Truly a locale that embraces its Early American roots, George Washington is believed to have traveled through Mendham with his Revolutionary War troops along the “Old Colonial Road” that passes directly through the present-day Schiff Nature Preserve. Mendham is situated in the southern part of Morris County a few miles from the county seat of Morristown and about an hour from New York City. Brookside, Ralston and Roxiticus are sections within this picturesque township, where winding country roads, pre-Revolutionary era homes and historic sites impart a decidedly New England feel.
Mendham Township and the smaller Mendham Borough are commonly referred to as Mendham. The township was founded in 1749 and measures about 18 square miles. The borough was created from a six square mile portion of the township in 1906.
There are many historic sites within Mendham’s boundaries listed on both the National and State Registers. With dwellings dating back to the mid-1700s, the Brookside section has over 100 cited examples and serves as the governmental center of Mendham. The Ralston historic district about a mile west of Mendham’s village features the Ralston Historical Association building at the intersection of Roxiticus Road and Route 24. Built by John Ralston in 1785, this one-room building was the center of the Ralston community, serving as a general store until1893, then as the local post office until1941. It operates as a museum on select days from June through October. The town’s business district includes architecture from the Federal, bungalow/craftsman and late Victorian eras, with some structures dating back to the early 1700s.
Mendham is a civic-minded community where old-fashioned celebrations are still noted on residents’ calendars. One of the most-anticipated events is the Fourth of July Parade and Festival in Brookside, a section of town that looks postcard-perfect, with its gazebo, park and skating pond. Other enduring traditions include an annual clam bake, pancake breakfasts sponsored by the local fire company, and a Labor Day weekend celebration and carnival sponsored by the Pastime Club. Every March the Rotary Club sponsors an Antique Show at West Morris Mendham High School. The Mendham Business Association promotes a Holly Walk during the holiday season, with merchants offering incentives to shoppers and a house tour organized by the Friends of the Mendham Library.
Mendham’s highly-rated public schools include two elementary schools for kindergarten through grade four. The Hilltop School is located in the borough at 12 Hilltop Road, and Mendham Township Elementary School’s address is 18 West Main Street in Brookside. Middle school students in grades five through eight go to either Mountain View Middle School at 100 Dean Road in the Borough or Mendham Township Middle School at 16 Washington Valley Road in Brookside.
High school students attend West Morris Mendham High School at 65 East Main Street in Mendham, where they can participate in one of the few International Baccalaureate programs in the state. Known for its academic excellence, the high school was ranked #4 in the state by New Jersey Monthly magazine.
Interstate highways accessible from Mendham include Routes 78, 80 and 287. Route 24 is part of Mendham’s historic Main Street, while Routes 202 and 206 are also nearby. Manhattan-bound commuters often use New Jersey Transit’s Midtown Direct train service to Penn Station in New York from the Morristown station.
Homes in nearly every East Coast genre are represented in Mendham, where wonderful examples of historic preservation and restoration are evident in Colonial, Greek Revival, Federal, Victorian and bungalow styles. These historic dwellings are joined by scores of new homes and luxury estates featuring state-of-the-art amenities.
Black Horse Tavern is a local landmark at One West Main Street. In 1740, early settler Ebenezer Byram renovated his old farm house into a prominent guest house. In the 260-plus years that have followed, the three buildings that make up this unique restaurant showcase the area's past. Many of the 18th century artifacts on display come from behind the walls of the original Blacksmith Shop.
Hilltop Presbyterian Church was founded in 1738, also by Ebenezer Byram. The church was first located in a log cabin at the crest of the Ralston section of Mendham Township. Byram and John Carey constructed the original church on its present site in 1745. In October of 1776, when the British were in possession of New York and Long Island, the Presbytery of New York met in Hilltop's sanctuary. During the winter of 1777, with Washington's Revolutionary Army encamped at Jockey Hollow, the church served as a smallpox hospital. 27 soldiers died there, and are buried in a common grave in the cemetery behind the church. Although the church has been re-built several times during its long history, it remains on its original site at 20 Hilltop Road.
Schiff Nature Preserve on Pleasant Valley Road offers 340-acres of river valley parkland within the township and borough. Highlights include eight miles of trails, breathtaking views and an abundance of natural habitats. Ecological education is an important part of the nature preserve's mission, so public educational programs for all ages are offered regularly.
Fun Fact: At one time a film studio used for making Boy Scout training films was located at Schiff Nature Preserve. This studio was a gift of the artist Norman Rockwell and the family of Thomas Watson, founder of IBM. Several of Norman Rockwell's paintings were on permanent display there, and he used what was then known as Schiff Boy Scout Reservation as inspiration for some of his paintings and numerous Boy Scout manual covers.
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