Today was a day close to my heart.
I received a call from John Campbell, the docent of the Kennedy-Martin-Stelle Farmstead in Basking Ridge. This forty acre farm was listed on the NJ Register of Historic Places in 2003, and a year later on the National Register of Historic Places. In 1762, R. Sam Kennedy founded the first school in Bernards Township on this site, and during the American Revolution, Col. E. Martin lived here. In 1789 New Jersey became the first state to ratify the Bill of Rights because of him. For over a hundred years, Oliver Stelle and his descendants lived on the farm and were active in township politics. I am a Stelle. Oliver Stelle was my great, great, great grandfather.
John and Ann welcomed us ‘home’ where they gave us a tour of the extensive renovations to the home, the hay barn and the dairy barn. The Farmstead Arts Center was given a grant by the Garden State Historic Preservation Trust for local artists to use the historic house for music and art lessons and individual studio space. Until the NJ Historic Trust looked inside the hay barn and saw ‘wind braces’, they weren’t going to issue a grant for restoration. But it turns out that the hay barn is a classic example of English construction, very rare; not Dutch, which was common in the area. So they got the grant!
We enjoyed walking the property, taking photos, and thinking of fun artsy things that could be built or placed here or there. I think some windchimes are definitely needed for music, perhaps in a tree, and possibly a fish pond for water music, bird houses, a flower garden, herb garden… oooh, we need a HGTV team in here (just kidding).
We left with promises to try to get back for the dedication on Oct. 9. Both my brothers will be there, and there will be a memorial placed there in my dad’s memory with a ribbon cutting and lots of important people for the official opening of the Arts Center. We can only see what develops.
We were hungry and had passed Dewy Meadow Farms Village on the way. I remember Dewy Meadows when I was a kid, as I lived just up the street. It used to be a chicken farm with a egg stand near the road. Now it’s a whole village with an A&P, yoga studio, Dunkin Donuts and O’Bagel among other things. Well, Gary saw that word ‘bagel’ and suggested we head thataway. I must admit that their bagels were beautiful to see. We both had pastrami on one, but took home a whole one – our eyes were bigger than our tummies.
We headed a quarter mile up the road to the Millington Baptist Church (many a Sunday and summer Bible School days were spent here). Our family plots are in their cemetery, and we went to visit Dad and Mom and all the old relatives. Bittersweet.
Right down Valley Road our dad built the house I grew up in. Both my aunts lived to the right of us, and there was only one more house next to us on the left. Well, things grew, and the house seems to have shrunk. It was actually for rent. The dog run was torn down, the shutters off, all our berry bushes, grape vines, backyard trees were gone. I had a maple tree that I loved climbing as a kid (especially in threatening thunderstorms) and that was gone. The little white picket-fenced play yard for all three of us to safely play in when we were little was gone. The sleeping porch between the house and the garage was walled in. The stone driveway was paved, and the only thing I could see that was the same was the flagstone walk up to the front door. I remember the summer my dad laid that walkway. We had found a little garter snake.
Ahhhh, memories. So many happy memories – mostly of summers.