Skillman Park

I had an hour to kill. My kids were in band camp, and it had just stopped raining. I had planned to be at the Princeton fireworks, but the rain had been intermittent and heavy throughout out the day. I sat in the car and pulled out my iPad to read when I noticed the sky — the clouds. I had my tripod and camera in the car. I took a few shots of the sky and the high school building from the parking lot. Then I remembered that Skillman Park was close by. I drove around the circle twice before I planted my tripod and started shooting. I realized that class would be over before the sunset, but I still managed to get a few shots I liked. I took over 46 photos and deleted all but the three1 that were combined to make this one.

  1. Photomatix Pro. 

Sylvan Lake

Starting the job search after ten years with the same company can be mentally exhausting. I've spent time thinking about what should and shouldn’t be in my resume — searching online for work that matches my skills and interests. I've also been thinking about whether or not I want a full-time job or rejoin the ranks of the freelancers. With so much going on, my mind was a jumble. I needed to clear the machine. I decided to take a drive to Skillman Park and walk about a bit.

Skillman Park is one of Montgomery Township's newest parks.

The property originally consisted of three large farms. These lands were purchased by the State of New Jersey for the establishment in 1898 of the “New Jersey State Village for Epileptics” at Skillman, during a time when there was no known treatment for epilepsy. The village layout was designed by noted Landscape Architect/Engineer Charles W. Leavitt in 1901. For many years it operated as a self-contained “town” that consisted of hospitals, housing, farms, maintenance areas, schools, a theatre, a power plant, a wastewater treatment facility, cemeteries, and an on-site landfill. It was one of the first such facilities in the United States.

In the mid-twentieth century, with the discovery of medicines for the treatment of epilepsy, the facility’s focus shifted, and it became the New Jersey Neuropsychiatric Institute. Most recently, and until 1998, the property was known as “North Princeton Developmental Center” or NPDC, a New Jersey Department of Human Services’ residential psychiatric care facility.

I parked my car on one section of the Lakeview Drive circle and walked down one of the abandoned roads. I’m pretty sure I wasn’t supposed to be there but … I was hoping to find something interesting. I did. I found Sylvan Lake.

The lake was very dry, but I could imagine that it must have been quite full during recent storms and its banks were deep. I spent a few minutes sitting on piles of broken concrete stairs into the lake and past it into the horizon. The air was crisp and refreshing, with a slight breeze. I found the quiet I was seeking.

The image is a three-bracket HDR (Photomatix Pro). I applied the FixelPix “Grit” free Lightroom preset and then some additional work in Nik Software's Silver EFX Pro 2.

Skillman Park

I co-chaired the Village Elementary and Lower Middle School Invention and Science Convention this year with two energetic and committed women. The event was scheduled to start at 9:15, but we convened at the High School at 8 AM. Because it was snowing, I gave myself a little extra time to navigate the local roads.

I wanted to capture some snow scenes and drive along the roads. I kept looking for a place to stop to capture the experience of the snow falling on the canopy of trees lining the roads. I was almost to the High School when I noticed the entrance to Skillman Park.

A battalion of leafless trees framed a solitary bench. The trees stand cloaked in snow, their branches tracing patterns against a snow-white background. The park is painted in shades of white and black.

The bench, worn by time, rests under the silent watch of the trees, their boughs heavy with snow. The ground, untouched by footsteps, stretches out like a blank canvas, where the only mark is nature's.

The stillness reaches out, inviting me to find peace in the cool air. The quiet is palpable, wrapping around me like a blanket. The photograph captures more than a place; it captures the essence of winter's quiet solitude.

The park has a long, storied history that you can read about on the township website. The park was once the site of a psychiatric care facility, which eventually fell into disrepair. The township and the county are working to restore the space to its former beauty.