Above Image : William (Bill) Meyer, Sky Farm founder seen here tilling the field…..naked of course.
NOTE: As with all Mr. Local History retrospectives, we often update the post when we learn stories and are sent photos from our community. We will continue to grow this piece as information becomes available.
“I will go to the bank by the wood and become undisguised and naked; I am mad for it to be in contact with me.”Walt Whitman, Song of Myself
In 1932, the American League for Physical Culture (ALPC), under the guidance of Kurt Barthel, set up a little-known community in the Liberty Corner section of Basking Ridge. A “summer camp” for families, local residents and those from nearby states spent their summers at ALPC with the mothers and children residing there full-time, and the husbands arriving by train from New York City on weekends.
Members set up tents on platforms, which later became cottages. The original cottages had NO running water, NO electricity, and the residents—for the most part—chose to wear NO clothing!
Yes, The American League for Physical Culture—now known as Sky Farm—is what’s commonly referred to as a “nudist park,” or a “clothing-optional club.” Sky Farm residents prefer to be called “nudists” or “naturists.” “We’re just like everyone else,” says J, the Sky Farm Historian. “However, we feel that nudism is healthier, both mentally and physically.”
In the 1930s, activities for physical fitness were encouraged, with mandatory morning exercise. “If you missed the morning exercise, and someone saw you later in the day, you’d be greeted with a chastising ‘Good Morning!’” commented J. People were reminded to have good posture and to keep fit.
Now in its 88th year, Sky Farm is the oldest clothing-optional park in the United States, still operating in its original location. Situated on approximately 35 acres, Sky Farm accommodations include 57 cabins or cottages, additional tent platforms for camping, a couple of other camping sites, and a lodge for guests.
Some residents own their own cottages. The cottages do not have bathrooms, but there are three bathhouses situated throughout the property. There is a year-round caretaker who lives on the grounds.
The Graduate Author Worked at Sky Farm
One former Sky Farm caretaker was Charles Webb, author of The Graduate, a novel which was made into the well-known movie of the same name, starring Dustin Hoffman and Katherine Ross). Tuesdays are specified for visits from vendors and repair persons: members—knowing that—can choose to adjust their attire on those days.
After a probation period of at least one year, members become part of the co-op, with each member owning a portion of the property. Members are expected to help with the overall maintenance of the facilities, whether it is digging a post hole or helping the social committee. Sky Farm members take part in a variety of activities including communal dinners, dances, gardening, sports and other outdoor events, and have even hosted a “Nude Olympics.” As you may recall, the original Olympics were performed in the nude.
Members express a feeling of freedom and release at Sky Farm: all “baggage”—including clothing—is left behind as they enter the gates. That sense of freedom is especially important to members who feel that wearing clothing can turn people into something they’re not; “Everyone at Sky Farm—plumber, lawyer, stay-at-home parent—is on the same plane.” J adds, “Without clothes to hide behind, people can stop playing games and be themselves.”
One area to stress, commented several Sky Farm members, is that Sky Farm—and other similar naturist clubs—are NOT “sex clubs.” The area and activities are very family-oriented. Some of the adults, still members of Sky Farm, stayed there with their families when they were children and have very fond memories. According to May Frank in Nudism Comes to America (Frances & Mason Merrill, 1932), “The prurient won’t get a kick out of these unself-conscious naked ones playing handball, swimming, taking exercises, for pornography depends on suggestiveness.”
Sky Farm is open by appointment for visitors who are considering membership. Members can stay at the lodge and experience the clothing-optional lifestyle, relaxing in the spa or heated pool by day and star gazing at night.
Being a Nudist Amongst the COVID-19 Pandemic
Sky Farm has been affected just like any other organization in the world. Many would say even more so. Our discussions with members recognized that the Bernards Township Board of Health plays an important part making sure Sky Farms lives up to the healthy standards of all other businesses in the township including water quality, pool maintenance, cooking precautions to name just a few.
We leave you with a piece of research we found while doing this piece about Skyfarm and hearing about Nudestock. This interview we found is Foreigner playing at Nudestock in 1995 (Kansas also played). They weren’t really told about the audience until they came on. Lou Gramm, an American rock singer-songwriter, best known for being the original lead singer of the rock band Foreigner is interviewed throughout. Turtle Lake Resort, Union City, MI, USA on August 11, 1995. Go figure. History nonetheless.
We know there are stories out there. Are you willing to share yours?