Who We Are

The History of the Ayres/Knuth Farm

The entire fifty-three acres of the Ayres/Knuth Farm were listed on the State and National Registers of Historic Places in 1998. The farm derives its architectural significance from the number and quality of the buildings which remain on the site. This farm complex, which has undergone only minor changes since the late 19th century, is one of the last surviving examples of the agrarian landscape of buildings and fields that in 1850 occupied over 84% of Morris County’s acreage.

The Ayres/Knuth historic site derives its name from two families who owned the propery for approximiately 90 years each. When David Garrigus’ daughter, Hannahm married Daniel Ayres in 1800 he gave 105 acres of his farm to the couple on which to build a home. Anna and Martin Knuth purchased the farm in 1906 moving thier family from a nearby farm. The area would not be called Denville until 1913.

The farm is believed to be the County’s sole surviving farm with a significant number of original outbuildings extant. Farmstead structures predating the Knuths include: a tenant house, office, barn/ice house, two chicken coops, a corn crib, two spring houses, a four-seater out house, smoke house, stone ramp to a banked barn lost in a fire in 1936 and carriage barn with blacksmith forge. The farmhouse, a prime example of rural vernacular housing, has portions dating from the 1700s through 1900s. The ruins of the Billy Ayres Distillery mentioned in Munsells’s History of Morris County remains in the industrial archeological site. Many noted names in Morris County history are associated with the site such as Hill, Budd, Stickle, Cooper, Crane, Jackson, Bellars, Morris, etc.

On October 27, 2011 the Ayres/Knuth Farm FOundation hosted the County of Morris Open Space Preservation Celebration marking 20,000 acres of lan preserved through the County’s Open Space, Farmland and Historic Preservation Trust Fund. It was selected because it had the four key components: history, farming, passive and active recreation. The Township of Denville purchased the property in 1996 with one of the largest County grants at the time, targeting those purposes. The Ayres/Knuth Farm Foundation, Inc., often called the “steward of the farm,” leases the historic farm complex, prehistoric encampments and the industrial archeological site portion. This nonprofit’s misison is to engage in activities which focus on the protection, preservation, restoration and enhancement of the historical, agricultural and environmental aspects of a multi-use open space facility. The active farming component supports the historic designation with 200 years of continuous farming.

Events on the Farmstead
– Tour the historic farmstead and see the latest preservation projects, special displays, farming related demonstrations and activities while listening to live period music
– Enjoy the pristine vista as a reminder of 200 years of active farming history
– Visit Union Hill Farms for fresh produce, pumpkin picking, and hayrides