By Rick Geffken |
TINTON FALLS – The restored 19th century home known as the Crawford House on Tinton Avenue will be open for public tours for the first time during the annual springtime celebration of Monmouth County history known as Weekend in Old Monmouth, May 6 and 7.
The huge Morris family manor estate on five acres and the actual scenic waterway it was built around are inseparable from the cultural richness of the historic Two River area.
After almost 10 years of scraping, sanding, painting, and removing modern additions, the volunteers with the Friends of Crawford House are thrilled the home to four generations of the Crawford family can finally be shared.
Friends president Stacey Slowinski said the group hopes “to broaden the scope of the Crawford House’s impact, to make it alive and vibrant.”
Besides being a stop on the spring tour this year, the Crawford House’s ambitious public schedule will feature music and poetry nights, cooking demonstrations, and local history talks and lectures. The dates of a second “Tomato Fest” – last summer’s gardening demonstration and recipe-sharing which was an overwhelming success – and a new “Colonial Day” in the fall, will also soon be announced. The Friends of the Crawford House are busy enlisting new members and finalizing details of the upcoming events.
New discoveries about the Crawford House are starting to emerge. “Just the other day I came upstairs and found a survey of the property which we didn’t know we had,” said Slowinski. “We think a lot of exciting things will show up once we’re officially opened to the public.”
Ruth and Allen Crawford were the last of the family to live at the house, located just across the road from the falls and bordering Pine Brook. “Ruth died in 1986,” says Slowinski. “Just recently a Crawford in-law donated Ruth’s piano to us. We put it back in the dining room where it stood for many years. When Allen Crawford was the Tinton Falls tax collector in the 1920s, people stopping by to pay their taxes at the little office on the front porch of the house would often spend some time playing musical instruments with Ruth at the piano.”
The Crawfords operated a slaughterhouse and butcher shop on their property for decades, started around 1860 by Allen’s grandfather, John H. Crawford, in what was then Shrewsbury. Long before, the property was where Lewis Morris operated his Tintern Manor Iron Works. Morris bought thousands of acres of property in East New Jersey in 1679. He brought his Barbados slaves with him to run the iron and grist mills powered by the falls of Shrewsbury. The Morris family originated in Monmouthshire in Wales, and it’s believed Lewis commemorated his birthplace by naming the county for it. The Welsh Tintern Abbey inspired his estate’s name.
Several years ago a survey team looked around the Crawford property for the remains of a slave cemetery depicted on early Morris maps. Though some intriguing ground penetrating radar anomalies were recorded, Richard Veit, professor of anthropology and chair of the department of history and anthropology at Monmouth University was hesitant to identify any as slave graves. Slowinski noted that “Dr. Veit was not surprised by the many ‘disturbances’ found in the survey. We think a barn may have been built over the graveyard at some point in the long history of the land.”
The Friends of the Crawford House is a nonprofit group formed to act as steward and advocate for the Crawford House, its history, and its property. For more information about volunteering or upcoming events, contact Stacey Slowinski at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This year’s Weekend in Old Monmouth will be held from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday, May 6 and noon to 5 p.m. Sunday, May 7. Joining the Crawford House as first-time sites on the self-guided tour are the 1878 Stephen Crane House in Asbury Park and the Spring Lake Historical Society Museum. There are no entry fees for any of the Weekend in Old Monmouth sites.
This article was first published in the April 20-27, 2017 print edition of The Two River Times.
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