By Henry M. Holden
The township of Randolph has over 300 years of history. The rich soil left behind by the receding glaciers provide Randolph with a viable farming and dairy industry and the head waters of four of New Jersey’s rivers served to power the early iron mining and today’s current industries.
The Historical Society of Old Randolph (HSOR) documents this rich heritage which was born through the efforts of six volunteers back on June 14, 1979. They were Bob Geelan, Sara Miller, John Lawler, Pamella Collict, Lee Whilden and Richard Erwin. Jon Huston later drew up the certificate of occupancy.
“Richard Irwin was one of the prime movers in the early days of forming, the HSOR” said Gail Hari, author of the book Randolph (Acadia Publishing), and board member president who also has helped with genealogy and other research for the past 10 years.
“Bob Geelan was our first historian going back to 1971,” said Hari. “Back in 1988 the museum was a two-family bungalow in Brundage Park, one of the leftover bungalows from the 1950s and 1960s when Randolph was a big vacation destination for the people of Brooklyn, N.Y. during the township’s resort era that began around 1905 and lasted through the 1960s.
“Since then we outgrew that building with its hundreds of artifacts and moved to the current museum building.”
In late summer of 2005, the museum completed its move to the Brundage House, a circa 1867 building.
The Randolph Museum, located at 630 Millbrook Avenue, is alongside the entrance to Freedom Park. Along with the Randolph Township Landmarks Committee, the HSOR oversees the Randolph Museum. Artifacts from life in and around Randolph are exhibited in displays that include an old-fashioned schoolroom, home life, local industry, farming, and the Mt. Freedom resort industry. Visitors can gain insight into the industries that brought the area from colonial times to the present.
The museum’s new location was made possible when the 2004 Town Council granted permission for the Randolph Museum to occupy the entire ground floor of the Brundage House.
“Right now, the building the museum occupies belongs to the township,” said Hari.” It has been designated a municipal landmark, and we’re hoping someday it will become a national landmark.
In his will, the late Charles Brundage bequeathed all his land holdings to the township if the land remained open spaces and untouched by building development. Today, all that land comprises part of Freedom Park.
“We have so much history to share, but it’s awfully hard to get volunteers these days,” said Hari. “We didn’t have a big celebration for the 40th anniversary. We do get some volunteers from the high school but that’s primarily because they get credit in their history courses for their work here. We are not alone, these days as many organizations are looking for ways to help defray their costs.
We have tried different things to bring people in sometimes they work sometimes they don’t.
“Volunteers are the lifeblood of the HSOR,” said Hari. “Without volunteers, it would not be possible to offer the programs and care of the Randolph Museum exhibits to the public, especially for the younger citizens of Randolph.”
“We are always looking for volunteers so if you have a little free time or a lot, you’re always welcome and can contribute to the museum’s ongoing success. We’d love to have you.”
Kahlil Gibran said it best. “You give but little when you give of your possessions. It is when you give of yourself that you truly give.”
The Randolph Museum is open Sundays from 1:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m. from April through late October. There is no admission charge. Group tours (schools, scouting, private tours, etc. should call. 973-989-7095.
Caption: The Randolph Museum documents almost 300 years of the settling and growth of Randolph. (Credit Henry M. Holden)