Bernardsville New Jersey

The History of Bernardsville

A borough with roots in the Revolutionary War era, Bernardsville has managed to maintain its smalltown charm in the face of modern-day development pressures.

Bernardsville was originally a section of Bernards Township known as Vealtown. In 1840, Vealtown became Bernardsville, named after Sir Francis Bernard, Colonial governor of New Jersey from 1758 to 1760. Nestled in the northern most part of Somerset County, just 12 miles south of Morristown, New Jersey, this rustic community sits in some of the last vestiges of the Great Eastern Forest. 

After the Civil War, many wealthy and prominent New Yorkers moved into the area, first as summer visitors, then as permanent residents of the Bernardsville Mountain.

The railroad line was built through Bernardsville in 1872 and played an important role in the borough’s development. Bernardsville did not become a separate borough until 1924, when it split from Bernards Township.

Bernardsville has a land area of 12.85 square miles and 7,345 residents. The town is governed by a mayor and six-member Borough Council.

Borough Hall, a circa 1800 building, formerly was known as Bunn’s Mill. It was operated as a grist mill, sawmill, cider mill and distillery in the mid 1800s.

Life in Bernardsville 

Bernardsville was originally a section of Bernards Township known as Vealtown. In 1840, Vealtown became Bernardsville, named after Sir Francis Bernard, Colonial governor of New Jersey from 1758 to 1760. Located in the northernmost part of Somerset County, just 12 miles (19 km) south of Morristown, the borough includes some of the last vestiges of the Great Eastern Forest.

During the Revolutionary War, General Charles Lee rested his troops in Vealtown around the night of December 12 to 13, 1776. General Lee and some of his guard spent the night about 3 miles (5 km) southeast at White's Inn on the southeast side of Basking Ridge, near the manor house of Continental Army general William Alexander, Lord Stirling. On the morning of December 13, General Lee was captured by the British and removed to New York.

After the Civil War, many wealthy and prominent New Yorkers moved into the area, first as summer visitors, then as permanent residents of the Bernardsville Mountain.

The Gladstone Branch railroad line was built through Bernardsville in 1872 and played an important role in the borough's development. Bernardsville did not become an independent municipality until 1924, when it split from Bernards Township

The New Jersey State Review Board for Historic Sites recommended the creation of the Olcott Avenue historic district on February 10, 2009. While the Olcott Avenue School is but one historic structure within Bernardsville's first historic district area, the area's appeal and historic significance is part of the story of the rise of the middle class in Bernardsville and how this particular location impacted the entire region, from the downtown, Little Italy, and the Mountain Colony areas.

From then to now...

In 1750 a classical school, designed to prepare young men for college, was established in Basking Ridge by Dr. Samuel Kennedy, fourth pastor of the Presbyterian Church, and later run by his successor, Dr. Robert Finley.  The school, known as the Basking Ridge Classical School for almost 50 years, was conducted in the ministers' homes.  Through contributions and partly at Dr. Finley's expense, the Brick Academy was built in 1809.  Pupils came from many other states, as well as New Jersey; residents provided lodgings.  The Academy was known as having contributed more men "to the bench, the bar and the pulpit".  Students entered their junior year at the College of New Jersey (Princeton University).  Among the Academy students were Samuel Southard, governor of New Jersey, U.S. Senate president and acting vice-president under President Tyler; William Lewis Dayton, vice-presidential candidate with John C. Fremont in 1856, and President Lincoln's Minister to France during the Civil War; Robert Field Stockton, hero of the Mexican War; Theodore Frelinghuysen, U.S. Senator, vice-presidential candidate with Henry Clay in 1844 and  president of Rutgers College.

There are twelve Houses of Worship of nine denominations.  The Township has two historic districts:  Franklin Corners and Liberty Corner.  There are eight listings on the State and National Registers:  The Brick Academy, Basking Ridge Presbyterian Church, Van Dorn Mill, Coffee House Corners (Turner Homestead), Chimney Ash Farm (Alward Homestead), Lord Stirling Estate out-buildings, and the two historic districts.

Two transportation-related events changed Bernards Township.  In 1872 the railroad completed, opening the area to those who wished to live in the country and work in the metropolitan environment.  Almost 100 years later, construction of Route 287 and later Route 78, two Interstate Highways, made commuting much easier for those seeking to live in residential climate.

Liberty Corner, settled since 1722, still maintains its gentle rural atmosphere.  In the later part of the 19th Century it was famous for its summer resorts.

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Office: (908) 580-5000

Office Address: 665 Martinsville Rd, Basking Ridge, NJ 07920

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