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in the beginning

At the turn of the 20th century, when Warren Township was nothing but a small hamlet nestled away in the Watchung Mountains, the land that would eventually become The Orchard Academy at Camp Harmony was filled with groves of delicious apple trees.  During the late 1910’s, a group of Jewish immigrants bought parcels of land and turned the area atop of Mount Horeb Road into the Harmonia Colony - a communal, agrarian settlement (known as a “kibbutz”) for those seeking a quiet, country life.  The space went on to become a country retreat – much like the nearby Catskills – catering to families from New York City looking for a weekend in the cooler-temperature and spacious New Jersey countryside.

In 1926, Israel Steinbaum bought the land and opened the first progressive boarding school in the nation, Home School of Warrenville, along with a residential summer program he called Camp Harmony.  In 1955, Camp Harmony made the transition to being a day camp and in 1964, Jerry Amedeo joined the staff as Program Director while also working as a teacher and residential administrator at the school.  In 1965 Home School of Warrenville became Somerset Hills Country Day & Boarding School where Jerry continued to work as a teacher and associate head master, becoming Director in 1972 and eventually purchasing the business outright in 1986.  After another name change to Somerset Hills School, Jerry would continue as Executive Director until his sale of the business in 2007, having totaled over 40 years of educational leadership experience with a varying arrays of student populations.


CAMPUS & FACILITIES

During the last 50 years, the campus of The Orchard Academy at Camp Harmony has seen numerous changes, additions and upgrades.  In 1969, the first part of the original Farmhouse was built along with an addition to the Social Hall (now the upstairs of the Farmhouse).  In 1976, when Jerry bought Camp Harmony, it included the property on both sides of Mount Horeb Road.  What is now known as Dealaman’s Pond & Nature Trail (173 Mt. Horeb Road) was once known as “Down Below” and included playing fields, a swimming pool and lake.  In 1984, due to increasing traffic on Mt. Horeb Road, the property was sold to the Township of Warren.  In 1974, the project of building a new gymnasium began but, due to local delays with sewer lines and building codes, construction didn’t actually begin until the Fall of 1985 and was completed by the summer of 1986, opening the door to a new era of indoor space.

In the early 2000’s, the entire grounds were excavated to build new larger water mains and infrastructure in preparation for a new addition to the Farmhouse that would be connected to the old one.  During this time, fire suppression systems (sprinklers & alarms) were installed in all of the property’s winterized buildings and beautiful lamp posts were added for a downtown-like atmosphere!  The addition also included 12 brand new classrooms and an expansion of our Gymnasium to include our new Gymnastics, Dance and Yoga studios as well as adding a third, heated pool directly next to our gym.  In addition, our over three acres of sports fields were completely regraded including planting over 190,000 square feet of new sod.


THE NEXT GENERATION

While summers were always special, Camp Harmony continued to rent the property during the school year to a private residential school until early 2014 when the tenants vacated the property.  While sudden, the exit allowed for discussions about what should become of the property during the school year and ultimately would usher in a new chapter in the storied history of Camp Harmony.

Seeing the need for a high quality, family-owned early child hood education center and capitalizing on our over 50 years of love and passion for child care, The Orchard Academy at Camp Harmony was founded in 2014 will open its door in January 2015 to the first class of students.

Since his first year in 1964, Jerry has seen Camp Harmony grow from the small bucolic summer retreat to what it is today – one of NJ’s premiere day camps featuring close to 350 kids and 130 staff.  Through his leadership, there is no doubt that The Orchard Academy at Camp Harmony will continue to embody the proud history of exceptional child care while offering an extraordinary educational experience.