A BARN RAISING, AT PARKER HOMESTEAD
Monmouth County University professor Richard Veit and his archeology students will conduct a “tree-ringing” test on the Parker Homestead-1665 barns this Friday, to determine the age of the structures prior to restoration work.
Press release from Parker Homestead-1665 Inc.
Efforts to preserve one of New Jersey’s oldest homes – the Parker Homestead-1665 in Little Silver – have now extended to the three barns on the historic property, thanks to a generous grant from the Monmouth County Municipal Open Space Fund. The $250,000 grant from the county will help fund the restoration of three barns – a horse barn, a livestock barn and a wagon barn – representing the second phase of restoration efforts at the 1665 property.
The work will be performed by Nickles Contracting of Haddon Heights, which works specifically on restoration projects including some of the state’s most significant historic structures, including Drumthwacket, Absecon Lighthouse, Lucy the Elephant, and the Parsippany home of famed furniture designer Gustav Stickley, and closer to home, the Little Silver Train Station.
“Each project is a little bit different and always has its challenges,” explained Jack Abgott, Vice President of Operations for Nickles Contracting. “It is a testimony to the structures’ original builders that these wood structures still stand, in spite of enduring severe storms and often long periods of neglect.”
“We’re hoping the work will begin in April or May,” said Keith Wells, a trustee of Parker Homestead-1665, Inc., which is a nonprofit overseeing the restoration. “And when they’re done, we’ll have new roofs, new siding and new interior floors. The barns should be good for another 200 years.”
Wells said the contractor will attempt to reuse any salvageable material from the existing barns in the restoration, and will also use modern materials fashioned into a style that is original to the structures. He added that the work should be complete within 90 days of the start.
The Parker Homestead, a National Historic site, is considered one of the oldest dwellings still standing in New Jersey, and has been in the same family since 1665. That was the year after England took control of a previous Dutch colony, a portion of which would be renamed New Jersey. The English were eager to populate this new territory, offering land grants to new settlers.
Two brothers — Quakers Peter and Joseph Parker — traveled from Rhode Island and acquired 420 acres that stretched between the present-day Navesink and Shrewsbury rivers, and included the remaining 10-acre property that is the Parker Homestead-1665.
The pre-Revolutionary structures on the property date to the 1720s, and were home to members of the Parker family. Upon her death in 1995, Julia Parker — the last of seven generations of the same family to occupy the home — gifted the property to the borough of Little Silver, with the stipulation it be preserved as a historic landmark and for historic educational purposes.
Restoration and cleanup of the farmhouse began soon after, and since has resulted in repairs to the flooring and removal of ceiling plaster, which revealed thick wooden beams original to the earliest portion of the house. An enormous fireplace, big enough for several people to stand in, was also uncovered.
Inside the barns, members of the organization have discovered tools, farm implements and artifacts, which include a 1960s truck with ‘Parker Farms’ painted on the side, and a 1965 Chevy owned by Julia Parker.
Some of the farm implements from the property are already on display for a Monmouth County Historical Association exhibit on early farming, Farm: Agriculture in Monmouth County 1600-2013. For more details visit www.monmouthhistory.org
In addition to the grants, the trustees of the Parker Homestead 1665, Inc. are planning a fundraising event on Saturday, Sept. 13 in conjunction with the Monmouth County Historical Association and Sickles Market. The party will include a reception with tours of the historic Parker Homestead, a tented farm-to-table community dinner, starlight dancing to live music, live and silent auctions and a 50/50 raffle. Underwriting and sponsorships are available. Please call Laurie Bratone, Development Director for Monmouth County Historical Association, at 732-462-1466 x. 20 for further details and information. Tickets begin at $150.