The earliest known deed for the property passed the property ownership from Richard Ryerson to Jacob Ryerson. This deed mentions boundaries of the property as including “the old house where Daniel Tichenor formerly lived.” We believe the oldest portion of the house may significantly predate this deed.
The property was sold to James H. Gregory, who we believe did the first expansion of the house around 1860 (based on photographs) with four rooms on the first floor and a second floor added with bedrooms. A new wing was added as a kitchen.
James H. Gregory died and one of his sons, Sylvanus Gregory, purchased the farm. Sylvanus and his wife May Ann LaRoe raised five children in the house. The farm’s prosperity is evident in photographs from that period, which show many farm outbuildings, barns, and hay wagons.
After the death of Sylvanus Gregory in 1908, Mary Gregory sold the farm to Edwin Goodell of Montclair, New Jersey. Much of what we see today is due to Goodell’s work. Goodell built the Dutch Colonial stone barn and the stone Arts and Crafts creamery buildings, and added the dormers to the house, the large front porch, and the gambrel roof.
Farm sold to Louis Wallisch Sr. He worked as a butcher in Passaic, New Jersey, and became involved in local politics and real estate. He had three children: Louis Jr. , John, and Sophie. Louis Sr. used the house as a vacation home for his family, but he also kept the dairy running and hired hands to run the farm.
Louis changed the name of the property from “Camp Wallisch” to “Wallisch Estates” and began selling lots for people to build summer cottages. The streets still bear his children’s names: John Sophie, and Louis, as well as Madelyn, the builder’s daughter. There was a beach on Belchers Creek at the end of John Street as well as a community clubhouse.
Louis Wallisch died. The family continued to use the property as a second home. They continued to sell off lots into the 1950s, in particular at the Northern end of the property where the senior housing is now located.
Louis Jr. and John Wallisch moved into the house permanently after the deaths of their sister Sophie and their mother, Cornelia Wallisch. Both of these men were very active in West Milford’s civic development until their deaths. When John Wallisch passed away in 1984 he willed his share of the property to The Board of Education. When Louis Jr. passed away in 2001, he left his share to the Library and to the Township. The library sold their share to the Township.
It was the intention of both brothers for the property to be used by the public for “educational purposes and the preservation of the community and its environs” including use of “the Wallisch home and lands for Audobon, sports, wildlife, and recreational purposes.”
The Township has maintained the large lawns and used the barn for storage of equipment. In 2004 Ramapo college developed hiking trails over a three acre section of the property, with educational signage identifying plants and terrain. These signs have recently been replaced with new ones, again from Ramapo College.
The Friends of Wallisch Homestead is created as a non-profit group, and a Master Plan is developed. In 2014 we gained 501C3 status as a not-for-profit organization.