"The Mendhams" of Morris County describes the two prominent and wealthy communities of Mendham Borough and Mendham Township.
Commercial and residential properties are clustered in the 6-square-mile borough. Within the 17.8-square-mile township are large, sprawling residential properties, including the historical districts of Ralston and Brookside. Except for Sammy's restaurant on Route 24-an established, family-owned eatery that bares no sign, but is well known by locales-the township does not provide commercial zoning.
Mendham's exclusive address has much to do with its unique isolation from major highways. The township surrounds the borough on all three sides in the shape of a horseshoe. Bernardsville is the only town to border the borough. Abutting the township are Chester, Randolph, Morris Township, Peapack-Gladstone, Harding and Bernardsville.
While there are several back streets into The Mendhams, including Ironia Road and Tempe Wick Road, there is only one major access into The Mendhams: Route 24. Residents travel Route 24 east (West and East Main Street) to get to Morristown and I- 287. To the west of Route 24 are Chester and Route 206 north to I-80. Residents travel Route 206 south to I-287 and I-78. Train and bus service to Manhattan is available in Morristown, the county seat, or in neighboring Bernardsville.
The focus of The Mendhams is really in the borough, which will celebrate its 100th anniversary in 2006.
"Mendham Village has survived the plagues of aluminum siding, heedless road widening and frenzied development. As a result of the vision of borough officials and people realizing they are not only owners but also managers of valuable cultural resources, the best of our legacy remains," explains Charles E. Topping of the Mendham Borough Historical Society.
A drive along Route 24 reveals a village center filled with an eclectic mix of architectural styles that range from Colonial Revival to Victorian. Within these older buildings are many antique shops and boutiques, as well a travel agency and restaurants, such as the Black Horse Inn, a well-known eating establishment, and Mariques, a French restaurant. Because these buildings are carefully maintained, some by residents and some by businesses, the village of Mendham is thriving. For example, the Hoffman Building, once owned by the 1906-1913 councilman John Hoffman, still stands on 21 West Main St. Once used by the Mendham Bus Co. and then the Mendham Fire Department, today Weichert, Realtors occupies the building.
A modern shopping complex, the Mendham Village Shopping Center, offers a variety of goods and services and is found on the eastern end of Main Street, closer to Morristown. There is Kings for food shopping, Touched by an Angel hair salon, Mendham Bakery and Wisteria House, a card shop. There are small eateries such as a pizzeria, coffee shop and Chinese restaurant. Near the shopping plaza is a small business park for professional offices. For shopping on a grander scale, residents travel to nearby Bridgewater Commons, Rockaway Townsquare or The Mall at Short Hills.
"Mendham offers the convenience of local shopping and fine dining, yet we are only 35 miles from Manhattan and all it has to offer," explains Mayor Richard G. Kraft.
The children of The Mendhams attend their own elementary and middle school, but all attend the same high school.
In Mendham Borough, students in kindergarten through third grade attend the Hilltop School, with an extended day kindergarten program. The Mountain View School houses grades four to eight, where team teaching is emphasized.
In Mendham Township, students in kindergarten through fourth grade attend the Mendham Township Elementary School, and grades five to eight attend the Middle School.
The West Morris Mendham High School, one of two high schools in the West Morris Regional High School District, is for students from The Mendhams and The Chesters. According to the school, Mendham High School is ranked among the top high schools in the state as listed by a state magazine. In 1999-2000, SAT scores average 1,103 with 97.5 percent of the class participating. In other academic achievements, the result of national and state programs, there was one National Merit Finalist and 14 Commended Scholars. In addition, music and art students received special awards and honors. In the Special Education Department, which has received statewide recognition, the district is one of the 18 pilot districts for inclusion since 1991. A program for the neurologically impaired was implemented in 1994.
While each Mendham may have its own governing body, both help create the recreational activities. Joint programs between the recreation offices have produced an array of lively, informative and fun activities.
The Mendhams enjoy various clubs. Besides the Junior Woman and Rotary Club, there is a club for gardening, senior citizens and women. There also is the popular Pastime Club, which maintains the village's hidden treasure, a four-lane bowling alley called Pastime Lanes. Each year, the Pastime Club holds a Labor Day celebration, complete with rides and games, to raise funds for Mendham's athletic programs.
"Mendham is a wonderful place to live and raise a family," states Mayor Kraft. "Mendham is a community where neighbors know each other and help each other. We are a small town with beautiful streetscapes, including a sheep farm on Main Street."
Indeed, The Mendhams have much to offer-from the Brookside Community Club and the community center, to an annual Fourth of July Parade, Fishing Derbies and Brookside Beach, which has a pond for swimming.
There also are many beautiful parks in both Mendhams. In the township, Buttermilk Farms is a natural area for hiking and cross-country skiing. Dismal Harmony Natural Area is great for horseback riding and long walks on the many trails. In the borough, Borough Park offers ball fields, horseshoes and playgrounds. Residents can iceskate at Franklin Road.
Not to be missed from June through October, and during the holidays, is a tour of the Ralston General Store on Route 24. Located in the township, it is the oldest post office building in the country. It houses 18th century memorabilia maintained by the Ralston Historical Association.
By Nancie A. Balun-Boughton (NJ.com)
UPDATED AUGUST 2004