Parker Homestead Restoration Moving Forward

April 11, 2014
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ParkerhouseBarn-IMG_6177By John Burton

LITTLE SILVER – The preservation of the historic Parker Homestead is moving forward.

The Parker Homestead-1665 Committee, the not-for-profit organization working on preserving the more than 350-year-old site, has announced it is the recipient of a $250,000 grant that will allow it to begin work on the location’s three dilapidated barns. In addition, the barns also will be studied by a Monmouth University archeology professor and his students, looking to pinpoint the age of the structures.

“I think we’re making great strides” on the preservation project, said Jennifer Pardee, a Parker Homestead-1665 trustee.

The Monmouth County Open Space Fund awarded the $250,000 matching grant to the committee and now it will begin repairing and restoring the horse, livestock and wagon barns, located on homestead’s 235 Rumson Road property.

The funds, included in the $2 million Monmouth County has made available for its 2014 round of grants, are awarded through a competitive application process for open space projects in the county, according to information provided by the Monmouth County Park System.

Nickels Contracting of Haddon Heights has been awarded the contract for the work. The firm, which specializes in historic restoration projects, handled the work to restore the Little Silver commuter rail station and has worked on such projects as Drumthwacket, the governor’s mansion in Princeton, and the Absecon Lighthouse.

Pardee said the work is expected to begin during the next four to six weeks and should take about three months.

The restoration is being done not a moment too soon, Pardee said. The barns are “in really bad shape. They’re not going to fall down but they need to be addressed.”

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Dr. Richard Veit, an associate professor of anthropology at Monmouth University, called the barns “working buildings. They’ve had long, hard lives.”

Veit was scheduled to be accompanied by some of his students on Friday, April 11, to take timber samples of the barns to determine when the buildings were built.

Pardee said the prevailing opinion is that the structures were built before 1850.

Veit and the students will drill small samples of oak timbers and send them to a Columbia University lab. There, researchers will analyze the samples, count and measure the wood’s age rings, compare them to a database with samples dating back to the 17th century and that time’s weather patterns, which will hopefully allow for a more accurate dating.

Veit did the study on the site’s farmhouse when the committee was applying for National Register of Historic Place designation a few years ago and determined that the structure dates to the 1600s.

“Historical research indicates the barns might be as old as well,” Veit said. “That would be extraordinary.”

Parker Homestead-1665 will be hosting another open house on Sunday May 18, to give the public an opportunity to see the historic home’s first floor, where work has already been done to preserve it, thanks to a previous $8,000 grant awarded by Monmouth County Historical Commission.

The committee conducted its first open house in December, which allowed the public its first chance to enter the structure since the borough was bequeathed the site two decades ago by the last remaining Parker descendent.

The committee, in cooperation with the Monmouth County Historical Association and Sickles Market of 1 Harrison Ave., will hold a fundraiser on Sept. 13. The evening, called “As it Grows,” will be a farm-to-table event, featuring dinner and music, and will be held on the homestead’s front yard, Pardee said.

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“Our goal is to get people more aware of it and see we are making progress,” plus raise the money needed to preserve the site, Pardee said.

Preservation of the site is a worthwhile effort, Veit said. “This one place can tell us an awful lot about our history.”

The Parker Homestead is located on about 10 acres with the farmhouse and three barns. Dating back to 1665, it was continually owned by Parker family members until the death of Julia Parker in 1995. Parker donated the site to the borough with the deed restriction that it be preserved for historical and education uses.

The homestead was added to the New Jersey Register of Historic Places in 1976 and to the national register in 2012. However, in the years since the borough has taken ownership the site has largely languished, with the structures falling into considerable disrepair.

Tickets for the Sept. 13 fundraiser, starting at $150 each, are available by calling Laurie Bratone, development director for the Monmouth County Historical Association, at 732-462-1466, ext. 20.

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