18th century Tea and Music

An afternoon tea featuring 18th century music will be held on Feburary 28th at St. Mark’s Episcopal Church Hall, 140 South Finley Ave. in Basking Ridge 2-4pm. The tea marks the kick off of 250th Anniversary of Berndards township, which received its charter from our last king (George II). In addition to displays of the township’s history, attendees will receive a copy of the book, “Notable 18th Century Women of Bernards Township. Tickets ($20) went on sale this weekend and may be limited. Call 908-647-6029 to confirm availability.

Corzine Eases Plan to Cut Agriculture and Parks

The New York Times, April 17, 2008

Selected portions of the article are below. To read the entire article click on the link above.

Faced with irate municipal officials, besieged state legislators and tractors ringing the State House, Gov. Jon S. Corzine says he is willing to relent on his budget proposals.

As a result, state parks and the Agriculture Department would stay open.

While nothing is official until a budget is completed by July 1, the Assembly’s speaker, Joseph J. Roberts Jr., said on Wednesday that legislative leaders and Mr. Corzine had reached a general consensus to ease some proposed cuts in the $33 billion budget.

Mr. Roberts said the state parks would probably stay open, though it was uncertain where Mr. Corzine would save the $4.5 million he said would be saved by closing some of them.

Corporate sponsorship or private management have been mentioned as possible sources of funds. The State Senate president, Richard J. Codey, has suggested increasing park fees.

Mr. Roberts said the goal was to adopt a budget by June 15 — two weeks short of the state-mandated deadline — to avoid a repeat of the budget dispute in 2006 that closed the government for a week.

Assemblyman Biondi Pledges His Support

In a letter to the Board of the Friends of the Wallace House & Old Dutch Parsonage on April 14, 2008, New Jersey Assemblyman Peter J. Biondi (16th District) stated the following:

I agree that it would not be in the best interest to close the state parks and historic sites as proposed by the Governor and doing so is not the answer to the State’s budget crisis. I am adamantly opposed to closing these parks and historic sites, particularly the Wallace House and Old Dutch Parsonage located in Somerville. I will not support this proposal and will encourage my colleagues not to support this as well.

The Friends of the Wallace House and Old Dutch Parsonage thank Assemblyman Biondi for his support!

Elected Official Addresses & Sample Letter

April 2008

Dear (Elected Official):
I am writing to voice my opposition to the proposed closing of the Wallace House and Old Dutch Parsonage in Somerville on June 30, 2008 as part of the State of New Jersey’s current budget cuts. The site is of historical significance to our country and to New Jersey’s place in American history.


I am requesting your support to keep the Wallace House and Old Dutch Parsonage open.


Your Name & Address


Governor Jon S. Corzine
Office of the Governor
PO Box 001
Trenton, NJ 08625

Commissioner Lisa P. Jackson
Department of Environmental Protection
401 E. State Street
7th Floor, East WingP.O. Box 402Trenton, NJ 08625-0402
phone: 609-292-2885, fax: 609-292-7695

State Legislative District 16: Bedminster, Bernards Township, Bernardsville, Bound
Brook, Branchburg, Bridgewater, Far Hills, Hillsborough, Manville, Mendham, Millstone, Montgomery, Peapack Gladstone, Raritan, Rocky Hill, Somerville, South Bound Brook

District Office: 36 East Main St.
Somerville, NJ 08876 (908) 526-3600

Assemblyman PETER J. BIONDI
District Office: 1 East High Street
Somerville, NJ 08876
(908) 252-0800

Assemblywoman DENISE COYLE
92 East Main St., Suite 401
Somerville, NJ 08876 (908) 218-4059

To find other legislative districts and elected officials, visit www.njleg.state.nj.us/members/legsearch.asp

10 Steps to Save New Jersey State Parks and Historic Sites

1. Come to the April 23rd Rally in Trenton. Go to www.NJKeepItGreen for more information.
2. Bring at least 1 family member or friend to the Rally
3. Tell your co-workers and neighbors about the April 23rd Rally and invite them and their family members and firends.
4. Enciourage Friends groups, scout troups, bicycling clubs, nature and environmental groups to sign a co-sponsor form (Friends of WHODP has already done so). If you plan to go and would like to represent the Friends, let us know (wallacehousefriends@gmail.com).
5. Sign up to help get petitions going and do leafletting in May.
6. Join Molly’s Hike from High Point State Park to Trenton.
7. Write letters to your two Assembly members and one state Senator. Tell them: Don’t padlock our parks and historic sites!!! (See this blog for addresses for our local assembly members, Biondi, Coyle and Bateman).
8. Write letters to the editor to your local paper. In Somerset County: Star Legder, Courier News
9. Join meetings at your closest park where everyone is doing everything that they can. No one is exempt. It doesn’t matter if your park isn’t targeted. We’re all in this together.
10. Don’t stop! Do something every day to promote the plan to protect State Parsk. Don’t giveup, no matter what you hear. The worst that can happen is for “good people to do nothing”.

4/23 Camp Out at the Capitol

Camp Out at the Capitol/Rally at the State House

  • Trenton
    Wednesday, April 23, 2008
    12:30 pm

    Message from Preservation New Jersey

    Budget Cuts to Close or Reduce Accessibility to State Historic Sites.

    Visitation, interpretive programs threatened, local economies endangered. The Administration’s proposed budget cuts in the DEP Parks & Forestry division will result in complete closure of or significantly reduced public access to historic sites all over the state. At a time when heritage tourism has finally been recognized as a vital economic development tool, it is short-sighted to be closing these major historic attractions and further depressing local economies.

    We need to resolve our budget issues in other ways not by closing our historic sites!

  • Ringwood Manor – reduced hours
  • Monmouth Battlefield – closed
  • D&R Canal State Park – Interpretive services will be suspended.
  • Washington Crossing State Park – 40 percent reduction in interpretive staff resulting in significantly reduced hours of operation at the Clark House at Princeton Battlefield State Park, the Johnson Ferry House and the museum
  • Indian King Tavern (Haddonfield), administered by Brendan Byrne State Forest, will be closed
  • Round Valley, Wallace House/Old Dutch Parsonage and park office closed
  • Fort Mott State Park – Hancock House, park office and other historic sites

"Wallace House Faces New Battle: Budget Plan May Close Site"

From the Courier News, Wednesday, April 9, 2008


SOMERVILLE — A headquarters for George Washington during the Revolutionary War, the Wallace House, is at the center of a new battle these days that could mean the closure of the house and the adjacent Old Dutch Parsonage.

The historic site tucked between Somerset Street and Washington Place in the southwest end of the borough is one of several state parks that would close as part of cost cutting measures under Gov. Jon Corzine’s proposed, $33-billion budget.

“I was just really stunned,” said Marge Sullivan, a long-time board member of the Friends of the Wallace House and Old Dutch Parsonage, a nonprofit support group.

The site, which has one employee, is administratively tied to the Round Valley Recreation Area in Hunterdon County, which is also slated to close. The proposed closures statewide would save about $4.5 million in salary and maintenance costs, according to published reports.
Sullivan and others hope to drum up opposition to the potential shutdown, which they argue would detrimentally affect the borough and beyond.

“It’s a part of the living history of the borough,” Mayor Brian Gallagher said. “These two sites really position Somerville not only regionally but nationally in the history of our country.”

The Old Dutch Parsonage was built in 1751 with funds from three Dutch Reformed Church congregations. The Rev. John Frelinghuysen and his family first occupied the two-and-a-half story structure, followed by the Rev. Jacob Hardenbergh. Hardenbergh would go on to become the first president of Queen’s College, today known as Rutgers.

On land purchased from Hardenbergh, Philadelphia merchant John Wallace built an eight-room, Georgian-style mansion between 1775 and 1776. Washington and his staff shared that home between 1778 and 1779 while his army was encamped at Middlebrook.

The state acquired both properties in 1947. Both the Old Dutch Parsonage and Wallace House are on the state and national registers of historic places.

Students regularly visit the site, not to mention tourists interested in the area’s history, Sullivan said. Sullivan said the site is located in a residential neighborhood and near a downtown which officials have been working to rejuvenate.

“If you close a site and essentially mothball it . . . you’re basically abandoning it and allowing the grass to grow, the snow not be plowed, and that has a detrimental effect on the residential neighborhood that it’s in and it encourages vandalism,” Sullivan said.

Details on the maintenance of the site if it closes and the storage of artifacts there have yet to be hammered out, said Elaine Makatura, a spokeswoman for the Department of Environmental Protection, which oversees state parks.

“This plan was just announced a week ago, the plan for closure and impact of services to the public, and the operational details for this proposal are still being worked on,” Makatura said.
Gallagher said the borough along with the Friends of the Wallace House and Old Dutch Parsonage would work to reach out to county, state and federal representatives to prevent the closing of the site.

Sullivan said the possible closing of the Wallace House may have been overshadowed by the threat to larger sites such as Round Valley. “The big sites are getting attention — as well they should,” Sullivan said. “But I think because Wallace House is a smaller site and because it was kind of lumped in after the fact on the list within Round Valley people don’t yet realize that it’s slated for closure.”

State Sen. Christopher “Kip” Bateman, R-Branchburg, said it’s a difficult budget year and spending cuts are needed, but not cuts targeting parks such as the Wallace House. “New Jersey is a very historical state, we’re the crossroads of the Revolution, and to cut areas like that, to cut money to the parks, I think is wrong and I think it would be more equitable to just cut a percentage across the board of the departments,” Bateman said.

It remains to be seen whether the closure plans will remain in place following the ongoing state budget process. Learn more about the potential park closures at www.nj.gov/dep/parksandforests/.

Martin C. Bricketto can be
reached at (908) 707-3176
or mbricket@gannett.com.

Why Keep Heritage & Tourism Sites Open?


  • Over $2 billion in annual economic impact. – $50 million in state tax revenue generated each year. – Over 100,000 jobs. – 6 million schoolchildren served.
    Source: MidAtlantic Center for Arts, Cape May
  • New Jersey’s non-profit arts industry generates over $1.5 billion each year in economic activity for the State of New Jersey through direct spending by arts groups and related patron spending, including over $36 million in state tax revenue. Historical activities – including rehabilitation of historic properties, heritage tourism, and spending by historic sites and organizations — generates $580 million each year in economic activity and approximately $14 million in state tax revenue.
  • New Jersey’s non-profit arts industry supports:
    over 80,000 jobs,
    Over 34,000 public events each year,
    17,000 arts-related businesses,
    Over 4 million schoolchildren served by educational programs

    New Jersey’s history museums and organizations support:
    Over 21,000 paid jobs
    65,000 volunteers
    6.4 million visitors annually.

  • New Jersey’s non-profit arts and history industry drives local economies, too! According to a 2007 study conducted by Americans for the Arts, arts activities in Newark and New Brunswick together generate over $214 million in economic activity with nearly 5,500 jobs, and over $8 million in local government tax revenue.
  • New Jersey non-profit arts groups serve over 4 million schoolchildren each year on site and in schools throughout the state. State dollars keep fees affordable for outreach and education programs to benefit the greatest number of students, particularly those in economically disadvantaged areas. These programs are most vulnerable to fluctuations in state support because of their limited income generating potential. History museums and organizations welcome 2 million schoolchildren a year on-site, and a growing number on the internet and through in-school programs.
  • New Jersey’s non-profit arts and history industry is sustained through a dedicated revenue source legislated in 2003, the Hotel/Motel Occupancy Fee. This legislation established a certifiable and renewable source of revenue for arts, history, and tourism promotion. It was passed to create a stable source of state cultural support.

Reasons to Keep the Sites Open

  • The Wallace House and Old Dutch Parsonage State Historic Sites, located in Somerville, are sites of historic significance to New Jersey and its place in American history.
  • The Wallace House has been a house-museum for over 110 years, the Old Dutch Parsonage has been preserved for almost as long.
  • Both Wallace House and Old Dutch Parsonage were preserved through the efforts of local citizens and were separately deeded to New Jersey in 1948 in order to preserve them for posterity.
  • The Wallace House and Old Dutch Parsonage are both listed on the New Jersey and National Registers of Historic Places.
  • The Wallace House was completed in 1776 as Hope Farm for John Wallace, and General George Washington leased the house for use as his headquarters during the Continental Army’s Middlebrook Winter Encampment (called a Cantonement), December 11, 1778, to June 3, 1779. It is arguably the most important Revolutionary War site in Somerset County, and the key site of the surviving sites of the Cantonement.
  • The Wallace House is one of the best preserved and original examples of Georgian architecture in New Jersey and retains 90% of its original historic fabric. It contains many irreplaceable artifacts and documents.
  • The Old Dutch Parsonage is a brick Georgian building, constructed in 1751 with funds from three Dutch Reformed Church congregations of the Raritan Valley, and was first occupied by the Reverend Mr. John Frelinghuysen and his family.
  • The Old Dutch Parsonage has a Rutgers connection. In 1754, the second occupant of the parsonage, Reverend Mr. Jacob Hardenbergh, was one of the signers of Queens College charter (1766) and later its first college President. Old Quessn is known today as Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey.
  • The Wallace House and Old Dutch Parsonage are historic sites within the Crossroads of the American Revolution National Heritage Area (NHA) as designated in 2005. The area highlights New Jersey’s Revolutionary War history.
  • These sites draw tourism to Somerville and the surrounding area throughout the year and provide educational opportunities to local school groups, scouts, and others to experience state and national history first hand.
  • The Somerville District Management Corporation is designated by the Borough of Somerville to preserve and revitalize the Special Improvement District that encompasses Downtown Somerville and reaches to the border of the Historic Sites; closing the sites will hamper these local efforts.
  • The State itself through its planning and policies has deemed the Borough of Somerville and surrounding areas, as areas of major significance through designations granted through its Main Street program, and State Planning and Redevelopment Plan (Regional Center, PA1 Metropolitan Planning Area).
  • Closure of these sites is fiscally shortsighted and would have negative fiscal effect on the sites. Already operating on a minimal budget, the sites would continue to need maintenance, security, and require their contents to be preserved and protected; costs likely to be more than the annual operating budget. Unless the state irresponsibly abandons the sites and their collections, no savings will result, and significant additional costs are likely to be incurred should the sites ever be re-opened.
  • Closure of these sites would represent the loss of an irreplaceable cultural resource to the community.
  • Closure of these sites would negatively affect tourism, and the image of the state, region and Borough.
  • Closure of these sites sends a negative message to our citizens, visitors and schoolchildren that our history is unimportant, and the commitment the State made to preserve these sites can be negated;.
  • Closure of these sites would negatively affect business in the Special Improvement District, which borders the sites and eliminate a major tourism draw to the downtown.
  • Closing of these sites would be an inducement to vandalism, and crime; such damage is likely to be more costly to repair than maintaining preservation and security.
  • Closure of the sites means the state retains ownership of land removed from the tax rolls of Somerville that provides absolutely no real or “added value” compensation to the town for its loss of revenue.
  • Closing of these sites will negatively impact on the residential neighborhood in which they are located and the corresponding value and tax assessments of the homes located there.
  • The Somerville Borough Council vigorously opposes the closing of these sites.