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Local History: Asparagus Ferns to Asparagus

J.F. Anderson's nursery once was located at the former Saks Fifth Avenue site, the possible future home of Stop & Shop.

We haven't had any updates on the future of the Stop & Shop project proposed for the former Saks Fifth Avenue building in a while. But new information has come to light about the site's past. 

From the early 1900s until the 1940s the site that would host Saks was home to J.F. Anderson's nursery. Ferns seem to have been the specialty. The earliest sighting of the nursery can be seen on the excerpt here from the 1906 Springfield atlas. Anderson and his then-partner Thomas Christensen were in business at the Millburn Avenue site with what seems to have been two greenhouses.

In January 1907 John Anderson announced that he and Mr. Christensen were dissolving their partnership (see annoucement here), and shortly afterward a 1909 advertisement indicated that four new greenhouses were being built. The 1912 map shows how many more greenhouses were on the site to accommodate what seems to have been a flourishing business.

The 1909 advertisement noted "thousands of table Ferns are being shipped each week, seedlings, transplanted plants, and pot-grown stock, alike receiving equal patronage." Another 1909 ad, seen here, claims Anderson is a "fern specialist" with the "largest commercial collection of Ferns in the country."

Among those popular ferns, Anderson refers to his "excellent" Asparagus ferns, plumosus nanus. If Stop & Shop opens on the site, as has been proposed, the popular asparagus fern will be replaced with asparagus, and the site likely will once again advertise the "best stock, largest assortment."

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