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This article by Peter J. Mladineo was published in U.S. 1 Newspaper on
April 8, 1998. All rights reserved.
NJ’s `Proselytizing Patriot’
Apparently Barbara Westergaard still has her work
cut out for her. Ten years ago, in her authoritative "New Jersey:
A Guide to the State," the inveterate traveler and Garden State
booster complained about the state’s tenacious negative image "as
an amalgam of oil refineries and toxic waste dumps." Yet in the
past month an auto maker went ahead and produced a pricey TV ad (pulled
off the air within 48 hours after Governor Whitman’s official protest)
that — once again — featured New Jersey as an unbearably smelly
Westergaard, a self-described "proselytizing patriot," has
just updated her classic, easy-to-use, "New Jersey: A Guide to
the State," with a second edition, published this month by Rutgers
University Press (352 pages; paper $17). She signs books and talks
about New Jersey’s many points of interest at the Princeton University
Store Monday, April 13, at 7 p.m.
Westergaard’s guide to New Jersey’s towns and parks is meant to serve
not just tourists but those who live in or commute to or through the
state. It is also a valuable resource for newcomers, including "victims"
of corporate relocation. Arranged alphabetically by town and city
name, the succinct entries are packed with history and pertinent information
(including contact telephone numbers), and an endnote encourages readers
to write to the author with corrections or omissions. New destinations
since the first edition include the Liberty Science Center in Jersey
City, the Museum of Agriculture in New Brunswick, the state aquarium
in Camden, and the Performing Arts Center in Newark.
The second edition includes new maps for the larger towns with the
location of interest points. It also features the return of Ellie
Wyeth’s line drawings ranging from a landscape sketch of the Hackensack
meadowlands to an architectural sketch of a Louis Kahn-designed model
house in the historic town of Roosevelt.
To say that the guide has been a time-consuming venture is an understatement.
"Although I’ve been doing lots of other things, it’s always in
the back of my mind. I’m always traveling, making notes, and keeping
files. It’s a full time job — but I do a lot of other things,"
says Westergaard, in a telephone interview from her home in Princeton.
Travel guides abound in the bookstores in a wide array of forms and
formats. Westergaard chose to model hers on the Michelin Green Guides
that she had used in Europe and found "a wonderful help."
"I like to read about the place I’m thinking of visiting and plan
my own itinerary," she says. "I dislike being told what to
do. So my guide is written for people who prefer to make their own
What encouraged her to take on the project in the first place were
the pleasures and pitfalls of traveling by car with her family. "My
husband and I don’t like interstates, so we always tried to take the
county roads," she says. "Of course they’re not that well
marked, and we were always getting lost. So we learned a lot about
the state by getting lost."
The author is reluctant to play favorites. "I don’t like to choose
a favorite place," she says, "but I’m very partial to the
area around Delaware Bay because it’s different. It has a special
quality and hasn’t become urbanized. There are lots of small rivers,
older communities, and empty space." Among such unspoiled spots
replete with nautical culture and history is the Cumberland County
community of Mauricetown.
Westergaard is willing to name a single museum, the Edison National
Historic Site in West Orange (phone 973-736-0550), as a premiere museum
destination. "It’s such a remarkable place," she says. "Edison
had such a strong influence on the way our culture is today. They
have kept the labs where he developed half the patents he received
in his lifetime. It gives you a real sense of how he did the things
he did, and how they happened."
Born in the Midwest, Westergaard’s family moved every couple of years,
following her father’s career assignments with the A&P supermarket
chain. A 1951 graduate of Vassar, she majored in economics, and went
on to graduate school at Harvard. In 1955 she married composer Peter
Westergaard, who did his graduate work at Princeton. The couple lived
in Princeton first in the ’50s, and then settled here permanently
in 1968. They have two adult daughters.
Tourism is the state’s second largest industry, three-fourths of it
concentrated along the shore. And as if to thumb her nose at the state’s
perennial critics, Westergaard closes her book with "The New Jersey
Turnpike Tour." All 148 miles of the most heavily traveled toll
road in the U.S. are identified in a tour that assumes you are "using
the turnpike anyway and assumes that if you know what you are looking
at as you speed by, you will find it more interesting." Keyed
to the green mileage markers, it will help you (or your young passengers)
identify landmarks from Crosswicks Creek to the New York Times’s state-of-the-art
color printing plant and Martin Marietta’s "cruiser in the cornfield."
— Nicole Plett
36 University Place, 609-921-8500. Free. Monday, April 13, 7 p.m.
Education , 609-716-5030. Westergaard begins a three-week course
in getting to know your state. $28. Preregister. Wednesday, April
15, 7:30 p.m.
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