By Bruce Doorly
|For those living in the vicinity of Bridgewater the words “Chimney Rock” can mean several things – a road, a restaurant,
a quarry, or a new shopping center. But where did this name come from?
This author who often reads and writes about local history had only scattered knowledge about this topic. I do recall reading about a “Legend of Chimney Rock” on a menu at the “Chimney Rock Inn” and I thought I saw an actual “rock” on some old postcard.
|As soon as I start my research I find that there is indeed an actual rock that has given the area its name.
It is on the east side of Chimney Rock Road about 100 feet high. The rock is visible from the road and can even be seen from the new shopping center. It has been painted white for visibility.
|The Rock, painted white, can be seen |
from the shopping center
|The rock along with the beautiful scenery attracted the attention of both the Native Americans and the early settlers from Europe.
Two books from the 1800s tell of it. An 1844 overview of places in Somerset County says of the Chimney Rock area:
“In a wild and romantic ravine in the mountains … is a noted rock called “Chimney Rock”. It is a singular pyramidal-shaped stone, fifteen or twenty feet high, on the summit of a bold and nearly perpendicular ledge, over a hundred feet in height. Its base is laved by a mountain stream.”
Snell’s “History of Somerset County” written in 1881 states:
“North of Somerville is a romantic gorge which has become quite celebrated as a resort for pleasure-parties. On the east is a wall … upon it rests a rock ... resembling an old broken stone chimney. This is the famed Chimney Rock.”
|This location, with the novel rock on the ledge of a scenic cliff, would inspire an Indian legend. See the side story.
Click to read about The Legend of Chimney Rock
|“Chimney Rock Road” was one of the first roads in Bridgewater.
It appears on a 1776 map. “Chimney Rock Road” connected the two main roads of the era – Main Street in the south and Washington Valley Road in the north.
With it being a main road and having a scenic view it was the ideal spot for the hotel / tavern of its era. As early as 1863 the “Chimney Rock Hotel” opened next to where the “Chimney Rock Inn” is today. The hotels of that era were as much a tavern and social center as they were a hotel. In its early years this hotel was a bed & breakfast serving liquor, oysters, and cigars to its patrons, who consisted mostly of those traveling from New York to Philadelphia.
|The Chimney Rock Hotel in the early days|
|In later years a pavilion was built in the back of the hotel in order to hold dances and other social events.
Picnics were even held on the property.
The “Chimney Rock Hotel”, a popular location for decades, was in operation till 1954 when it was torn down to be replaced by the Chimney Rock Inn that was built next to the original hotel.
|The Chimney Rock Hotel in its final days|
|The “Chimney Rock Inn” has survived or should we say thrived. They have great pizza and excellent service.
The owners at the “Chimney Rock Inn” embrace their history. The menu and website all rightfully boast “Since 1863”. And the outlined image of the famed “Chimney Rock” itself is used in their advertising. In fact, they have even trademarked the outline of the rock.
|The Chimney Rock Inn today|
|The Chimney Rock area, known initially for its natural beauty, would also come to be known for having a large quarry.
For the land is rich in minerals and stones. In 1832 a copper mine was first started west of Chimney Rock Road. But after several years it was abandoned as they found it cost more to retrieve the metal than the copper was worth. Years later in 1886 the land was purchased by William Haelig who gambled that the excavating of other less valuable rocks and minerals would be profitable. So he opened what came to be known as The Chimney Rock Quarry.
|The Chimney Rock Quarry around 1900|
|The excavating proved worthwhile and the quarry business grew.
By 1900 he had such a volume of output that he was granted permission to put a railroad track from his site to the main railroad line.
This quarry would provide the stone for all the local roads.
Tragically, in 1905 William Haelig was killed in an accident at the site. The quarry would then be sold to another owner and continue to operate. It is still open to this day and will likely be open for many years to come.
|The Chimney Rock Quarry today|
|Many do not know that there is a lookout balcony (made for hawk watching that is right in front of the Chimney “Rock” itself) that can be accessed through Miller Lane off Vosseller Avenue. This balcony presents an amazing view of the quarry (and the hawks).
The Chimney Rock Quarry and the Chimney Rock Inn/Hotel are the two oldest businesses in Bridgewater. Quite ironic that they are both from the same section of town and practically next to each other.
|The Chimney Rock Hawk Watch area|