This is the town that rubber built.
Butler was a sleepy town originally known as ‘West Bloomingdale’ in the early 1800s. There was some industry — notably, a small rubber mill operating on the river — but things started to cook when Richard Butler came to town. He took ownership of the Butler Hard Rubber Company, which later merged with its competitors, eventually becoming the American Hard Rubber Company. By the 1860s, the village of Butler also hosted the Pequanoc Rubber Company (which made ‘soft’ rubber products) and related companies.
The rubber industry pretty much grew the town, which in 1881 was named after the man who grew it. Streets were laid out, housing was built, and people came from all over to work in the rubber mill. A railroad line was built in 1871, which helped attract many other businesses and helped grow the town — but rubber ruled for over a century.
The rubber industry is long gone now, due to a spectacular fire in 1957, and the railroad station today houses the Butler Museum, which features a large collection of rubber memorabilia as well as several rooms very well stocked with area memorabilia.
By the way, Richard Butler has a connection to the Statue of Liberty. More on that down the line in the blog.
We’ll see more of the rubber industry later, including a spectacular fire that’s still talked about to this day.
My connection: I worked at the Suburban Trends for a time in the late 1940s-early 1980s, when it was housed in an old three-story brick building on the corner of Kiel and Boonton Avenues.
And even before that, a friend and I washed windows all up and down Main Street. More on that, too, later.