The Mission of the Pilesgrove-Woodstown Historical Society:
To preserve and advance interest in and awareness of the history and heritage of the Borough of Woodstown and Pilesgrove Township by properly procuring, preserving and maintaining the art, artifacts and documents that relate to the cultural, archaeological, civil, literary, genealogical and ecclesiastical history of the local community. We welcome researchers and provide them with any available material.
On the site is the 1840’s one room schoolhouse that was moved from Eldridge’s Hill in the 1970’s and is open for touring during museum hours. The organization hosts quarterly presentations and participates with the Candlelight Tour on the first Friday of December.
Touring the house is a wonderful experience and I got an excellent tour from a member of the Board of…
I visited the Bergenfield Museum recently, a museum that I have to admit I never knew existed and I know almost all the museum in Bergen County and was surprised what an informative museum it was not just showcasing the history of Bergenfield but of Bergen County. Room by room the museum is filled with displays on the history of the town, and it has progressed through the last two hundred years.
The Bergenfield Museum at 100 Cooper Street
The museum is located in the back of Cooper Park towards the back of the pond. The museum is part of a complex of barns that were once small manufacturing companies owned by the families that owned the house. The…
I visited the Mauricetown (pronounced ‘Morristown’ like its northern neighbor) on a trip to visit historical societies in southern New Jersey. Mauricetown comes from the Dutch word ‘Mauritus’ for the Mauritus River that flowed through the town. “Maurice’ is the English version of the word.
The town itself was used for shipping and trade up and down the East Coast and between 1830 and 1902, 61 ships were built in the boatyard in the village. The home that the Society is housed in is one of many ship captains homes that was built on this side of town being closer to the river for the other ship captains. Founded in…
I had been sent the notice that the County of Morris, New Jersey was having a two-day Open House of many of their historical sites for touring and for special events for a program entitled “The Pathways of History: Museum and Site Tours of Morris County, NJ”.
The “Pathways to History” event takes place every May
The weekend event spread to small museums, historical homes and cemeteries all over the County with walking tours and lectures at various sites. Having never been or even heard of many of these sites, I was interested in visiting as many as I could for my blog, “VisitingaMuseum.com” which is here on WordPress.com as well.
I plotted my two days of the event and tried to organize the trip so that we could see as many sites as we could. The event asked the sites to open one of the two days as most of these sites are small and have a tough time getting volunteers. So, I tried to coordinate the sites I had wanted to visit with visiting other places along the way such as farm stands I wanted to visit and restaurants I wanted to try.
The map of historical sites that I wanted to visit
I recruited my aunt to help me take pictures of the sites and travel with me to get her opinions on each of the sites. She also wanted to get out of the house and travel with me so off we went. We started the day with a good breakfast at the Blue Cafe at 273 Valley Boulevard in Wood Ridge, NJ (See my reviews on TripAdvisor and DiningonaSheStringinNYC@Wordpress.com). I like the hometown atmosphere and service of the restaurant.
The Blue Cafe at 273 Valley Boulevard in Wood Ridge, NJ
My review on DiningonaShoeStringinNYC@Wordpress.com:
Not wanting to snack along the way, both my aunt and I had a large breakfast. She had an Egg White Omelet with bacon and tomatoes with a side of hashbrowns and toast ($8.95). I had the Pancake Platter which came with two pancakes and two scrambled eggs with a side of link sausage ($8.95). I have to say that everything came to the table promptly and was delicious. The portion sizes were very fair, and the service could not have been nicer.
We needed a good breakfast at Blue Cafe for the long journey
My pancakes were perfectly cooked and had that nice, malted taste and the scrambled eggs had a nice taste of clarified butter. The sausage had a nice spicy sage taste to it. My aunt could not finish her eggs and asked me to take some. They were delicious as well. The flavors of the bacon and the tomatoes had a nice complexity to them and the hashbrowns were well seasoned and crisp.
My pancakes and eggs that morning was delicious
With a nice breakfast behind us and a warm sunny day, we both looked forward to visiting the sites without stopping much. We travelled down Route 80 and then down Route 206, which once upon a time was one of the only highways to travel through the State of New Jersey. It took us down to Route 24 through the rolling hills of Chester, NJ and to our first stop, the Obadiah La Tourette Grist & Mill at 12 East Mill Road in Long Valley, NJ.
East Mill Road lead into a quaint little town that looked like something out of the early 1800’s with older clapboard homes and historic churches with old cemeteries surround them in a highly wooded spot. It reminded me of my trips through the Hudson River Valley.
The Obadiah La Tourette Grist & Mill at 12 East Mill Road
The Grist Mill was fascinating. The mill has been a working mill from the early 1800’s until about the late 1930’s, during the Depression when they needed to expand operations. The place had pretty much been abandoned until the 1980’s when it had been falling apart by the side of the road and concerned citizens got together to save it. It is now going through a renovation.
What the mill looked like in 1993
When I toured both the upstairs and the downstairs, upstairs was all the equipment to move the wheat and bundle it for processing and for milling. I even saw amongst the equipment the old portion size bagging attachment where the final packaging took place.
On the lower level of the mill, you could see the stream under the building and the turbine wheels of the old mill still placed in the stream and along the side of the mill. You could view from the deck the workings of the equipment and how the stream powered the mill itself. You could also see the flow of the stream and how it is now affecting the structure of the building.
It is amazing how we survived with just Mother Nature at one time
The staff takes immense pride in the building structure and how the renovation is coming along as well as its unique history. The tour guides could not have been more enthusiastic about explaining to myself, my aunt and the other visitors about the history of the mill, the way they milled the flour and the ongoing structure improvements. It was also so picturesque with the small flowing stream and woods that surrounded it.
We walked along the property back to the car and please to all readers, watch yourself on the road because for some reason everyone was speeding that morning and there is no sidewalk. Remember to walk to the back of the buildings to view the stream, the woods and all the historical homes in this little hamlet.
Our next stop was on the other side of the stream and around the corner from the mill. We visited the Union Schoolhouse & Union Church and Burial Ground at 6 Fairview Avenue in Long Valley, NJ. The Union Schoolhouse has been converted into Washington Township Historical Society building housing its collection. The Union Church burned down years earlier and was left is a stone structure that you can view inside and out. The church is surrounded by the old cemetery where prominent members of the community are buried.
The Washington Township Historical Society at 6 Fairview Avenue
The Union Schoolhouse/Washington Township Historical Society is a well-organized two-story building, that houses a collection of antique objects from the community. There was a set up a school room, selection of quilts, old dishware, antique furniture and on the first floor a complete display of the Welsh Farms Ice Cream Company and Dairy.
The second-floor school room reflects the buildings past as a schoolhouse
The original ice cream factory (no longer exists) used to be right down the road from the old schoolhouse and members of the Welsh family are buried in the cemetery. I thought that was fascinating as I never knew it had been started here.
The local Welsh family started the Welsh Farm Dairy and Ice Cream factory down the road
The Welsh Family cemetery plot
I toured through the old church with another patron and the tour guide while my aunt, who did not want to walk on the uneven ground of the cemetery got her own verbal tour with one of the members of the historical society. We got to walk through the cemetery and see the graves of the prominent families that were once members of the church. We also got to see how the staff used tombstone cleaner to make the tombstones brighter.
The Union Church and Cemetery
What was also impressive about the building was the beautiful flower garden that lined the stone wall between the schoolhouse and the cemetery. One of the local Garden Clubs must have planted and taken care of the gardens because they were so well pruned and planted. It was so colorful with an array of flowers line with blooming tulips along the path.
The old Washington Township Schoolhouse is now the museum
On the way back down Route 24, my aunt and I decided to stop for a snack. We stopped at an old favorite mine that I have been visiting since the early 1970’s, the Hacklebarney Farm Cider Mill at 104 State Park Road which is right outside Hacklebarney State Park, which I had also visited many times as a child for walks and barbecues.
The Hacklebarney Cider Mill Farm at 104 State Park Road
I love coming to Hacklebarney Farm Cider Mill at all times of the year. It is especially best in the late Spring and in the Fall months when the leaves are changing, and all the Halloween events are happening. The farm had opened their hot dog stand early on customer demand the owner explained to us as well as made sure the bakery was well-stocked for visitors on the tours.
The hot dog stand and the work buildings remind you that this is a working farm and not a tourist trap
We toured through the bakery, and I ordered a Cider doughnut ($2.95) and a Fruit Dumpling ($3.95) for dessert, and we shared a Chicken and Cheese Quesadilla ($5.95) and two Cokes for our lunch (See my reviews on TripAdvisor and DiningonaShoeStringinNYC@Wordpress.com). It was so nice to just sit and relax and enjoy the weather.
The wonderful baked goods at the Hacklebarney Farm bakery
The Quesadilla was well made and stuffed with lots of chicken and cheese and the salsa had a nice spicy flavor to it. I love the crispiness of their Cider doughnuts with lots of cinnamon sugar on top of them. The Fruit Dumpling was filled with fresh blueberries and strawberries and had nice buttery sweetness to it. We devoured everything in record time, and I could not believe how hungry we both were that afternoon. Maybe it was all the driving or maybe it was just looking over all the rolling hills and the soft breezes from the field.
We got a chance to talk to the owner again when she came over with an old picture of the farmhouse that her great-grandparents had built and the pride that they took in all their baked goods. She told us that everything is made from scratch in their kitchen and all the fruits are hand peeled for their desserts. In the Fall, I have watched them make their apple cider on property and you can watch the steps to make the cider you will buy inside (when it is in season, make the trip out here for it. It is well worth the trip).
The Hacklebarney Farm family farmhouse
After a relaxing afternoon of relaxing, playing with their dogs and walking around the farm, we left for Downtown Chester, which is located right down Route 24 and on the other side of Route 206. We passed the old shell of a building that was once Larison’s Turkey Farm Inn which closed in 2009.
The old Larison’s Turkey Farm building is a reminder of changing times
I had eaten here a few times with my family over the years and you used to be able to get a full turkey dinner for a reasonable price. Forget trying to visit the place at Thanksgiving. The place is now falling apart, and I read online that they want to knock down this historic landmark for a strip mall.
Our next site on the listing was the Chester Historical Society or otherwise known as the Chester’s Rockefeller Center at 137 Main Street. Main Street Chester was a madhouse on Saturday as there was a food truck festival going on in the park downtown and traffic was all over the place. We must have circled the downtown three times looking for the Historical Society.
The soon to be Chester Historical Society at 137 Main Street
We finally found the empty building that was falling apart right next to the park. All that the historical society was an empty building that had been moved to the park and a kiosk that was closed off by the food truck festival. When we were able to stop and talk to the members who were there, they were closing up shop for the afternoon.
They said they were showing the plans for the renovation of the building and how they wanted to store the collection. That is what amounted to their current historical society. It was a work in progress. The little building was built in 1897 and was ordered from the Sears & Roebuck Company.
The Chester Historical Society is just beginning to be established
We quickly got out of downtown Chester and headed back up Route 206 North and took some back roads to our final destination that afternoon, the Silas Riggs Saltbox House/The Roxbury Township Historical Society at 213 Main Street in Ledgewood, NJ and the King Canal Store and the King Victorian Home at 209 and 211 Main Street right next store to the house. The sites were closing up shop for the afternoon, but they were nice enough to stay open so that we could have a long visit.
I am so happy that we could visit the sites as the people running them were so interesting and they took such good care of the sites. A few of the volunteers said that this always happens that someone comes late, and they were hoping to close on time, but they take such pride in all these sites that they did not mind staying for us.
Our first stop was the King Canal Store. The store had been sealed off after the death of Albert King by his wife, Emma. After his passing, she followed his wishes and closed the store down only opening it during the Great Depression when locals needed supplies.
After Mrs. King’s death in 1975, the store and her home, the King Homestead were bought by the Rotary Club of Roxbury, NJ and they set out to renovate and restore the site. The King Canal Store was left untouched and is a step back in time when the Morris Canal was a major form of transportation in the state. The store had been open since the Civil War and closed on the eve of the Great Depression even though the family had been seeing declining sales since the closing of the canal to traffic.
The King Canal Store is a step back in time when this was the neighborhood gathering place
Next to the King Canal Store at 211 Main Street is the King Homestead built in the Queen Ann style by Albert King for his family. The house was closed by that point, but I was able to walk the grounds and on the porch. It is a spectacular home.
The last place on the tour before we ended the first day of touring sites was the Silas Riggs Saltbox House at 213 Main Street. The home had been Emma Riggs King’s parents and it had been moved to this site when it was threatened with demolition. The home is a perfect example of the “Saltbox” architectural style.
The Silas Riggs Saltbox House/The Roxbury Historical Society at 213 Main Street
I loved touring this smart little house. Talk about well taken care of and well appointed. The home is well decorated with vintage antiques and artifacts and when you walk in the door you have this welcoming feeling. The house is so warm and cosey that volunteers have commented that people feel that they could move in here.
The front room of the Silas Riggs Saltbox House
What I enjoyed about the Silas Riggs Saltbox house is that the home was decorated in period furnishings that all worked to welcome you into the home. It was almost like the people who lived there just left for the afternoon.
What I really liked about the house was the back-room kitchen with the open hearth. Not only was it a perfect place to cook but it must have been the gathering place for the family and also heated the house. One of the volunteers told me that they had a successful “Soup Dinner” fundraiser during the holidays where they made homemade soup from scratch and homemade cornbread as well. It must be nice to eat a hearty meal in this period home during Christmas as the family once did.
The rustic kitchen at the Silas Riggs Saltbox House
After the house closed for the after, all the other sites had closed at 4:00pm as well and we made our way down Route 10 just off the old main street and then back on to Route 46 East to head home. It had been getting warmer all day and we both needed a snack before dinner. It was by coincidence that we just happened to pass the Dover Dairy Maid Ice Cream store at 240 East Route 46 and stopped for a cone.
Never having travelled down this part of Route 46 East before, I had never seen this popular place for ice cream and all of a sudden, I turned the car and needed some ice cream. There are times in life that you take a different bend in the road, and this was one of the more popular ones. Their homemade ice cream was amazing.
The Dover Dairy Maid at 240 East Route 46 is the best
While my aunt tried the Mint Chocolate ice cream, I had a yearning for something more fun and I got a bowl of Cotton Candy ice cream and at $5.45 for two large scoops, it was a reasonable trip. It is nice that a business not only does not gouge a customer but offers that personal service was reflective of when I was a kid in the 1970’s when this business opened. I felt like it was a step back in time when things were simpler. We even at our ice cream out on the benches in the back of the store. Talk about 70’s! Between here and Hacklebarney Farm I felt like a kid again.
There was no traffic on Route 46 East that evening and got home in record time. My aunt and I needed some recovery time, so I dropped her off and met her for dinner later that evening. We finished off the evening at Napoli Pizzeria at 25 Washington Street #2 in Lodi, NJ for dinner. Napoli’s food is consistently excellent, and I love their pizza. The best part is that the parking is always plentiful and never have to travel far to go.
Napoli Pizzeria at 25 Washington Street #2 is wonderful for lunch and dinner
It was a nice evening chatting over a cheese pizza ($10.95) and a glass of wine. We talked about all the sites we had visited and the ones that we could not and made plans to revisit some of the sites in the future. There was a lot more to see and do in Morris County. It was a nice way to end the first day of touring and it had been such a perfect sunny day that it was a pleasure to stop and really enjoy each site.
The historical marker at the Ayres-Knuth Farm at 25 Cooper Street
On the second day of the “Pathways’ tour, my aunt was busy, so I started early with a quick breakfast at home and was on my way back to Morris County for a second day of adventure. My first stop on the tour was the Ayres/Knuth Farm (The Ayres/Knuth Farm Foundation Inc.), a former working farm just off Route 10.
The main farmhouse on the Ayres/Knuth Farm
Not only was the site open for touring but they also had a mini car show with antique cars and fire trucks owned by some of the members. Seeing some of these Model T Ford’s and Steam Engine Fire Trucks in perfect condition shows American quality motorship at its finest.
What interested me about the farm is that it had been a working farm up until the last fifty years and showed the progression that the farm took in its almost 100 years in the county. The farm itself dates back to pre-Revolutionary War days with the farm being purchase in either 1735 or maybe 1759 by Obadiah Lum. The property itself was settled and developed by Daniel Ayres, who was born in New Jersey in 1778 (The Ayres/Knuth Farm Foundation).
The Ayres-Knuth Farm and the outer buildings
105 acres of land was given to him by his father-in-law, David Garrigus upon the marriage of his daughter, Hanna in 1803. His son, William took over the farm in 1856 upon the death of his father in 1856, changing the farm to add husbandry and fruit cultivation. When William retired in 1896, none of his children wanted the farm and it was sold. Changing hands many times, it was bought by Martin and Anna Knuth in 1906. The farm was taken over by two of their children and it remained in the family until the 1990’s upon both of their passings. In 1996, the Township of Denville purchased 52 acres of the original farm and it is now managed by the Ayres/Knuth Foundation Inc. (The Ayres/Knuth Farm Foundation).
On this clear and sunny Sunday morning, it was fun to walk around the former working farm to see how it developed. Both families learned to modernize and add to the operation. I was able to tour the smaller tenet farmhouse (built in 1895), the barn (built in 1895 (and the various outer buildings like the chicken coops (built in 1895), outhouse (built in 1930) and the Smokehouse (built in 1825). The small well was built in 1797 and was the oldest structure left on the property.
What got my attention is that there still are tenant farmers on another tract on the property still working the land and the property is protected by grants from Morris County. So, it still is technically a working farm. A lot of care was taken to preserve the farm as is and the volunteers told me that there were plans to fix up the other buildings. The Tenant House needed a lot of work and was run down but the main Farmhouse had been renovated and was closed that day.
After having a nice conversation with many of the volunteers about the development on the farm, I was off to the next site, The Whippany Railway Museum at 1 Railroad Plaza in Whippany, NJ. I usually don’t get excited by railway museums one looking like another but the care and dedication of the volunteers of this museum is just mesmerizing. They really care about the detail and condition of every railcar and artifact that comes into possession of this museum, and it shows by the way its displayed.
The Museum was so well organized and told the story of the rail systems not just in New Jersey but their development all over the country. Unlike some rail museums that I have been to where they put dishes, lanterns and tickets all the same shelves, the Whippany Railway Museum took a lot of pride in setting up their displays more as a progression to how the railways evolved over time starting with coal, then to steam and then electric.
Not only that it was the way people traveled and how dining and then First Class tried to rival the growing Jet Age travel to keep customers. Each case line told a story. The cases show a progression in communication, ticketing, uniform, dining and equipment used on the trains. Take time to look over the information supplied in the cases as well. They also have a nice gift shop inside the museum.
It was the hour-long walking tour that really blew me away. This volunteer named Mike walked around the museum asking people if they would like to take a tour at noon and then for the next hour and a half, we toured all the train cars.
Each of the train cars were at different stages of renovation and some were fully restored. Mike explained to our small tour group that different members of the museum had special skills, and everyone had a hand in restoring the cars. The volunteers all dressed like period conductors and would be stationed at each car to describe the railcar to us.
Where the museum really shines and where I saw the most pride is in the rail cars that have come to the yard over the years and have been carefully restored. The Southern Railway No. 385 built in 1907 for faster freight service, the Texaco Fireless Cooker No. 7240 built in 1937 for industrial switching duty and one of the newest steam locomotives still surviving, the U.S. Army No. 4039 built in 1942 for WWII service are just some of the cars on display (Whippany Railway Museum pamphlet).
The railcar that most impressed me was the Lackawanna Railroad Subscription Club Car No. 2454 that was once known as the “Millionaires Express” (Whippany Railway Museum). The mahogany paneled car carried businessmen from New York City through towns in the middle of New Jersey. What I thought was interesting was the people who rode it (Christie Todd Whitman’s father was a member) and the fact that you had to ‘buy’ the seat, which meant that no one could ever sit in ‘your chair’ if you were not there. This car ran for 72 years finally retiring out in 1984 (probably due to the recession and changing times).
After the extensive tour was over, I visited the model trains that were riding around the outside of the rail cars and talking with other volunteers on what the future plans of a new railcar that just arrived. I also walked up to their snack shop that is at entrance of the museum site and was bummed when they did not have any of the large pretzels in stock. The woman said that they are their most popular item and had not arrived for the tour day. I then moved on to my third site, The Whippany Burying Yard at 325 Route 10 East.
The Whippany Burying Yard was also having a tour that I just made when I arrived. It was given by a retired college professor who had lived in town all of his life and knew the history of the cemetery quite well. The old cemetery is steeped in history as one of the oldest cemeteries in New Jersey and home to many Revolutionary and Civil War veterans. As we learned on the tour later on, the only people that can be buried there now are former Mayors of the Town of Whippany who have died.
Two of the founding families of the town have many family members buried here, the Tuttle’s who still have relatives living in the area and the Kitchel’s. The guide for the afternoon took us on an hour tour of the cemetery, pointing out prominent members of the war years including Timothy Tuttle (died 1754), a founding judge of Morris County, Keturah Tuttle Platt (died 1850), who was a Charter member of the First Presbyterian Church, Captain Timothy Tuttle (II of III-died in 1816), who was a member of George Washington’s First Regiment in the Continental Army, Samuel Tuttle (died in 1762) and Colonel Joseph Tuttle, a blacksmith and Deacon at the Presbyterian Church who served in the French & Indian War.
The entrance to the Whippany Burial Yard
The Kitchel family was prominently represented as well with Abraham Kitchel (died in 1741), who was one of the six original judges of Morris County and his wife Sarah, whose family was claimed to date back to Charlemagne, Emperor of France, Abigal Kitchel (died in 1768), Uzal Kitchel (died in 1813), a Militiaman in the American Revolution and his wife, Anna (died in 1815). Many of these people as well as their ancestors made major contributions to the growth of the surrounding community.
We were also given a lesson in the construction and care of the old tombstones, some of which were beyond repair. Some of the original grave sites were made from sandstone, marble and granite with granite becoming the popular choice later on. Here and there some of the tombstones were decorated with winged skulls or cherubs. These show morality images of the dead (Whippany Burial Yard pamphlet).
We were also walking by the river that the graveyard sits on and were told that current erosian is affecting some of the grave sites. These might have to be moved in the future and the tour guide was not sure if any have been lost over the years. The old Presbyterian Church that sat on the site (built in 1718 and removed in 1755) has since disappeared and there is no trace of it now.
The Whippany Burial Yard has many different types of tombstones
At the end of the tour, the guide explained to us that the old Tuttle House, dating back from the late 18th Century was just left to the town by its last owner to be preserved as a museum for the community. The Tuttle house will need a lot of work in the future.
The Tuttle House at 341 Route 10 will be a future museum for the Historical Society
It was getting late in the day after my last tour, and I figured I had time to see one more site before the day was over. I wished they did not end the day so early at 4:00pm. It does not give people much time to visit all these sites in one day, but the museum tour guides made them so interesting that you did not want to leave so quick.
My last stop on the tour day was the Florham Park’ Historic Preservation Commission’s Little Red Schoolhouse and Hancock Cemetery at 203 Ridgedale Avenue. On the map it looked so far away but it was only ten minutes down the road from the cemetery and I got there in plenty of time to spend the last half hour of the day at the museum.
The Little Red Schoolhouse Museum at 203 Ridgedale Avenue
I was the only one there with two members who said that they were surprised on how busy the day was for them. They told me that almost every person who visited said the same things: either they passed the place a million times and never knew it was a museum or they lived here for about twenty years and never knew the town had a museum. I said I was from another area of the state, and this was my first time as well. The little museum is nicely set up.
In the back there is a small classroom set up keeping with the theme of the building. This lets students who are visiting the building of their counterpart’s early education with desks, ink wells and chalk boards that have not changed that much over the years. There are old desks and chalkboards and items that date either from the late 1880’s to about the 1930’s.
Not much has changed in the modern classroom over the years
There is early century clothing, farming equipment from the town’s farming past and event Native American objects found in the town and in private collections. Other items included decorative items from the home including dishware, home products and furnishings. Each section of the museum is divided up by lifestyle.
The docents that day explained that the items were reflect the town’s past and some came from families that have been in town for years. The museum reflects the community spirit of town’s past. It explains that times have progressed but not changed too much over the years. They also told me how hard they work to promote the museum.
I asked where the Hancock Cemetery was, and they told me down the road from the museum, so I left after about a half hour to let them close and looked for the cemetery. I never found it “down the road” so I was not too sure what direction they were talking about. By the time I got back to the museum, it was shut, and all the cars were gone. It was now 4:30pm. I decided to head off to dinner.
I got lost trying to take the back roads from Route 10 to Route 46 (later on when I got home, I found I was in the right direction but did not know it). I passed the Parsippany Historical Museum at the Bowlsby-DeGelleke House at 320 Baldwin Avenue on the way but at 5:00pm I could see one of the costumed docents was desperately trying to close up for the day, so I did not stop.
I finally made it to Downtown Boonton, NJ for dinner. The town was really quiet on an early Sunday evening. I passed the Boonton Historical Society and Museum at 210 Main Street that was closed for the evening. They had a full day of activities that day and must have closed early.
Boonton Historical Society and Museum at 210 Main Street
Ever since I got involved in the Bergen County Firemen’s Home Association, I have been visiting this interesting little museum. They have the most intriguing walking tours on the history of the town’s development and on the ruins of the local iron works. They also have nice inhouse tours of the museum and very inviting Holiday Open House (pre-COVID).
Dinner that evening was a restaurant I had wanted to try several times but it either was not open or did not look open because there was no one in it. I2I at 408 Main Street just up the hill from the museum.
I had been looking forward to eating here for some time and even though the food and the service were quite good, the owner did something that really irked me, and I will not be returning anytime soon. (Please read my TripAdvisor review above for details on my experience).
After dinner, I walked around Downtown Boonton for a bit, looking over stores that had opened since the pandemic. The downtown is getting more and more hipster businesses and you can tell that an ‘artsy’ crowd is starting to move into the area. All the neighborhoods around the downtown are having a lot of home improvements from new paint jobs and windows to new landscaping meaning the artists from the City are starting to move in.
Please read my blog on Exploring Downtown Boonton, NJ-Day Two Hundred and Two:
I drove home later that evening. It had been an interesting two-day exploration to Morris County, NJ and I did not realize the rich history that it had. There are many more places that will be visiting in the future on their list as they open up for the summer months.
Please look at their link for more details and happy exploring!
On the second day of the Morris County, NJ “Pathways to History’ tour, I was on my way back to Morris County for a second day of adventure. My first stop on the tour was the Ayres/Knuth Farm (The Ayres/Knuth Farm Foundation Inc.), a former working farm just off Route 10.
The main farmhouse on the Ayres/Knuth Farm
Not only was the site open for touring but they also had a mini car show with antique cars and fire trucks owned by some of the members. Seeing some of these Model T Ford’s and Steam Engine Fire Trucks in perfect condition shows American quality motorship at its finest.
What I liked about the farm is that it had been a…
A Video on the Washington Township Historical Society
I came to the Washington Township Historical Site as part of Morris County’s “Pathways of History” tour and visited the Union Schoolhouse Museum and then the Union Church and Burial Ground that is located right next door on the same property. This sleepy little town was once a bustling manufacturing site with the sawmill and Ghrist around the corner and the Welsh Farms Ice Cream factory up the street from the site.
The Union Schoolhouse Museum at 6 Fairview Avenue
The museum, which was once the town’s schoolhouse, is an engaging site that showcases how the town developed over the last two hundred years. On the…
I visited the King Canal Store Museum and the King Homestead during the Morris County “Pathways to History” tour in May of 2022. This interesting store was still intact with its merchandise lining the shelves with a pot belly stove in the center of the store which was the center of action when the store was open to the community. All sorts of grocery items and notion items still line the walls.
The guide explained that upon the death of the owner wanted to store closed and sealed. His daughter only opened it in the 1930’s…
Don’t miss the “Pathways to History” event each May in Morris County, NJ. You can see a lot of the county’s historical sites in a two-day period.
The Florham Park Historical Society’s “Little Red Schoolhouse” Museum is full of artifacts of the town’s rural past. There is even a small classroom set up to show children that times have not changed that much.
The classroom set up is still similar modern classrooms
I visited the “Little Red Schoolhouse” Museum in Florham Park as part of the Morris County’s “Pathways to History” event that is held every May. This interesting little museum showcases the town’s historical collection of items from the 1800’s and 1900’s dealing with all aspects of town life.
In the back there is a small classroom set up keeping with the theme of the building. This lets students who are visiting the building of their counterpart’s early education with desks, ink wells and chalk boards that have not changed that much over the years.
Not much has changed in the modern classroom over the years
When you think of the words ‘rural’ and ‘farmland’ these are not terms you hear a lot in Bergen County, NJ, one of the heaviest populated counties to surround New York City. Yet the county has a rich history in farming and agriculture from the late 1600’s up into the 1970’s when development pressures got too strong and most of what was left of the farms of the area got plowed over for development.
Early in our county’s history, the Dutch and then the English supplied much of the fruits and vegetables for the New York City markets. Much did not change until the suburban expansion after WWII and many strawberry, celery and potato farms were plowed under for shopping malls and housing developments. Since that time and with the help of the Right to Farm Act, The Open Space Act and Farmland Preservation of the State of New Jersey, it is helping many small farmers in the state preserve their land for agriculture.
“From Revolution to Renewal” our Historical Bergen County project
This is why in Bergen County we revere our farms and our agricultural past. Last semester when I taught Marketing at Bergen Community College, I had my students create an extensive project describing and promoting our Colonial Heritage and our agricultural past. This included promoting many of our remaining farms.
Our small farms in Bergen County do more than just provide fruits and vegetables for our tables. They are open air classrooms to our agricultural past, places to buy fresh produce and baked goods to support local family farm stores and for interesting special events and outings for families. During the holiday season, some of these farms have haunted hayrides, turkey pardons and visits from Santa all while selling Christmas trees and wreaths.
This lead me to explore many of the small farms that make up the fabric of Bergen County all while seeing how the owners are reinventing the way they do business with today’s consumer. How do we react with nature and the great outdoors? So I walked through farm stands and fields and across parking lots looking for our rural past in the year 2020.
The Farm Cafe for wonderful breakfasts and lunches
I drove to Closter, NJ on my first stop to Old Schraalenburgh Farm and Farm Stand at 40 Old Hook Road and the Abram Demaree Homestead at 110 Schraalenburgh Road on the corner of Schraalenburgh Road. For years I had passed this farm and never gave it much thought until two summers ago I noticed the sign for the ‘farm burger’ and had to stop to see what it was all about. What a burger! (see my review on TripAdvisor).
Old Schraalenburgh Farm in the warmer months of fall 2022
The Corn Maze in fall 2022
I have since have had lunch here many times mostly when the weather is warmer. What I love about the Old Schraalenburgh Farm is that it is under the radar from most of the commercial farms in the county like Abma and Demarest farms which have all the family activities like hayrides and pumpkin and apple picking events.
The farm in the fall months
Old Schraalenburgh has a smaller restaurant and bakery and in the summer months tables outside to eat breakfast and lunch while admiring the fields of flowers and the barns and chicken coops.
The wonderful selection of gourmet items at Old Schraalenburgh Farm
The farm items are various at the farm stand
The Sweet and Savory pies
What I love about their restaurant is the quality of the food here. The ‘Farm Burger’ which they tout so much is much worth the ride here. This juicy burger loaded with cheese and fresh vegetables and a mayo type sauce and is a mouthful in each bite. Bring your appetite because this burger is large! (see review on TripAdvisor).
The “Farm Burger” at the Old Schraalenburgh Farm Stand restaurant
Their chicken pot pie is another lunch item I would recommend. They make them fresh here and bake them with a golden crust and when you let it cool is a mouthful of creamy sauce, hunks of chicken and fresh vegetables. You won’t need dinner after this entree.
I recently stopped at the Farm Cafe for breakfast after an appointment and their well known Bacon, Egg and Cheese sandwich ($5.95). It was amazing. The eggs used on the sandwich were fresh from their chicken coops and picked up daily. Topped with crisp bacon and American cheese on a toasted brioche bun it was heaven.
It was nice to just take my sandwich and eat it on one of the picnic tables overlooking the fields that were in the process of beginning to grow this seasons crops. On a sunny morning, there is nothing like this.
The Bacon, Egg and Cheese here is excellent
For dessert though, even with the options of their fresh brownies and homemade ice cream, you have to try their freshly baked fruit pies and pie cookies. The chocolate and fruit filled pie cookies resemble small fruit filled deep dish pies and are a delight in every bite.
The blueberry pie cookies
The bakery also has something called “Burnt Cookies” (.50 cents) that are in jars near the register. I thought someone made a mistake and overcooked them. The woman at the counter said “Oh no. People like a crisper cookie.” I still say they were selling a mistake but they were really good! I had the sugar, chocolate chip and an oatmeal cookies and they were really crisp.
To tell you how popular they are I dropped a piece at the chicken pen and the chickens and roosters got all excited and ran out of their pen to eat the piece that had fallen on the ground. That’s an endorsement.
The chicken coops are busy when you feed the chickens
During the summer months, it is fun to walk through the fields and admire all the beautiful rows of flowers growing and visiting the barn and chicken coops. During the holiday months, the store and restaurant were decorated for Christmas and were stocked with handmade gifts and artwork. The bakery section had a selection of meat and fruit pies for the holidays.
The bakery case at the farm
Walking across the street to the Abram Demaree Homestead and Farm across the street from the farm stand, the main house and barn were also decorated for the holidays. All the tables, counters and shelves were stock with all sorts of decorative objects, antiques, furniture and artwork. These treasures can decorate any home contemporary or historical.
The antiques and holiday decorations at the Abram Demaree Homestead
Off to the side of the main building, they were selling Christmas trees and holiday decorations for the home. The buildings with Christmas retro items and tree ornaments really put me into the holiday spirit. The homestead is fun to walk around in to see how our Colonial past played a part in the growth of Bergen County.
The beautiful old buildings on the farm
The beautiful old antiques on sale
During Halloween, the farm was busy with visitors buying preserves and jellies, baked products for home and people eating lunch on a warm afternoon.
The Skeletons guard the farm at Halloween at Old Schraalenburgh Farm
History of the Old Schraalenburgh Farm and the Abram Demaree Homestead:
In 1677, David Des Marest, a French Huguenot, purchased a large tract of land from the Tappan Native American tribe. This land passed from Dutch control to British rule and through the American Revolution, which produced an uncertain concept that became the United States.
In 1769, Abram Demaree, David Des Marest’s grandson, bought the house and ran it as a General Store and Tavern at the crossroads of one of the busiest intersections of colonial roads in Bergen County. His son, David, added to the house in 1809. The conjoined Demaree house along with a colonial Dutch-style barn, servants house and blacksmith shop form the original Abram Demaree Homestead (Farm History website).
The Abram Demaree Homestead in the Summer months
In the 1970’s, the house and property was falling apart and a group of citizens fought to get the homestead on the National Register of Historic Places. Since then, the home and farm have been part of a non-profit, The Demaree Homestead & Farm, with all the proceeds going to restoring and maintaining the home and farm. The farm and farm stand cafe are open to the public and the profits go to maintenance of the property. The Farm Stand Cafe features in season items grown right on the farm (Farm History website).
Across Old Hook Road from the Demaree Homestead is their working farm, The Old Schraalenburgh Farm, which has been continuously farmed since the 18th Century. Every Spring, the farm plants corn, tomatoes, lettuce, peppers, apples, blueberries and pumpkins, among other fruits, vegetables and flowers (Farm History website).
Leaving the Old Schraalenburgh Farm, I headed down Old Hook Road on my way back to Westwood and stopped at the Old Hook Farm Stand for a look at their Christmas trees. The Old Hook Farm Stand is at 650 Old Hook Road in Emerson.
The Old Hook Farm at 650 Old Hook Road in the fall months
Old Hook Farm in the Fall
What I like about the Old Hook Farm is the selection of grocery products in their General store. They have an assortment of organic meats, dairy products, vegetables and baked goods that include delicious looking freshly baked pies, breads and cider doughnuts.
The Fall bounty is on sale at Old Hook Farm
Their shelves are stocked with all sorts of jellies, jams and condiments along with dry and snack goods that are accented by antiques and farm paraphernalia. This gives the store a feel of a turn of the last century General store that used to dot the towns of rural Bergen County.
The Old Hook Farm grocery section of the General store
In the Spring and Summer, the greenhouse stocks all sorts of decorative plants, flowers and garden supplies and I am sure is better stocked in the summer months for lawn care and landscaping. In the Spring, the tables are stocked with all sorts of seedlings for gardens, decorative plants for the home and gardening supplies and landscaping decorations including stones and layerings.
All sorts of decorative plants available in the Fall
In the Fall, the farm is awash with pumpkins, gourds and decorative plants for designing the house in a festive mood. There are all sorts of items for the Halloween holidays.
Blogger Justin Watrel at Old Hook Farm for the Halloween season
During the holiday season, there were all sorts of wreaths, cemetery blankets and Christmas trees to choose from. The perfect assortment to ‘deck the halls’ for the holidays.
Like everyone else in the County, when I got there, there was only a few trees to choose from. They had sold out early in a year when everyone wanted a fresh tree. Still the atmosphere with the atmosphere of fresh pine and snow gave the farm that old fashioned ‘1970’s feel’ when I used to visit the farms in Bridgewater, NJ growing up. Things seemed a lot slower then and you could just relax and enjoy the sites and smells of a farm.
The Christmas trees were pretty much sold out when I visited
From a distance behind the greenhouse, you could see under the snow that had just fallen, the fields where the crops are grown in the warmer months. The old farmhouse on the property was decorated for Christmas as well and looked like a home out of a Currier & Ives print.
History of the Old Hook Farm:
The town of Emerson did not exist during the Native American origin. The name ‘Old Hook’ on the east side of the town came from the Dutch word ‘Hoek’ meaning ‘angle’ or ‘corner’. The angle of the land was created by the three connecting water ways, the Hackensack River, the Pascack Brook and the Musquapsink Brook. The first person to make their home here was William Rutan, who settled on a parcel of land just west of today’s ‘Old Hook Farm’ sometime around 1748 (Emerson Town History).
The current ‘Old Hook Farm’ was bought by current owner, Bruce Marek’s grandfather in 1925 as a weekend getaway. He rented the farm and the farm house to a local resident for 35 years and the family had a large garden on the property until about 1948. Then his father took over the land and cleared the fields and had Soil Conservation come in and do contours and started to grow in the greenhouse. When his father died in 1973, he took over the farm and within eight years, reopened the garden store and started to experiment and grow organic crops (Bruce Marek’s interview with ‘Bergen Save the Watershed Action Network’).
The old farm house at Old Hook Farm
I next ventured to Hillsdale, NJ, two towns away to visit one of the most beloved farms in Bergen County, Demarest Farms at 244 Werimus Road, right off the Garden State Parkway. I have been visiting the farm since the early 1970’s when I used to visit my family who lived just two blocks away. Back then it was just a small farm stand just outside the family homestead. In 1991, they build the big store across the street.
The Demarest Farm Store at 244 Werimus Road
The farm stand building is always a buzz with people coming and going. People buying sandwiches, soups, hot entrée items and baked goods for lunch and dinner. There is a large selection of in season produce (which is a little pricer than most supermarkets) as well as jams and jellies.
Fall decorations at Demarest Farms in 2022
Where the market really shines is their bakery filled with cookies, brownies, freshly baked pies and their well-known cider doughnuts. They also have great potato pancakes that taste good hot or cold (in the era of COVID the food has been toned back a little from the past).
Demarest Farm store carries an array of fruits and vegetables at all times of the year
Demarest Farms in October 2022
The stand also has a nice garden section during the Spring and Summer seasons with everything you need for lawn care and for landscaping your home or decorating inside. During the Fall, there is all sorts of decorative items for the Thanksgiving and Christmas holiday season.
Demarest Farms right before Halloween 2021
During every season, Demarest Farms is always full of activities. During the Summer months (Pre-COVID), there was the big barbecues that the farm sponsored that got so popular that they had to have the police direct traffic into the complex. These ‘All You Can Eat” affairs were so much fun. It was like a throw back to the 1970’s when families used to dine out together in the Summer months. You could listen to a local band play while chomping on endless hot dogs, barbecue chicken, fresh corn on the cob, baked beans, salad and watermelon for dessert. There were also be chests of ice full of Coke, Sprite and Bottled waters (see reviews on TripAdvisor).
During the Fall months, there would be Hayrides through the orchards, Pumpkin and Apple Picking that are so popular you need a reservation and Haunted Halloween events that have people driving from all over Northern New Jersey to attend.
Getting ready for Halloween at Demarest Farms
The farm was packed with people during Halloween 2022 with the weather being in the sixty degree area. The farm had hayrides, pumpkin picking, apple picking and a maze for the children. The lines to get into the farm stand were fifty deep and traffic was crazy. One of the employees said that people were traveling as far as Long Island to come to the farm.
The maze at Demarest Farm Halloween 2022
Pumpkins of all sizes at Demarest Farms 2022
This Christmas, in the era of COVID, the farm really outdid itself ringing in the holiday season. The farm stand sold an array of Christmas trees, wreaths and cemetery blankets, all sorts of holiday treats in the store including cookies, pies and jams and jellies. There was also a nice selection of holiday decorations. By the last week before Christmas, most everything was sold out.
What I thought was fun and it was the first time the farm had done this was the “Holiday Light Show” through the Demarest Farm orchard which is across the street from the farm stand. This show was sold out every night for almost three weeks ending on January 3rd.
Demarest Farm Store decorated for Halloween and the Fall
The tour started at the farm stand where you could buy S’ mores to roast at the fire pit next to the nursery ($6.50). I thought it was a little expensive for two graham crackers, two marshmellows and a small bar of chocolate but people scooped them up and were roasting away. There were also cut outs from the holidays to take pictures and there was a small light show of singing reindeer performing all the classic Christmas songs.
Then it was time to take the drive through the orchard. We started the tour at farm stand and then drove across the street to the family homestead which was ablaze with colorful lights on the house and the surrounding trees. I took a slow drive through the orchard carefully following the cars in front of me to keep pace.
The apple and pear trees were decorated with multi color lights, Santa’s and Snowmen winked and greeted you at every turn. The barns were decorated with white lights and there was a tunnel of flashing lights to greet you and exit from. All along the way I listened to the Classical music channel to enhance the mood of the trip. It may have only been a half an hour but it was mesmerizing trip through a fantasy land of lights that put me back into the Christmas spirit. Demarest farms seems to have that effect at the holidays.
The History of Demarest Farms:
The Demarest family has been present in the New York area since David DeMarest arrived to New Amsterdam in 1663. The current farm has been in the Demarest family from Bergen County since 1886. In the 1970’s, Peter Demarest and his wife, Marsha introduced the pick your own apples and pumpkin business and eventually added peaches to the mix.
The Demarest Family history at the farm
In 1991, the family opened the current farm store on what had once been corn fields. The store today has evolved into a selection of fresh produce, prepared foods, baked goods, apple cider, jams and jellies and homemade crafts (Demarest Farm website).
The flowers at Demarest Farm are colorful
In 2014, Peter Demarest decided to retire and the sold the farm stand and farm to longtime employees Jason DeGise and Jim Spollen. The farmland had been preserved under the Farmland Preservation Fund and by the Open Space Trust Fund. The 27 acres are to be preserved as farmland and can only be used for agriculture (NJ.com).
Demarest Farms put out this wonderful promotional video on the event
Leaving Demarest Farms, I headed north taking the turns on Route 17 and Route 208 and headed up to Wyckoff. My first stop was the Goffle Road Poultry Farm at 549 Goffle Road. The farm which once must have taken up much more area has been reduced down to a few acres with chicken coops and hatcheries and the farm store.
The parking lot was a mob scene of people trying to get in and out of the driveway and being directed by one man in a mask. When I finally was able to get out of my car and park, I asked him if they were giving money away. He just laughed and said, “I wish”. He quickly said to me it was busier at Thanksgiving and they had lines going down Goffle Road.
Goffle Road Poultry Farm at 549 Goffle Road
I just walked in the store to look around passing all the people in line who were waiting to pick up their pre-orders. The store is stocked with all things poultry with fresh eggs. whole roasters and butchered chicken parts. In the freezer there were crab cakes, chicken nuggets and chicken and turkey pot pies, all of which they are known for and sought out.
The stand at Goffle Road Poultry Farm
Here there are no hayrides or special events although they told me Santa had already visited the farm. Just high quality food and excellent service done by a staff that looked very over-whelmed at the holidays.
When I returned recently to the Goffle Road Poultry Farm, I was able to buy some of their brown jumbo eggs ($2.95) and one of their frozen Chicken Pot Pies to bring home with me. There really is a difference in the fresh eggs versus the commercial ones. There is a richer flavor to the taste when you have them scrambled and in a omelet.
The Brown eggs at Goffle Farms have a richer flavor
The Chicken Pot Pie tasted more like a chicken pie, which has less chicken gravy in it, but it pretty much follows the same Bisquick recipe that I have at home with a mixture of vegetables and canned cream of chicken soup as its base. Still, it cooked up nicely and a flaky golden crust. It is worth it to stop and do some shopping here.
The Goffle Farm Pot Pie is more like a Chicken Pie
History of Goffle Road Poultry Farm:
The Goffle Road Poultry Farm has been a family owned and operated business for four generations. Joseph and Rose Silvestri came over from Italy in 1920 and started Belmont Poultry in Paterson, NJ in the 1930’s. In 1948, Joseph and Rose’s son, Dominic, started Goffle Road Poultry Farm of Wyckoff, NJ. To this day, the Goffle Road Poultry Farm is operated as a family owned business by the current owner and grandson, Joseph Silvestri and great grandson, Brian Silvestri. The family has found it hard to keep up with demand on such a small plot and is now partnering with Amish farmers in Pennsylvania who share the same standards of raising animals (Goffle Road Poultry Farm website).
Goffle Road Poultry Farm at the Halloween Holidays
My last stop on this journey was the largest farm of them all, Abma’s Farm at 700 Lawlins Road in Wyckoff, NJ. Abma’s is an impressive working farm with many greenhouses, large fields, a gift shop, nursery, and a farm store. They also have a large petting zoo to amuse children and adults alike.
The Abma Farm at 700 Lawlins Road in Wyckoff
I have to admit that I have only visited the farm in the cooler months and with COVID going on, the petting zoo was closed the day I was there and it looked like you needed a reservation to get in. The price is $3.00 unless you join their Barnyard Loyalty Program by accumulating 30 points from their farm store and nursery.
The greenhouses were pretty empty the afternoon I visited. What was left of wreaths and Christmas trees dotted the the nursery area. I am sure it was totally stocked with all sorts of items to decorate the house. There was still a nice assortment of wreaths to choose from and garland to decorate the banisters and hallways with for Christmas. The Christmas tree selection was down to about ten trees and they were very sad looking. Being right before Christmas, the selection was limited.
Abma Farm during the Fall of 2022
In the Summer months, the greenhouses were full of flowers and decorative plants and the fields are ablaze with colors. It will be about four months before we see that again but Spring is not that far away.
Halloween at the farm
The farm store was buzzing with people and it was hard to find a parking spot after the snow storm we had just had. Some of the drifts made parking tough but there was someone in the lot who made it easy to park.
Abma’s Farm Market & Garden Center in the Fall of 2021
The farm store at Abma Farm is full of fresh vegetables and fruits, a whole selection of bakery products including cookies, brownies, freshly baked pies and cider doughnuts. The prepared food section has all sorts of salads and sandwiches available and there is a selection of soups. There are also crafts available for sale.
The Abma Farm Store stocked with delicious foods
Though some of the special events on the farm have been cancelled because of COVID, they did have a socially distanced “Story with Santa” program and “You Pick” events for strawberries, potatoes, pumpkins and tomatoes during the different seasons. Events like pony rides and Easter themed events have been put on hold for the time.
The farm stand with fruits and vegetables
What I really enjoy about visiting Abma Farm is just walking around the farm itself. I was able to walk through some of the greenhouses and see the trees and decorative items, look at the vast field and can’t wait to return in the Spring when we can see the fields of growing produce and greenhouses full of flowers and plants.
The History of Abma Farm:
The Abma Farm
First generation of the family, Barney Abma, was born on April 25th, 1901. He came to America for the first time in 1917 when he was 17 years old searching for a new beginning. After spending a few years out west, then a short stay in Pennsylvania, he went back to Holland to marry. Barney and his new wife, Anna, settled in Wyckoff at the present location of Abma’s Farm in the late 1920’s (Abma Farm History website).
The front of the farm stand
The couple began working for the ‘Yeoman Farm’ and rented out part of the original farmhouse from owner, Daniel Yeoman. The farm was next passed on to Mr. and Mrs. George Fox (nee Yeoman). Barney Abma bought the farm from the couple in 1932 for $6,000. Part of the 50 acre farm was sold off and it is now the current 32 acre farm that it is today (Abma Farm History website).
The farm is now under the ownership of the forth and fifth generations of the Abma family under Barney and Anna’s son, James and his family.
I love this video on the family and about the farm.
There are also a few smaller farms in the County I was not able to visit before they closed for the season. Also most farm stands have closed for the Winter so there will be a lot to visit in the warmer months.
Still the holidays at the farms in Bergen County, NJ have a special place in our lives and have become part of the traditions of many families.
Have a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year and look forward to updates in the Spring!
Spring and Summer of 2021:
As the weather has gotten warmer, I have been revisiting the farms that were closed right after the holidays . As the warmer months have come upon us, April has ushered in warmer weather and the bounty of Spring has arrived. The greenhouses are starting to fill with plants and shrubs and the farm stands.
The entrance to Stokes Farm at 23 DeWolf Road
I made my first trip to Stokes Farm at 23 DeWolf Road in Old Tappan, NJ. The farm stand has just opened since it has closed up shop right after Christmas. The shelves of the farm were starting to fill with fresh produce from the warmer states and there were all sorts of colorful fruits and vegetables.
Stokes Farm in the fall of 2022
The farm stand also has a bakery that has pies, cookies and cider doughnuts. The problem is that because of COVID all the items were prepackaged in large packages and you could not buy individual pieces. The woman at the counter said things will go back to normal business once all of this passes. By 2022, the bakery was up and running in full force.
The Stokes Farm Stand bakery area
Still the refrigerator cases are lined with fresh eggs, Amish butter, honey and cheese from the Amish Country in Pennsylvania and the shelves are full of jellies, jams, salsas and pickles that are made for the farm. The farmstand is just opening and there will be more to come as we move into the warmer months.
All sorts of delicious items line the shelves
The inside of the farm stand
I made my way out to the greenhouse in the back where plants are being grown for planting and for decorating the house. Most of the plants are still so small but as May and June arrive, these greenhouses will burst of all sorts of plants.
The plants and greenhouses
Though the part of the farm that you can visit is small, you can see that the farm is lined with greenhouses going back many acres and next to the stand is a farmhouse that was built in 1890. It is nice to just walk around and enjoy the fresh air at the farm.
The farm was getting ready for Halloween
The History of Stokes Farm:
In 1873, Isaiah Stokes headed out on a ship to America from his home in England. When he arrived, he purchased 40 acres of land in Old Tappan, NJ where he started a farm. He thought this would be a good location for selling produce, as Old Tappan is very close to New York City, as well as many established towns along the Hudson River.
His products included chickens, eggs, milk, hay, asparagus, beets and other assorted vegetables. As time went on, his son, Joseph Stokes took over the farming. The Stokes family continued sowing and growing into the early 1900’s. Joseph Stokes and his wife, Anna, worked very hard and soon developed a produce route through Piermont, Nyack and points further north along the river. They were one of the first farms to have a truck in the area when farms were still powered by men and horses.
The Greenhouses and gardens
Joseph Stokes had one child, Madeline, who married Ernie Binaghi in 1927. Madeline ran the farm and Ernie was a carpenter. The farm carried on through WWII. Madeline and Ernie had one child, Ronald, who after dropping out of NYU Music School in the early 1950’s , came home to help out with the chores. Ron married Jean and she moved into the farmhouse to become a farmer too.
The Stokes farmstead
In 1955, they opened a roadside farm stand, which was a four post open air shed. The stand did well, selling from the five acres of strawberries, five acres of tomatoes, in addition to peppers, eggplant and asparagus. As the years went on, Ron and Jean started selling produce at the Paterson Farmers Market. It was here that a farmer could sell his produce directly to the consumer or to wholesalers. The farm stand was rebuilt in 1966.
In the early 1970’s, the energy crunch started and the farm stand began to flounder. It was then that Bob Lewis came to visit Ron and Jean with a proposal. He asked them to participate in the first NYC Greenmarket at 59th and Second Avenue. So in 1976, Ron and his sixteen year old son, Ron Jr. ventured into the big city. Their lives changed that day. After the people bought everything on the truck, Ron Sr. was heard to say, “Is there a famine in this City?” Ron Jr., then sixteen started selling produce at the now famous Union Square market on 17th Street and it seemed that this type of market suited the farm quite well. Greenhouses were built in the 1980’s and the bedding plant business started to thrive.
The Stokes Farmstand and the farmstead behind it
High tech growing coupled with practical family values, helped the farm to grow steadily into the 1990’s. Ron Jr. and his wife, Jeanine, took over the day to day operations of the farm and the Greenmarket stands, while Ron Sr. and Jean continued to run the farm stand.
Grocery items at Stokes Farm
In 2000, Ron Jr. was named “Outstanding Young Farmer of the Year” for the State of New Jersey. This award is given to a farmer who has made his farm better over the years and also is active in his community. Ron went to Indiana to the national competition, where he placed fifth in the nation.
Ron Binaghi Jr. at Stokes Farm in Old Tappan, NJ
Today the farm is seventeen acres with 40,000 square feet of greenhouses. It is the goal of the farm to grow the best possible product to keep the customers healthy and happy and to keep the land as a farm for future generations.
The extensive amount of produce and baked goods are perfect for the holidays
Another farm that I missed during the holiday season was DePiero’s Farm at 156 Summit Avenue in Montvale, NJ. I have been coming to DePiero’s Farm for years at the old farm stand where the current Wegmans Supermarket and mall now stands.
Halloween at DePiero’s Farm
Haunted happenings at DePiero’s Farm Stand
Here used to be the large farm stand building that had everything from produce and baked goods to arts and crafts items and gardening equipment. That was torn down in the early 2000’s. I thought that they had closed for business until I rediscovered it again.
Depiero’s Farm Stand at 156 Summit Avenue
When I visited recently, I asked the woman who was working the counter about the history of the farm. She said that she had worked for the DePiero family for years and told me that this was the original farm stand until the family built the larger one down the road. When that was torn down to make way for the market strip mall, they moved the operations back to the original stand on the original farmland. I thought that was interesting.
The original farm sign
The original farmstead building is currently being renovated and expanded. The tables around the store are ladened currently with fresh produce from the Hunts Market (until the summer when local produce will be offered), there is a small bakery area with fresh pies ($18.00-$20.00), fresh pickles and peanut butter from the Amish Country. The shelves are lined with honey and fresh jellies that are made for the farm.
Early Fall at DePiero’s Farm
Outside the farm stand, there is a large greenhouse with rows of tables lined with all sorts of flowering plants and small vegetable plants growing. The larger greenhouse is surrounded by smaller greenhouses growing more plants. It is a large operation.
The greenhouse at DePiero’s Farm is full of flowers and decorations for the Fall
What amazes me is how the farm has survived with all the suburban sprawl surrounding it. On land that was once the farm, all sorts of new condos are going up, the second farm stand is now a mall and office buildings surround the whole small patch of farm.
DePiero’s Farm Stand decorated for Halloween
The History of DePiero’s Farm:
The DePiero Farm has been an owned and operated farm since 1924. The original farm was about 250 acres that stretched from Montvale, NY to New Paltz, NY. In 1987, the opened the original farm store that was popular for years. That facility closed in 2015 and has since been replaced with a new shopping complex anchored by a Wegmans.
The family has since reopened the original farm stand which is farmed on limited basis where they sell farm products, baked goods and Christmas items like wreaths and Christmas trees.
The outside of the original family farm stand
(NJ.com-Myles Mia 2015-“Longtime Montvale Farm closes its doors”)
My last farm that I did not have a chance to visit during the Christmas holidays but had opened on April 1st was Secor Farms at 85 Airmont Avenue in Mahwah, NJ. I would consider Secor Farms more like a giant nursery. Both on the outside and inside the greenhouses, you can walk around rows of flowers, decorative plants and seedlings for the vegetable gardens. The greenhouses are fun to walk in as you can see plantings at different stages of growth. It will be interesting to come back towards the summer to see how many of these plants progress to full form.
Secor Farms greenhouse is laden with flowers and plants
There is also a small shop to make your purchases. Here they sell gardening supplies, decorative objects for the home, hand creams and soaps, honey and candies and their homemade cider doughnuts that are unfortunately only packaged in bags of six ($5.95). Still they smell so good and the girl working the counter said that they are made fresh daily. I could see by the signs when the fresh produce starts to come in during the summer and fall that they sell this in the gift shop as well.
The Cider Doughnuts and other treats on sale at Secor farms in the Fall
Outside the gift shop, the parking lot is laden with bags of mulch and soil for garden beds awaiting their Spring cleaning. The lot is well stocked as we are just starting the gardening season.
Secor Farms in Mahwah, NJ
Ready for Halloween at Secor Farms in Fall 2021
The spooky entrance to Secor Farms at Halloween 2021
In the Fall especially around Halloween, the whole farm looks like Disneyland with Haunted Hay Rides, Pumpkin Picking, Fall decorative items for sale and the general atmosphere that welcomes in Halloween with a bang. The whole place was filled to the brim with cars ready for a long day at the farm.
Pumpkin picking at Secor Farms in Fall 2021
All of these farms in Bergen County, NJ have their own attributes so try to visit them all when you are visiting the area.
The History of Secor Farms:
Begun by Darryl Secor’s great grandfather when he moved to the area from Paterson nearly 80 years ago, the farm originally consisted of 50 acres in Upper Saddle River. In 1973, the family expanded into Mahwah.
The Secor Farm at the Fall Holidays
Secor Farms not only has been a famous landmark passed down through three generations: The Secors themselves have been extremely active in supporting the town (Mahwah-Ramsey Daily Voice 2017).
Fall at Secor Farms in Mahwah, NJ
The Fall produce at Secor Farms during the Halloween 2021 holiday weekend
Farms to Visit:
Old Schraalenburgh Farm Stand and Abram Demaree Homestead
177 Schraalenburgh Road
Closter, NJ 07624
Open: Farm Stand Cafe: Wednesday-Friday 11:00am-5:00pm/Saturday and Sunday 11:00am-7:00pm
I had the most interesting semester for Spring Term at the college where I work. Everything started off fine. We had classes in the afternoon, good discussions on Marketing and had a very successful Team Project marketing the Lyndhurst Snack Shop, the new Bulldog Cafe, for business (See Day One Hundred and Fifty-Nine in MywalkinManhattan.com):
I had just handed out the next Team Project, “From Revolution to Renewal: Exploring the Historic Bergen County”, a major tourism project I wanted to the students to work on for the remainder of the semester the week before the break. I had the students to break up into groups and get to know one another and get their game plans in order before the Midterm. We had only one class to introduce the project and they set their group chats up and introduced themselves. The next week I gave the Midterm and then left for the Spring Break.
This project had been inspired by a couple of things. One was the fact that many of these students did not know their own County. They knew nothing of its history let alone had ever really explored it. It amazed me how many of them did not know the history of the towns they lived in and if there was a well-known cultural site in the town they lived in they never visited it. A few students said to me when I asked had they visited this or that in their town the answer always seemed to be “well I passed it but never really noticed it.”
Another thing that inspired the project was the Northwest Bergen Historical Coalition. Every year this historical group runs a “History Day” for the historical sites of northwest Bergen County. When I asked a friend who worked for the County why they did not have a weekend with all the sights in Bergen County, she said that it would be too difficult to put together. That was what I needed to hear to put this project together. To prove that it could be done.
It wasn’t just that. Many of the these sites were never visited and some were only open once or twice a year to visitors because their volunteers were getting too old. Many people were not taking these sites seriously in the role they played in not just the formation of the County but the United States. When you really read the history of the people who lived there or what the site meant, it was interesting to see what role it played in the history of Bergen County.
As I said in my previous blog on my Introduction to Business class creating the Ambassador Program, it was a harder go with my Essentials in Marketing class. They were a younger group who did not know much about the history of Bergen County let alone their own towns. I had poised the question many times in class about where they had visited in the County and mentioned many historical sites in towns which they lived in. Only a few had ever visited them or if they had had been way back in elementary school when it was considered part of a school field trip.
This is when I created “From Revolution to Renewal: A Historical Weekend in Bergen County, NJ”. This would be a two day weekend with an opening private cocktail party of the Arts Community and VIP’s followed by a two day tour of all of Bergen County’s historical sites with side trips to our wonderful historical restaurants and a scavenger hunt to wrap it all up.
I had started to arrange a series of field trips that we were going to take over the last week of school and the first week of Spring Break. I had planned a trip to Downtown Hackensack, NJ to see the Courthouse, visit two Dutch Reformed Churches and the cemeteries and then visit White Mana, a very well-known hamburger place that has been around since the 1940’s.
The Bergen County Courthouse, The Green and the Dutch Reformed Church in Downtown Hackensack, NJ
Another field trip that I started to look into was the Aviation Hall of Fame in Teterboro, NJ and then a tasting at Spindler’s Bakery and Lovey’s Pizzeria in Hasbrouck Heights, NJ and then on to Mills Bakery in Wood Ridge, NJ.
I was doing this while running in and out of New York City for the Restaurant Show and a Michigan State University Alumni Night for the Big Ten Championship game against Ohio State University. I was just getting everything organized and then planning a quick trip to visit my mother when all hell broke loose and the government started to shut everything down. From a Wednesday Membership Night at the Met Breuer to a Thursday morning shut down of New York City and all air travel to Europe, the world changed.
Our Spring Break was extended a week to see what the State of New Jersey was going to do with the educational system and with that at the end of the week we were informed that we would not be returning to school. Not only did that mean no field trips it meant no more live class and I would not be seeing my students again. I was not sure how like my other class we were going to pull this project off.
None of my students had visited practically any of these sites or been to any of the restaurants on the project. Almost everything was closed. You could see some of the sites like the churches and memorials from the street but everything inside was closed. Everything would have to be done online.
The one thing I did have was belief in the class that they could do the work. I had been so impressed by their work on the Snack Shop project that I knew they could do the work. It was the intense research that would have to be done online. A crisis is when you see the best in people. I did.
While my other class had a better head start of the Student Ambassador Project, my Historic Bergen County Team had a lot of ingenuity. The one thing they didn’t know was the history of Bergen County, NJ. I could have asked them to visit some of the sites around the County which would not have been hard as the Reformed Dutch churches could be seen from the sidewalks as well as the cemeteries that surrounded them.
Places like the Camp Merrill Memorial and the Baylor Massacre site were open to the public in obscure areas and not in big parks that would have been closed during the pandemic so it would have been no problem visiting them. I did not want to put anyone at risk of anything at this time so I nixed them leaving their homes. I just did not want to be responsible for anyone getting sick.
Once we realized that we were not returning, I started to contact the President and Senior Vice-President of Operations who I chose for the project and started to get underway. Just like my other class, the students all had their own situations. Some students got sick, some just did not communicate with me, some had changes in their family situations and some had communications problems with me. On top of all of this, the Teams of Student Consultants regrouped and really worked their butts off to make it work.
The Talent Team who was responsible for setting up the salaries and benefits for the three-month Division formation had already started doing their work. They had found the location for the office before the break and had a lot of ideas they were contemplating during the break. Since the two Teams of students from Paramus and Lyndhurst would not be meeting up as I had originally planned, I had the Lyndhurst Team develop their own unique plan for their Division of the company.
The Talent Division set up their office design, created a Wrap Up party for the Division, created a set of ‘perks’ for the Division staff and developed a very fair package of benefits for the staff (see their website below).
The Marketing Division I created for the Team Project had the bulk of the work. I broke the Division down into three sections:
The Historical Museums/Parks/Homes & Zoo Division was responsible doing the research on every historic tourist site in the County. This included the historical homes, churches, parks, cemeteries, monuments and the zoo. They had to do the research on each and then for the website put together a small bio on them so that tourists could find them when using the website on their smartphones. This also included a Scavenger Hunt in the buildings that they had never been inside of before.
They also had to set up a cocktail party opening event at The Gallery Bergen, our on campus art gallery at Bergen Community College. The cocktail party was being created for Museum Curators, Historians, members of the Arts Community, Artists and VIP’s from the County.
The second Division was the Historical Restaurant Division whose job it was to find restaurants all over the County that predated 1980. We were looking showcase well-known restaurants with years of longevity in the County that were well-known not just in the community but around the country with foodies. Places like White Mana in Hackensack, NJ and Hiram’s Hot Dogs in Fort Lee, NJ.
The Third Division of the Marketing Team was the History Division whose job it was to research Bergen County’s History from the Lenape Settlements with the Dutch to the Revolutionary War to World War II. Bergen County played such a huge role in all the wars from setting up and training troops to munitions being developed here to battle grounds between the wars.
They were also responsible for researching a list of the ‘first family’s’ of Bergen County. People like the Zabriskie’s, the Demerest’s, the Terhune’s and the Haring’s played a big part not just in the development of Bergen County but in the formation of the United States especially during the Revolutionary War.
The Marketing Division itself was responsible for creating the Bergecco-Parc Consulting Inc. websites for the client that were eventually merged into one. The Marketing Team would be gathering information from the three Teams that made up the Division and create the site for tourists and residents who were going to attend the three-day History Event.
They were also responsible for filming two commercials. One commercial would be on the role of Bergen County in the United States foundation from the Revolutionary War to World War II.
The Team’s commercial on the ‘History of Bergen County’ for “From Revolution to Renewal-A Historical Weekend in Bergen County, NJ”
The second would be inviting people to come to visit Bergen County and all it has to offer:
The Team’s commercial on “Welcoming people to Bergen County, NJ” in many languages for “From Revolution to Renewal-A Historical Weekend in Bergen County, NJ”
This was a very extensive project, and I could not wait to come back to school after the break and start the project. When I took my students ‘out into the field’ (i.e. field trips) to the location, these projects made more sense to the class. The field trips to Paterson, NJ and to the Snack Shop on the Bergen Community College Lyndhurst, NJ campus resulted in extremely creative work and the students being able to see first hand what it was they were marketing. This would be put to the test when we did not return to the college.
I have to say of all my classes, I have never seen a collective of students regroup and get the job done. The Talent Team was very diligent and got their work done on a timely basis. My senior executives for that division lead their Team and created a game plan to get their job accomplished.
It was much harder in our Historical Division in that there was a lot of research to do with each site, restaurant and family that had to be carefully explored and researched in detail. It was not so easy with no access to certain books as all libraries were shut down and not everything was on an eBook.
Almost all the restaurants on the list were not open at the time of the project (a lot of them have since opened for take-out only) and since this was a younger group of students, they did not know a lot of the restaurants that had been opened for years. Here I was able to assist as a CEO and be able to add to the project. With the help of my aunt, who had lived in Bergen County since the 1950’s, we were able to create a list of about thirty five restaurants, candy and ice cream stores and bakeries all over Bergen County that tourists and residents alike would enjoy when they were touring on the Historical Weekend.
Still we were able to create an interesting commercial on the restaurants that were open since before the 1970’s. Here is the commercial for “Historic Restaurants of Bergen County” that the students put together:
This commercial really highlights the older restaurants of Bergen County, NJ.
Since all the cemeteries and churches were off limits for the duration of the project (they have now started to open), everything had to be done online by the help of Google. All the wonderful historic cemeteries that we were going to tour in Ridgewood, Hackensack, Dumont and Bergenfield were closed to us and I would not be able to show the significance of the families and how they intertwined with marriage.
The Dutch Reformed Church and cemetery on the Green in Hackensack, NJ
It was a rough first two weeks as communication was limited to just campus email but as things like Zoom and WebEx video conferencing started to be introduced then we were raring to go. My students were already group chatting and video conferencing with each other before my training was over and then it was ‘Zooming’ in meetings for the rest of the semester.
Some of my students needed to learn how to time prioritize and some of them needed to take their work much more seriously but when I read their final papers on the project, I realized that was not always so easy.
Some students were taking care of loved ones who were sick or had been sick themselves, some had multiple classes and not much access to computers and had professor’s like myself emailing them all the time so they got over-whelmed. It was a real challenge but I knew this Team of Student Consultants was up for the sense of self-accomplishment.
For the next three weeks before the Monday, April 27th presentation, I have never emailed so many people so many times answering questions, trying to find information and trying to guide people to doing their best work.
One of the attributes I let the students use was my blog site, VisitingaMuseum.com:
This way it would save them time in their research. I had found when I was putting the site together that many of these smaller historical sites in Bergen County did not even have their own websites. We also discovered as a Team that there was no site in the County or in the State that showed off all of Bergen County attributes.
To add to the historical sites and the historical restaurants, I had all the students in both classes do research on every town in Bergen County to add to the website. This way it would tie everything you needed to know about the County with the families, where they lived, who they were, how they played a role in the development of the County, the towns that they lived in and by the way when you are visiting all the great long service restaurants to dine at for the weekend.
All of this was a major challenge as the Team had never put a website together and the one that the mythical client, the New Jersey Historical Guild of Bergen County, had wanted had an interactive map. This all had to be created from scratch.
I am not sure what went on behind the scenes as I was not privy to the Group Chat but I could tell there was a lot of conversation back and forth on everything. I was lucky that I created an Executive Team who saw this as a challenge themselves. Nothing like this had ever been attempted by the County or the State of New Jersey Tourism that I knew of in past history.
On Monday, April 27th at 11:00am, the students presented me their Power Point Presentation and their commercials. If ever there was a Professor that was prouder of his students, it was me. The Team took all the proposed ideas that I came up with plus adding the history of every town in Bergen County (all 70 of them) and came up with a very creative website not just for the Historical Sites, History of the Country and Historic Restaurants but the Talent Division created their own website as well.
The Power Point presentation was attended not just by myself but with other members of the Historical Community of Bergen County and that made the presentation really special that the students would get that feedback.
I have to say that I was totally blown away by not just the Power Point Presentation but by the commercials and the websites that they created. The one thing I knew is that the global pandemic did not stop this Team of students from accomplishing the task.
Both of my classes exceeded and impressed me with all of their ideas. Hats off to all the students involved in both projects. You should be proud of yourselves!
Here is the Bergecco-Parc Consulting Inc. Historical Website of Bergen County, NJ: