Skip to content

ROADTRIP: Waterloo Village Concept Post COVID-19 Might Work

Here’s an idea. How about a fresh air compound. Great open space. Historic homes, beautiful rolling, open fields, and a canal. Yes, a canal. Oh, and let’s throw in a infamous outdoor concert series while we’re at it.

Just off the highway on the border of Sussex and Morris County in New Jersey in a quiet rural community lies a quiet little village. Based on how the COVID virus is treating the world, there might be rationalization to revive the look and feel of places like Waterloo Village. The Mr. Local History Project took a day trip and visit the historic Waterloo Village in Byram, New Jersey.

Mrs. Local History welcomes you to the Historic Waterloo Village in Byram/Mt.Olive in August 2020. It was part of a day trip along with a visit to Wild West City.

Twenty original buildings dating from 1760 to the 1860’s – homes, barns, workshops, a mill, a church, a country store, an inn have been preserved. Fourteen of these have been restored, furnished with antiques and opened to the public. Three more are presently under restoration.

Waterloo Village on the fringes of Morris, Sussex and Warren counties in New Jersey.
Morris Canal Greenway


With the discovery of rich veins of iron nearby back in the early mid-eighteenth century, the Andover Forge was established just 7 miles away, they were making bar iron for shipment to England before the American Revolution. The culture flourished until the arrival of the first European fur traders in the mid 1600s and the inevitable procession west, spurred by copper mining near the Delaware River and trade along the old mine road from Philadelphia to Kingston, NY.

Take a 2 minute tour with our New Jersey Park Rangers.

The high-quality iron ore was forged out of the hills seven miles north. In 1778, the Continental Congress seized the iron works in Andover Forge from its Tory owners to make armaments for Washington’s army.

Waterloo Village – Google Maps

Andover Forge was built in 1761 on the bank of the Musconetcong River, seven miles southwest of the Andover Furnace, where iron was manufactured to support the colonies and England.

c.1827 – No Waterloo but there was an Old Andover. The square indicates an active forge. The Andover furnace is 7 miles to the north.
Click image to enlarge.

If you didn’t read the history before visiting you might wonder why is the place called Waterloo.

“Why Waterloo. Gee, I remember vaguely about something about a French guy and a battle in Europe a long time ago. Is there any association? “

YES it is true, Andover Forge was renamed after the Belgian battlefield in the village of Waterloo where Napoleon Bonaparte met his defeat. General John Smith and his sons founded the village in 1839 as Waterloo Village. You’ll hear about the Smiths later.

If you guessed, you were right. Waterloo Village was named after the Belgian town where Napoleon met his fate in 1815.

Why A Waterloo Village

When the Morris canal was finished in 1836, barges were towed by mules the 102 miles between Jersey City and Phillipsburg on the Delaware River in five days. Waterloo Village was the halfway point of the Morris Canal which ran from Jersey City to Phillipsburg. It was a popular overnight stop along the route from New York to Pennsylvania. To accommodate the canal workers a small city was built with an inn, general store, church, blacksmith’s shop and watermill.

The Morris Canal defined Waterloo Village. When the canal was finished in 1836, barges were towed by mules the 102 miles between Jersey City and Phillipsburg on the Delaware River in five days.

Waterloo Village has the distinction of having within one mile all of the major features of the canal: one of the canal’s 34 locks‚ one of its 23 inclined planes, a unique innovation by which canal boats were raised or lowered on rails (now a National Historic Engineering Site); a level section; a dammed area in the river; and a mule bridge. At a cost of $2,104,413, the 102 mile canal ran from Jersey City to Phillipsburg, had 23 lift locks and took 5 days to run the entire length with 2 mules.

Waterloo Village is located within the greater Allamuchy Mountain State Park. In these COVID-19 times, the park is free and open to walk but the historic village buildings are closed so you can’t go inside. Private events such as wedding are still happening, but music, craft, canal rides, and food truck festivals are on all on hold.

Waterloo Village Building Map updated (Mr. Local History Project).
Click image to enlarge.

General John Smith was the first Smith to own property in the area. While four generations of Smiths were responsible for the development of Waterloo Village, the hook was the opening of the Morris Canal in 1832. The Seymour R. Smith House (below) was used as a private residence from the year it was erected until after the Second World War.

The Seymour D. Smith House, also known as the Wellington House, was named in honor of the British General Wellington who won the Belgian battle against French General Napoleon Bonaparte on June 15, 1815.
Waterloo Village United Methodist Church
Waterloo Village United Methodist Church was set on August 9, 1859. Although the church was not dedicated until February 9, 1860, when it opened the bell first rung for the funeral of General John Smith. He was the first person to be buried in the church cemetery after his passing on December 22, 1859. Before the church opened, services were being held in the schoolhouse up the road.

Peter Smith, Grandson to General John Smith, who owned the General Store, donated $500 seed money and land for the United Methodist Church and cemetery in 1855.

Peter D. Smith and his wife Mariah on the porch of the Seymour Smith home (left). The Peter D. Smith residence is on the (right) and still stands today (But it needs a fresh coat of paint). Source: Waterloo Village Facebook

Peter Louis Smith, great grandson of General John Smith, briefly followed his father Seymour R. Smith as the Hackettstown National Bank president, until the bank’s failure in February 1933. The Hackettstown Bank initiated foreclosure proceedings against P. Louis Smith in October 1935. Trustees for the reorganized bank sold the former Smith lands, comprising nearly 1,850 acres, to the Lake Waterloo Corporation on May 6, 1945. O.W. Caspersen, chief executive of Beneficial Management Corporation, became the principal owner.

The “Train Hobo Era” at Waterloo Village

The Waterloo train station was built in 1854, after the connection was made with the Sussex Railroad. For almost a 100 years the railroad serviced Waterloo Village..

By the early 1920s the Morris canal had become obsolete. However, it took until 1924 to adopt a plan to close and dismantle the canal. So the canal closes, the Smiths slowly leave, and the town is abandoned. But the railroad kept running thru Waterloo until the late 1940s.

On Monday, Sept. 1, 1890 a DL&R steam engine boiler explodes at the Waterloo Station. Source: Walter McCabe and Martin F. Wintermute, of Townley’s Photo Gallery

In addition to the economic misfortunes of the town, there was an elevation challenge that opened the door for cross country traveling hobos. The railroad had to overcome a steep eastbound grade on its way to New York City, slowing freight trains to a crawl as they labored up the hill to Netcong. This was the same issue engineers had to deal with when creating the canal.

Total change in elevation was 1,674 feet along the 102 mile journey, hence the need for the 23 locks. Source: Canal Society of New Jersey

This steep incline made it a perfect opportunity for hitchhikers to jump on and off boxcars and this is why they homeless travelers dropped in on the canal closed Village in the 30’s and 40s .

When the Waterloo train station closed in the 1940’s the hobos stopped coming and the town, and the village was abandoned once again.

This shot of the Waterloo Station was taken circa. 1922. From the 1940s Waterloo was the only regular station stop on the Lackawanna which did not have a building or shelter roof. The rude shelter which replaced the station burned down in 1946, the victim of a grass fire. Source: Dave Rutan
Hobo culture in the day. Why Waterloo? Because the Canal had closed. and the residents & workers had left. It was a squatters paradise in the 1920s and 30s Source: History Daily

New Jersey’s Own Version of Williamsburg

When the Morris Canal was formerly abandoned in the 1920’s and slipped into the “hobo Era”, even the suqtters finally stopped coming. You see, in 1946 the train stopped running thru Waterloo so all passengers stopped coming.

In the early 1930s, the Smith family tried to develop the village as Lake Waterloo Estates, but the plan failed because of this thing called the Great Depression. Their plan was to create three different subdivisions along with a grand country club. It didn’t work. Waterloo Village slipped into obscurity for almost 20 years until a man named Percival Leach showed up on the scene with an idea.

In 1967, after three decades of decay taking its toll on Waterloo, Percival ‘Percy’ Leach who was born in Boonton, NJ founded the Waterloo Foundation for the Arts,, a not-for-profit, to finance the restoration of the village. In the early 1970s, Percival Leach acquired the village along with his business partner Louis Gualandi. Their vision continued as they began restoring and operating the village for history lovers and later support a new music series just outside the historic village to raise needed restoration funds.

Leach and Gualandi turned Waterloo Village into a living history tourist attraction with working blacksmiths, potters, candle dippers and weavers demonstrated crafts from the colonial historic eras. It was New Jersey’s own version of historic Williamsburg!

For years, the foundation raised over $1 million a year through donations, concert admission fees and sales of handcrafted products. All was going well for almost a decade and then Gualandi passed away in 1988 and Leach had become wrapped up in a handful of controversial projects that shed a negative light on the Waterloo Foundation For The Arts. The most known of the projects was the land swap which allowed BASF to build its corporate headquarters on the former land of the Allamuchy State Park. The foundation went bankrupt. These controversial issues resulted in the removal of Leach from the board. Finally, the State Department of Environmental Protection, Division of Parks acquired the buildings and land of the entire village.

Percival Leach – the Savior of a crumbling village ramshackle collection of pre-Revolutionary and mid-19th-century buildings along an old industrial canal in northern New Jersey into Waterloo Village, a version of Colonial Williamsburg.

New York Times obituary

Meanwhile the State continued to purchase additional surrounding property until 2001, when the State purchased the last piece of property from the Schumann’s, the last private property owners.

“He was the Walt Disney of the New Jersey cultural scene.”

Greg Gaertner, former executive director of the Waterloo Foundation for the Arts, which oversaw the village at Percy’s Funeral

It was sadly symbolic that on February 27, 2007 the day Leach died, the Waterloo gates were padlocked. It took a last-minute arrangement with the state to have the lock removed in time for the funeral.  

Then, financial disaster struck again. In 2007, Waterloo Village was not included in the New Jersey state budget, and Waterloo Village was forced to shut down. Seems some government officials weren’t happy with what was going on in Waterloo.

Between 2007 and 2008, the Village was opened intermittently for events. The United Methodist Church continued to operate as it has done since 1859. When Percy Leach died in 2007 he was remembered as the savior of a Waterloo Village;

Waterloo Village Today

Today, Waterloo Village has both a tired look and a bright future. Many of the 26 village structures have suffered from a lack of preventative maintenance over the past twenty years. It just looks tired.

Did you know Waterloo Village does weddings? Well yes they do! After we got back home we looked up weddings at Waterloo Village and couldn’t believe how nice it could be.
In the spring of 2014, a 10-year lease (with the option of 10 more) was awarded to Jeffrey Miller Catering (JAM Catering) out of Philadelphia, making them the exclusive caterer for Waterloo Village. The Bride even gets their own Bridal Cottage.

In 2019, the Historic Waterloo Village received a $3 million state grant for structural renovations. The $3 million state grant is set to ensure the preservation of three historic buildings at Waterloo Village. A tenement house for workers, a home for the once-bustling village’s foreman and a booze-proffering boarding house at the state park in the southern tip of Sussex County will benefit from the money out of the Regional Transportation Alternatives Program. “It’s a godsend,” said Wayne McCabe, a park employee and the Sussex County historian. “It’s the beginning of the restoration of the entire village.”

Here are some of our Day Trip images from Waterloo Village we took on August 28, 2020. The buildings are closed but the village is open. We even ran into a wedding!

Friends of Waterloo Village, the Canal Society of New Jersey, the Morris Canal Greenway, and the NJ Division of Parks and Forestry care for the village. The weddings continue, the caterer operates, and the school children come. And the parking is still $5 which goes directly to the park. And they have a $3 million restoration grant in the bank!

Well, with COVID, you just have to believe!

History Part 2

The Infamous Waterloo Village Concert Series

Some of the Waterloo Village ticket stubs from the famed Waterloo Field. Some called it Stanhope, others Hackettstown, but you all know it was the Waterloo Village Concert Series.
Do you have a Waterloo ticket stub? Send us a snapshot – Click Here

Waterloo Village opened an open-air concert field about a mile down the road in 1977 to raise funds. Locals remember (and I grew up at the perfect time) the advertisements on WDHA, WNEW, WPL, WLIR, WDRE and others announcing major acts performing in outdoor venues included Waterloo Village and nearby South Mountain Reservation. Looking back, I never knew, nor did I care, but the State of New Jersey had sponsored with music promoters to offer major acts in these country settings. No one knew how popular they would become.

Eddie Vedder and Pearl Jam at Lollapalooza in 1992 at Waterloo Village. Credit: AmyRachlin
The Waterloo Fields , home to the Waterloo Music Festival. Source: TBC

Waterloo Village and the concert field (map) together have hosted numerous concerts startin in 1977. We counted 53 and sure we missed a few but here’s what we gathered. How many did you attend?
(post a comment at the end of the story).

  • Muddy Waters – Performed: July 4, 1977
  • Johnny Cash Performed: Aug. 19, 1979; June 14, 1986
  • The Beach Boys Performed: Aug. 2, 1987; July 2, 1988
  • John Kay & Steppenwolf Performed: June 10, 1988
  • The Gregg Allman Band Performed: June 10, 1988
  • America Performed: June 24, 1988
  • Arlo Guthrie Performed: July 15, 1988; Aug. 5, 1989 (with Pete Seeger)
  • Chicago Performed: July 24, 1988; Aug. 29, 1990
  • Roy Orbison Performed: July 29, 1988
  • Bob Dylan Performed: Sept. 10, 1988; July 17, 1989; July 30, 2000 GA $43.50
  • Indigo Girls Performed: June 6, 1989; Aug. 6, 1999
  • Neil Young Performed: June 6, 1989
  • Bad Company Performed: June 23, 1989; July 18, 1990
  • Steve Miller Band Performed: June 29, 1989
  • The Allman Brothers Band Performed: July 4, 1989; Aug. 30, 1990; Sept. 1, 1991; Aug. 7, 1993; Sept. 4, 1994; Aug. 13, 1995
  • Edie Brickell Performed: Aug. 22, 1989
  • Melissa Etheridge Performed: June 14, 1990
  • Joe Cocker Performed: July 5, 1990
  • Stevie Ray Vaughan Performed: July 5, 1990
  • Damn Yankees Performed: July 18, 1990; Aug. 31, 1991
  • John Denver Performed: July 27, 1990; June 21, 1991; July 30, 1994
  • The Moody Blues Performed: July 29, 1990
  • Santana Performed: Aug. 15, 1990 – GA $26
  • Blues Traveler Performed: Aug. 30, 1990; Sept. 1, 1991; Sept. 4, 1994
  • Lollapalooza 1991 Performed: Aug. 11 and 14, 1991. Lineup included: Ice-T, Rollins Band (pictured), Butthole Surfers, Fishbone, Body Count, Living Colour, Nine Inch Nails, Jane’s Addiction, Siouxsie and the Banshees. GA $25.00
  • Emerson, Lake & Palmer Performed: July 31, 1992
While no video (just pics) , this was a common teen experience in the 1990s. It was called RADIO and they actually broadcast live shows.
Listen in and remember as WNES’s Pat St. John broadcasts live from Waterloo Village, New Jersey for the opening of Emerson, Lake, and Palmer on July 31, 1992. Boy if this doesn’t bring back memories….
  • George Thorogood & the Destroyers Performed: Aug. 7, 1992 GA $22.00
  • Lollapalooza 1992 Performed: Aug. 12, 1992. Lineup included: Body Count, Lush, Truly, Porno for Pyros, The Jesus and Mary Chain, Cypress Hill, Stone Temple Pilots, Rage Against the Machine (pictured), Soundgarden, Ministry, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Pearl Jam
  • Ray Charles Performed: Aug. 16, 1992
  • Ringo Starr & His All Starr Band Performed: Aug. 28, 1992
  • Spin Doctors Performed: July 8, 1993
  • Lollapalooza 1993 Performed: July 12-13 and 16, 1993. Lineup included: Unsane, Babes in Toyland, Arrested Development, Fishbone, Dinosaur Jr., Truly, Primus, Tool, Rage Against the Machine, Alice in Chains, Jane’s Addiction (pictured), Royal Trux, Front 242.
The concert that changed the Waterloo Village landscape.
  • Phish Performed: July 25, 1993; June 23, 1995. A concert-goer died at the 1995 Phish concert that had attracted 30,000 people even though only 18,000 tickets were sold. Events like this had completely overwhelmed the area’s limited access roads and caused considerable friction with the surrounding towns. The foundation began downsizing the concerts around this time. Ticket: $22.50
  • HORDE Tour 1994 Performed: Sept. 4, 1994. Lineup included: The Allman Brothers Band, Blues Traveler, Dave Matthews Band
  • HORDE Tour 1995 Performed: Aug. 11, 1995. Lineup included: Ziggy Marley & the Melody Makers; Blues Traveler; The Black Crowes
  • Rusted Root Performed: Aug. 13, 1995
  • The Wallflowers Performed: July 25, 1997
  • 98 Degrees Performed: Aug. 27, 1999
  • The String Cheese Incident Performed: Aug. 28, 1999
  • Jeff Beck Performed: Aug. 31, 1999
  • Gov’t Mule Performed: Aug. 28, 1999; Aug. 11, 2000
  • moe. Performed: Aug. 28, 1999; June 7, 2003 GA $33.00
  • Bad Religion Performed: May 28, 2000
  • Blink-182 Performed: May 28, 2000 GA $25.50
  • ‘Weird Al’ Yankovic Performed: Aug. 1, 1999; July 15, 2000
  • Peter Frampton Performed: July 21, 2000
  • Blue Oyster Cult Performed: July 21, 2000
  • Guster Performed: July 30, 2000
  • Medeski Martin & Wood Performed: Aug. 11, 2000
  • Bela Fleck & the Flecktones Performed: Aug. 11, 2000
  • Alan Parsons Performed: July 21, 2001
  • The Flaming Lips Performed: Aug. 9, 2003
  • G. Love & the Special Sauce Performed: Aug. 15, 2003
  • Something Corporate Performed: Aug. 15, 2003
  • 311 Performed: Aug. 15, 2003
  • Peter Tork Performed: May 23, 2013
  • Bourbon Street Blues Festival Performed May 20-21,2017 – Headlined by the Kenny Wayne Shepherd Band and the Robert Cray Band. Other performances by Bernard Allison, Mike Zito, Bonerama, the Bob Lanza Blues Band, the Above Ground Blues Band, Billy Hector, the Fins, Lee Delray, Robert Ross and Mike Esposito. $80
  • Let it All Hang Out Festival: Performed: August 23,24,25, 2019
  • The Highland Festival – An environmental festival celebrating local food, music, arts, history, cultural and natural resources of New Jersey. The festival features live entertainment with two days and two stages with entertainment by New Jersey musicians. Local food vendors offering locally source food with cooking demonstrations and tastings by New Jersey chefs and more.
  • Waterloo Concert Field (or the Fields at Waterloo)- This location is well suited for large events (500 vehicles – to several thousand vehicles). This site has electric, water, fencing, lighting and ample parking.
View of the old stage before the Phase One Stage Demolition at The Fields at Waterloo event , in Allamuchy Mountain State Park. 5/4/2017. For events going forward, promoters will bring in their own stages and other equipment as needed, Photo by Jerry McCrea for NJ Advance Media
2019 – The last concert series at Waterloo Village

There May Be Hope

And without COVID-19 – we could have had….

Additional Tidbits

Have something to share?
Post a comment in the section below.

Waterloo Village History in a nutshell:. Source: Mr. Locah History Project.
Click image to enlarge.

Want to hold A Special Event of Your Own at Waterloo Village? You Can….For the Right Price

2020 Fee Schedule. NJ Parks Service.

Waterloo Village, Allamuchy Mountain State Park
Waterloo Road, Stanhope NJ 07874
(973) 347-1835 
(administered by Kittatinny Valley State Park)
Waterloo Village Concert Field, 1 mile down Waterloo Road
This 19th-century village contains a working gristmill, a general store, blacksmith shop, a canal museum and several historic houses. The village is located on the banks of the Morris Canal.  An early 19th-century log cabin farmsite and 17th-century Lenape Indian Village exhibit are also located at the site.  Waterloo Village is open dawn to dusk and the Historic Site Office is open Wednesday through Sunday 10:00am-4:00pm.  Call for historic programming and event information.

  • Waterloo Village added to the New Jersey State Historic Registry on February 3,1977 ((ID#2593)
  • Rutan Log Cabin added to New Jersey State Registry on 11/23/1976 (Moved from Frankford Township, ca.1989; Original property still listed NR/SR. Cabin is SR only, NR status unclear.)
  • Waterloo (added September 13,1977 to the National Register of Historic Places – – #77000909)
  • Waterloo Village Historic District (Boundary Increase #1 and Additional Documentation) (ID#5149) Bounded by Waterloo Road, Sussex Mine Railroad Embankment Route I-80 and the existing Waterloo Village Historic District. COE: 3/29/2012. SR: 2/5/2015. NR: 4/28/2015 (NR Reference #: 15000176) (Andover Forge).
Print Friendly, PDF & Email

2 thoughts on “ROADTRIP: Waterloo Village Concept Post COVID-19 Might Work”

  1. My wife and I went to the Blues Picnic on July 4, 1977. We sat in the tent where Muddy Waters played just a few feet from him. All the other blues artists were great as well. If that were not enough, we drove directly from the picnic to Madison Square Garden in the city for that evening’s Pink Floyd ‘Animals’ concert. We won the Floyd tickets on a WNEW-FM ticket giveaway call in. I wish I still had the stamina to do that and the luck to keep winning tickets. But I still have my wife so all still remains quite well indeed!👍

  2. Great Artiicle on Waterloo! I remember going there in the past and happy to see all of the great changes that have been made. I will return!!

  3. I attended 2 concerts at Waterloo in the 1960’s. I remember the one where i saw Bill Clifton. This was a special treat to me. Dan Crary was there too. I don’t remember who else, neither do i remember the musicians from an earlier show.
    Bill Clifton had Don Stover and Red Rector with him. They were so great. Over 50 years ago.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.