Flanders Teen Videos Historic Sites For Preservation
By Cheryl Conway
Nicholas Mathus of Flanders has found his niche, and how ironic that his passion for history stems from his very own past.
Determined to share history with others and preserve our nation’s past, Nick follows in the footsteps of his father and grandfather (also named Nick) whose love for history is much the same. Since he was three years old, Nick has visited more than 80 historic sites and videotaped their significance, all with the help from his father Glenn Mathus.
The fourteen year old is known as “Nick The History Kid,” and he has teamed up his father, Glenn, to produce historical videos. An eighth grader at The PECK School in Morristown, Nick’s main goal is to show his peers how fun and interesting history is and why sites should be preserved.
“History is fun and should be preserved for future generations,” says Nick. “If we didn’t have history we wouldn’t be here today. It’s our nation’s past of how we got here today. If we don’t preserve it, it’s going to be destroyed.”
His motto: “New Jersey: from the Revolutionary War to the Jersey Shore both History and Fun awaits You!” Most of his videos cover NJ’s historical sites, but also cover treasures throughout the United States when vacationing or traveling for sports.
“When we go to swim or track we find historical places,” says Glenn, like Motown, Key West-Florida, Henry Ford Museum in Michigan
Although Nick began his role four years ago as Nick The History Kid and posting historical videos online, his first video dates back to when he was three years old at Gettysburg. In that video, Glenn recalls Nick saying ‘Let’s Go Soldier’…and it’s been history ever since.
“That’s how far it goes back,” his love for history, says Glenn. “My dad passed it onto to him. My dad used to take me all over in 1965. He loved history too; he was a big George Washington man and Civil War. I grew up with what my dad liked.”
With 80 videos so far, Nick’s footage lasts anywhere between four to fifteen minutes, provide historical details of the location with some humor to keep the viewer’s interest.
His visits have him flying an airplane and a helicopter, scuba diving, high diving at the end of the West Point video, and riding one of the oldest roller coasters.
For the video filmed at the Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn, Michigan, Nick provides a brief history of the helicopter and the museum, where the first successful helicopter is preserved, and then flies a helicopter.
Last year, they traveled everywhere from Detroit “where we are the only video on YouTube that takes you inside Motown’s Historic Studio A, and to the Confederate White House in Richmond, VA.,” says Glenn.
His video on the Charles Lindbergh Crime of the Century Video took two months to complete as they traveled to four different cities to tell the whole story. They first went to Washington, DC, showing the Spirit of Saint Louis which was the high point of Lindbergh’s life.
Next, they visited the Lindbergh Estate in East Amwell where Nick got special permission to film inside the baby’s nursery, the scene of the 1932 kidnapping.
“We filmed in the Lindbergh Babies nursery and recreated the leaving of the ransom note on the window sill,” explains Glenn. In 1935 Lindbergh gifted the estate to the State of NJ, and it is now a juvenile state correctional facility. “No tourism here,” says Glenn. But, “We were the first to show the estate today and tour the grounds speculating what happened that night in 1932.”
They then went to the Flemington Court House where the trial of the century happened; and finally to West Trenton to visit the NJ State Police Museum where all the evidence from the trial is kept; and the final scene, back at the Flemington Court House where Nick is the judge in the “Retrial of the Century” and convicts Bruno Hauptmann based on what we believe happened.
“This is truly a surprise ending that could not have happened without the help of many people in high places,” says Glenn. “Nick got to sit in the judge’s chair as the judge” and the chair inside the cell that Hauptmann was electrocuted in. “People don’t get to see the settings.”
For sites indoors he receives special permission.
“Our objective is to show people something they could never see on any regular tour,” says Glenn. “In Nick’s video on the Hindenburg, we were given permission to climb historic Hanger number one with our guide. At 190 feet up at the top of the Hanger one could imagine the Hindenburg entering the hangar below us.” Only the History Channel and the Weather Channel were allowed to climb and film the hangar from above.
Nick was also allowed to enter the mock-up control car used in the movie Hindenburg starring George C. Scott. Nick explains all the controls and demonstrates how the Hindenburg was flown.
At Mount Vernon in 2012 Nick had the “high honor” of participating in a special wreath laying at George Washington’s tomb in front of 100 people.
In his video highlighting cemeteries, Nick visits his grandfather’s grave as well as several famous people such as Judy Garland, James Cagney, Ed Sullivan, Joan Crawford, Babe Ruth and Malcolm X, all buried within an hour from each other, notes Glenn.
In another video, he outlines the history of rollercoasters, mostly in Coney Island, NY, and rides one of the oldest rollercoasters- the Cyclone.
Like riding the roller coaster, these historic adventures have been a great ride for Nick.
“It’s so cool to go to every event involved,” says Nick. “Sometimes it’s difficult to find the time. We schedule it” for Saturday mornings or when they travel especially for swimming and track in which Nick holds multiple gold medals, broken records and the title “Junior Swimmer of the Year” for the second year in a row,” says Glenn.
His latest mission is to help preserve the Martin Berry House (built in 1720) in Pequannock, “12 years before George Washington was born” when the British ruled the land.
“If the town doesn’t buy it, it will be another strip mall,” says Glenn. “We attended several of the monthly meetings and will be involved in promoting the home, when it’s acquired by the town.” They plan to shoot a video at the home then share that history with the local schools.
Nick and I are one of the many “Friends of the Martin Berry House,” a strong and dedicated group of history loving people who want to see the township preserve this beautiful home, one of the oldest homes in Pequannock. “Nick and I are committed to preserving, promoting and volunteering this historical treasure. Nick was the youngest attendee to publically speak at one of the town council meetings.”
They are also trying to get permission to film the Gallows of Morristown inside the Morris County Court House. The last public hanging in Morristown was in 1835, says Glenn, and the gallows have been stored in the “old courthouse in Morristown,” he says.
Nick also promotes historic sites by volunteering his time there. He currently has 96 volunteer hours at the Washington Headquarters in Morristown.
“We must remember our history and the people who paid for our freedom,” says Glenn. “My son’s message is good and his goal is to raise interest in the leaders of tomorrow that these historical treasures are to be preserved for future generations to come. If tomorrow’s adults lose interest in these buildings then funding will be cut off and they will disappear.”
Nick’s videos are linked to NJ’s Travel and Tourism webpage. For more information and to view his videos, visit www.nickthehistorykid.com.