A decaying, but architecturally significant, early 19th century Dutch barn from Branchburg, NJ will soon become the centerpiece of a planned farmstead surrounding Bedminster’s historic Jacobus Vanderveer House. In June, The Friends of the Jacobus Vanderveer House were awarded a $94,190 Historic Preservation Grant from the Somerset County Board of Chosen Freeholders for the acquisition and relocation of the 33’ x 51’ barn from a private property on Old York Road to the grounds of the Jacobus Vanderveer House.
“The owner of the barn intended to demolish the structure,” explained Robin Ray, president of The Friends of the Jacobus Vanderveer House Board of Trustees, the non-profit organization that operates and manages the Jacobus Vanderveer House, owned by Bedminster Township. “The Branchburg Historic Preservation Commission unanimously voted that this rare example of Dutch new world construction should be salvaged and preserved. They recommended to the owner that she transfer the barn to The Friends to preserve this example of rural architecture and keep it within Somerset County. The owner agreed to do so as long as The Friends agreed to be financially responsible for the documentation, disassembly and relocation of the barn.”
Following an endorsement by the Bedminster Township Committee to proceed with the project, The Friends applied for emergency funding from the Somerset County 2016 Historic Preservation Grant Program administered by the Somerset County Cultural and Heritage Commission. The grant application process was led by Leslie Molé, a trustee of The Friends of the Jacobus Vanderveer House who chairs the organization’s Development Committee.
The Friends enlisted the help of HMR Architects, a firm with extensive historic preservation work and expertise, to prepare and submit an application for a Certificate of Eligibility to the New Jersey State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO) for the barn’s listing in the New Jersey and National Historic Registers of Historic Places. The Bedminster Township Historic Preservation Commission unanimously supported that application. The SHPO agreed that the barn had a sufficient number of New World Dutch Barn characteristics that would make it eligible for listing in the New Jersey and National Registers of Historic Places at its proposed relocation site, the Dutch-Colonial Jacobus Vanderveer House in Bedminster.
“We recognized the urgency and importance of saving this structure from demolition as part of our commitment to preserving our region’s rich heritage,” observed Somerset County Freeholder Director Patricia Walsh. “The Friends of the Jacobus Vanderveer House have done an admirable job of creating a museum that interprets Dutch colonial life in America as well as the Pluckemin cantonment, now considered to be America’s first military academy, and the military achievements of General Henry Knox, who used the Vanderveer House as his home and headquarters during 1778-79. The acquisition of the Dutch barn will further their contributions to historic preservation and interpretation at this site, located within the Crossroads of the American Revolution National Heritage Area.”
From July through August, historic preservation experts from HMR assisted a team of historic demolition, restoration and relocation experts from Restoration Technologies of New Jersey, LLC, in documenting the barn through photography, annotated measurements and drawings. Boring samples were taken from wood timbers to more closely determine the age of the barn and the local mills that may have crafted its beams and siding. Restoration Technologies then carefully and methodically dismantled the circa 1820-1840 Voorhees Dutch Barn (so-called for a historic owner) in preparation for its repurposed life in Bedminster. The salvaged beams and rafters (primarily composed of oak and poplar), some original hardware, and stone were placed inside a 44-foot trailer and transported to the Vanderveer property where they await reassembly at a future date.
“Once it is reassembled and completed, the barn will provide a much-needed year-round space for meetings, community events, and educational programming; exhibitions; and a secure repository for the archaeological artifacts that were excavated during the Pluckemin Archaeology Project. It was one of the most significant Revolutionary War archaeological investigations ever undertaken,” said Mrs. Ray.
“These artifacts and the accompanying documentation are currently being housed in a warehouse facility in Central New Jersey. Once these artifacts can be permanently stored in a climate-controlled facility, they will be available for exhibition and interpretation to the thousands of history lovers who reside in Somerset County and the greater New York area. In addition, the adaptive reuse of this rare and important historic Dutch barn will enable the nationwide community of American History scholars to gain access to these artifacts in order to further the study of the Pluckemin Artillery Barracks of 1778-79 and its significance to our nation’s history.”
While the Somerset County grant will cover the cost of dismantling and relocating the barn, preparation of National and New Jersey Register nomination forms, initial construction documentation and schematic designs, additional funds must be raised to construct a new foundation, reassemble and repair the historic frame and enclose the barn with new siding, stress skin paneling, a roof, windows and doors, as well as complete finishes and building systems.
To help finance the next critical phases of the ambitious project, The Friends have initiated a capital campaign aptly named Raising The Bar(N)
. For more information about the Voorhees Dutch Barn and The Friends’ plans to recreate a late 18th
Century farmstead surrounding the Jacobus Vanderveer House, visit www.jvanderveerhouse.org
or call 908-396-6053.
About The Jacobus Vanderveer House
The Jacobus Vanderveer House served as headquarters for General Henry Knox during the winter of 1778-79 and is the only known building still standing that was associated with the Pluckemin Artillery Cantonment, believed to be the first installation in America to train officers in engineering and artillery. The Jacobus Vanderveer House interprets Dutch colonial life in America as well as the stay by General Knox and his family during the 1778-79 encampment. A National and New Jersey Historic Site, the Jacobus Vanderveer House is a true landmark that offers a vivid look into the history of our country and the lives of those who made it.
The Jacobus Vanderveer House is located at 3055 River Road. The entrance to the house is via River Road Park. For directions and more information about the Jacobus Vanderveer House, visit www.jvanderveerhouse.org.