Arts & Entertainment

Book 'Oak Tree Project' by Bernards Students to Debut at June 8 Reception

Credits: Courtesy of Brooks Betz
The Basking Ridge oak tree during its last few weeks standing, in April 2017. Credits: By Patrick Boylan

BERNARDS TWP., NJ - The inaugural release of the book of "The Historic Basking Ridge Oak Tree Project," a book compiled from tributes to the oak tree by township students, will be available on Thursday, June 8, starting at 7 p.m. at the Tree Views Essay Reception at the historic Brick Academy, 18 W. Oak Street, Basking Ridge. The academy is headquarters to The Historical Society of the Somerset Hills. 

"If you've been touched by the story of the Basking Ridge historic oak tree's 600-year history, you have to see this new book," said Brooks Betz, trustee for THSSH. "The Historic Basking Ridge Oak Tree Project" is a compilation of poems, essays, and artwork, collected from kindergarten children through Ridge High School students, and written about the Basking Ridge historic oak that in late April ended its existence as the oldest white oak tree in America. 

The tree, located on the grounds of the Basking Ridge Presbyterian Church on Oak Street, had been declared dead late last summer after extensive examinations and attempts to save it.

The advanced copy keepsake book is a fundraiser that not only includes some of the most touching writings and images, but it also gives back to the community and will also set up a scholarship, Betz said.

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Up to $10 from each book sale will be donated to THSSH programs. THSSH and T3 Consortium have agreed to donate a portion of the proceeds to a history scholarship fund, and to donate a Historical Society Student Membership for each book purchased.

The Basking Ridge Historic Oak Tree Project sought students from kindergarten through high school to participate in The Historical Society of Somerset Hills “Tree Views” writing contest, as well as the William Annin Tree Shirt Contest & Fundraiser.

The essay premise was that students would write as if they were the historic oak and describe events they felt notable. Every school in Bernards Township participated including Cedar Hill School, Liberty Corner School, Mount Prospect School, Oak Street School, William Annin Middle School and Ridge High School, as well as the St. James Catholic School and Assumption School.

Drawings from the contest raised over $5,440 through the sale of tee shirts. The Historical Society presented a $500 scholarship to the High School essay winner.

Initially, The Basking Ridge Historic Oak Tree Project commemorative book will be available exclusively at THSSH starting next Thursday. The price of the book is $29.99, which includes a donation to THSSH’s Education Committee’s Scholarship Fund.

THSSH then hopes to have available at the Basking Ridge Presbyterian Church (and Parade), and through select Bernards Township School teachers.

T3 Consortium and the historical society offering is offering a THSSH Student Membership to anyone purchasing this special advance copy. The objective is to build on a revived THSSH Young Historians program.

To learn more, visit The Historical Society of the Somerset Hills site here.

Additional Books

This is the second book partnership between THSSH and T3 Consortium. The other is a 34-page coloring book, the Somerset Hills History Coloring Book. 

The Somerset Hills History Coloring Book is available at The Historical Society of Somerset Hills (THSSH), based at the Brick Academy in Basking Ridge. It is also available online at

For additional information, please contact THSSH by phone at (908) 221-1770 or via email:

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