Remembering the Old Barn Milk Bar
Today, we’re marking the last day of summer by remembering one of Wayne’s beloved summer icons, the Old Barn Milk Bar, which began its life as a barn of the Colfax family.
Figure 1- The Old Barn Milk Bar in all it's glory! From the Wayne Museum.
The barn is constructed on property, which was part of a 5,500-acre land purchase in 1694. The northern portion of the land purchase was the Pompton Patent, owned by Arent Schuyler and Anthony Brockholst, who both settled in the area by 1698.
Schuyler built his one room, Dutch Colonial fieldstone and brick-faced home on the banks of the Ramapo river circa 1700.
Arent Schuyler eventually left the property on to Hester Schuyler, who married William Colfax in 1783.
During the Revolutionary War, Colfax was the second in command of George Washington's Life Guards. Colfax probably met Hester Schuyler, at her aunt (Hester Schuyler Dey) and uncle’s (Theunis Dey) home, the Dey Mansion in Wayne, while Washington was in residence in July, October, and November 1780.
George Washington Colfax, the firstborn son of Hester Schuyler Colfax and William Colfax, was born in 1784. William Colfax built a residence for his son George, which was known for many years as the 1810 House. The house was constructed just south of the family home on the Paterson-Hamburg Turnpike.
Figure 2- The Colfax family properties on Hamburg Turnpike, which likely included the Colfax barn. Ca. 1870. From the Atlas of Passaic County, New Jersey. (New York: E.B. Hyde & Co., 1877). Accessed from the Library of Congress. https://www.loc.gov/resource/g3813pm.gla00164/?sp=45&r=0.352,-0.328,0.791,0.721,0
The Colfax Barn was constructed as the main barn for the George Washington Colfax farmstead. It is not known whether the barn or the house was constructed first.
The house and barn remained in the family until the 20th century, when Olaf Haroldson purchased the property. Mrs. Haroldson and her daughter began the sale of ice cream from the barn, circa 1940. At that time, the barn was called the Alderney Milk Bar.
In 1963, Preakness Chevrolet bought the house and the adjacent land. According to the family, Mr. Haroldson asked for a clause in the deed that compelled the Chevrolet dealership to relocate the house rather than demolish it. The home was relocated behind the Colfax barn on Dawes Highway. It was used as a Fine Home Furnishings retail store at the time. The house was later used to store auto parts. It was dismantled in 1996 after falling into disrepair.
Until World War II, the ice cream parlor in the barn was a success. Due to gasoline restrictions at the time, automobile travel was prohibited, and the ice cream business faltered and eventually shuttered.
The barn was sold to Robert McMinn, a returning veteran, and his business partner, after the war. He had planned to open an auto repair shop in the barn at first. He continued to sell ice cream because he had the necessary equipment. A year later, Mr. McMinn bought out his partner.
McMinn's son, Joseph McMinn, and nephew, Gerry McMinn Jr., took over the business. The ice cream and hamburger grill on the Paterson-Hamburg Turnpike has been in operation for 56 years. The shop was noted for its enormous ice cream scoops, which made it a popular stop for families and teenagers. On summer weekends, the parking lot was packed with customers seated on automobiles and their own lawn chairs. After high school basketball games and other school athletic events, the indoor dining room with its rustic booths and exposed timber frame structure was packed. The Milk Barn was a popular hangout for 'first dates' and 'after a movie.'
After 56 years of operation, the Milk Barn was shuttered in December 2001 by the McMinn family.