Somerset County’s 2021 Weekend Journey Through the Past returns with in-person and free admission to all, on Saturday October 9th and Sunday the 10th. Across the county, 22 notable historic sites, properties and museums open to host visitors with special events, interactive historical presentations, new exhibits, demonstrations of life centuries ago and other innovative programming. Most of the sites participating are listed on the New Jersey and National Registers of Historic Places.
Somerset County encourages residents and visitors from anywhere to visit participating historic sites, which will be open on Saturday October 9 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and on Sunday October 10 from noon to 4 p.m. of different experiences.
“Learn what life was like 50… 100… or even 200 years ago. Discover our individual Revolutionary War histories, which are major contributions to Somerset County’s designation as a Crossroads of the American Revolution State Heritage Area,” says Cultural & Heritage Commission Manager Kaitlin Bundy, part of the team in Somerset’s newly-created Office of Planning, Policy and Economic Development.
Located in the heart of the Delaware & Raritan (D & R) Canal State Park in Griggstown, the stone, two-story Bridgetender’s House, on the causeway bridge between Franklin Township and River Road in Montgomery Township, will be open during Weekend Journey Through the Past.
Two must-see Somerset County historic schoolhouse buildings are ready for visitors October 9 and 10 for Weekend Journey. In Millstone Borough, up Millstone River Road (County Rt. 533) between Amwell Road and Manville, the historic 1860 Schoolhouse will welcome visitors with an array of artifacts and demonstrations on 19th century technology and educational tools. The building currently serves as the municipal offices and meeting venue. Another participating historic site is the renovated, circa 1912 Pluckemin Schoolhouse in Bedminster which houses the Center for Contemporary Art.
Among the legendary sites open for Weekend Journey are several of the “5 Generals” houses in the central and northern parts of the county; five colonial era homes where George Washington and his generals visited, stayed and coordinated strategies during the second American Revolution Middlebrook Encampment of 1778-79. However at the c. 1725 Derrick Van Veghten House, Washington did not stay over — he danced for a full over three hours nonstop, inside the Frisk Room. The Van Veghten house is the Somerset County Historical Society’s headquarters, located west of County Rt. 533 (Finderne Avenue) between Bridgewater and Manville.
The Jacobus Vanderveer House in Bedminster, which served as headquarters for General Henry Knox during the winter of 1778-79, will also be open for Weekend Journey on October 9 and 10.
The county seat of Somerville is home to the Wallace House and Old Dutch Parsonage — another 5 Generals’ venue which will welcome all visitors for Weekend Journey’s open hours. While in Somerville visitors can check out the Fire Museum as well as the historic Gothic Revival-style Borough Hall; the Daniel Robert House at 25 West End Avenue, deemed “The County’s Handsomest House” by the Somerville Historical Advisory Committee in its 2020 book.
In South Bound Brook, the Abraham Staats House will be open during Weekend Journey. The event in October comes in between its larger-scale annual events. Every April, the commemoration of the Battle of Bound Brook is held (as 2021 marked the 244th anniversary). Each December the Staats House celebrates with traditional Holiday and candlelight events, as well as the Annual meeting.
In Montgomery Township, the stone exterior Dirck Gulick House built in 1752 and added to the National Register in 2003, will be participating on both Saturday and Sunday. Visit Vanharlingen.org for more information.
Another Weekend Journey historical site signifies the synergy of history and the arts. In Basking Ridge (Bernards Township) the Kennedy Martin Stelle Farmstead is a four-acre historical site, and home of the Farmstead Arts Center which features contemporary and inspirational exhibits. Members of the Stelle Family owned and occupied the farmstead from 1794 until 1945, and in 1999 Bernards Township purchased the property using Open Space funds, and a year later the basis for an arts space and performing arts center was set in motion due to survey results by the county. The venue hosts plays, musical events, and interactive demonstrations including beekeeping and nature talks. Its collection of buildings remain updated and some are still in-need, though the Farm House and English Barn are repurposed for use by the Farmstead Arts Center.
Full details of participating sites can be found at SCHistoryWeekend.com
Author, content strategist and historic preservation activist Rikki N. Massand serves as Associate Editor of his hometown Montgomery News in Somerset County. He also covers Hunterdon County government, planning and economic development for Flemington’s TAPInto online news and freelances for multiple tristate area ‘newszines.’
Rikki is a regional historian and local advocate in his present municipal government-appointed roles on the Montgomery Township Landmarks Preservation Commission and as township liaison to the Delaware & Raritan Canal Commission. He is also experienced in not-for-profit administration and advocacy as office administrator, records manager and bookkeeper for a local United Church of Christ.
Rikki holds master’s degrees from Columbia University and Quinnipiac University. His work has appeared in print titles including China Daily, amNew York, Syosset Advance, AsianWeek and more.