Grants would make Bernards Township farmstead ready for use – June 27, 2008

From the Bernardsville News:

By W. JACOB PERRY, Staff Writer
Published: Friday, June 27, 2008 7:18 AM EDT
BERNARDS TWP. – Having restored the two main structures on the historic Rev. Kennedy Farmstead off King George Road, a non-profit group is now seeking grant money for improvements that would make the structures “useable.”

The immediate goals are to upgrade the farmhouse so it could house two non-profit cultural arts groups and accommodate community activities, and to upgrade the large English barn so it too could host community activities, at least in the spring and summer.

The non-profit Friends of the Farmstead is therefore seeking two grants that could provide the project with up to $525,000. That would include $400,000 from the Garden State Historic Preservation Trust Fund and $124,768 from the Somerset County Cultural and Heritage Commission.

“If we get both grants in their entirety and the costs remain constant, we would be able to finish the farmhouse for a Certificate of Occupancy, and the English barn for warm weather use without heat and ventilation,” said John Campbell, president of the Friends group.

The county traditionally reveals its grant awards in the fall, while the state will probably not announce its awards until early 2009, Campbell said.

In the meantime, the Friends group is continuing to use previously awarded county grant money to renovate the farmhouse.

The farmstead is part of a 36.5-acre tract at 450 King George Road that the township acquired in an open space purchase in July 1999. It features a farmhouse built around 1750, a large English barn and a wagon house that precede 1800, a cowshed and other accessory structures.

Past owners included the Rev. Samuel Kennedy, a pastor of the Basking Ridge Presbyterian Church who ran a classical school in the 1760s, and Ephrain Martin, a Revolutionary War soldier and legislator.

Extensive Work

With work focused on renovating the farmhouse and the English barn, the Friends group has managed to obtain six county grants totaling $475,610 and a state grant for $440,393.

In addition, the township has chipped in $121,207 to provide the farmhouse with new electrical, heating and air-conditioning systems, and another $115,322 to extend water and sewer lines to the site.

A $63,000 county grant that was awarded last November is still being used on the farmhouse for mold remediation, a paint removal analysis and work on the first and second floor bathrooms, according to Campbell.

The additional $124,768 from the county, if approved, would further repair the farmhouse by fixing a corner post, repairing windows and exterior doors, and polishing the floors, Campbell said.

The $400,000 sought from the state, he said, would be used to fix a fireplace foundation in the farmhouse dining room, reinforce the second floor to support assorted activities, paint the interiors, provide the English barn with a concrete floor, and devise a preservation plan for the cowshed.

The two groups that would lease space in the farmhouse are the Eastern Conservatory of Music and Arts, which is housed at Lamington Presbyterian Church in Bedminster Township, and the Raritan Valley Arts Association (RVAA), which meets at the Somerset County Library in Bridgewater Township.

The Eastern Conservatory wants to use the first floor for performances and the second floor for teaching lessons, while the RVAA, whose president is Liberty Corner resident Linda Arnold, would like to use the first floor for teaching lessons and art shows, Campbell said.

“Both groups have been in operation for a long time and have a good track record, so we’re very encouraged by that,” he added.

The English barn, which is 68 feet long, has long been eyed for potential activities like plays, dances and lectures.Even if both grant requests were to succeed and all the related work were done, there would still be more to do. That would include restoring the wagon house, which remains covered with a tarpaulin to prevent further deterioration.

Although the project is now in its eighth year, Campbell was encouraged by the progress.

“This place is definitely going to succeed,” he said. “It’s going to become a center for the arts and a venue for the interpreting the agricultural history of our area. It’s a question of when, not if, at this point. That depends on funding but it’s definitely going to happen.”

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