Fosterfields , “the first living historical farm in New Jersey”, was bequeathed to the Morris County Park Commission by Caroline Foster in 1979. Cara, as she was fondly called, lived 98 of her 102 years here in the Willows. Cara wanted to preserve her beloved home and wanted visitors to learn and share in the rich agricultural history of her farm and through living cultural programs give a look at life in the late Victorian era. As she wished , Fosterfields offers an exceptional opportunity to experience our agricultural heritage, “the good manure smell” as she called it. Farming activities follow the same schedule noted in Charles Foster’s journal which he maintained daily for 40 years. At this National Register Site visitors can churn butter, crack corn, feed the chickens. Watch our working draft horses or the milking of a Jersey Dairy cow. In addition 2 dwellings are open for tours: A Gothic Revival mansion, The Willows and the first floor of the farmhouse restored to the period 1918-1927. At the Visitors Center an introductory film presents an overview of Fosterfields and a Transportation exhibit displays original family owned vehicles.
History of Fosterfields
In 1881, Charles Foster a wealthy commodities broker from Brooklyn, N.Y. bought this 88 acre property including The Willows, a Gothic Revival mansion built in 1854 from the widow of Joseph Warren Revere. Beginning in 1878, Charles Foster rented this property and house, enabling his to get out of New York City. An stifling hot environment at that time of garbage, pollution and infectious disease.
Charles Foster moved into the Willows in 1881 with his 4 year old daughter, Caroline. His wife Emma Thompson Foster died the year before of tuberculosis. Two sons also past away when they were 2 ½ ans 3 years old. Mrs. Foster’s sister, Caroline Thompson, “Aunt Carrie” moved into the house to help raise Caroline
Charles Foster was a progressive farmer. In 1882 he began to import Jersey Dairy cattle from the Isle of Jersey, By 1884 the herd numbered about 100 head. Today our cows are still pure bred “Jerseys” producing rich milk with 4 -6% butter fat. In order to feed all his livestock through the winter Mr.Foster used the most up-to-date technology and built 3 “ensilage pits” in the main barn. These were used from 1883-1925. They can still be seen in the barn authentically restored in 2014. He used steam engines to power farm machinery and pump spring-fed water around the property, which with additional purchases grew to over 200 acres.
Charles Foster continued to commute by railroad to his commodities firm in NYC till 1901. As his hearing declined he relied on his daughter Caroline to manage the farm business. Charles died in 1927 and “Cara” as she was known by her friends continued to run the Fosterfields. She bought a new gasoline powered tractor. Even though most of the Cattle were sold she installed a “Jamesway” system by which the cows could get their own water when in the barn. And in 1937 Cara electrified the Willows , farm house and other buildings on the property. After years of having weekly tea with Russell Myers, then Secretary-Director of the Morris County Park Commission, Caroline Foster in 1973 agreed to give her property to that organization as a Living Historical Farm. She continued to live in her home and hay the fields until her death in 1979.