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Retrospective: Meryl Streep Was From Basking Ridge BEFORE Bernardsville

As with all Mr. Local History retrospectives, we often update the post when we learn stories and are sent photos from our internet community. We will continue to grow this piece as information becomes available. If you have a comment or photo, feel free to post at the bottom of this page or drop us a note.

Mr. Local History Project
Meryl Streep – Inducted to the New Jersey Hall of Fame was born and raised in New Jersey. The Mr. Local History Project honors her time in Basking Ridge and Bernardsville.

This piece is released to the public in hopes that this piece will continue to update based on  the ongoing online dialogue that originated from a Facebook post and a Meryl Streep photo.

Facts Uncovered

Meryl Louise Streep (born Mary Louise Streep in 1949) is undeniably one of the most accomplished actresses in the film history. If you’re a fan, or from the Somerset Hills area, you probably know that she graduated from Bernards High School in Bernardsville in 1967. This announcement is to formally establish to the world media that Meryl Streep grew up in Basking Ridge. Yes – BASKING RIDGE.

Purchased in 1955 later sold on  August 13, 1962. Yes, she grew up in Basking Ridge.

A few things that have come to light is that Meryl Streep attended Cedar Hill Elementary School in Basking Ridge. Meryl discussed during a NPR interview, her first public performances at a Christmas Concert at Cedar Hill in December 1960. She sang ‘O Holy Night’ in French to the dismay of the audience AND her family.

Then on April 27, 1962 while attending Oak Street Junior High School Meryl participated in her first public acting debut in the play  “The Family Upstairs” as Louise Heller.

Verifiable Proof

If anyone has verifiable proof of the yellow areas (e.g. class photos etc.) please contact us.

Above: Mr. Local History Project presents what we know (and don’t know) about Meryl’s school career. If anyone can validate, please let us know.

#Digninthearchives is a Hit

History is a strange thing and is typically based on where you hear the story.

Every week there’s a contest on Facebook called “Diginthearchives” to honor “Throw Back Thursday (TBT). The contest see’s what people can tell you about a posted photo, the year it was taken, along with any stories they have about the image.  Recently, a post was uploaded of Meryl Streep when she was a young student in Basking Ridge (she’s probably 14 or so). Most locals got it immediately.  They not only identified the photo, but the stories started pouring in.

This is to formally put the world on notice that Meryl Streep grew up in Basking Ridge. Sure she graduated Bernards High School, but she spent more time in the Bernards Township School system at Cedar Hill Elementary School and the Oak Street Junior High school then she did in Bernardsville.

We want what’s rightly owed to us – a tagline that Meryl Streep grew up in Basking Ridge then moved in 1963 to Bernardsville. Basking Ridge is rightly entitled to a piece of the bragging rights to Meryl’s legacy.

Meryl – if you’re out there, we hope you’d comment and let all these people know the truth!

Facebook Fun

Here’s how history research turns fun. After all it’s called “Social Media” for a reason!

Great Quotes:

Eileen Wall Mundorff In 7th grade at Oak Street Jr High, we had a substitute teacher one day in American History class. Meryl leaned over to me and said, “Let’s talk in funny accents and say we’re not from here and we don’t know American History.” Meryl used a French accent and I tried sounding German or Slavic. Mrs. Helmke sent us to the principal’s office. We were sent to detention for a few days, had to handwrite pages out of the dictionary. My claim to fame: “I’ve acted on stage with Meryl Streep.”

Lawrence Peach And Harry Streep III, better known as “Thirty”. My Mother used to play bridge with Meryl’s Mum and tells the story that once when she arrived at the house (which was, of course, in Basking Ridge and NOT Bernardsville at the time) Merrl was up in a tree and her family couldn’t get her to climb down! She was a bit of a tomboy. 🙂

Marion M Raiser I have a scar on my left eyelid from Dana in 2nd grade. Big sister Meryl in the picture…

Thomas King Dana Streep’s sister….

Lawrence Peach And I have no idea what the Bavarian outfits were all about. Chris Sullivan (the tall lad with the green cap, I think) has IDed most of these players on another thread. The only one I recognize besides Meryl is my Bro, Greg (to Chris’ right). Most of these kids later would be in the Ridge High class of ’67.

Eileen Wall Mundorff They lived on Oak Ridge Road across from our classmate, Ed Lincoln.

Connie Ash Lawrence Peach My mother played bridge with Mary Streep too and my mother remembers her talking about how her daughter wanted to be an actress but she would always end with “well I don’t know….” Well, now we do!!!

Susan Castrilli, a friend of Streep’s from Bernards High School in Bernardsville, N.J. “Funny story, she went out with J. Geils from the J. Geils Band,” said Castrilli. “He was a senior at Bernards High School when we were freshmen. And it wasn’t a serious dating relationship, but she hung around with him, and he — seniors were allowed to drive to school. And he drove her. … So you know, and it was kind of like a — senior dating a freshman, whoa. It was almost scandalous, you know? … I honestly think she could have her pick of whoever she really wanted to have a relationship with.”

Barbara May Could be. The story my mother told was that Norris Birnbaum (Ridge High School) would never give her a good role in the plays so they moved to Bernardsville where she starred in the plays and musicals.

Jim Felter Meryl was at Dartmouth as an exchange student in the fall of 1970. She also attended Fellowship at Basking Ridge Presbyterian church.

Gina Kalvin Meryl went to Cedar Hill School in Basking Ridge for 4th & 5th grade. Went to Oak Street School for 6th through 8th which is also in Basking Ridge. Moved to Bernardsville for all four years of high school at Bernards High.

Eileen Wall Mundorff Gina, I disagree on 6th grade. I remember being at Cedar Hill for 6th with Mr. Brostoski.

Jane Cullinan Meryl sang “Oh Holy Night” (under the direction of the memorable Paul Grossman) @ Oak Street Jr. High, not Cedar Hill. Grade 7 was there then.

Further Evidence

Harry W. Streep was born Oct. 3, 1910, in Newark, N.J. He grew up in Newark and Madison, N.J., and later lived in Basking Ridge and Bernardsville. He graduated from Madison High School in 1926 and later attended Brown University and Rutgers University.

Harry W. and Mary W. Streep burial site at the Somerset Hills Memorial Park in Basking Ridge.

He is survived by two sons, Dana David Streep of New Canaan and Harry Streep III of South Nyack, N.Y.; a daughter, Mary L. Gummer, popularly known as Meryl Streep, of Salisbury; and 10 grandchildren. His wife, Mary W. Streep, died before him. Private graveside services were held in Basking Ridge, N.J.

Photo Slideshow

The early years of Meryl Streep in Basking Ridge and Bernardsville. Click any image for a slideshow with descriptions:

Special Thanks

A very special thanks goes out to the people who follow the Facebook game #diginthearchives every week. But a note to you all in the “You Know You’re from Basking Ridge Group” – the original post that’s posted on the Historical Society’s is where we’d love to have you post your comments…..this way it stays as a historic record. Your group is great, but only the YKYFBR group sees. We’d love to share with the world your wisdom! And a special extra thanks to Doug Sloss, who put me on this journey when he told me his mother used to babysit Meryl in “Basking Ridge”. Thanks Doug!

Additional Information

Jay Geils – Bernards High School class of 1964.
  • Did you know Meryl Streep dated Jay Geils, founder of the J. Geils band in high school? All true. Read More

The Bernardsville house is FOR SALE again!

Yes it’s true. The Bernardsville News reported in July 2021 that the house Meryl Streep grew up on 21 Old Fort Road, Bernardsville is for sale.

The house was built by Harry and Mary Streep Jr, The Streeps moved from nearby Basking Ridge, eth and Dennis McConnell say they are planning to sell their four-bedroom home at 21 Old Fort Road after 32 years.
Zillow estimate 2021 – We’ll see what it lists for……coming soon!

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