Located in the heart of historic Cranbury, NJ, “The Elms” as it is affectionately called, has been part of the history and culture of the town for many years.
The original building was located at 65 North Main Street, now 25 Park Place West, behind the Post Office. Built c. 1870, it was the Second Presbyterian Manse where Reverend Joseph S. VanDyke, church pastor resided from 1869 to 1897. In 1916, it was sold for $3,000.00 to Amzi A. Duncan a teacher at Rutgers University who had a hobby of buying old homes and fixing them up. He then sold it to Mrs. Bessie Dey, who made four apartments in the home and rented them out until she sold it to Ronald and Elizabeth Craig in 1950. The Craigs named the building “The Elms Nursing Home”, and licensed it for use as a home for the aging with the State Department of Health in September of that year.
From the time of its inception, The Elms has been a leader in identifying and meeting the needs of senior citizens. In 1954, Ronald and Elizabeth Craig attended the White House Conference on Aging in Washington, DC. Born from the information they gained at the conference was The Golden Age Neighbors, a group formed to bring together neighbors and families and to help senior citizens remain an active part of the community. The Golden Age Neighbors is still active today.
In 1963, Mr. And Mrs. Craig sold The Elms to Edward W. Dietrick. Mr. Dietrick continued running The Elms, and recognizing a growing need in the community to house the increasing elderly population, initiated plans to expand the home to 60 beds. Mr. Dietrick had much experience in the service industry, formerly having run Dietrick’s Drive-In in East Brunswick until the NJ Highway Department razed it to build an overpass. Ed ran The Elms until his untimely death in 1983, when his wife Anita took over the operations. In 1987, Anita reinstated the Certificate of Need her husband started prior to his death. After many revisions to the project in an effort to create a new building that was consistent with the historic image of the town, Mrs. Dietrick learned that George and Lil Conley, the proprietors of another small nursing home around the corner were interested in selling their facility. In April, 1998, Mrs. Dietrick purchased Sunnyfield Nursing Home, renamed it The Elms of Cranbury, and began steps to move the original Elms Nursing Home project to the Maplewood Avenue location. The new project was to consist of the original 16 beds from The Elms Nursing Home, the 28 beds from Sunnyfield Nursing Home, the Certificate of Need for 60 additional skilled nursing beds, and 16 assisted living beds. Four additional beds were also part of the project through the “add-a-bed” program, which allows facilities to increase their bed capacity without going through the certificate of need process.
The groundbreaking ceremony for the new Elms of Cranbury took place on February 4, 1999. Throughout the construction the original building remained in operation, and the residents of the home enjoyed watching the flurry of activity as their new home was built. In March 2000, residents of the two old nursing homes moved in to the new building, and construction began on the renovations to the original structure, which will remain attached to and a part of the new building. The open house and ribbon cutting ceremony on October 5, 2000 marks the completion of the project.