Nutley grew slowly as Newark developed. The first European settler in the area, recorded in the minutes of a Newark town meeting in 1693, was a Dutch painter named Bastian Van Giesen. His house, known as Vreeland Homestead, still stands today on Chestnut Street and is the location of the Nutley Women's Club. John Treat and Thomas Stagg purchased lots adjacent to Van Geisen's in 1695 and 1698 respectively. The Van Riper House is another building from the era.
The first brownstone quarry in Nutley is believed to have been in operation by the early 18th century and was the town's first major industry. Jobs at the brownstone quarry in the Avondale section of Nutley provided work for many Italian and Irish immigrants. Mills situated along the Third River in the area now known as Memorial Park I became Nutley's second major industry.
John and Thomas Speer, Joseph Kingsland, and Henry Duncan all operated mills in the town during the 1800s. Current streets in Nutley are named after these mill owners. Henry Duncan built several mills throughout the town and established the village of Franklinville consisting of 30 homes and a few small businesses which later became the center of Nutley. One of Duncan's buildings has been modified and now serves as the town hall. Kingsland Manor is a national historic place.
During the late 1880s, painter Frank Fowler founded an artists' colony on The Enclosure, a dead-end street that is near the Third River, a stream that runs through the town's parks. Later artist residents of the street included Frederick Dana Marsh, Reginald Marsh and muralist Michael Lenson. Gary T. Erbe, a Trompe-l'œil painter, currently resides there.
Nutley's current town historian, John Demmer, is the author of the book in the "Images of America" series titled Nutley; Demmer is also part of The Nutley Historical Society, a not-for-profit organization dedicated to serve the educational, cultural and historical needs of the community. The Nutley Historical Society manages the operation of The Nutley Historical Museum, housed in a former town schoolhouse at 65 Church Street.
Several other passionate historical works on Nutley have been written by local historians, notably the late Miss Ann Troy's "Nutley: Yesterday - Today"; "Nutley" by Marilyn Peters and Richard O'Connor in the "Then and Now" series; and books about the Nutley Velodrome. Local resident Chris Economaki also wrote extensively about the Nutley Velodrome in his autobiographical racing history Let Them All Go! as the Velodrome was the first racetrack he had visited as a child.
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