LS HISTORIC SITE BEGINS RESTORATION

ParkerHouseCommittee member Keith Wells is pictured at an 18th century fireplace, recently rediscovered inside Little Silver’s historic Parker Homestead.

By KAREN J. IRVINE, Press contact for Parker Homestead

It has survived the Revolutionary War, the Civil War and the countless storms that have battered the Jersey Shore for centuries. It has avoided fire and flood and miraculously escaped the developers’ wrecking ball.

And now the Parker Homestead — with its simple, lovely farmhouse that has stood in a quiet corner of Little Silver since 1665 — is being rewarded for its centuries of perseverance with badly needed restoration.

With seed money from grants provided by Monmouth County, a dedicated band of Little Silver residents has overseen the stabilization of the white farmhouse — one of the oldest structures in New Jersey, and one of the oldest in the United States to be continually occupied by a single family for eight generations — are now forming a 501c(3) not-for-profit corporation to begin raising funds for the ultimate complete restoration of the home and out buildings.

The interior restoration began in early October, and has already uncovered two long-neglected features of the house — a circa 1721 bricked-over fireplace, and large wooden ceiling beams that support the gorgeous wide board floors of the second story.

“We are so excited to see progress made in the preservation of one of our area’s most historic places,” said Bob Sickles, a descendant of the Parker family and preservation committee member.  “A 501c(3) will allow us to begin raising some serious funds to preserve this historical gem.”

The farmhouse and its three outbuildings were built by Peter Parker and his descendants, starting in 1665 and remaining in family hands for 330 years. The Homestead was listed on the NJ State Historic Register in 1976, and when Julia Parker died in 1995 she deeded the property to the borough of Little Silver. Julia Parker stipulated that the home be preserved and used for historical and educational purposes only, but left no funds for that purpose.

Later in 1995, efforts were spearheaded by the late Mayor Suzy Castleman to manage the homestead property. The contents of the house were removed, the structure was stabilized, the exterior of the house was painted, and the front porch was rebuilt.

In 2012, the Parker Homestead was placed on the National Register of Historic Places. It was also in 2012 that Monmouth County awarded a $250,000 grant for the stabilization and restoration of the three outbuildings, which include a cow barn, horse barn and wagon barn. A Preservation Grant for a partial interior restoration was awarded in 2013.

Sickles, who is Julia Parker’s nephew, fondly recalls spending holidays in his aunt’s home and his family’s agrarian roots.

“Farming has been in our blood and under our nails since 1665 in Monmouth County,” Sickles said. “Ordinary farmers played a significant role in the development of our country, and still do today.”

Farm implements found in the outbuildings during renovation are on loan to Monmouth County Historical Association’s 2014 exhibit “Farm Agriculture in Monmouth County 1600-2013”, on display at the associations Freehold museum. For more details visit www.monmouthhistory.org.

On Sunday, December 22, the Parker Homestead committee will be hosting a free open house from 1 pm to 4pm, so that the public can see the interior of the farmhouse. In addition, Bob Sickles has announced plans to host a farm-to-table dinner fundraiser next year either at Sickles Market (located near the homestead on land that was once part of the Parker Farm) or on the Parker Homestead property. Check this space for updated details, and for more information about the Parker Homestead, please visit www.parkerhomestead-1665.com.