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The Oakes Estate, listed on the National Register of Historic Places due to its architecture, landscape architecture and the Oakes family association with industry, today houses the Oakeside Bloomfield Cultural Center, a cultural organization that provides programming for both the arts and history communities in Bloomfield.
In 1979, an agreement was reached between Jean Doswell Oakes and the Township of Bloomfield. Upon Mrs. Oakes’ death, the house would be donated to the people of Bloomfield to become a cultural center and the surrounding property purchased by the township. In 1980, the township took possession of the Oakes estate, and in 1981, it was listed on the State and National Registers of Historic Places, and the nonprofit organization, the Oakeside Bloomfield Cultural Center, was established to preserve the site and broaden popular appreciation of the arts.
In 1982, the Township signed a 50-year lease agreement, recognizing the Oakeside Board of Trustees’ role in primary care and control of the site. During these first few years, the township stabilized the main building including general roof work, interior painting, floor refinishing and the installation of a commercial stainless steel kitchen.
From 1982-1985, the Trustees began to establish professional arts programs for the community, and in 1985 they hired an Executive Director for the site. Arts’ programming was expanded to reach a broader audience throughout Essex County and the state. The main house exterior was painted and stained for the first time in 40 years, and exterior lighting was installed. The Township converted the dead end street adjacent to the property into a parking lot, improving accessibility to the site. With a mixture of public and privately raised funding, a series of major and minor restoration and upgrade projects have been completed to date. Restoration activities have been monitored by the New Jersey Historic Trust (NJHT), since 1992 when Oakeside was awarded a Historic Preservation Bond Program Matching Grant as a major source of restoration funding.
With the help of grants from several sources, the main house has been largely restored to its original condition, with installation of upgrades including attic insulation, new furnace, fire and alarm systems, electrical service upgrades, air conditioning, and barrier-free access ramp and bathroom. In 2000 and 2001, NJHT Level II capital grants providing a matching portion of the funds to renovate and fully restore the Carriage House outbuilding, including the addition of 2 ADA-compliant public restrooms. Projects completed for grounds’ restoration include restoration of the rose garden, drying yard trellis and pergola, kitchen garden fence, gateways and hardscapes, as well as the bluestone sidewalks surrounding the property.
Oakeside is a regional model for preservation in an urban setting, providing community-based programs in the areas of historical interpretation, arts programs and education, horticulture and gardening, and recreation and cultural events. Over the years Oakeside has increased its income to become self-sustaining by establishing an association with a catering company which utilized the facility for weddings and similar social functions on a regular basis. Additionally, Oakeside holds a number of fund raising social events each year as part of its overall capital campaign.
Below is a Quick Tour of the Oakes Mansion