate to each other? This is the 150 Year Celebration of Cranford and Mr. Betz is on a mission to nominate the Cranford Canoe Club to the State and National Registries of Historic Places. Brooks commented, “It takes time, money, and a lot of partnership with the town since they own the building. The wooden keepsake project expanded to Cranford to endorse the history and awareness. After I got the board to approve the Canoe Club, then came the Cranford Theater, and now it looks like the Cranford Hotel might be next (based on a public survey of Cranford’s icons we put online)!” You can read about his thorough reflection back on the Cranford Hotel here: The History of the Cranford Hotel
Mr. Local History Project: Cranford wooden miniatures
Right now, there are two miniatures in both Cranford and Westfield with the hopes of adding more. The Cranford collection offers the Cranford Canoe Club and our Cranford Theater. For more information on online ordering, please click here: Cranford Keepsake Program
Mr. Local History Project: Westfield wooden miniatures
The beloved Rialto Theater and Mindowaskin Park are the first miniatures offered for Westfield, NJ. Online ordering and further information can be found at this site: Westfield Keepsake Program .
A keepsake collection of iconic landmarks
Brooks commented, “I love them because I get to do all the research of the history we put on the back of each piece. I also love working with our artist that creates just the right image that captures the property (or event).” Each piece has the design on the front and the historical information on the back. The miniatures are handmade and approximately 4 inches high by 8-10 inches long and ¾ inches wide. Mr. Local History Project relies on fundraisers to expand NJ history programs. Every dollar goes back into the program to make more keepsakes. As your collection grows, you are helping Cranford and Westfield promote their residents and historic icons. And if the Cranford Canoe Club gets on the Registry, the property becomes eligible for county and state grant money!
Grow your collection and save our history!
“The Canoe Club is the most recognizable icon in Cranford. It is CRANFORD. I encourage everyone to sign the online petition ( Click Here ), support Cranford & Westfield’s history, and engage with us and grab the collectibles while they’re available since they are limited runs. And lastly, we hope everyone enjoys what we’re doing because we really love what we do- and that’s why we do it!”