Commissioners Honor Ayres/Knuth Farm Foundation's 25th Anniversary

Published on May 10, 2024

More Than $2 Million in Morris County Preservation Funds Supporting the Historic Site Since 1996

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Morris County Commissioner Deputy Director Stephen Shaw presented a resolution of honor on behalf of the Board of County Commissioners to the Ayres/Knuth Farm Foundation during the organization's 25th-anniversary celebration this week.

The resolution commended the foundation's founding members—Sue Schmidt, Howard Smolin and Hank Muller—for their ongoing efforts to support the historic Ayres/Knuth Farm in Denville.

"The successful preservation of the Ayres/Knuth Farm Complex highlights the importance of collective efforts and partnerships at all levels," said Deputy Director Shaw. "Denville Township's initial purchase of the 53-acre parcel in 1996 for $1.7 million was the first acquisition funded through the Denville Township Open Space Trust Fund, with Morris County contributing $725,000 in Open Space trust fund grants."

"I say 'County of Morris,' but it's really the people of Morris—the taxpayers—who overwhelmingly support these programs. We call it a 'trust fund' because it's entrusted to the Board of Commissioners and the volunteers who help guide us in allocating those funds," he continued.

Dating back to around 1803, the Ayres/Knuth Farm is on the State of New Jersey and National Historic Register, recognized for its collection of ten original buildings and its status as one of New Jersey's most complete and continuously working examples of 19th-century agriculture.

Since Denville Township's purchase of 53 acres of the property in 1996 -- which was one of the first ever facilitated through the Morris County Open Space Trust Fund and Denville Open Space Trust Fund -- Morris County has committed more than $2 million from its Open Space and Historic Preservation Trust Fund grants. These funds have helped to expand the property and restore several historic buildings, including the c. 1885 Ayres Farm House, the Tenant House and the c. 1920 Ayres Farm Garage, on which restoration is currently underway.

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The Ayres-Knuth Farm has become a notable example of how preserved land can serve multiple purposes. It offers active recreational facilities with soccer and practice fields, passive recreation areas with woods and wetlands, a historic farm complex, and an industrial archaeological site, while also maintaining active farming operations.

Beyond its preservation and restoration efforts, the Ayres/Knuth Farm Foundation engages the community through annual events like a Christmas Tree Sale and Foundation Fall Farm Festivals. It also supports educational activities such as archaeological workshops and Scout-led projects. These efforts have contributed significantly to maintaining the historic site and ensuring its continued success.



Photo 1: Morris County Commissioner Deputy Director Stephen Shaw, Sue Schmidt and Hank Muller, founding members of the Ayres/Knuth Farm Foundation.

Photo 2: The Ayres Farm Tenant House is a worker's cottage that was built for immigrants in the late 19th Century. Morris County Historic Preservation grants totaling $311,224 were approved in 2018-2019 to support exterior restorations of the property.

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