Garretson Forge & Farm
4-02 River Road
Fair Lawn, New Jersey 07410
Fee: Free but donations are accepted
Garretson Forge & Farm is one of the oldest historic sites in Bergen County, New Jersey. Settled in 1719, this Dutch Colonial homestead was home to six generations of the Garretson family. Their homestead remains a rare surviving example of a simple farming life that was prevalent in the 1700’s and 1800’s. It now functions as a living museum and a working farm, preserving our Colonial past and agricultural heritage.
Located along an old Native American trail, about a mile north of Garretson Lane, is one of the original farms in Slooterdam, owned by the Dutch family of Peter Garretson. Today, more than 300 years later, the trail has come to be known as River Road, Garretson Lane is now called Broadway and Slooterdam has evolved into Fair Lawn, yet the original farmhouse and remaining grounds are still referred to as the Garretson Homestead.
In the 17th century, New Jersey was divided into the Provinces of East and West Jersey by its English proprietors, Lords Berkeley and Carteret. These lands were then sold to a group of Quakers headed by William Penn. By 1692, part of East Jersey, known as the Saddle River Tract, had been divided into large lots, one of which was sold to the Stillwell family.
The Garretson homestead stand on a portion of land that was acquired in 1708 by David Daniellse from the Stillwell family. A copy of the original propriety deed signed by King George of England and the Lenni Lenape Chief, Spotted Tail and granting the land to David Daniellse, is hanging in the homestead. The original property was bounded on the west by the Passaic River and on the east by the Saddle River. Peter Garretson purchased the property from Mr. Daniellse in 1719.
After Peter Garretson’s death, title to the land was passed from one generation to the next. From time to time parcels of the tract were sold. The present site consists of 1.84 acres along River Road.
The house is an example of Dutch Colonial architecture which is charismatic of Bergen, Passaic and Hudson Counties.
One and one-half stories high and built about 1719 of rubble and undressed stone, the current kitchen wing is considered by most to be the homestead. It features a large open-hearth fireplace typical of Flemish design of the late 1600’s. On a late nineteenth-century photograph of the house, remnants of a brick beehive oven can be seen on the outer wall.
In 1760, the larger section of the house was built using dressed stone. The sandstone blocks were held together with mortar made of river mud mixed with straw and hogs hair. It was under this section that fragments of clay pipes (c1720) were uncovered.
Extensive renovations were made to the house in 1902. The present gambrel roof replaced a steep gable roof; a front door was replaced with a window; an inner stairway to the basement replaced cellar hatches. A large center Victorian stairway to the second floor was also built and the open-hearth fireplaces were enclosed in the Victorian style. A large pillared porch was also added.
An early nineteenth century carriage house still stands on the property along with a large barn and several smaller outbuildings, the oldest of which is a small wooden structure built circa 1800 in the Dutch barn style.
The Garretson Family:
The history of the Garretson family in America began in 1660 with the emigration of Gerrit Gerritse, his wife, Annetje Hermansse and their son, Gerrit from Wageningen, Gelderland (Netherlands). They arrived in New Amsterdam and proceeded to the town of Bergen, where in 1668, Gerrit (Sr) bought from Philip Carteret, eight parcels of land. The family resided in what is now the Communipaw section of Jersey City, where Gerrit died in October of 1696. His wife died on September 7, 1696.
Some of Gerrit Gerritse’s children took the name Van Wagenen, while others retained that of Garretson, from the name of their father. The descendants of Gerrit Gerritse, going by the surname of Garretson, Van Wegenen and Van Wagoner are today numerous throughout Bergen and Hudson Counties.
Peter Garretson, grandson of the elder Gerrit Gerritse, purchased the Slooterdam Patent from David Daniellse in 1719. The house was built shortly afterwards. Six generations of the Garretson family resided on the farm until the death of Mary Garretson Brocker in 1950. Her widower, Feenix Brocker, remained at the homestead and continued farming until 1974.
Originally a homestead farm, subsistence and market crops were grown from the early 1700’s through the early 1970’s by the Garretson family.
Today, the gardens at Garretson continue an agricultural tradition. A variety of heirloom vegetables, all open-pollinated are grown in the kitchen garden using organic and sustainable practices. Produce in season is donated to a local emergency food pantry. An extensive herb garden contains over 75 types of medicinal and culinary herbs that were grown in the seventeen and eighteen hundreds.
Garretson’s Butterfly Garden provides host plants and nectar sources for many different kinds of butterflies. Since 2005, Garretson has been certified by Monarch Watch as a Monarch Waystation (monarch habitat).
The Children’s Garden at Garretson abounds in spring ephemeral wildflowers, bulbs and ferns. In the heat of summer its offers a welcome place to sit in the shade. Gardeners have been restoring native plants to this woodland area.
Many of the garden volunteers are Rutgers-trained Master Gardeners who have done their community service at Garretson and who give back to the community and Bergen County Master Gardener Program by training new gardeners at Garretson.
Garretson Forge and Farm Restoration Inc.:
The Garretson property was sold in 1974 to a private builder for residential value, community members became interested in acquiring the property for preservation. This led to the founding of the Garretson Forge and Farm Restoration Inc. in 1974 for the purpose of raising funds for the purchase. Through the efforts of the organization, the community at large and government agencies, the necessary funds were raised for the acquisition of the property.
GFFR Inc. continued to raise funds to maintain the site and to restore the kitchen to its eighteenth-century design. Money was also used to purchase artifacts and articles related to Garretson history.
In 1977, ownership of the property was accepted by the Freeholders of Bergen County. Now a county historical site, the Garretson homestead continues to be administered by the members of Garretson Forge and Farm Restoration Inc.
GFFR Inc. is a volunteer organization whose mission is to preserve and maintain the Garretson homestead, keeping it open to the public; to educate the greater community about local and state history; to foster environmentally sustainable agricultural practices and biodiversity.
Programs and Special Events:
Throughout the year, Garretson Forge and Farm offers.
Living history events:
*The Spring Festival celebrating colonial life and crafts in the 1700’s.
*The Fall Festival celebrating the harvest and the 1800’s farm.
*Dutch Christmas presenting a traditional Dutch celebration with the homestead decorated in Victorian style.
*Open House and garden tours
*Lectures on the environment and on local history.
*The Master Gardener Program
*Garden and craft workshops
*The annual Butterfly Festival for families.
Community Service Programs:
*Eagle Scout Projects
*Community Seed Bank
*Seasonal produce donations to local food banks.
For more information on events, please check out the website:
http://www.garretsonfarm.org or on Facebook: Garretson Farm
The Bergen County Division of Cultural & Historic Affairs received an operating support grant from the New Jersey Historical Commission, a division of the Department of State.
Disclaimer: This information is taken directly from the pamphlet from the Garretson Forge & Farm. For more information on the site, please call the above numbers or email them.