The Kenilworth Historical Society, established in 1974, is an independent, non-profit, tax-exempt, 501(c) (3) organization that is dedicated to researching Kenilworth’s past, saving its material culture and preserving its heritage. This primarily includes the preservation and interpretation of the Oswald J. Nitschke House (c. 1880), representative of the founding and early development of the Borough of Kenilworth; the political, social and economic forces and cultural traditions that shaped the community; and the rich history of Kenilworth from its early settlement to the present day. The Society interprets and promotes local history to the public through educational programs that inspire an interest in and appreciation of local/New Jersey history by people of all ages, backgrounds and abilities. By preserving, maintaining and providing access to a large collection of historical materials and artifacts, the Society provides an important resource for students and the general public. It is also committed to fostering an appreciation of the arts.
The Kenilworth Historical Society has owned the Nitschke House since 2003, when it saved and moved the building (acquired as a donation from Dr. Jerome Forman) 1,500 feet from the corner of the Boulevard and S. 21st Street (its historic setting) to its present location at 49 South 21 Street (land acquired with the help of the Kenilworth Veterans Center and a N.J. DEP Green Acres grant). Since that time, the Society has been actively engaged in restoring the Nitschke House and transforming this historically significant building into Kenilworth’s first “living history” museum and cultural arts center, which is home to Central New Jersey’s American Immigration Museum.
The restoration/rehabilitation of the Nitschke House is being carried out in phases, according to a Historic Preservation Plan. The exterior restoration and installation of utilities were completed in 2007, the interior restoration was completed in 2013, and barrier-free upgrades (including an elevator that makes all three levels of the site accessible) and an exhibition center were completed in 2014. Heirloom gardens in the front yard and “teaching” kitchen gardens in the back yard (constructed and planted with the help of a Merck Foundation grant) play an important role in the site’s interpretive and multicultural garden-to-table foodways program.