Apr 09, 2018

Bayonet Farms 

By Lori Draz

Bayonet Farms Holmdel Middletown NJ

Holmdel is a most curious place. On the one hand, it is a high-tech metropolis of innovation and futuristic vision. On the other hand, it is rural treasure, with long winding roads, farmlands and tons of history.

The history of Holmdel dates back to the pre-revolutionary war days when Baptist and Quaker settlers came to America to escape persecution. Following the Battle of Monmouth which occurred on Sunday, June 28, 1778, Sir Henry Clinton led the British soldiers right through Holmdel on their way to their ships at Sandy Hook. The residents fought the British soldiers who plundered the farms on their journey.

A section of Middletown (now Holmdel) was known as the Hornet’s Nest. Near today’s Longbridge Road and Cross Farms, armed Patriots would hide in the woods waiting for British soldiers. Stings from the Patriots muskets often meant death to the British soldiers. They said it was like getting stung by a hornet. Today, as history repeats itself, Holmdel High School athletic teams call themselves the Holmdel Hornets, as they sting their opponents along their way to victory.

Bayonet Farm is said to have gotten its name from a bayonet that was found standing up on the grounds. It was a working agricultural farm which slowly transformed into a country estate compound. The main Bayonet Farm residence was built in the early 19th century when James McGee purchased the farm. Part of the house dates back over 200 years, and land titles go back to the original patent of 1677.

In 1936, Laura Harding of Rumson bought the farm with approximately 60 acres of land. She had enjoyed a short career as an actress and formed a close friendship with Katherine Hepburn, who visited her often in Holmdel. Laura Harding devoted much of her time to social causes and worked with MCOSS and served on the Board of Riverview Hospital along with being a vigilant voice for the preservation of Holmdel’s rural landscape and was instrumental in Holmdel’s acquisition of Cross Farm.

In 1985, Bayonet Farm had grown to about 140 acres. The site includes a complex of historic buildings including the Harding House, Swanson House, Red Barn and Gray Barn. Laura Harding sold a part of Bayonet Farm under the State’s Green Acres program to the Holmdel Township for $1.6 million for the purposes of conserving open space, horticulture, public gardens, bird sanctuaries, arboretums, and nature and equestrian trails.

She retained life rights to the farm and lived there until her death in 1994. In addition, Laura Harding and her sister, Catherine Harding Tailer donated to the Holmdel Township another 90 acres of farmland across the road from Bayonet Farm with similar life rights.

Today the farm is operated by the township and the unique thing is that the property is available for rental for weddings, parties and events. Built in the 1930’s the Red Barn retains its original charm with modern conveniences and bathrooms. It can accommodate up to 100 people for and is great for weddings, reunions, parties, and concerts. The Gray Barn was built in the 1940’s.  For those couples who prefer a simpler scenic setting to an elaborate catering hall, Bayonet Farms is a true destination. The 240 acre publicly owned park within Holmdel Township is a symphony of natural beauty and provides a spectacular backdrop for your special event. Your guests will be enveloped in the peace and tranquility of this historic site and its renovated buildings, scenic trails, rolling lawns and acres of actively farmed lands are the perfect backdrop for lots of glorious photos. For more information on renting the facility, contact (732) 946-2820 ext. 1224 or email ddow@holmdeltownship-nj.com. P.S. Holmdel residents enjoy special discounts on rentals.

On Sunday, April 29, the park will host Holmdel’s 20th Earth Day Festival from 12 to 5 p.m. This a fun family affair and the admission is free. There are plenty of activities for children including the Doodle Dude, and What’s the Buzz with Bees? where the kids get to see a real beehive, plus nature crafts and the Farm Friends Petting Zoo (nominal fee for the petting zoo and feed).

New this year the Earth Day Festival welcomes the Birds of Prey presentation, and for the adults there are great live folk-rock bands all day, as well as guided tours of the gracious historic Harding House, a juried art exhibit, food and lots more.

Bayonet Farm is located at 41 Middletown Road and is the largest park in Holmdel Township Park. You can enjoy its breathtaking views as well as hiking, bird watching, picnicking, cross-country skiing or a simple day of sunshine. It also offers access to the Ramanessin Brook Conservation Area.