Waterloo Village in Byram has been around for centuries and has endured a lot. It’s past doesn’t compare to it's more relevant near demise.
In its prime, this village was the halfway point along an almost 102 mile trip down the Morris canal making it the perfect overnight stop for canal workers. The village housed all the accommodations necessary for hosting these guests. There was an inn, a general store, a church, and a blacksmith shop.
The canal and Waterloo both functioned properly until the mid-1860s. It was at this time that the nearby Sussex and Morris and Essex railroad branches began to compete with the canal traffic. The speed of the railroad outgrew that of the canal. The canal was In operation until 1924 and Waterloo was completely abandoned by the time of the Great Depression.
Trains traveling to and from the city had to endure an incline as they passed through the area of Waterloo. This brought many trains to a crawling pace making it the perfect spot for hobos you hop on and off. They soon discovered the abandoned waterloo village and protected it by occupying the land and buildings In the 1930s and ’40s.
Once again the old village was about to see a new light. In the 1960s two men by the name of Percy Leach and Lou Gualandi had spearheaded efforts to preserve the space. With volunteer help and tons of time, they were able to restore most of the village.
A not for profit corporation was founded known as the Waterloo Foundation For The Arts. This enabled the duo to raise the necessary funds for restoring the village and also future plans to expand the grounds and operations.
By the mid -80s waterloo slowly became a go-to sport for concerts seeing the traffic of nearly 20,000 visitors for some performances. There were plans to expand the current stage and create an outdoor amphitheater with plans for it to become the summer home of the New York Met Opera.
Gualandi passed away in 1988 and Leach had become wrapped up in a handful of controversial projects that shed a negative light on the Waterloo Foundation For The Arts. The most known of the projects was the land swap which allowed BASF to build its corporate headquarters on the former land of the Allamuchy State Park. These controversial issues resulted in the removal of Leach from the board.
New management was brought in to run the restoration of the village. It was also at this time that the hosting of concerts began to slow down. From 2003 to 2006 Waterloo had received a $900,000 grant from the state for general expenses. The displeasure of the operations of Waterloo resulted in funding being cut from the state budget in 2007. In December of 2006 Waterloo Village was shut down.
2014 saw the rebirth and reopening of this historical place. The NJDEP Division of Parks and Forestry through a concession agreement offers group tours and programs that are available at Waterloo Village, Allamuchy Mountain State Park, by reservation with Winakung at Waterloo Inc. Programs at the recreated Lenape Indian Village and historic Village of Waterloo are offered April through November. Winakung at Waterloo Inc. educational programs meet the core curriculum standards. They also offer year-round outreach programs. In 2014 a 10-year lease was also signed with Jeffrey Miller Catering who renovated the meeting house and pavilion which is now a popular wedding venue.
Only in these recent years are we seeing Waterloo returning back to what it was! New seasonal events have been taking place over the summer and fall months!