The one thing I refuse to do on Father’s Day is to spend the day at the cemetery. I know that is some people’s idea of honoring one’s family members but it is not mine. I went on Friday and paid my respects to my father (whom this blog is dedicated to) and spent time remembering some of the good times we had in past. I dropped some cut flowers from our gardens (some of which he planted) and said a small prayer. Then I left.
My idea of honoring my father and spending Father’s Day with him is to do something that we would have shared together. We were always running around somewhere and exploring something new and doing something fun. That is how I wanted to honor him. By being active and giving him a toast at Sunday dinner.
When I was traveling to Salem and Cumberland Counties to visit historical sites, this was the last one on my list the first day of exploring. The Old Broad Street Presbyterian Church sits in the middle of a declining downtown in Bridgeton, NJ like a ghost of its former self. This graceful and elegant church is not used much anymore and sits like a majestic building overlooking a city that has passed it by.
The church was built in 1792 for the growing Presbyterian congregation who was living in Bridgetown as it was called at the time. The brick walls and roof were completed but it would take another three years for the interior to be finished (Cumberland History.org).
The cemetery is extremely interesting as you visit the historic tombstones and the family plots and try to figure out the connections. The biggest problem with the cemetery is that is has gotten very overgrown in parts of it. It needs a good mowing and the gravestones need to be cleaned as they are wearing away with the elements. It was hard to follow the historical listing but many famous residents and leaders of the community are buried here as well as members of the armed forces from the Revolutionary and Civil Wars and earlier.
In some cases, when the families were buried together, it almost told the story of what happened within the family. I saw grave sites where the son or daughter either died in child birth or a disease or in battle and then the devastated parents followed a few years later which was a sad narrative. I saw this many times in the family plots. How many children died of diseases that today are solved by a pill.
Some of the notable people buried in the cemetery are Ebenezer Elmer, who represented New Jersey in the United States House of Representatives from 1801-1807 and Jonathan Elmer, who represented New Jersey in the United States Senate from 1789-1791. Lucius Elmer, who represented New Jersey’s First congressional district from 1843-1845. Eilas Seeley, who was the Eleventh Governor of New Jersey serving in 1833. William G. Whiteley, who represented Delaware in the United States House of Representative from 1857 to 1861. Joseph Archibald Clark and Clement Waters Shoemaker, who were two of the founders of Cumberland Glass Manufacturing Company (Wiki).
The Broad Street Church Cemetery
The history of the Broad Street Presbyterian Church and its cemetery:
(From Cumberland NJ Art.org)
For much of the 18th century in Bridgetown, which will eventually change its name to Bridgeton, there existed no church for Presbyterians, who were a large and growing segment of the local population. For church services, they were forced to conduct services in the Courthouse or travel to churches in Greenwich, Fairfield or Deerfield several miles away.
In 1792, about two acres of land were donated along King’s Highway, which was the main road from Bridgeton to Greenwich and ran along the south end of the church constuction site. In 1800, this main route was relocated to the north and is today Broad Street (Route 49).
The basic design of the Broad Street Presbyterian Church was set by it congregation and organizers who requested a masonry building with dimensions of at least forty by fifty feet. By December 1792, the brick walls and roof has been completed but it would take another three years for the interior to be finished.
The design of the Broad Street Presbyterian Church is that of a meeting house, almost square in proportion. In the 17th and early 18th centuries, many American houses of worship were built in the meeting house form. This design was in contrast to the more formal churches of the period, which were more rectangular than square with an alter and/or communion table and pulpit approached by a long nave and often divided from the congregation by a railing. Broad Street Presbyterian Church has a tall pulpit, accessed by a winding stair and surrounded on three sides by pews so as many congregations as possible could attend and sit as close as possible to the preacher.
Above the pulpit is one of the most significant architectural features of the church, the Palladian window with its central window and semicircular arch flanked on each side by smaller windows and all unified by an entablature supported by columns. The name “Palladian” comes from the Venetian architect who originated the design, Andrea Palladio, who worked in 16th century.
Architects in the 17th and 18th centuries would travel from other parts of Europe to Italy to study architecture and they brought the Palladian style back to England and the American Colonies. Thomas Jefferson acquired an intense appreciation of Palladian architecture and used it extensively in his desing for Monticello.
By 1835, the congregation had erected a new church but because the Broad Street church was surrounded by the cemetery, the congregation did not abandon or sell it but rather maintained it exactly as they left it, which is why today it is identified as one of the most pristine and unaltered examples of 18th century church architecture in the United States.
Today the Broad Street Presbyterian Church is used for special services and opened to the pubic by appointment. It is carefully maintained by the Presbyterian congregation of First Presbyterian Church located on Commerce Street in Bridgeton, NJ.
I took an extensive tour one weekend of historical sites of southern New Jersey to see how the lower part of the state was impacted by the Revolutionary War and one of the most important sites was the Hancock House. The family was extremely prominent not just in Salem, NJ but in New Jersey politics as well.
The Hancock House and grounds during the early Fall 2022
The house once stood on an very busy road between Salem and Bridgeton and where most commerce passed by. When I was taking the tour, you could see that the house was built in two parts. When I was listening to the lecture I found that the side of the house that faced the road had once been a leased space for a tavern.
The tavern section of the house that faces the road
This commercial enterprise brought in income for the family. Later on when the Hancock family sold the house in the early 1800’s, they sold it to the tavern keeper. After he and his family sold the house, it went on to various owners before the State of New Jersey bought it in the 1930’s.
Recreation of the Tavern section of the house
A copy of the old menu at the Tavern
There are no family heirlooms in the house and while some of the rooms have period pieces and are decorated to show how the family might have lived at the time as well as how the tavern functioned, many rooms in the house needed some direction on what they wanted to say about living at the time. There needed to be more artifacts to complete the look of the room.
The Downstairs at the Hancock House:
The example of the main bedroom downstairs was used for business as well. The room was furnished with period furniture.
The downstairs bedroom at the Hancock House. The built in shelves are the only thing from the Hancock family
The Kitchen area was set for dinner and functioned as the Dining Room as well,
The kitchen set for lunch
The kitchen area for entertaining
The old kitchen at the Hancock House
The Dining Room at the Hancock House:
The Living Room
The Living Room at the Hancock House
The Gallery at the Hancock House with artifacts from the era.
The Gallery at the Hancock House
The Upstairs at the Hancock House:
The upstairs bedrooms were an example of that. One of the rooms was fully furnished to look like a period bedroom while the other had a mish-mosh of decorations and furniture. There needed to be more to capture the time period of the house.
The upstairs bedroom is the only one furnished upstairs
Still, the house was steeped in history and it was fascinating to hear what the tour guide said about the goings on during the war years to the family. Many of the rooms also could have used a good plastering and painting to bring them back to life.
When I visited the Hancock House in October of 2022, they were having a Halloween festival with pumpkin patches, face painting, watching the film “The Legend of Sleepy Hallow” by Disney films. The kids were engaged with all sorts of activities and there would be Trick or Treating on Halloween day.
Halloween festivities at the Hancock House
The pumpkin patch at the Hancock House for Halloween
Halloween festivities at the Hancock House
History of The Hancock House:
(from The Hancock House Pamphlet)
The story of the Hancock House begins in 1675 when John Fenwick, a lawyer and Quaker from England, arrived in West Jersey (now Salem Country), With land purchased two years earlier, he established the first permanent English Settlement here, called “Fenwick’s Colony,” and founded the town of Salem. Eager to populate the area with skilled, industrious individuals, he advertised the area’s assets by stating, “if there be any terrestrial “Canaan” ’tis surely here, where the Land floweth with Milk and Honey.”
The Hancock House sits on property that was purchased from John Fenwick in 1675 by William Hancock, an English showmaker. Upon his death, the property passed to his wife and then to his nephew, John Hancock.
John’s inheritance of approximately 500 acres made him a major landholder in Fenwick’s Colony. he contributed to the development of the area by building a bridge across Alloways Creek in 1708. Now known as “Hancocks Bridge,” it permitted passage on an important highway between Salem and Greenwich and gave the settlement its name.
The site of the Hancock Bridge
When John Hancock died in 1709, he left his property to his son William. William became a Justice of the Peace for Salem County and served in the Colonial Assembly for 20 years.
The site of the historic Hancock Bridge
In 1734, William and his wife, Sarah built the Hancock House. Their initials (WHS) and the construction date (1734) can be seen in the brickwork on the house’s west elevation.
Upon his death in 1762, William left his house to his son, William who succeeded him in the Assembly and became His Majesty’s Judge of the County Court for the County of Salem. It was this William who figured in the massacre of March 1778.
The Hancock House remained in the family until 1931, although the extent to which the house was used as a private residence and the property farmed is uncertain. There is evidence to suggest a section of the house was leased for a tavern during the 18th & 19th centuries.
A recreation of the old Tavern section of the home
The State of New Jersey acquired the Hancock House for $4,000 in 1931 and opened it as a museum in 1932.
The Smoke House at the Hancock House property:
The Historic Significance of the house:
Historic Marker at the Hancock House
The Architectural Significance:
The Hancock House earned a place in history on the fateful day in March 1778.
The Hancock House
Yet the story of its architecture also is important. With its distinctive patterned and wall brickwork, simple lines and little ornamentation, it reflects the building traditions of the Quaker’s English Homeland.
The land around the Hancock House
Other elements of this architectural style include Flemish bond brickwork; a pent-roof that wraps around the front and back of the house; simple entrance steps; interior paneling and the use of such local materials as Wistarburg glass.
When I was visiting Rehoboth Beach, DE recently the museum I had wanted to visit in Rehoboth was closed for the day, so I remembered that there were a few museums in Lewes, DE, a small town right down the highway so I headed there and found the Lewes History Museum at 101 Adams Avenue. The museum was the old library which has since moved across the street.
The museum is very interesting and well set up. The museum is one big room that is broken down in different sections which helps explain the history of the town. Each display moves you through the museum in a chorological order of how the town developed.
The museum starts with a display on early Native American history which then moves to the colonization of the Dutch and British in the area. There are all sorts of interesting artifacts that tell the story of the Revolutionary War by way of the residents.
There are displays on the way homes were designed and decorated as well as the role that Lewes played during the war. There have been a lot of soldiers who had died in the war with their stories being told by the museum. There are also discussions about the interaction between the Native population with the colonists.
The Lewes History Museum’s displays are informative
There is a section on the development of businesses and Lewes as a resort town. The section on Lewes developing as a resort town was interesting with the advent of ocean swimming, boating and beach recreation.
There was an interesting display on Victorian furniture and decorating for the home. There were also all types of home furnishing items when setting up house during the Victorian Age.
There was a detailed display on the Beebe family and the growth of their well-known hospital. The family started with three beds in a home to the giant hospital that it is today. You can read about the family members contributions both to the hospital and the community.
The museum will take about an hour to comfortably walk through.
The History of the Lewes History Museum:
(From the Museum website):
The Lewes History Museum is located in the Margarat H. Rollins Community Center at 101 Adams Avenue in Lewes, DE. For 54 years, The Lewes Historical Society has collected and preserved tens of thousands of historic artifacts, artwork, documents, maps and photos. Now it the support from the City of Lewes, a gift of $500,000 from the Ma-Ran Foundation and generous donations, this incredible collection is on continuous display at the Lewes History Museum.
The museum serves as the primary source of information about Lewes for visitors, researchers, students and residents. Enjoy ongoing exhibits featuring Lewe’ maritime history, decorative arts and artists, famous families of Lewes and how our region is seen through environmental change. The museum provides ongoing seminars, symposia and presentations along with a wing for community non-profit gatherings.
The popular Children’s Discovery Center is house inside the museum and is currently closed at this time. The Discovery Center offers an interactive, fun and educational experience for children of all ages. At the Center, children can experience 19th century Delaware by interacting in a replica general store and post office, playing around a scaled model of Cape Henlopen Lighthouse with a Morse code station, foghorn and reflecting lights. The Center also houses a Delaware River Pilots’ simulation module, a electronic table-top boat-building area and a lighthouse “keepers cottage”.
The community center is the centerpiece of the cultural campus in Lewes, including 18 miles of trails, a concert stage, parks, a children’s garden and the Lewes Public Library.