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Historic Barn Finds Home in Liberty Corner

“Without the help of a few key people, this effort would never have come to fruition.”

Carolyn Knox, Liberty Corner Resident and owner of a restored historic mortise and tenon barn.

The Dream to Build a Barn – Oh wait. Maybe we can Save a Barn!

It was a cold and wintry day on New Year’s Day 2008 when Bill and Carolyn Knox finally recognized the Knox family wanted to transfer and restore an old mortise and tenon dairy barn originally scheduled for demolition on a nearby Bernards Township farmstead.

This is a story about how a twenty year dream to build a garage/barn evolved into an elaborate twisting tale of historic preservation and innovative thinking.

“I always wanted another barn on our property,” noted Carolyn Knox of the Liberty Corner section of Bernards Twp. When our dear friend Alex told us about a barn restoration effort he saw on the other side of town, I knew we were going to get it done.

Barn Restoration Project

The historic barn was originally part of the Gerhardt Farm in northern Bernards Township moves across town and becomes a new-old-barn in Liberty Corner.

The historic barn was originally part of the Gerhardt Farm, purchased by Bernards Twp with funds from the Open Space Trust Fund. On August 28, 2007, the Township Committee of the Township of Bernards authorized acquisition from Michael Gronau, property known as 264 Whitenack Road, the Gerhardt Farm.

History Timeline

  • The Gerhardt Farm Barn was originally a dairy mortise and tenon barn.
  • The Gerhardt farm property was officially renamed on February 26, 2008 to McCollum Farm, after the McCollum family.
  • John McCollum was born in Scotland about 1657 and emigrated to New Jersey by about 1720, spending the rest of his life in the village of Basking Ridge. He died at the age of 103 years on 18 Apr 1760 and is buried in the Presbyterian Church cemetery in Basking Ridge, New Jersey.
  • July 15, 2008 – Authorizing Removal and Transfer of Ownership of the barn located on Township Property Resolution #080303 – Knoxes will donate $2500 to the Bernards Township Open Space Fund; and WHEREAS, Pat Monaco, the Bernards Township Public Works Director has reported that the cost for the township to demolish, remove and dispose of the barn from the property, including removal of asbestos would cost the township in excess of $2500 and outweighs any cost a sale would generate. Gerhard/McCollum Farm – Block 4301, Lot 51 (f/k/a Block 104, Lot 10) By and To William and Carolyn Knox, 264 Whitenack Road, Basking Ridge, NJ
  • On May 30, 2009 the barn restoration project was officially completed with an old fashioned “Barn Warming” celebration held on behalf of all of the workers, participants, neighbors, and friends who had been involved with the effort.

The Spark

Alex Williams, who grew up around the corner from the Knoxes and was close friend with the Knox’s son Jonathan, was the one who finally got the ball rolling.

“I saw that the Style’s were actually constructing a barn that had been disassembled somewhere else. Then I got to thinking about the Knox’s situation and saw the sign in front of the construction site and said to myself, the Knox’s need to call Dan (a local historic architect.”

Alex Williams, Friend and Neighbor
Alex Williams, family friend and neighbor.

Story has it that Alex Williams had noticed another barn relocation/restoration project that was underway for another family on the other side of town. The Styles family on West Oak Street in Basking Ridge was completing a barn restoration project of their own.

The Knox Family

Strooned across the Knox farm are relics from the farm’s past. This plow was recently restored and sits on the property.
Bill and Carolyn Knox

William (Bill) and Carolyn Knox purchased their farmstead in 1972 from the Liberty Corner Fetzer children. Bill was raised in Cranford, Carolyn is from Mansfield Center, CT. Saw ad in NY Times “Old Farm Needs Help”. Bill worked as a Lawyer at Lowenstein Sandler in Newark. Carolyn was a nurse at Morristown Memorial. Three children, 80 foreign exchange students. 13 acres, originally a 130 acre tree orchard called the “Old Brown” Property.

The Knox Farmstead was a recipient of a prestigious Historic Preservation Award from the local historical society in 2008 for their restoration efforts of their primary home and original barn.

Barn Transfer Process

Many things come into play when considering a relocation/restoration of a historic older structure. “You really need to work with a number of specialists, historians, craftsmen,and government agencies”, noted Lincoln. It was Dan Lincoln who introduced Darrick J Anderson (Camelot Builders) to the Knoxes, who was later hired to be the general contractor for the project.

Throughout the summer of 2008, Dan Lincoln worked with the Historic Preservation Committee, the Bernards Township Committee, and the Bernards Township Engineering Department on behalf of the Knoxes, helping to alleviate zoning concerns, transfer rights, and assist in the logistics of the effort.

“The physical dismantling of the barn is actually quite an easy process and goes quite quickly. It’s the approval processes with the transfer of ownership and the township variances that take time.”

he township was the barn owner before the transfer was made to the Knox family. Dan Lincoln

On July 15, 2008, a township resolution was passed authorizing the transfer of the barn to the Knoxes. (see details below). But it wasn’t until almost a year later, when in December of 2008 all of the local variances were finally approved by the Board of Adjustment, almost a year to the day after first viewing the Gerhardt barn on that cold wintry afternoon.

David Becker, a local Basking Ridge resident and current member of THSSH’s Historic Preservation Committee, worked diligently on behalf of everyone’s interest to get the project started. As the Knoxes mentioned time and time again throughout our discussion, “this project would have never been possible without the help of Dan and David and we couldn’t be more grateful.”

The Restoration

Daniel Lincoln, a local architect and resident of Bernardsville, was a key player in helping the Knox’s navigate the logistics and legislative obstacles that made the Knox effort possible. Dan’s had an impressive record of civic historic efforts including being president of The Historical Society of the Somerset Hills and a member of the Bernardsville Historic Preservation Committee.

Amongst Mr. Lincoln’s peers, he’s the architect who’s now been labeled “the barn architect”. “It’s kind of funny how I’ve been given the nickname ‘the barn architect’”, noted Mr. Lincoln, principal of Daniel W. Lincoln Architect, LLC in Bernardsville. “I’ve gotten to know the process and the players needed in order to make something as complex as this work.”

Jen Style, from another Bernards Township barn relocate and restoration effort noted; “How special it is to be blessed with the opportunity to preserve a piece of history a second time with the addition of our barn. I credit Dan Lincoln for taking on this project and finding Anthony Hess. Anthony and his team would come into our kitchen for lunch each day to escape the bitter cold, and always with the most thoughtful prayers before they ate. It was wonderful having them as a part of our family for the winter of 07!”

Barn Craftsmen &The German Brethren

Known as Pennsylvania’s barn craftsmen, a team of seasoned professionals from the heart of Pennsylvania dutch country started in January 2009 disassembling the barn and readying it for assembly on the Knox property.

After Bob Hartman and Michele Dimichino from Camelot Builders built the barn foundation, Anthony Hess of Old Valley Barn Wood, and his team of “German Brethren” from Bethel, PA began the assembly process. The brethren completed the assembly on February 4, 2009.

After the framing was completed, the project moved quickly. On St. Patrick’s Day, cedar shake roofing expert Tom Devine from Denville, NJ started on the roof. Three days later the roof was complete. Next, the concrete floor was poured. Finally, less than a month later the first red exterior siding was installed.

The Barn Warming

On May 30, 2009, the Knox’s barn restoration project was officially completed with an old fashioned “Barn Warming” celebration held on behalf of all of the workers, participants, neighbors, and friends who had been involved with the effort.

Bill Knox – Ready to get the barn party started!

Congratulation on a great effort for everyone involved!

It just goes to show that with a little determination and vision, that anything is possible.

Additional Stories

Original Post – March 10, 2010
Updated: September 13, 2022

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