Pitney Farm House Razed

It’s a sad day for Pitney Farm today.  As I walked by with my dog, I could hear the destruction of the buildings on this once idyllic farm.  As I rounded the corner I could see the machinery at work taking down the main farm house and the outer buildings.  In December of last year, Mendham Township auctioned off the 5 acres it owns out right to the highest bidder, Anatol Siemienczuk of Sema Properties in Bridgewater, NJ.  The property has been rezoned for 20,000 sq foot lots, so it is assumed a number of homes will be built on this once historic land.
The 7 acres that is deeded Open Space is also going through some changes.  The town cut down many trees that the DPW deemed too old or compromised and also bulldozed the cutting and vegetable gardens to make way for walking paths and natural land that requires minimal upkeep.  The Walled Garden, fortunately, is slated to stay.  A tree expert is needed to take the remaining trees as they are close to the Walled Garden and risk damaging the walls if brought down incorrectly.  The former Seed House which had a green house attached prior to the DPW’s bulldozer is still standing and is slated to be spruced up and reconfigured into a small museum that will showcase some of the history of the Pitney property and family.  The property currently looks barren and depressing, but the hope is that the Mendham Township Pitney Farm Garden Task Force will win grants for which they applied and with additional funds raised, can refurbish the gardens to a place where people will want to visit.
The Friends of Pitney Farm are in discussing with members of the Task Force to determine the best use of the remaining funds to help preserve as much of the gardens as is feasible.


Pitney Farm will be auctioned off on Wednesday, December 5th at 11:00 am.

By an ordinance passed by the Mendham Township Committee, the Pitney Farm property will be auctioned off to the highest bidder on Wednesday, December 5th at 11am at the Mendham Township Municipal Building located at 2 West Main Street in Brookside, NJ. A preview of the property will be held on Tuesday, November 27th from noon till 2 pm. The 5 acre municipal property was recently approved for rezoning to 20,000 square foot lots. It is the hope of the Friends of Pitney Farm that the winning bid will go to a developer who will look to renovate the buildings and not tear them down to build new houses. The Friends of Pitney Farm has been in discussion with one such developer who would then lease what is left of the farm house (as a result of the fire) to our organization to be renovated and turned into a community center.

The Mendham Township Committee has formed a task force to evaluate and make recommendations on the best use of the remaining 7 acres that is considered Open Space and cannot be developed. A presentation to the Committee will take place on Tuesday, November 27th at 7:30 at the Mendham Township Municipal Building.

Trustee David Zimmerman Passed Away.

All of us at the Friends of Pitney Farm, Inc. are very sad to learn of the passing of our Trustee David Zimmerman on the evening of November 2.  David’s enthusiasm for Pitney Farm and his assistance with all things relating to planning and public process have been immeasurably helpful as we have continued to work to fulfill our mission.  As one of our founding members, we all valued his insight, expertise and reminders that a sense of humor and an adult beverage could make most things bearable.  We will miss him and extend our deepest condolences to his family.

Omie Ryan, President

Friends of Pitney Farm, Inc.

FOPF Statement on Proposed Subdivision of Pitney Farm

The Friends of Pitney Farm, Inc. (FOPF) support Mendham Township’s proposed subdivision of the 12.2-acre Pitney Farm property into three lots (7.1 acres of designated open space; 1.5 acres for municipal purposes; 3.6 acres for sale for residential purposes). FOPF believe the subdivision is an important step toward the community utilizing the Pitney Farm property. The subdivision would allow FOPF to pursue its conceptual plan, “The Pitney Farm Park and Homestead,” unveiled to the public in May 2017. We hope to begin discussions with the Township Committee soon. Our plan calls for creation and maintenance of a public park on the 7.1-acre open space lot, and the rehabilitation of the surviving section of the original homestead on the 1.5-acre municipal lot adjacent to the open space. The renovated homestead would complement the surrounding public park, and provide limited community meeting space and allow for a place to display Mendham’s rich historical past.

Omie E. M. Ryan


Friends of Pitney Farm, Inc.

October 31, 2017


Group wants Pitney estate preserved for public use

The following article was published in the Observer Tribune on September  28, 2017.
Contributing Writer


    The largest section of the Pitney estate off Cold Hill Road in Mendham Township should be converted into a public place to promote the estate’s history, representatives of the Friends of Pitney Farm (FOPF) said at the borough Historical Society meeting on Tuesday, Sept. 26.
    Omie Ryan, president of the friends group, presented plans for the “Pitney Farm Park and Homestead.”  The group wants to convert one acre as a place which “protects and promotes the public investment in the designated open space, provides limited community meeting space and preserves Mendham history.”
    The Friends’ plan would “create and maintain a public park on the seven acres, rehabilitate and restore the surviving section of the building, which happens to be the oldest part of the farm.”
    The plan also calls for maintenance and reconstruction of the walled garden area and the estate’s original cutting garden.
    Pitney Farm was purchased in 2009 by Mendham Township with township funds and $1.5 million in Morris County open space funds.  The funding was to preserve seven of the estate’s 12-acres in perpetuity as open space.  The remaining five acres, outside the designated open space, would be used for some sort of municipal facility or subdivided for residential development.
    In February 2016, a fire devastated the main house at Pitney Farm.  It was determined the fire was intentionally set but there have been no arrests.  The township received $1.5 million in compensation from its insurance company.
    After much discussion, Mendham Township decided to rezone the five acres to sell to a developer to build single family homes.  However, Township Committee members had previously stated it would consider a one-acre parcel adjacent to the seven-acre open space portion to include the remaining part of the Pitney home.
    “As an academic, (I find) the archeology on the site fascinating,” Ryan said.  “It’s a really fascinating story to tell not just about Pitney, but how the whole community functioned.”
    Ryan said the story was not just about the Pitney family but rather as an example of how life in Mendham, socially and economically, changes over time.
    “Our local landmarks give Mendham its particular and very special sense of place,” Ryan said.  “They are tangible reminders of the history of our community and livelihood of those people who lived (here) were dependent upon this location.  (It) all played into why people came to Mendham in the first place.  There is historic geography we ride past every day.  (People rode) down those roads 100 years ago and those roads were there 100 years before that.  (These) landmarks are how were root ourselves through town.  All of that is part of the character of Mendham.”
    Ryan said the Pitney farm was an example of what attracted people to Mendham.
    “There was a more robust use being proposed for the property (such as) farmers markets, art festivals and other activities,” said Ballantine Road resident Eric Svenson.
    Svenson said residents were concerned with the potential noise if the area was developed.
    “We are suggesting something small with passive recreation,” Ryan said.  “One of the things we have proposed is creating a buffer with a fence and plant buffer.  We are not planning large things, we are not planning to erect a Ferris wheel.”
    Ryan said there would be 10 or 12 parking spots needed, as the use of the property would be passive in nature.  She said current cost projections for development are $350,000 to $400,000.
    Ryan said the funds would just be enough to get the “first floor in working shape” and additional money would be needed to complete the project.
    Ryan said the civic group would be raising funds privately and seeking state historic preservation funds.
    Svenson said he approved the plans.
    “A location central to Mendham that has the history of the Mendhams seems like a great idea,” Svenson said.
    Elizabeth Drake, president of the Mendham Borough Historical Society, said the homestead could be used to educate school children about Mendham’s history.
    Friends board member and Shelton Road resident Peter Dumovic said some members of the Township Committee have supported the park and homestead proposal.  “We presented it to the public and it resonated with the public. Nothing formally has come of that other than it resonated. If you like what you see here, tell a lot of people about it and put pressure on decision-makers to move at other than a glacial speed.  Omie and I have been working on this for years and are still optimistic,“ Dumovic said.

Plans afoot for Pitney Farm in Mendham

by MARIN RESNICK, Contributing Writer, Observer Tribune, May 16, 2017


MENDHAM TWP. – The Friends of Pitney Farm (FOPF) presented what they deemed a “win-win” solution to the use of the farmstead during a town hall meeting Wednesday, May 10.

The plan involves turning the now dilapidated farmstead into the “The Pitney Farm Park and Homestead.”

The Pitney Farm Park and Homestead “will protect and promote the public investment in the designated open space, will provide limited community meeting space in the homestead and will preserve a piece of Mendham history,” according to the FOPF.

The FOPF has been rallying to preserve the 12-acre homestead, off Cold Hill Road, since January of 2015.

The farm was purchased in 2009 by the township with township and open space funds, according to FOPF president Omie Ryan. The township was given $1.5M in open funding from Morris County to preserve seven of the 12-acres in perpetuity as open space. The remaining five acres, outside the designated open space, would be used for some sort of municipal facility.

In January 2015, the FOPF was established to preserve Pitney Farm, and to devise a use of the property to provide cultural and educational benefit to the community. In December 2015, the FOPF released a detailed business plan for managing and repurposing the entire 12-area property.

The plan had been met with much controversy as the notion to change the historic property into an artist center appeared to be out of conformity with the residential use of the area.

Also, residents were also concerned about the debt associated with the property, and how the homestead would not generate tax dollars into the community, as it is a not-for-profit group.

In February 2016, a fire devastated the main house at Pitney Farm. After the investigation, it was determined the fire was arson related and the township received $1.5M from their insurance company.

After much discussion, the township decided to rezone the property to sell to a developer to build single family homes on the five acres the township owns. However, Township Committee members had previously stated it would consider a one-acre parcel adjacent to the seven-acre open space portion to include the remaining part of the Pitney home.

The FOPF plan is to “create and maintain a public park in the seven acres of designated open space, rehabilitate and restore the oldest surviving section of the farmhouse, on approximately one acre at the center of the Pitney property. The remaining portion of the municipally owned area would be available for residential use, at the discretion of Mendham Township Committee.”

Ryan said the new plan “balances concerns of neighboring residents as well as optimizing the investment seven-acres of open space.”

The open spaces would include areas for a community garden with room for a green house, a vegetable garden and a cutting garden.

The FOPF also plan on restoring the remaining home on the property to use as a small meeting area for local community groups, and also as a small museum or display area to commemorate Mendham’s history.

Community members appeared pleased with the idea of having a recreational area, but did have some questions and requests for the property.

“I applaud the idea of a museum to capture Mendham history. It could be pretty special,” resident Bob Ritger said.

“The oldest surviving portions of house are as early as 1722,” Ryan said. “It seems like a great location to start the celebration of local Mendham History.”

Ritger asked the FOPF if it would be possible to have access to the Pitney Farm Park and Homestead from Ballantine Road instead of Cold Hill Road.

Marc Parette, secretary of the FOPF, said the neighbors preferred to have the main access off of Cold Hill Road because access off Ballantine Road could have the potential of “bringing additional traffic through the neighborhood.”

“Cold Hill Road has historically been the front of the property,” Parette said.

“I find this interesting and compelling” Cold Hill Road resident Taylor Buonocore said. “I grew up here and moved back here with a one-year-old and it is tough to find public community spaces in Mendham. Homesteads and community gardens are a fluid and hot topic right now. Innovative ways to build community and new approaches putting people together could be an interesting thing to explore.”

Ryan said the FOPF envisioned having activities which have a “natural connection with both the history and open space” of the homestead such as a walking path which would be “someplace for those people who wanted to do a circuit for recreation that doesn’t exist now.”

Ryan also spoke about having a children’s program all about a “secret garden” taking place in the walled garden.

“The walking path is a great idea because there are no sidewalks in Mendham,” Olmsted Lane resident Judy Shrem said. “I would like to see something for older kids. There is virtually nothing for teenage kids. Give them someplace to go. There is no place for kids to go to meet, to have a coffee.”

Buonocore suggested forming community dinners to take part in the farm to table movements where community members could “talk and share a meal.”

“Have children involved in preparing food,” Buonocore said. “It would be an inter-generational way of bringing together people with diverse interests.”

Vice Chair of the Recreation Committee and Township Committee candidate, Amalia Duarte said she is thrilled at the prospect of having a place for outdoor classes and community get togethers.

“It’s a place for classes, and cooking, and all these things we dream about at our meetings,” Duarte said. “We would love to see it preserved, and have a walking path.”

“I applaud your passion to preserve Pitney,” Cherry Lane resident Linda Fairchild said. “May I ask how much have you raised and what the goal is?”

“We anticipate we are going to need $600,000,” FOPF treasurer Sue Browse said. “At this point we’ve done no fundraising at all. We have no firm commitment from the Township Committee. Right now, we have $100,000 in verbal commitments. We would like to start fundraising tomorrow, but it is all in the hands of the Mendham Township Committee,” she said.

“We have to wait for their final decision. The homestead area is a win-win solution. The township can sell some of the acreage to get money into town, and (the FOPF can) keep some of it (for the community) and preserve the house.”


FOFP propose The Pitney Farm Park and Homestead

Since the fire nearly one year ago, the Friends of Pitney Farm (FOPF) have sought a new and creative approach that allows community use of Pitney Farm, while respecting neighbors’ concerns and meeting Mendham Township’s fiscal needs.

We have listened closely to the opinions expressed on the use of Pitney Farm and considered those for and against past proposals. As a result, we have changed our original plan first presented to the Township in December 2015.

FOPF now propose, The Pitney Farm Park and Homestead. We propose to create and maintain a public park in the 7 acres of designated open space. We will also rehabilitate and restore the oldest surviving section of the farmhouse using approximately one acre at the center of the Pitney property. The remaining portion of the municipally owned area would then be available for residential use at the discretion of the Mendham Township Committee (MTC). Our new approach will:

* preserve a piece of Mendham history,

* provide limited community space, and

* protect and promote the public investment in the open space.

FOPF believes that our new plan is a significant contribution to the “win-win” solution that both MTC and township residents seek.

Mendham Township Committee Seeks win-win for Pitney Farm in 2017

FOPF sees room for hope based on the comments made by Mendham Township Mayor  Diana Orban-Brown.  In her address at the January 3, 2017 Reorganization meeting of the Mendham Township Committee, newly sworn-in mayor Diana Orban-Brown stated with regard to Pitney Farm:

“I think it is fair to say that everyone would have liked to have this resolved years ago.  But it is important that when feelings are strong and run-in so many different directions about a subject, all avenues must be explored.  The goal is to achieve the best possible solution – the win-win.  We shortly will have in our hands an appraisal and an engineering study consistent with current zoning, and this Township Committee will be making decisions that will put this situation to bed once and for all.”