Sayen Gardens, Hamilton Square, NJ

Unimpaired in its amount of beautiful parks, Hamilton, NJ’s Sayen Gardens boasts a pleasant visual panorama in its exterior with hidden gems nestled away in small, wooded nature trails. Situated along the busy small-town village of Hamilton Square, Sayen Gardens is frequently populated with hikers, skateboarders, and families on any given nice afternoon. If the air is right on a Saturday, you may even stumble upon a wedding in progress. We have been to Sayen Gardens countless times, and we were excited to make this particular visit on an early Spring evening, to take in the trails and the visuals.

After a quick turn on Hughes Drive, one will see the exterior of Sayen Gardens – a public parking lot and an open sky trail, featuring bridges, ponds, and ever changing floral arrangements that transition with the season. The trail spreads the perimeter and provides a nice opening act to what we consider the real treat of Sayen Gardens.

The wooded trails behind the exterior show a display of floral amazement. Frederick Sayen, a worldly man of the early Twentieth Century purchased the property in 1912 and constructed a house, which sits comfortably in the beautiful woods, not too far from the busy streets of Hamilton Square. Sayen House, as it is billed, is available for weddings, receptions, corporate functions, parties – like many other local NJ historical sites. Mr. Sayen had a penchant for flowers around the world, and he displayed his property with breathtaking arrangements, which are diligently maintained by groundskeepers to this day. 

The area behind Sayen House showcases a fountain pond surrounded by one of the many benches in Sayen Gardens, beautifully nestled in the woods. It’s a quiet juxtaposition to its public location in Hamilton Square, as an enchanting park bridge spreads over the pond. This particular spot is prime for photo shoots, as the peaceful woods compliment Sayen’s distinct floral patterns, creating a backdrop for life’s best moments captured on photography. 

What do we like best about Sayen Gardens? The convenience, accessibility, and atmosphere are always nice, but it’s really the dedication to preservation that makes it a special place. Frederick Sayen’s love for flowers from around the world is an influential trademark of the park. While this may not be the destination for the marathon hiking enthusiast, it’s still a great place to get your steps in, and an even better place to take in beauty that transports you around the globe.

Robbin’s House, Windsor, NJ

Robbin’s House, Windsor, NJ

Certain destinations offer enough reflection by presentation alone. Robbin’s House finds itself within a unique category of local, small town NJ history. Once a Royally-indentured body of farmland, this modest plot now sits along a mostly-isolated, 23-acre  hill of an open air homestead. Mostly-isolated; because while the land is kept and preserved, the property still sits within a short, pensive walk along the NJ Turnpike overpass, right at Exit 8, one of the most frequently congested Turnpike exits in the state.

NJ Turnpike – not a fry car from our destination.

What new things can we say about Robbin’s House during a pandemic climate? Not much. There were no tour guides, no fellow curious observers, no hours of operation. Not a soul in sight, other than the occasional ominous turkey vulture, circling its prey over a patch of vacant farmland and dead grass, recently exposed after a month of snowfall.  The property was purchased from the Robbins’ family by the former Washington Township in 2001 (for any of you who are keeping score, Washington Township became Robbinsville Township in 2008.) Ever since its purchase, the property has been used as a picturesque rental space for any grab bag assortment of social events; weddings, grad parties, scout meetings, bridal showers, business conferences. The ensuing pandemic of which we are still currently living put an end to the social bookings at the Robbin’s House, and now the land remains undisturbed and well placed along its long driveway leading you to Hillcrest Farm. 

The ominous plot of Hillcrest Farm.

 Robbin’s House is the final destination along the desolate Windsor Road before it curves into the Turnpike overpass, eventually dropping off on Sharon Road, a stretch of rural-suburban Mercer County. The sign out front of the long driveway guides a thin drive up a makeshift blacktop parking lot, likely created when the property became a rental. The structure itself stands beautifully intact; a classic brick building representing a 19th Century homestead, despite any additional obvious signs of renovations (central air conditioning, headlights, landscaping).  Latoya pointed out an old fashioned ringing bell connecting the original structure to an addition. We made it a point to make a third trip to the House to take a picture of it. Whether it’s a part of the original development of the property, or a cozy add-on is unknown. 

This was a nice site, with plenty of photo opportunities and visual interpretations, not to mention centuries of historical context (We would be remiss if we didn’t include that). As mentioned earlier, the land was deeded from the King of England to Moses Robins (with one ‘b’ at the time) in the early 18th Century. David Robbins purchased the property in 1818, and it’s presumed that the farmhouse was built around then. It is with this family name that the property evolved generationally. With funding by Green Acres and Mercer County, the Township purchased the property in 2001 (Karas, 2013). The property has been utilized as a pastorally themed recreational site over the better half of the past two decades. 

We enjoyed the isolated beauty of Robbin’s House and would absolutely love to revisit the area during a more operational time. Nevertheless, the 23 acre property sits quietly upon Hillcrest Farm, patiently awaiting the much anticipated end of the pandemic.