Rutherford Civil Rights Commission Historic Preservation Award

by Tom Bivin on June 6, 2017 · 0 comments

This tribute to the Rutherford Civil Rights Commission sponsored by the Meadowlands Museum on May 13, 2017, was in conjunction with the Preservation History Award received by the RCRC from the Bergen County Historic Preservation Advisory Board. This article also features historic Rutherford homes and an interview with Museum & borough historian, Rod Leith. You can view the original article and accompanying video at: via @northjersey

The Rutherford Civil Rights Commission won a historic preservation award for the promotion of six buildings connected to the borough’s African-American and Puerto Rican history


RUTHERFORD — Long Branch has “Born to Run.” Rutherford has “The Red Wheelbarrow.”

In the early 20th Century, William Carlos Williams was a poet living in Rutherford. He was also a physician who often visited patients at their homes.

It was in this capacity that he met Thaddeus Lloyd Marshall, an African-American fruit and vegetable peddler who lived with his family at 11 Elm Street.

“Dr. Williams, who made house calls in his practice, had provided medical care to Marshall and his family,” said Rutherford’s historian, Rod Leith. “In the backyard of the Marshall residence were chicken coops and a garden. Nearby, chickens caroused around a red wheelbarrow.”

Williams admired the elder Marshall.

“In his backyard I saw the red wheelbarrow surrounded by the white chickens. I supposed my affection for the old man somehow got into the writing,” Williams wrote in a 1954 essay.

The Rutherford Civil Commission has recognized five houses and a church for their contributions to the borough’s Puerto Rican and African-American history. Kelly Nicholaides/ via Wochit

In 1923, Williams — inspired by Marshall and his home — published his now-famous poem, “The Red Wheelbarrow.”

Marshall’s Elm Street home is one of five houses and a church recognized by Rutherford’s Civil Rights Commission for their contributions to the borough’s African-American and Puerto Rican history. Other locations singled out are 153 Wheaton Place, 78 Woodland Avenue, 127 Donaldson Avenue, 93 Delafield Avenue and 27 Elm Street, the home of Rutherford’s first African-American church.

The commission was recently honored with a Bergen County Historic Preservation Award for its work highlighting the people who lived in and built these structures.

For Leith, promoting the homes and meeting places of Rutherford’s Puerto Rican and African-American citizens is an important part of celebrating their role in the community.

“The historic architecture helps to illustrate their development and culture,” he said.


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