THE HISTORY OF BRASSWORKS ON GROVE
105 Grove Street
Originally constructed during the early twentieth century, 105 Grove Street was for many years home to the family-owned George Rutledge Etched Brass Works company. The firm manufactured brass-etched business signs, commercial tags, and dedication plaques, as well as artistic creations such as desk sets and etched portraits.
Born in England in 1844, Rutledge settled at 138 Walnut Street, Montclair, in 1886. At first, Rutledge and his partner located their metal sign etching company in Manhattan; however, the desire to work near home prompted Rutledge to purchase a factory located on Grove Street on May 6, 1903, from an Ella Booth.
With Rutledge as the principal etcher and designer/purchaser of all the equipment, the business flourished, requiring expansion of the building in both 1908 and 1910.
Unfortunately, also in 1910, Rutledge became ill with Parkinson’s disease. To help with the business, he brought in his nephew Henry George Nash. Nash worked with Rutledge, and then took over the company when his uncle became incapacitated in 1915. Rutledge died in 1921. With him, sadly, went much of the artistic side of the brass works operations. No other family member could match his level of etching artistry. BrassWorks on Grove owns the last etching, a portrait of a master sailing ship, created by Rutledge.
By 1931, big changes were afoot at 105 Grove Street – the original building was knocked down to make way for a new space. A one-story, block office and warehouse/garage, this became the first leg of the L-shaped structure that exists today, and is the space that presently houses the BrassWorks on Grove office complex.
From 1934 until approximately 1951, in addition to Rutledge Etched Brass Works, the new building was used as a 35-car capacity garage, a machine shop, and tool and die works.
Nash ran the company until 1951, when he went into semi-retirement, working only for a select group of 25 clients to keep busy. He transferred ownership to his children, Kenneth and Marianne Nash, who operated the company at the original site until 1956, when they sold the building to Wilmer Realty Corp. After that, they continued to run the family business from a Valley Road location through the 1960’s.
Over the years of its existence, the George Rutledge Etched Brass Works company produced many metal-etched commercial signs, building dedications, and framed brass plaques, including some that hang on Mountainside Hospital’s dedication wall today. The company also worked in aluminum and copper, particularly when brass became very expensive during World War I. They produced commercial tags for electric engines, battery box cases and, during World War II, US military ammunition cases. Brass signs, desk sets, and etched portraits can still be found for sale at auctions.
From 1956 until 1968, a car dealer used the building for vehicle storage. Subsequent usage of the site included warehousing and shipping of hair products, brake lining refurbishment, auto parts distribution, telecommunication sales, battery ignition service, and office space.
In 1969, the site was purchased by Mr. Roy Cook, owner of Rex Hide Automotive, to house his wholesale auto parts business. In 1972, the second part of the L-shaped space was constructed. The warehouse that presently houses E&L Battery and Ignition, is owned by Steven Blumenkranz, a Newark businessman. Blumenkranz’ Grandfather, Eddie, started the business in 1923.
In 2006, a partnership consisting of Montclair businessmen and residents Jack Finn, John Reimnitz, and Bob Silver purchased 105 Grove Street from Cook, with the intention of creating a unique professional space. Upon learning the site’s heritage as home to a family-owned brass works company, the partners decided to transform the building while honoring its past, by naming it BrassWorks on Grove.
Designed by John Reimnitz Architect, PC and built by Jack Finn & Company Building Contractors, LLC, the present building combines modern amenities with faithful restoration of the original 1930 architectural details. The building received Montclair zoning approval in September 2006, with construction beginning in October 2006, and tenant occupancy occurring in June 2007. A Grand Opening of BrassWorks on Grove was celebrated in September 2007.
Here are some images of signs and other things produced by the Rutledge company: