SOMERVILLE, NJ  - Borough Hall and the Somerville Fire Museum are two stops on this weekend's "Journey Through the Past," sponsored by the Somerset County Cultural and Heritage Commission, in conjunction with the sponsors of 26 historic sites throughout Somerset County.

The sites are open 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Saturday, and noon-4 p.m. Sunday. Admission is free at all sites.

This annual autumn weekend features tours led by costumed interpreters and actors portraying historical figures, special collections and exhibitions, and a variety of activities.

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The Somerville Fire Museum originally housed the West End Hose Company. The two-story brick structure was constructed in 1888, in the Romanesque Revival style, following a public outcry for fire protection services at the west end of town. The building has undergone very few alterations and includes the original colored glass window on the second floor, one-over-one sash windows and brick arch with a granite keystone engraved "West End Hose, 1888." Since 1970 the fire station has been the home of the Somerville Fire Museum. The museum houses the Amoskeag Steamer, Somerville's first piece of steam-operated equipment, firefighting memorabilia and a wealth of photographs. The building is operated by the Borough of Somerville.

 Constructed in 1888 in the Gothic Revival style, the Daniel Robert House was designed by architects Lambert and Bunnell of Bridgeport, Connecticut. It is a faithful replica of Andrew Jackson Davis's Harral House, also located in Bridgeport. The house is remarkably preserved and retains most of its original Gothic Revival detailing.  The Borough continues to use the building as its Borough Hall, while the auditorium addition is used as the Borough Library.

Among the many sites open this weekend throughout Somerset County:

Rich Wagner, colonial brewery historian and author of "Philadelphia Beer: The Heady History of Brewing in the Cradle of Liberty," will demonstrate beer-making during theperiod and discuss how beer played a central role in thesocial, economic and political lives of our region’s ancestors at the Jacobus Vanderveer House in Bedminster. (Oct. 8 and 9 during tour hours)

Enjoy old-time silent-movie shorts, complete with live organ music, at the Brook Theatre in downtown Bound Brook. (Saturday, Oct. 8, at 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. and Sunday, Oct. 9, at 1p.m.)

Witness authentic, traditional blacksmithing at the Old Millstone Forge in Millstone the entire weekend.

At the Gen. John Frelinghuysen House (Raritan Public Library), learn how soap was made during the period when the Frelinghuysens lived there, with quest presenter Hayley McHendry discussing the process of soap-making and how it has changed over the years. Samples of soap and some soap-making equipment will be on display. (Sunday, Oct. 9, from 1 to 2 p.m.)

Learn about 18th-century relationships such as “wooing,” wedding rites and traditions of the Irish and Dutch along with live fiddling and participatory dance at the Van Horne House, offered by the Heritage Trail Association all weekend long.

Enjoy live theatre and more live music, including a strolling troubadour singing songs of the American Revolution, at the Kennedy Martin Stelle Farmstead in Basking Ridge.

Artists are invited to take part in on-site plein air painting at several participating sites. Visit for locations and other information.

Children are invited to enjoy SNAG® Golf and a scavenger hunt in the U.S. Golf Association Museum in Bernards. The USGA also will host a hickory-putting demonstration in authentic costume and presentations on the history of thePope Mansion, now the USGA headquarters; for those interested in the science behind the game of golf, take a guided tour of the USGA equipment standards lab.

Learn about 19th-century firefighting wagons and apparatus, and the trials and tribulations of fighting fires decades ago, at the Relief Hose Co. No. 2 Engine House in Raritan and the Somerville Fire Museum.

You also can watch open-hearth cooking; crafts people demonstrating period decorative crafts; appreciate interesting architecture and; gain access to some sites not generally open to the public.

Drawing for Prizes: Adults visiting four or more participating historic sites during this weekend event will qualify for a free drawing to win one of several $25 prepaid gasoline gift cards. Visit for details.

Two special features at the Old Presbyterian Graveyard in Bound Brook:

·        Noted art historian and costumed stone-carver reenactor John Zielenski will share his expertise on historic gravestones, soul effigy motifs and gravestone carvers in 18th-century New Jersey. (Saturday, Oct. 8, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sunday, Oct. 9, from noon to 4 p.m.)

·        Writer, publisher and former teacher Natalie Zaman will share her knowledge of and demonstrate proper gravestone-rubbing technique. (Saturday, Oct. 8, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. and Sunday, Oct. 9, from noon to 3 p.m.)

What in the World is That?

Test your powers of observation and deduction by challenging yourself, friends and family to a detective mystery activity, “What inthe World is That?” You can download your own official detective task booklet from or access the mystery items for each site from your smartphone.   

This educational and fun detective investigation activity for kids andthe entire family will test your powers of deduction to solve 26 mysteries. “What in the World is That?” is intended to encourage a multi-generational outing for parents, children and grandparents. Share stories and experiences about “the old days” with your children and grandchildren as you enjoy traveling from one historic site to the next. Here’s how to play:

At each historic site, one unique item from the past will be featured, displayed and described. As a rookie detective enlisted to investigate, you are assigned to reveal the true identity and function of each mystery item.

Download and print an “Official Investigative Task Booklet” from the event website at or follow along on your tablet or smartphone as you visit each site.

Next to the name and town of each participating historic site you’ll find a small photo of a mystery item you are challenged to identify. After carefully examining the photo, write down in your booklet what you believe the item is.

Once you do that for all pictured items, take your booklet and go to as many sites as you can, searching the premises to locate the mystery item (look for the Sherlock Holmes silhouette sticker). When you find it, read the posted information to see if your powers of deduction were correct, and rate yourself as a weekend detective.

Here's a list of all 2016 Weekend Journey through the Past participating sites:

Boudinot Southard Ross House, Basking Ridge

Brick Academy, Basking Ridge

Brook Arts Center/Brook Theater, Bound Brook

Codington Farmstead, Warren Township

Frelinghuysen House/ Raritan Public Library, Raritan

Amy Garret House, Rocky Hill

Kennedy Martin Stelle Farmstead, Basking Ridge

Kirch-Ford- Terrell House, Warren Township

1860 School House/ Millstone Borough, Millstone

Mt. Bethel Mtg. House, Warren Township

Old Millstone Forge, Millstone

Old Presbyterian Graveyard, Bound Brook

The Presbyterian Church of Bound Book, Bound Brook

Relief Hose Co. No. 2 Engine House, Raritan

Daniel Robert House, Somerville Borough Hall, Somerville

Somerville Fire Museum, Somerville

South Branch School House, Branchburg

Abraham Staats House, So. Bound Brook

Andrew Ten Eyck House , Branchburg

Texier House Museum, Watchung

USGA Museum and Arnold Palmer Center For Golf History, Far Hills

Jacobus Vanderveer House, Bedminster

Van Horne House, Bridgewater

Van Veghten House, Bridgewater

Washington Rock, Watchung

Wyckoff Garretson House, Somerset/Franklin Township


For further information contact Somerset County Cultural & Heritage Commission Manager Pat McGarry at (908) 231-7110.