Westfield Historical Society

Where Yesterday and Today Meet the Future


Westfield Historical Society Reeve History and Cultural Resource Center

314 Mountain Avenue Westfield, NJ 07090

Tel: (908) 654-1794


Archive located at:

302 Elm Street, Westfield, NJ

Board of Education Building - 3rd Floor

Hours: 

Tuesday 10am-12 pm 

Thursday 9:15-11:15 am


Reeve House Tours by Appointment or first two Sundays of the month

1pm - 3 pm



The Society seeks to:


- preserve and share the rich heritage of the Westfield Area for future generations,


-to give voice to under-represented groups and tell the story of the common person;


-to build and support a community of people interested in history and culture;


-and provide tools for historical research and publication.


To donate or become a member, check out our membership page. You make it all happen! Help us share Westfield's history with the next generation.



















 Take a tour of the Garden at the Reeve using your smartphone...

Edgar Reeve purchased and planted many of the distinctive specimen trees in the Reeve Garden.  He lived his whole life, over a century, in Westfield and almost all of it in the Reeve House. When Mr. Reeve owned the property, the trees were very important to him: he spent most of his time caring for the grounds, planting the trees, and walking around the property.

Mr. Reeve enjoyed both native trees like beech and white pine as well as exotic trees like Leyland cypress and the English Yew.  Many of them were introduced long ago and would no longer seem ‘exotic’ to most visitors today.

 

1. Honeylocust

 

Botanical name: Gleditsia triacanthos

 

The Honeylocust is native to North America. It is a popular tree for shade and is often used as a hedge plant.  A tough and hardy tree, the honeylocust is planted on city streets; it can withstand the dust, heat and pollution. 

The Honeylocust arrived in Europe by 1700 when Bishop Henry Compton planted a specimen from Virginia in his London garden.  Its pods have a sweetish thick pulp around a brown seed.  This pulpy substance is eaten by livestock and wildlife.  The wood of the honey locust is used for posts, poles, ties, fuel, rough lumber and ornamental purposes.  Large bunched spines on trunks have been used as pins in the 1700s and 1800s in North America. 

Horticulturists have bred thornless varieties.  It is also known as ‘Sweet-locust’ or ‘thorny-locust’.  The botanical name of the honey locust is Gleditsia triacanthos.  It is named for Johan Gottlieb Gleditsch (1714-1748), Director of the Berlin Botanical Center.  Triacanthos, meaning ‘three thorn’, indicates the thorns on the tree.

 

 

2. Maple

Botanical name: Acer spp.

 

The maple has a range that extends from Southern Canada and Eastern US, excluding the Altanta and Gulf coastal Plains.  The boiled concentrated sap from the sugar maple is the commercial source of maple sugar and syrup; this use learned by the colonists from American Indians.  It takes about 32 gallons of sap to produce 1 gallon of maple syrup or 8 pounds of maple sugar.  The yield of sugar by an average tree in one season is 5 to 10 pounds. 

Maple wood has a wide range of uses in construction of ships, high grade furniture, dance floors and bowling alleys.

Some trees develop special grain patterns, including Birdseye Maple with dots, suggesting the eyes of birds, and Curly and Fiddleback maple, with wavy annual rings.  Such variations in grains are in great demand.

 

 

3. Norway Spruce

Botanical name: Picea abies

 

The Norway Spruce is native to Northern and Central Europe; it has a range from Norway to Poland, the Alps and the Carpathians and the Balkans to the extreme north of Greece.   It has the botanical name of Picea Abies.  Picea is from Latin for pix or picis; it refers to the pitch produced by pines.  Abies is the classical Latin name of Silver Fir. 

The Norway Spruce is very popular in parks and private estates as an ornamental specimen.   This evergreen tree is also used as a windbreak.  It is used as Christmas trees in public squares of big cities.  Its wood is used for paper and lumber.  It is also used to make violins and other stringed instruments.

On older trees, the Norway Spruce has twigs that hang from the branches, helping to shed snow more easily; a trait useful in its native Europe’s snowy northern countries.  If you stroke a spruce branch towards its tip, your hand slides smoothly, but brush backwards and your hand is pricked by its sharp leaves.  The Norway spruce in blossom has beautiful purple showings.

 

 

4. Leyland Cypress

Botanical name:  Cupressocyparis leylandii

 

               The Leyland Cypress was discovered by C.J. Leyland at Leighton Hall, south of Wales in 1888.  The Monterey Cypress and the Alaska Cedar on the estate had unexpectedly cross-bred to produce six seedlings.  A sterile breed, it can be reproduced only by cutting its roots. 

The Leyland Cypress can grow 60 to 70 feet in full sun and is popular as a hedging and screening plant.  It is widely planted in the US and can grow very fast, 6 feet in one year.  The crushed leaves of this evergreen tree has a pungent aroma.

 

5. Dawn Redwood

Botanical name: Metasequoia glyptostroboides

 

               The Dawn Redwood was thought to be extinct until its discovery in a small grove in East Sichuan, China in 1944 by the Chinese botanist, T. Kan.  Previously known only from fossils, this redwood has its origin in the Sichuan-Hubei region and the Shui-Sha Valley of China.  It was introduced to the West in1948. 

The Dawn Redwood is also known as Chinese redwood or Deciduous redwood, it has become popular as an ornamental specimen.  Its trunk is bright  reddish brown and often fluted.  Its leaves are ½ inch long and 1/16 inch wide; its fine texture and needle-like leaves give the tree a feathery appearance.

 

 

6. Yew

 

Botanical name: Taxus spp. (Taxus Baccata)

 

               The Yew has its origin in Europe, including Britain, eastward to Northern Iran and the Atlas mountains of North Africa.  The Yew in Reeve Garden, with a diameter of 65 feet, is one of New Jersey’s largest yews, and is believed to be over 100 years old. 

The yew has a reddish brown bark that is highly malleable, and yet very durable.  Its flexibility made it very useful in the past for bows and fence posts.  Its bark is thin and scaly and peels off easily when exposed to sunlight.  Unusual furniture and cabinetry are produced with the wood from the yew.  Its wood can be highly polished to produce decorative veneers for furniture.

The yew produces bright red berry-like fruits with highly poisonous seeds.  Birds eat the sweet flesh surrounding the seed.  It produces male and female flowers on separate trees.

Often associated with churchyards, the Yew is also used as an ornamental specimen and as a hedge by landscapers. 

 

 

7. Eastern White Pine

Botanical name: Pinus strobus

 

The Eastern White Pine is the largest conifer found in Northeast United States.  Its range extends from New Foundland to Manitoba in the north, from New England west to Iowa and Minnesota and down south along the slopes of the Appalachian Mountains to Georgia.  It is often planted in public parks.  This evergreen tree used to be called ‘Coffin Pine’ during early pioneer days because it was light and easily worked.  This magnificent tree has tall straight trunks, which were prized as ship masts by the Royal Navy during the colonial period. 

Pines are among the most widely distributed trees in the world.  The Eastern White Pine is also known as Weymouth Pine, Pumpkin Pine, White Pine, or Northern White Pine.  It is one of the 35 species native to North America.  It was introduced in England from Maine in 1605 by Captain George Weymouth of the British Navy.  It is prone to attack by a fungus, the white pine blister rust.  One of the most valuable trees of North Eastern US, it is used for construction, millwork, trim, and pulpwood.   

 

 

8. Weeping Spruce

Botanical name: Picea Breweriana

 

The Weeping Spruce is native to the Siskiyou and Shasta Mountains of Northern California and Southwestern Oregon.  It is also known as Brewer Spruce or Siskiyou Spruce.  Other types of spruce, such as the White and Norway Spruce, have been hybridized for use in residential landscapes.

The Weeping Spruce has low hanging branches that help to shed the heavy snow without breaking it.  This adaptation helps this evergreen tree to grow even in elevations up to 7,000 feet. It is rarely found in the wild, being widely cultivated in parks and gardens. 

The Weeping Spruce can grow to a height of 15 feet. With its dark greyish pink bark, it is one of the most beautiful conifers.

 

9. European Weeping Beech

Botanical name: Fagus sylvatica f. pendula

 

        The European Weeping Beech is native to Central and Southern Europe.  Located in parts of Sweden, Italy, France, England, Turkey, Portugal and Spain, it was brought to North America by the early colonists.  The trunk of the weeping beech is often not visible because of the low hanging branches.. 

Popular with horticulturalists, the European Weeping Beech is often found in public parks and large gardens.  The wood of this beech is hard and tough; it takes a beautiful finish, making it a valuable item in the hardwood timber industry.  Its wood is used for lumber, furniture, pulpwood, and firewood.

The name ‘beech’ comes from the Anglo-Saxon ‘boc’ and German ‘buche’, meaning ‘book’.  Early manuscripts were written on thin tablets of beechwood and bound in beech boards.

 

10. Winged Euonymous

Botanical Name: Euonymous alatus

 

A native of China, Japan and the Korean Peninsula, the Winged Euonymous was introduced to the United States about 1860.  It has raised rides on the branches, giving the euonymous its name.  It is also known as ‘Burning Bush’ because it turns bright red in fall.

The Winged Euonymous has dark purple or red fruit.  Its powdered bark, called ‘Wahoo’, was used by American Indians and pioneers as a purgative.

The Winged Euonymous is adaptable to a wide range of environmental conditions.  It grows well in a variety of soil types and pH levels, grows well in deep shade and has no serious pest problems in North America.  The euonymous has now become a threat to mature forests, fields, and woodlands because it out-competes native species.