RED BANK AND THE GREEN: HOUSE ADVANTAGE

parker-homestead-2007The 17th-century Parker Homestead in Little Silver is just one of the historic homes on the greater Green taking center stage this weekend. The T. Thomas Fortune House, below, is another. (Photos by John T. Ward. Click to enlarge.)

rb fortune house 100614 1In a season when we’re all a bit more cognizant of old, dark houses, a birthday celebration designed to call attention to one of Red Bank’s most endangered historic structures — the T. Thomas Fortune House — kicks off a weekend that also offers some rare opportunities to step back in time.

If you’ve been following the story of the Fortune House here on redbankgreen, you’ll recall that the onetime home of the pioneer African-American journalist and editor Timothy Thomas Fortune — a long-vacant dwelling that’s off-limits to occupancy in its present condition — was the subject of a recent demolition bid by the current property owners. While the borough held the permit request for review, the nonprofit T. Thomas Fortune Preservation Project still has a long road ahead toward its goal of purchasing, preserving and renovating the national historic site — and this Friday, a fundraiser event at the nearby Bates Lodge will represent the next step toward the Fortune House’s hoped-for rebirth as a community resource and museum.

Scheduled for the hours between 7 and 11:30 pm, the event marks the recent 158th birthday of the 19th century orator, writer and activist  with an appearance by Dan Weinfeld, editor of the forthcoming publication of Fortune’s own childhood memoir, After War Times: An African American Childhood in Reconstruction-Era Florida. A very limited quantity of signing copies will be available for purchase at $40 each.

Admission to the event ($20 in advance, $25 at the door) includes a complimentary glass of beer or wine. Advance payment can be submitted via check to The Red Bank Men’s Club Foundation Project, P.O. Box 2007, Westside Station, Red Bank, NJ 07701 (please note T. Thomas Fortune Birthday Fundraiser in the memo). Additional info can be had by emailing thomasfortunehouse@gmail.com or visiting thomasfortunehouse.weebly.com.

Meanwhile, over at the Parker Homestead in Little Silver, the restoration of one of America’s oldest existing homes continues apace — and this Sunday, October 26, the nonprofit Parker Homestead-1665 will once again open the doors of the 17th century farmhouse for an afternoon of free public tours. Going on between the hours of 1 to 4 pm, the tours will bring visitors up to date on the recent work that’s been done in and around this state and national historic site (owned by one family for 330 years, and deeded to the borough of Little Silver with the stipulation that it be used for historic education purposes) — as well as the ongoing restoration plans for the house and outlying structures, undertaken by preservation specialists Nickles Contracting (whose other projects include Lucy the Elephant and the Little Silver Train Station). At 3 pm, Professor Richard Veit of Monmouth University will discuss his initial findings from a recent archeological dig on the site, and favorite local artist Mike Quon will display a recently completed painting of the Homestead.

Also taking place between 1 and 4 pm — and out on the far frontiers of the greater Green (that’s Bayshore Waterfront Park, on Port Monmouth Road in Middletown Township) — the Monmouth County Parks System continues its Sunday afternoon tours of the historic Seabrook-Wilson House, the 18th century homestead (formerly known as The Spy House of lore and legend) which, while it’s not quite as antique as the Parker place, has managed to survive Sandy (and all other legendary storms of the Jersey Shore) even as the surrounding neighborhood met with epic devastation. Reopened to the public in recent seasons, the venerable white house by the windswept bay does duty now as an educational Activity Center for the park. Call (732)787-3033 for additional info.