HISTORICAL and ARCHITECTURAL DEVELOPMENT
of the KMS Farmstead
A Detailed Account
1. Overview and Significance
Picturesquely sited on the banks of the Passaic River only minutes north of Interstate Route 78, the Kennedy–Martin–Stelle Farmstead remains a tranquil, and historically significant, vestige of Bernards Township’s rural past amidst the commercial and residential development now engulfing the area. The property is noted for two prominent 18th-century owners: Rev. Samuel Kennedy, renowned local minister and educator, and Col. Ephraim Martin, American Revolutionary War soldier and New Jersey legislator. However, its significance is primarily architectural and due to its large early barn, the centerpiece of a diverse complex of vernacular frame buildings that range from the 1700s to the 1900s in date. The four-bay eastern half of the main barn (possibly constructed as early as the 1760s and certainly no later than about 1800 when the property was owned by Oliver Stelle), is a notable early example of the English barn type, exhibiting two rare surviving features: hewn common rafters with pegged wind braces and a “dropped” or lower level stable at one end. A four-bay extension to the west, also of mortise-and-tenon, hewn-timber construction, was added c. 1840 utilizing the frame of a smaller English barn. Despite this addition and other alterations contemporary with the construction of the adjoining dairy barn in the early 20th century, the original English barn can be readily distinguished and remains relatively well preserved.
Five other structures built before 1850 contribute to the property’s architectural significance: the farmhouse, the wagon house, the cowshed, the icehouse and the well. With its double-pile, laterally expanded plan and Dutch framing system, the one and one-half story farmhouse typifies the region’s early domestic architecture. Its main block may date in part to before the Revolutionary War and is undoubtedly no later than the early 1800s. Despite extensively remodeling in the Victorian era and again in the Colonial Revival mode around the middle of the last century, the house retains some notable early fabric like the beaded clapboards attached with hand-wrought nails visible in the attic, and more may remain intact behind later finishes. The wagon house and cowshed similarly exhibit some 20th-century alterations but remain good examples of the small outbuildings once characteristic of the region’s farmsteads. Featuring gable-end entries and upper-level loft with built-in grain bins, the mostly hewn-timber wagon house displays a combination of Dutch and English framing techniques and appears to date c. 1790-1820. The small 5-bay cowshed, also of mortise-and-tenon construction, was built in two parts around the second quarter of the 19th century. Likewise representative of the ancillary structures once common on area farms, the stone well and brick ice pit probably predate 1850, although the latter subsequently was converted into a pump house, and the frame superstructures of both appear to be 20th-century work.