The annual list of New Jersey’s 10 Most Endangered Historic Sites was announced on May 14, 2015. Pitney Farm won the sad distinction of heading this year’s listing. At the event, Omie Ryan, president of the Friends of Pitney Farm, stated “The layers of history that the house represents are extraordinary, and it is almost literally at the center of our town. We would like it to remain there in perpetuity.”
Preservation NJ highlighted the Federal-style farmhouse, three barns, two cottages, ice house, and award-winning gardens. The 1760 farm remained in the Pitney family for 10 generations until the township bought it in 2009. Among the many notable Pitneys associated with the property are a Revolutionary War veteran and prominent lawyers and jurists, including Mahlon Pitney III, nominated to the U.S. Supreme Court in 1912.
The listing presents the challenges faced in trying to preserve this rare pre-Revolutionary farmstead, noting that in May 2014, a Public Purpose Study Committee created by the township recommended several courses of action by which the historic buildings and surrounding property could be used to serve the community. But in April 2015, the Township Committee voted to investigate the necessary steps to put the property up for public auction despite the nonprofit Friends of Pitney Farm being willing to develop the site for community purposes.
Preservation NJ esteemed Pitney Farm as a rare, largely-intact example of an eighteenth-century farm that provides a vivid picture of the evolution of farming and farm life in the Garden State. The organization encouraged Mendham Township to vigorously pursue means to retain this special asset. PNJ recommended that the township transfer operations to the care of the Friends of Pitney Farm who could pursue listing on the NJ and National Registers of Historic Places, creating opportunities for grants and private donations for the preservation and adaptive use of the property. “The historical and cultural value of Pitney Farm gives it the potential to be a great asset; PNJ believes it must be protected.”
The complete listing can be found on the Preservation NJ web site.