Best of Friends

Friends of Wallisch Homestead

When Louis Wallisch, Jr. passed away in 2001, West Milford Township and its Board of Education took possession of a ninety-nine-acre parcel along with an ancient farmhouse and various other structures that once served agricultural purposes. Although they both lived their professional lives as lawyers in the city of Passaic, Louis and his brother, John, had come to the farm — affectionately known as “Camp Wallisch” — on family vacations as children. The brothers later moved to the farmstead permanently, and having become active in West Milford’s civic affairs, decided to bequeath their property for the benefit the town’s recreational and educational agenda.

Philanthropic as the brothers’ intentions may have been, the old farm was a massive money pit that required resources difficult to commit within the limits of a municipal budget. Concern for the deteriorating buildings culminated in 2012 when Preservation New Jersey included the Homestead on its Ten Most Endangered Historic Places list.

The Wallisch Homestead, more formally known as Tichenor-Gregory-Goodell-Wallisch Homestead, is one of the last remaining properties that reflects Northern New Jersey’s agricultural heritage and West Milford’s past. In fact, the original Tichenor house predates both West Milford and Passaic County; one wing of the Dutch Colonial Revival house dates before 1820. Subsequent owners added and refined buildings at the farm, including a Dutch Colonial Revival stone barn and Arts & Crafts-style creamery from 1912, and two wood post-and-beam barns that could date to the 1860s. After Louis Wallisch, Sr. bought the property in 1923 for his family hideaway, he sold off lots for summer cottages while keeping dairy cows and raising hay on the remaining acreage.

Kerry O’Brien, a retired business executive and an avid local historian, founded The Friends of Wallisch Homestead (FOWH) in 2013 to act as steward for raising funds to restore the Homestead. “I’ve lived in West Milford for twenty years, regularly driving past the Homestead and wondering about it,” he explains. “When I learned it was owned by the Township but endangered because of lack of funds and community awareness, I got involved. I presented to the Township Council about starting a Friends group and, with their approval, began spreading the word.” Preservation efforts began when a local contractor worked with local realtors and construction crews to donate funds and services to replace the roof of the main house and repair damage to the creamery’s roof. Since then, thanks to grants from Passaic County and West Milford Township Open Space funds, fundraising events, and donations from the business community, FOWH has repaired major structural damage that threatened all of the of the main buildings in one form or another: roofs and gutters, foundations and footings, windows, electrical wiring, paint, and trim. Even the spectacular windmill has been restored to working condition and now provides water to support a new community garden on the property. The farm also boasts a three-acre environmental walking trail, bordered by Belcher’s Creek which flows into Greenwood Lake, and framed by a scenic vista of Bearfort Mountain rising in the background.

The homestead is located at 65 Lincoln Ave, West Milford. Check the website for more information.

Upcoming Events

As health restrictions loosen, FOWH will resume a lively schedule of activities intended to increase awareness of the Wallisch Homestead’s historic and cultural value and to raise funds for the assurance of its future.

  • August 13-August 15 • BARN SALE OF DONATED GOODS.
  • September 18-September 19 • WALLISCH HOMESTEAD MUSIC FESTIVAL.
  • September 23-September 26 • LIBRARY BOOK SALE.
  • October 2-October 3 • CORN HOLE TOURNAMENT.

Nearby accommodations and attractions

  • Wilbur's Country Store
  • Wilbur's is the perfect destination on a drive through the New Jersey countryside. British foods and candy, Yankee candles, wind chimes, pet-themed gifts, preserves, much more. Charming location in barn complex between Newton and Blairstown.

    735 Route 94, Newton 07860, 908/362-8833

  • Harmony Ridge Campground
  • Outstanding family facilities near Culver Lake and Stokes Forest include over 200 sites on 160 acres, cabins, trailers, tent sites, camp store, laundry, hot showers and full range of on-site activities.

    23 Risdon Drive, Branchville 07826, 973/948-4941

  • The Great Divide Campground
  • Private, family friendly campground with amenities for tents, RVs and seasonal guests. Fully furnished cabin rentals available. Open from early May to mid October. Heated pool, fishing & boating lake, playground, planned events and activities.

    68 Phillips Road, Newton 07860, 973/383-4026

  • Pochuck Valley Farms Market and Deli
  • August 20 - October 31: Pick your own apples, pears, plums, pumpkins (8am-4pm). Enjoy pies, donuts and breads from our bakery and local honey. Our giftshop carries metal decor, local handmade crafts, wood-working, and candles. Book yourclass trips!

    962 Route 517, Glenwood 07418, 973/764-4732

  • Lake Hopatcong Historical Museum
  • Thousands of photos and artifacts document the lake's long and illustrious history. Open every Sunday through June, 12-4pm, October thru May. Free admission, parking.

    323 Lakeside Blvd., Hopatcong State Park, Hopatcong 07843, 973/398-2616

More...

This story was first published: Spring, 2021