Brookdale’s History

Former stable on Thompson Estate

Brookdale Community College was founded in July 1967 by the Monmouth County Board of Chosen Freeholders, who purchased the Brookdale Farm the following year for the purpose of building a community college for residents.

The Brookdale Farm was originally the 800-acre property of horseracing enthusiast David Dunham Withers, a New York resident and one of the original investors of Monmouth Park. Withers raised thoroughbred racehorses on his Brookdale Breeding and Stock Farm, and used the property as his weekend and summer home. 

After Withers died without heirs in 1892, the Brookdale Farm was purchased by William Payne Thompson for $135,000.

The land remained within the Thompson family for many years, and much of the original Brookdale Farm’s 800 acres now comprise Middletown’s Thompson Park, Monmouth County’s Thompson Park, Lincroft Elementary School, Marlu Farm, and the Monmouth Museum – in addition to Brookdale’s 220 acres, which the Monmouth County Board of Chosen Freeholders purchased from Lewis S. Thompson Jr. in 1968 for the sum of $700,000.

Buying the property, remodeling the century-old horse barns into academic classrooms, appointing a board of trustees, formulating and approving a budget, finding a president, developing curriculum, hiring faculty and staff– nearly two years passed since the initial establishment of Brookdale.

The College’s first president, the dynamic Dr. Ervin Harlacher, brought solid experience from his prior position as Acting President of Oakland Community College in California and via his role as one of the nation’s first advocates of the “comprehensive, progressive, and most importantly, open to all, community college.”

Brookdale opened in September 1969 with 54 full-time faculty, 306 students with an average age under 21, an impressive roster of transfer and career programs, a non-credit “community services” division, an intercollegiate sports program, and later that month an Anti-Vietnam War rally attended by nearly 300 people.

For a look at the current “state of the college,” click here.

Read and/or download a PDF version of “Triangle of Land,” the book written by the Monmouth County Chapter of the American Association of University Women.

A Triangle of Land

View historic pictures of Brookdale in our SmugMug Gallery/History

Original barn that is now the Center for the Visual Arts.