CC Archeology: Searching For The Lost Village of Littleton, New Jersey


From a map dated 1887.


When I was a little kid, I was fascinated by maps.  Old ones were especially interesting.  I was surprised to see on some local maps that there was this prosperous-looking town about a mile from my house called “Littleton”, which even had its own post office.  However, all I could see when I went to that location was two highways crossing, a gas station, and a couple of average-looking buildings that one might find at any typical intersection.  It certainly didn’t look like a town to me.  So I decided to investigate further . . .


Blue circle: Town of Littleton, about 3 miles north of Morristown, NJ; about 30 miles west of New York City. Green: Modern highway route numbers. Red “X”: Approximate location of the house I grew up in.


Modern map from Google. There is no town of  “Littleton”, however Route 202 is still called Littleton Road.


Town of Walnut Grove, from the TV series Little House on the Prairie.  I suspect Littleton in its heyday looked something like this.


So one day in the 1990s (can’t remember the exact year) I drove over there, and I brought my camera with me because I heard that the area was soon going to be redeveloped.  I parked on this abandoned section of roadway in the center of what was the town. I can imagine that chickens and pigs once roamed the street, the stagecoach came to town on a regular schedule, and in the distance you could hear a blacksmith hammering on horseshoes made from locally-mined iron from the nearby hills.


Last remnants of Littleton. Although there have been later alterations, these houses probably date from the late 18th to early 19th centuries. When Route 10 was laid out in the 1930s, the original main street (with its potholed pavement) was bypassed. The 1972 Mercedes 250 was my daily driver back then.


A Stop & Shop supermarket was built, its parking lot obliterating any trace of the old village.


View from Route 10. Drivers in cars whizzing by at high speed probably never noticed the small houses clustered together.


Nothing left now except that old evergreen tree at far right.


Pyramid-roofed building at the corner was the only store still in business.


Traffic on Route 10 (which started out as the Minisink Trail, blazed by the Lenni Lenape Indian tribe) blasts through the village site.  No one would ever know there was a town here.


Looking north on 202 toward Littleton.


Not much to see now.  The road was made even wider.


A little farther down 202, still looking north. The large pine tree was planted in the front yard of a house that had long since vanished. On the far left there was another abandoned “haunted house”. I had previously explored the inside, which was full of old furniture and junk. It had already been demolished by the time these photos were taken.


Same view today.


Last surviving building of old Littleton. The one-room schoolhouse (also used as a chapel) was built in 1796. Located just north of Route 10 on Route 202, it is surrounded by roads, parking lots, and modern buildings.  It has been preserved as an historic landmark.


A little ways up on 202 is this house, which was constructed in the early 20th century using bits and pieces of other demolished houses. So maybe parts of lost Littleton made their way here. However, this house was itself demolished last year.


Stone dam over the Malapardis Brook near Littleton, forming “the ole swimmin’ hole.” This too may not remain much longer as a new development plan is scheduled to begin soon.


Forgotten Littleton has nonetheless achieved a claim to fame in modern times.  Although it is one that the “salt of the earth” Colonial and Victorian folks who once lived here would never have imagined . . .

This Raceway gas station on the southwest corner of Routes 10 & 202 . . .


. . . is where Tony Soprano (of the TV show The Sopranos) got “whacked”!


Yes, what would the folks who built, settled, and lived their lives in this small village think of what has become of it?  Butchers, bakers, candlestick makers . . . farmers, stage coach drivers, miners–real people.  If they were teleported ahead in time–and saw wheeled vehicles moving faster than anything they had ever seen;  all their houses gone, with only the schoolhouse as a point of reference.  They would be dumbfounded beyond words.

Actually, there are lots of lost towns throughout New Jersey, and some of them have interesting names:  Ong’s Hat [There was this man named Ong, and he had a hat, and he threw it in a tree . . .]

Also Quibbletown, Chairville, Double Trouble, Seven Stars, Martha Furnace, Buttzville . . . There’s even a Shades of Death Road in Sussex County.

Which leads me to this:  Will your house (and the street it’s on) still be around in 100-200 years?  If so, what will it look like?  Who will be living there?   Buildings rise and fall, but we usually think of a town as permanent–but, like Littleton, quite a few of them “are no longer on the map.”