WINTER DOES NOT DETER GEORGE WASHINGTON’S BIRTHDAY CELEBRATION!
A break in the winter onslaught brought 50 degrees and sun for a lovely, but muddy (melting does take its toll, too!) day to celebrate George Washington’s 282nd birthday at Rockingham on Saturday, February 22.
OUR CANDLELIGHT GUESTS WERE ENLIGHTENED
Rockingham Historic Site’s 2013 Candlelight Christmas Tours were presented on Sunday, December 15. While advance interest in the tours was good (reservations were required), the weather did not cooperate and turnout was not quite as high as expected. A couple of inches of snow fell on the Saturday before and then iced up overnight. Some of Delaware and Raritan Canal State Park’s maintenance (the Park oversees Rockingham) were out bright and early at the site on the day of the event to clear the paths and the parking lot so that we were ready for the visitors. However, due to poor clearing of roads in general in the area, some of our expected visitors were apparently not able to make it out to Rockingham.
The theme for this year’s Candlelight tours was The Enlightenment in the 18th Century. The Enlightenment had roots in the late 17th century, but flourished in the 18th with major shifts in fields such as philosophy, religion, science, education, government, and the arts. As they passed from room to room, our tour guests learned about these shifts and the people involved in this “revolution,” including Benjamin Franklin and Jean-Jacques Rousseau, led and informed by the period-dress attired Live Historians Club of Montgomery Township High School.
In addition to the tours by candlelight, there was lilting period music provided by Practitioners of Musick’s John Burkhalter and lovely 18th-century-style decorations arranged by the Stony Brook Garden Club. The Live Historians offered refreshments of cookies and warm cider in the Children’s Museum and the Rockingham Association greeted tour guests, minded candles and staffed the Museum Store for light holiday shopping.
Our volunteers are the backbone of Rockingham events and a big HUZZAH! is to be given for their generosity!
BARN UPDATES-February 2014
BARN UPDATES-January 2014
The progress continues on the barn raising.
AS BROAD AS A DUTCH BARN
In case you ever wondered, as you walked the path from the parking lot to the Rockingham house, what the large cement slab was, you will find out in a few months. You also may have noticed more recently that there is a large building frame with massive beams going up on the slab. For seventeen years, wooden beams of this frame were stored and in waiting to become a Dutch barn once more.
Seventeen years ago, the barn, which had been a Dutch barn built in the late 18th-early 19th century but converted to the English style in the 19th, was in neglected and deteriorating shape on another State property. The barn was dismantled and what frame timbers could be salvaged were stored in a manner to keep them from deteriorating further. The idea was to reconstruct the barn in its original Dutch style at Rockingham as part of recreating the 18th-century landscape, which included barns, stables, a carriage house, a smoke house and other outbuildings.
The New Jersey Barn Company took possession of the frame pieces several months ago to see what survived and what pieces would need to be replaced. Then, on October 21, 2013, the wood pieces were transported to Rockingham and the reassembling began. A crane arrived on October 25 to raise the H-frame sections and to place purlins to cap the sections together along with other structural pieces. For the most part, just as when the barn was first built, the wood beams were joined by mortise and tenon and then pegged to hold them in place. In order to know what beams fit where, adjoining pieces were marked with the same Roman numerals, a system that you can see on the exposed beam (from the c. 1710 construction) in the entrance hall of the house.
Once the frame is all up, the outer shell will be added—the roof, siding, doors and windows. This will take several months as the work will be done over the winter. We hope to have the barn ready for a grand opening in the spring of 2014. There are also plans for a film to be shown on PBS about the raising, which is being done by WarrenZ Productions through the NJ Barn Company.
But, what is a Dutch barn? Dutch barns were quite common in areas of what we now call New York that were known in the 17th century as New Netherland. These barns were also found in areas of New Jersey. Most were built between 1650 and 1825. Historic Dutch barns can still be found in rural portions of the Hudson, Mohawk and Schoharie valleys of New York, as well as in northern and central New Jersey. Northern European settlers, primarily Dutch, built these sturdy structures to house livestock, hay and grain. Few remain today.
These barns had higher-pitched roofs than other types of barns; sometimes the roofs were twice as tall as the side walls or even came so close to the ground there was little side wall. There was one wide double-door in the middle of one or both of the gable ends through which a wagon could fit for delivering grain and hay, and, often, two smaller doors near each corner to admit livestock to the side stalls. Sometime there were also holes of different shapes cut into the gable sides, near the peak of the roof, to admit martins, swallows and other insect-eating birds to the interior. The siding was horizontal and wide and the barn itself was often wider than long or deep.
Inside the barn was a mortised, tenoned and pegged H-shaped structural support creating 4 sections: the two side aisles for livestock, the center floor for threshing and an upper loft for storing grain and hay on top of saplings laid across the beams. The cross or anchor beams usually projected through the upright beams and were rounded like large tongues.
Two examples of these Dutch barns in New Jersey today are the Wade-Wyckoff Barn, now at the Bouman-Stickney Farmstead, Stanton, NJ (Hunterdon County) and the Wortendyke Dutch Barn Museum, Park Ridge, NJ (Bergen County).
[drawings courtesy of Dutch Barn Preservation Society and Hudson Valley Vernacular Architecture’s “Survey of New World Dutch Cultural Resources” webpage, http://dutchfarmsurvey.org/teachers.html]
Margaret Berrien, widow of Judge John Berrien and owner of Rockingham while it was rented out for General Washington, died in 1819 and, according to church records, was laid to rest in St. Mary's Episcopal Church burial ground in Burlington, New Jersey. She had sold Rockingham in 1802 and, some records suggest, may have been living with a granddaughter in Burlington when she passed away at the approximate age of 86 (she is believed to have been born in 1733, but no record has been found to verify this).
There is no marker to show where Margaret Berrien was buried--either the stone was lost over the years or none was ever provided--and it is only speculated that it was close to the old church building (a newer, larger church is also on the grounds, now).
Several years ago, while researching family genealogy, Berrien descendent and Rockingham Association board member, Linda Hollywood, found the information on where Margaret was buried. She hoped to remember her ancestor with a marker, so that she would not be forgotten. Linda, a member of the General David Forman-Penelope Hart Chapter of the DAR in Mercer County, got the heritage organization involved in sponsoring a headstone to commemorate Margaret's resting place. It took many years, extra research and just the right wording, but finally, on November 12, 2011, a chilly, but clear morning, the stone was unveiled at a ceremony in the churchyard (where, incidentally, Elias Boudinot, president of Congress at the time of Washington's stay at Rockingham, is also buried). Conducted by members of the sponsoring chapter and St. Mary's priest, the stone was dedicated and consecrated as a lasting tribute to the wife of a New Jersey Superior Court justice, mother of a Continental Army officer and grandmother of a United States Senator and Attorney General. She allowed use of her home by General George Washington, during a time when Princeton, nearby, was the de-facto nation's capital with the occupancy of our Congress.
Summer 2011 - Young Men Complete Eagle Scout Projects at Rockingham
Attaining the rank of Eagle Scout takes a lot of dedication, organization and perseverance. Many Boy Scouts don't stick with it long enough to achieve this special designation. Part of the long process involves a service project. Two local scouts received their Eagle Scout award by doing projects at Rockingham, adding important and much appreciated features to the site.
Sheel Sanghvi, a recent graduate of South Brunswick High School who will be attending Rutgers Engineering in the fall, designed and laid paths to the kitchen garden and house. There had been an earlier path that had become overgrown and no longer visible. With Sheel's oversight, his group of fellow scouts dug the paths out, laid gray stone and then plastic tarp to impede weed growth. On top they put down small red stones, resembling material used in the colonial era for walkways.
Now, even when the grass is not freshly mowed, visitors can get easily to the garden and house from the sand path that bring them from the parking lot. It looks neat and orderly as it would have in the 18th century. Sheel also built three donation boxes that are appropriate to the State specifications, for use in the house, museum store and for special events. And finally, he built a box for the outside of the house that can be used for storage.
Alex Savadelis, a student at Montgomery Township High School, built and installed shelving in the basement for collection pieces that are in storage. Many items are still in cardboard boxes from the time of the house's moving in 2001. These pieces would more appropriately be stored on padded shelves. While the site owned several metal shelves, there was not an adequate number for the whole collection. Alex and crew built fine, sturdy pieces that will enable us to unpack a great deal more for proper professional storage. Much of the shelving was built off-site and then installed in one afternoon with the help of several other scouts and parents, under the guidance of Alex.
Both scouts did a wonderful job, working with the site director to get specifications and materials just right, adding their own craftsmanship and attention to detail. The completed projects are great assets to the site and will be beneficial for many years to come. We wish Sheel and Alex much success in future endeavors!
Premiere Viewing of New Rockingham DVD was held April 22, 2010 at Princeton University. Peter Field and Darren Staloff, two of the James Madison Program's 2009-10 Visiting Fellows, acted as Discussants after the screening.
Porch Repair Begins
Most of the wood of the porch has been taken down and will be reconstructed over the next several weeks. Dave Larkin Builders, Inc. from Avon-by-the-Sea, NJ is doing the work. There will also be some repairs to the interior stairs and various other spots as well, which may cause disruption to second-story access during the house tours, so be prepared when visiting.
The original porch was added in the first half of the 19th century, by the Cruser family. It later was removed, but after the house was first relocated and opened to the public at the end of the 19th century by the Washington Headquarters Association, it was restored to the house. The earliest known depiction of the house came from a book on the Revolutionary War, written in the 1850s. It was therefore erroneously thought that this was how the house appeared when General Washington used it as his final wartime headquarters in 1783. Over the years, the porch has become part of the shifting of the house structure and cannot be removed completely without damage to the front of the house itself.
So, if you come by, we are still open for tours, though we will be using the kitchen door for entrance to the house. Please be careful of the construction area for your own safety.
Eagle Scout Completes Project for Rockingham
Boy Scout Patrick Bluem, an 11th grader at South Brunswick High School, became an Eagle Scout in 2008. He chose to do his service project at Rockingham. Patrick designed, organized and sought supplies for an enclosure fence to be built around the dumpster at the historic site. The dumpster, though a necessary fixture, detracted from the historic atmosphere. The new wooden fence with period hardware completely hides the 21st century dumpster, adding fine craftsmanship as well. Supplies were provided by local merchants and other scouts provided assistance in the construction. Younger scouts completed a beautification project in the parking area with the addition of native-species plants around the flagpole and information kiosk and made an improvement to the kiosk as well.
We wish Patrick much success in his future endeavors and thank him for the wonderful addition to Rockingham Historic Site!
In celebration of the 225th Anniversary of Washington's Residence at Rockingham in 1783, the following events took place:
August through November 2008
November 2008 - "The Curtain of Separation Will Soon be Drawn"
Von Heer's Marechausee encamped once more, guarding General Washington in his final days at Rockingham. On Sunday, the General took his leave of those assembled with a review of the major events during his tenure at the site, including the official word of the signing of the Treaty of Paris to formally end the American Revolution and the Farewell Orders to the Armies, penned during his stay.
New Jersey State Archives
October 2008 - The Practitioners of Musick performed Music for the Washingtons. Practitioners of Musick are not just musicians, they are scholars who meticulously research the music and the instruments they play. During this performance, they presented music played and listened to by General and Mrs. Washington, using instruments of the 18th century, including harpsichord, violin, cello, English flute (recorder) and voice.
September 2008 - Pat Jordan, of the American Historical Theatre presented a program titled "In Whatever Situation I May Be" Martha Washington, General's Wife at Rockingham. Martha Washington, wife of the General, accompanied him throughout much of the Revolutionary War and came with him to Rockingham. Pat Jordan portrayed Mrs. Washington, the General's closest confidant and helpmate and talked about being the wife of the Commander-in-Chief.
December 2007 - Museum Store and Visitor Center Opens
On December 9, the Museum Store and Visitor Center opened for the first time. The photo to the right shows a few of the people (Nancy Allen, committee member, Peggi Carlsen, former site director, Lisa Flick, current site director, and Mary Kay Muckenhoupt, committee chairperson) behind the vision for the Visitor Center and Museum Store. Missing from the photo are Jim Farrell, current Association president, Eric Holtermann, site architect and current board member, Gordon Griffin, past Association president, Sharon Wheeden, committee member, and others who saw the possibilities for the sweet little stone building. It opened to rousing praise after more than 10 years of planning.
October 2007 - Renovation and Construction Update - Phase 3 Comes to a Close
The construction at Rockingham, begun in March, is drawing to a close. The stone building that served as a kitchen for hearth-cooking demonstrations at Rockingham's previous site on Rte. 518 will soon open as the Museum Store and Visitor Center. This building has been painted, and new lighting and heating have been added. Also, a section with two bathrooms has been added for the public to use.
The store committee, headed by Rockingham Association member Mary Kay Muckenhoupt, is working on plans for the interior set-up and inventory. The group hopes to open the store on November 11. Its grand opening, however, will be on December 9 during the Holiday Candlelight Tours.
Other additions to the Rockingham property include a new fence along the path from the Museum Store to the main house, with unobtrusive modern lighting for the path at night. Lighting has also been added from the parking lot to the store.
The Children's Museum building, however, is on hold for now, while siding replacement issues are worked out. Its chimney will eventually be relined, so that hearth-cooking demonstrations can resume at the site in the future.
A few minor things need to be completed and the new museum store and visitor center (and public bathrooms) will be declared open for business, hopefully by December.
May 2007 - Bits and Pieces
2008 marks 225 years since George Washington made Rockingham his final war-time headquarters. A committee is already working on activities and programs to be held from August through November 2008, the months Washington was in residence. The committee is also working with representatives from Morven Museum, Princeton University, the Historical Society of Princeton and the Chamber of Commerce to bring first rate artisans and dignitaries to the area for the celebration of Washington's stay and the meeting of the Continental Congress. Watch for more information.
Articles by Dawn Fairchild, former Association Vice President and creator of the Washington replica uniform and most of our reproduction wardrobe, have been printed in the DAR publication, American Spirit (Nov.-Dec. 2006) and the The Mayflower Quarterly (Dec. 2006). The articles document the hundreds of hours of research and hand work required to reproduce the fine replica uniform on display on a likeness of the General.
And congratulations also are in order to former site curator, Peggi Carlsen and Board member, Dr. Mary Rizzo, for the future publication of an article, "Foodways without Fire: Using Food to Teach about Gender and Labor at an Eighteenth Century House Museum", in the AHLFAM (Association for Living History, Farm and Agricultural Museums) Bulletin. The piece discusses the foodways program that Peggi and Mary developed at Rockingham.
April 2007 - Exciting Renovations and New Construction
After several years of anticipation, construction began in March on several improvements at the site.
The 150-year old stone building is about to be come the Museum Store and Visitor Center. While not original to Rockingham's Colonial period, the charming historic structure was used for open-hearth cooking at the former site and was moved with the Rockingham mansion and Children's Museum in 2001. There will be public bathrooms attached to the building which also will house the Museum Store.
Other improvements include:
Work is expected to be completed in the early summer 2007.
October 2006 - Washington Military Reproductions
Master craftsman Richard Toone delivered the final pieces to Rockingham's unique collection of reproduction Washington military artifacts. Added to the shaving kit, liquor boxes and other extraordinary pieces is an elaborate mess kit. Mr. Toone was given access to the original at the Smithsonian in order to replicate it in every detail for use in educational programs. Also newly on display are a leather portmanteau, elegant trunks and a charming writing kit.
In addition, the Mount Vernon Ladies Association gave permission to Mr. Toone to replicate, solely for Rockingham, Washington's shaving kit and a heavy wooden crate, which are part of the Mount Vernon collection.