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Speakeasy at the Bernards Inn
Distilling in the Somerset Hills a Big Hit

When The Historical Society of the Somerset Hills (THSSH) hosted the Speakeasy event last week, no one knew exactly what to expect — as is the case with most new events.  It was billed as a night to meet with old and new friends among a 1920s-speakeasy theme full of colorful characters and live entertainment.

Above: Speakeasy guests came out in full flapper outfits. (L-R) Christina Del Giorno, Dawn Tozier, Mary DelGrande, Carrie Hennessey Rose, and Jill Betz all from the Basking Ridge section of Bernards Twp.

The event was a success.  Held at the historic Bernards Inn in Bernardsville, guests had to first pass Dave ‘The Hammer’ Moffitt the bouncer to enter the “secret, underground social club.”  Many guests fell into step arriving in full 1920s Prohibition-era ensembles.  The glamorous Silver Vault and Wine Pantry, and Millicent Fenwick Ballroom at the Bernards Inn were decorated with maps from the period, drawn by John C. Smith, Landscape Architect, and posters of newspaper stories that brought you back in time to a period of unlawful activities in the Somerset Hills.  The music of the evening was also reminiscent of the wild Prohibition heyday with performances by soulful song writer and performer, Gordon Thomas Ward and banjo player Ken Salvo.  La Rosa Events demonstrated the art of hand-rolled cigar making, and treated guests to a fine stogie they could enjoy on site or at home.

Above: G-Men Dean Hogan and Brendan Hennessey Rose added to the entertainment with a mock raid. Music by Ken Salvo added to the ambiance and Carrie Hennessey Rose was busted and had a mug shot taken.

Featured distillers – Claremont Distilled Spirits and Jersey Artisan Distillery – kept the drinks flowing all night with some of the nation’s top craft spirits, hand-crafted spirit samples and signature cocktails.  Representatives from these distilleries gave a brief talk about their origins and their businesses located in Fairfield, home to about half of the operating craft distilleries in New Jersey


Above: Speakeasy guests Peter Davidson (Westfield), Mary DelGrande (Basking Ridge) and Mark DeCicco (Basking Ridge) all took part and had their mug shots taken at the Speakeasy.

The event was ‘raided’ by G-men Brendan Hennessey Rose and Dean Hogan who topped the evening with a friendly scare to remind guests that drinking in a speakeasy wasn’t to be taken lightly.

“I was so glad to see so many of our guests that took the advice and dressed up for the event” noted Brooks Betz, one of the event organizers. “Everyone came together, learned something about our history and looked like they had a great time.” “We loved the historical aspect and the downstairs made us feel we were in a real speakeasy and I’m proud I can say I am now a member of the Historical Society” said Carrie Hennessey Rose of Basking Ridge. “What a great time we had. It was so worth the trip.” noted Anne Davidson of Westfield.

Above: Claremont Distilled Spirits partner Amy Sutton and Jersey Artisan's Brant Braue shared samples and stories about distilling their craft spirits in New Jersey.

Sue Zibelli, Chairman of THSSH added “A big THSSH thanks to the planning committee and all the wonderful people from the communities of the Somerset Hills who volunteered their time to create and execute this fantastic event including Jill Betz, Paula Axt, Greg Rose, Teri Handabacka, and Brooks Betz.”  “We’re planning future fun, interactive events to bring neighbors together, and to impart some of the magical history of the Somerset Hills.  Please consider joining us a valuable contributor to your community.”

THSSH is a 501c3 nonprofit organization that includes the neighboring communities of:  Bedminster Township; Bernards Township – Basking Ridge, Liberty Corner, and Lyons; Bernardsville; Far Hills and Peapack-Gladstone.  For membership information, and to find out how you can help THSSH, visit or call 908-221-1770.

Above: Get a set of 4 11oz. whiskey glasses while supplies last. Contact Us if interested.

Submitted: November 7, 2016


About the Historical Society of the Somerset Hills (THSSH)

Founded in 1928 originally as the Historical Society of Basking Ridge, the mission and name of the society was later changed to The Historical Society of the Somerset Hills, a 501 (c) (3) non-profit organization including all five communities of the Somerset Hills region: Bedminster Township, Bernards Township, Bernardsville ,Far Hills, Peapack-Gladstone which are all located in Somerset County, New Jersey.

The mission of The Historical Society of the Somerset Hills (THSSH) is to acquire, conserve and share local artifacts and information on matters of local historic interest; cultivate interest in local history; encourage the preservation of local historic resources; facilitate historic research; and preserve, operate, and interpret the Brick Academy.

To further this mission, THSSH sponsors events and activities that promote community awareness and appreciation of the history and architecture of the Somerset Hills. THSSH headquarters is at the Brick Academy in the Basking Ridge section of Bernards Township, where our collections of items of local historic interest are available to the public.

About The Brick Academy

BR_Brick_Academy_Sketch_08_sm.jpgThe Brick Academy (also known as the Basking Ridge Classical Schoolhouse) is a 1809 Federal-style architectural structure located in the center of Basking Ridge in Bernards Township. The Brick Academy has been a boys’ private preparatory school, a public school, a meeting hall for several fraternal and benevolent organizations, and the Bernards Township municipal building. It currently serves as the headquarters of The Historical Society of the Somerset Hills, as well as a schoolhouse and museum to local history. The Brick Academy also celebrated its bicentennial in 2009.



the Brick Academy
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Street Address:
The Historical Society
of the Somerset Hills
15 West Oak Street,
Basking Ridge, NJ 07920
(908) 221-1770

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