New Jersey’s agricultural economy has been in decline for decades. Thousands of the barns that once served the state’s vanishing farms have disappeared, and many (if not most) of those that survive are threatened. These buildings are a remarkable lot. The locally available hardwoods enabled stunning engineering feats in internal timber framing, and the ethno-religious diversity of New Jersey led to a startling variety of forms and designs.
Today this extraordinary legacy is in jeopardy, and the threat does not only come from development pressure. Barns and other structures on property protected under the state’s Farmland Preservation program are not safeguarded, nor are they generally provided for when the land they are on is acquired for open space. Moreover, many of these buildings are too small for use on today’s large-scale, highly mechanized farms.
There are many examples to cite. The George Washington Colfax Barn in Wayne Township is the last Dutch barn in Passaic County. In Hope Township, the Stephen Nicolaus Barn is one of the last Moravian barns anywhere. Other New Jersey barns reflect a mix of traditions, such as the Cox Barn near Lambertville, which has English and Swiss-German features, and the Van Notta Barn in Harmony, which displays Dutch and German characteristics. Still, others are completely unique, such as the Pfaff Round Barn near Oxford, built in 1933.
Without a concerted effort, these crucial reminders of New Jersey’s agricultural heritage could be lost. We hope this listing will encourage more individuals to join the various efforts already underway to preserve some of these fragile buildings.
Elric Endersby, The New Jersey Barn Company
P.O. Box 702,
Princeton, NJ 08542
Jane Primerano, Hope Township Historic Commission
PO Box 511,
Hope, NJ 07844-0511