Four Centuries Weekend’ at Nitschke House – Oct. 16-17, 2021

(above) The historic Oswald J. Nitschke House (c. 1880) at 49 South 21 Street, Kenilworth, N.J.

Four Centuries Weekend’ at Nitschke House

Visitors to Kenilworth’s historic Oswald J. Nitschke House (c. 1880), at 49 South 21 Street, on October 16 and October 17 will experience life during 1917-1921 through an enlightening and entertaining “living history” program based on the theme “Persevering Through Times of Triumph and Tribulation.” 

The Oct. 16-17 weekend activities at the Nitschke House will be offered to the general public from 12 to 5 p.m., during the County’s annual historic sites tour, “Four Centuries in a Weekend.” The Nitschke House is equipped with an elevator and is fully accessible. Admission is free.

In accordance with COVID-19 protocol, small groups at a time will be welcomed into the building after undergoing routine temperature checks, safe social distancing practices will be observed and masks will be required. For further information, call 908-709-0434.

The guided tour will highlight World I War, the Women’s Land Army of America and 19th-century farming equipment from the local Frost farm (in the “teaching gardens”), “a day in the life of a woman” (culinary and homemaking “living history” presentation in the kitchen); Prohibition (in the dining room); the art of the Crazy Quilt (in the parlor); and Women’s Suffrage (in the exhibition center). A recently installed two-room exhibition – “100 Years and More of Votes for Women” – comprises enlightening displays of historic photos, posters, artifacts and other materials that collectively tell the story of women’s decades-long struggle to achieve suffrage (the right to vote). Their efforts culminated with the August 26, 1920 adoption of the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

The featured exhibition has been made possible by a grant from the Investors Foundation of Investors Bank. Funding for other aspects of the October 16-17 weekend program at the Nitschke House is being provided, in part, by the Kenilworth Municipal Alliance Against Alcohol and Drug Abuse/GCADA.  Additionally, a New Jersey Historical Commission COVID-19 grant awarded to the Kenilworth Historical Society provided for the comprehensive cleaning and disinfecting of the Nitschke House and other measures that have allowed the building to reopen safely this fall.  The grant also funded the acquisition of equipment to enhance the Kenilworth Historical Society’s virtual programming capabilities at the site.

UC Across the Centuries History Trading Cards for David Brearley (1745-1790), Hannah Sayre Caldwell (1737-1780) and Tin Kettle Hill (1780-1906), along with Nitschke House postcards, will be available at the Nitschke House during “Four Centuries in a Weekend.”

Visitors to the Nitschke House also will be able to view the site’s “Kenilworth Heritage Walkway” featuring numerous engraved commemorative pavers that have been donated by local residents and businesses. The walkway is part of a paved path that makes the site’s “teaching gardens” accessible to everyone, including those with physical challenges/disabilities. The path, together with a pergola and fencing, are part of a major garden construction project made possible through funding generously provided by the Merck Foundation. The project significantly supports and enhances the site’s multicultural garden-to-table foodways program, which shows the importance of home food gardens in the lifeways of the Nitschkes and other late 19th-century immigrants and which additionally demonstrates the continued benefit of gardening in promoting good health, an appreciation of nature and a sense of environmental stewardship. 

The Nitschke House, home of former Kenilworth Mayor Oswald J. Nitschke (1867-1934), features five historic rooms, which are authentically furnished in late 19th-/early 20th-century style and interpreted primarily in the 1905-1934 period (the time of Kenilworth’s first wave of suburban development when Oswald Nitschke made his greatest contributions to its growth), an exhibition center, a cultural arts center and “teaching gardens.”

The Kenilworth Historical Society saved the Nitschke House by moving it in 2003, following Dr. Jerome Forman’s donation of the building to the Society, to its present location (land acquired with the help of the Kenilworth Veterans Center and a New Jersey DEP Green Acres grant). 

The Society’s project to restore and transform the Nitschke House into Kenilworth’s first “living history” museum and cultural arts center has been funded, in large part, by historic preservation/rehabilitation grants awarded by the New Jersey Historic Trust, New Jersey Cultural Trust, Preserve UC Grant Program, UC Community Development Block Grant program, E.J. Grassmann Trust, The Hyde and Watson Foundation, 1772 Foundation, Schering-Plough Corporation, the Merck Foundation, and numerous individual, corporate and institutional donors and grant makers. Connolly & Hickey Historical Architects (Cranford) designed the elevator addition, as well as the plans for the building’s exterior and interior restoration, and Wagner Construction (Kenilworth) carried out the extensive interior restoration.

The Nitschke House project was recognized by the State of New Jersey with a 2008 New Jersey Historic Preservation Award and was cited as one of six “success stories” statewide in the 2011-2016 New Jersey Historic Preservation Plan, “Preserving New Jersey’s Heritage: A Statewide Plan.”   

The Kenilworth Historical Society is an independent, volunteer-based, non-profit, tax-exempt, 501(c)(3) organization dedicated to the research, preservation and interpretation of the historic 

Oswald J. Nitschke House, local history and culture. Funding for the Nitschke House preservation project and all other programs that the Kenilworth Historical Society provides to the schools and general public is entirely dependent on donations, fundraising activities and competitive matching grants that the organization applies for and is considered for based on merit.