Art Center will
host an exhibition
and sale of works
students from July
23 to September
10. On September
Wayne Fugate will
lead a bluegrass
The English-style barn before restoration.
The barn at Farmstead Arts Center today.
;;;;;;; ;;;;;;;;; the Kennedy-Martin-Stelle Farmstead in Bernards
Township. An early owner, the Reverend Samuel Kennedy, ran a school
for boys on the property. Continental
Army veteran Ephraim Martin later
acquired the land. After the Revolutionary War, Martin was elected to the
state Legislature and was instrumental
in making New Jersey the first state
to ratify the Bill of Rights. From 1794
to 1930, the Stelle family farmed the
land. Decades later, the Geier family
raised Christmas trees on the farm.
When Bernards Township bought
the property in 1999, the farmhouse,
barn, cow shed and other buildings
were in disrepair. “You would put your
hand on the plaster walls and leave
your imprint,” says Ann Rosenblum,
president of the board at what is now
Farmstead Arts Center (450 King
George Road, Basking Ridge).
The township planned to raze
the property, but the local historical
society lobbied against it. Residents,
meanwhile, wanted a performing-arts
space. “There’s been two projects going parallel this whole time, preserving
the site and building an arts organization,” says Carolyn Kelly, vice president of development for Farmstead.
“We felt that they go hand in hand
because it allows us to create a living
history.” The arts center opened on
the farm in 2010.
The 1700s English-style barn—
unusual for its Dutch framing—is on
the state and national Registers of
Historic Places. The renovated barn is
used for concerts, theater camps, barn
dances and productions by the Lord
Stirling Theater Company. The 1750s
farmhouse holds smaller concerts
and art exhibits. Artists rent studio
space upstairs, which provides steady
Restoring the site was a community
e;ort. “It did take a town to roll up
their sleeves,” says Kelly. “I myself
have waxed these floors.” The barn’s
foundation was repaired and the site
was made ADA accessible.
The township used its open-space
trust fund to buy the 36-acre property
(the farm sits on four acres) for $3.4
million and helped fund the restora-
tion. Farmstead also got funding from
the New Jersey Historic Trust, the
Somerset County Historic Preserva-
tion Grant Fund and the 1772 Founda-
tion. The restoration has cost $1.8
million so far, according to Rosenblum.
Farmstead is using a grant this spring
to convert another building into a his-
tory and welcome center. Another goal
is to add sta; and extend operating
hours. For now, operations manager
Kathy Harris is the only paid employee.
“Artists are extremely happy to
have this place,” says Rosenblum. The
center gets more requests to display
art than it can handle.
Bernards Mayor Carolyn Gaziano
says many concerts and lectures sell
out. “The people who have come here
once all come back.”
Farmstead has won the New Jersey
Preservation Award and Somerset
County’s Historic Preservation Award.
Rosenblum says the Historic Trust
called it “a model for adaptive reuse,”
and historic groups have requested
tours, looking for ideas.
“People enjoy stepping back down
our driveway and leaving the 21st
century,” says Kelly. “They like the
fact that we’re a little rough around
the edges. It’s a reason to put their