Sitting along what is now Rt. 206 in Newton, NJ, this beautiful monastery has been a landmark for travelers since it was built in 1924. The order lived under the direction of Father Michael Heinlen, and comprised of mostly of men of German & Eastern African descent. These men were missionaries, and wanted to share their lifestyle with those in the United States.
The order quickly rose through the religious ranks, becoming a "simple priory" four short years after being established. This meant that the order was now headed by a Prior. A new chapel, the "Little Flower shrine" building was added to the right side of the structure in 1925. This new chapel was built with pieces of the "Jefferson Street Church", one of the first churches in Sussex County. Four additional years later, the building was designated a "Conventual Priory".
Before long, under the leadership of Abbot Corinston, that the facility was officially recognized as an abbey in 1947. A peripheral focus of the order was tending to the 500 acres of farmland that
surrounded the Abbey. The monks tended to livestock, crops, and even had a small Honey Bee colony they maintained. Among the most popular items sold by the monks were traditional Christmas trees. Folks from all over Sussex and the surrounding counties would load up the family and travel to the abbey to choose the perfect tree.
In 1962, a new facility was built across the street from the old abbey. The building would be renamed "The Queen of Peace Retreat House". It served as a pale for the monks to get away from the abbey and devote more time to prayer and meditation. The building would function in this capacity for several decades until the building began to fall apart. In 2000, the building was vacated.
Nothing else has come forward for the property in the last five years. However, in that time, the building was overrun with vandals. The once peaceful structure was now used to host parties where kids tag and smash up the building. As is the case far too often, the building will probably be demolished before long. Until then, I will continue to monitor the historic, landmark building, hoping it will see new life.