Study Mahwah history for the rest of your life. It sounds like a big task.
But, for Carol Greene, a lifelong resident who Mayor Bill Laforet just appointed township historian for life, it was probably what she was going to do anyway.
“I’ve always liked history,” Greene said. “I’ve just always been very interested in it.”
Last year, Greene was appointed township historian, which made her the authority on historical matters in Mahwah. This month, Laforet extended her term, and Greene will now serve as the township historian for life. “Carol is a Mahwah treasure who has dedicated herself to recounting the history of our community. Her dedication has earned her the title of Mahwah's first Lifetime Historian,” Laforet told Patch of his decision.
Greene said as township historian she is a resource to both officials in the township, and residents, who are looking for answers to historical questions. But, a look at Greene’s resume shows that she has been serving in that role unofficially for a long time.
“My parents were interested in history, and I grew up on Sun Valley Farm, a spot that is full of history, so I guess the interest got passed down to me,” she said. Greene’s father, Fred Wehran, was an aviation pioneer who built Teterboro Airport in the 1940’s. He helped found the Aviation Hall of Fame and Museum of NJ in the 1970’s, of which Greene is a trustee.
She is one of the founders of the Mahwah Historical Society, which became the Mahwah Museum Society when it opened a museum on Franklin Turnpike nearly a decade ago. She also serves on the Mahwah Historic Preservation Commission.
“The two serve different purposes,” Greene explained. “The museum is to promote research about Mahwah history, and protect, archive and share that history. The commission is a governmental body. We are just an advisory committee, but we are tasked with helping preserve the built environment.”
The township explains the job of the Commission members as being the “safeguard the community's architectural, archaeological, scenic and cultural heritage by preserving, protecting, and conserving historic sites, structures, objects, roads, and cemeteries.”
A real estate agent by trade, Greene said she is realistic about having development and historic preservation co-exist in Mahwah. “I think the commission is extremely realistic about what can be saved and what can’t be. We see the potential for development, but at the same time, I think we’ve done a lot of good,” Greene said.
Greene is also a member of the township’s beautification committee.
Outside of Mahwah, Greene served for 18 years on the Bergen County Historic Sites Advisory Board, and 10 years as Trustee and then Chair of the New Jersey Historic Trust, a state grant program.
Since 2004, she’s been on the Board of Trustees of the Friends of the Hermitage National Landmark Museum and History Education Center, and teaches Hermitage history spanning the Revolutionary War, 19th century industrial age, and the 20th century.
Greene’s vast body of historical work gained recognition in 2009, when her 850-page book, The Ramapough Chronicles: A 300-Year History of Mahwah, New Jersey and Its Surrounds, was published. According to Greene, the book was “26 years in the making. It tells stories of Mahwah that really haven’t been comprehensively told before. Like, the historical relationship of Mahwah and Suffern, the border disputes that went on between the two towns and two states. The story of the political, philosophical and social connection between the two places is very interesting.”
Since Greene has already founded or joined nearly every historical committee in and around the township, and written one comprehensive history of Mahwah, it may seem like her lifelong job is done. But, for Greene, her recent township historian promotion serves several important roles.
“I’d like to form a coalition of township historians,” Greene said. “We are so fortunate to live in a town that supports historical ventures. Others aren’t so lucky, so I think those of us that are supported should try to help the towns around us.”
Her work preserving historical knowledge within Mahwah isn’t done, either. She would like to write another book, this one about 18th century settlement history in the area.
Greene said she would also like the Historic Preservation Commission to get a grant to do a study of West Mahwah. “There are so many historical structures in West Mahwah that are still in tact. It’s important to study them before they are not there anymore.”
And, as part of her ongoing preservation efforts at Sun Valley Farm, Greene said she would one day like to open a farm and barn museum in the township. “It’s a disappearing history,” she said.
When she isn’t working to preserve, protect and share the history of Mahwah, Greene is a wife, mother, and new grandmother. But, as her new title suggests, her work as a historian will never be done.
“I think it makes sense to be township historian for life,” she said. “Your work doesn’t end, there is always more to learn.”