I had been sent the notice that the County of Morris, New Jersey was having a two-day Open House of many of their historical sites for touring and for special events for a program entitled “The Pathways of History: Museum and Site Tours of Morris County, NJ”.
The “Pathways to History” event takes place every May
The weekend event spread to small museums, historical homes and cemeteries all over the County with walking tours and lectures at various sites. Having never been or even heard of many of these sites, I was interested in visiting as many as I could for my blog, “VisitingaMuseum.com” which is here on WordPress.com as well.
I plotted my two days of the event and tried to organize the trip so that we could see as many sites as we could. The event asked the sites to open one of the two days as…
I visited the Silas Riggs Saltbox House on a visit to the Roxbury Township Historical Society during the Morris County’s “Pathways to History” event. The event gave us a chance to visit many different sites in one day.
The Historical marker in front of the house
The Silas Riggs Saltbox House is part of the King Victorian Home & King Canal Store complex it shares with the Roxbury Historic Trust. The Silas Riggs home is a preserved colonial era, Revolutionary War period residence. It is managed by the Roxbury Township Historical Society as a “Living History Museum”, hosting events that bring a sense of the past to those who step inside (Roxbury Historical Society).
The Silas Riggs Saltbox House during the tour
The last historical site on my tour that day, it was also one of the most interesting not just because of the history of the home itself but the care and TLC the site is given by its volunteers and docents. The Riggs home is a place that you feel you have stepped into someone’s home who just left for the afternoon. Many historical societies that I have been to in the past are usually dusty and musty with artifacts thrown here and there. The Riggs home was decorated by lifestyle of the periods that it was lived in.
The volunteers were nice enough to stay open for me and we ended up talking for over 45 minutes on the house and how it was decorated. There was a care in this home as the walls and ceilings were in perfect shape and the home was so welcoming that it did not feel like a museum but more like a tour through someone’s grandmother’s home.
You are welcomed in the front room by an office set up with a large knit quilt and period furniture in a sun filled room that is such an engaging place to be greeted and just talk. The period furniture is in perfect shape and fits the mood of the room.
The front parlor room
To the side of the room is the old office area space where work would have been done and the family would have gathered. The sun-drenched room would have been a bit homier in its day but reflected how homes back then were used for both business and pleasure.
The living room/office of the Silas Riggs house
The kitchen was a reflection of kitchen’s today as the center of the home for not just cooking but socializing. The kitchen was not just a source of cooking but heat for the house. There must have been a lot of family gatherings in this room. The Historical Society during the holidays uses the kitchen for a special “Soup Dinner”, where freshly made soup is made in the hearth along with homemade corn bread. This fundraiser is considered very popular, and you have to sign up early to experience being part of the home’s family. On a cold winter night, this must have been the perfect room to be in. Even today, the kitchen is the gathering spot for all families.
The kitchen hearth of the Silas Riggs house
The bedroom that connected the back kitchen to the front parlor was decorated with period furnishings, clothing from the late 1700’s and early 1800’s. The furniture had a heavy look with dark colors and sturdiness to the items in the room as made by hand and meant to last for a long time.
The volunteers were telling me that many people came to the home and said that they could move in right now. This was the care and detail that has been put into this site. It is not just that the home is a reflection of the period, but it is set up in a way that makes you feel that the family is still greeting you when you walk in the door. The museum is a cheery atmosphere that invites its visitors in for the day.
Architectural historians have said that the Saltbox house was one of the earliest homes built in Ledgewood, NJ in the circa 1740. Saltbox houses are a flat in the front with a central chimney set square in the middle of the roofline. The roofline of a saltbox house is asymmetrical with a short, steep roof in the front and a much longer, sloping roof in the back which accommodates the one-story extension of the home.
While the original owners of the Silas Riggs Saltbox House are unknown, but records indicate that by the early 1800’s, the house was owned by Silas Riggs and his wife, Harriet. Silas was a tanner by trade and supplied the local mines with leather pouches used to transport ore. He was also a contractor for a section of the Morris Canal in 1830. He oversaw the operation of three barges in the area. His son, Albert, ran the nearby Canal Store during the canal’s early years.
The design of the house is of post and beam construction, held together with wooden pegs visible in the second story eaves, the Saltbox house, is so called because of its extended, rear sloping roofline, recalling the design of salt containers of colonial times (Roxbury Historical Society).
I visited the King Canal Store Museum and the King Homestead during the Morris County “Pathways to History” tour in May of 2022. This interesting store was still intact with its merchandise lining the shelves with a pot belly stove in the center of the store which was the center of action when the store was open to the community. All sorts of grocery items and notion items still line the walls.
The guide explained that upon the death of the owner wanted to store closed and sealed. His daughter only opened it in the 1930’s in the depth of the Depression so that residents could buy items at a reasonable price.
The King Store and the King Homestead are historic buildings located in the Ledgewood section of Roxbury Township. The Roxbury Historic Trust acts as curator for these county owned buildings. These buildings represent significance in New Jersey commerce from 1815-1928 and were added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1994 (Wiki).
The homestead was closed that afternoon that I went but I was able to walk on the porch and around the grounds. It was a beautiful property, and it was well maintained. The family lived in the house until 1975.
History of the King Canal Store:
(From the Museum website)
The King Canal Store is a unique, 2 1/2 story building constructed of stone in 1815 by Woodruff and Hopkins. At the ground floor its walls are three feet thick. The Woodruff family operated the store until 1835. It was abandoned for two years and in 1837 Albert Riggs (Son of Silas Riggs, a tanner by trade and owner of several canal boats) acquired the building and reopened it as a general store serving the community and the Morris Canal trade as it was located 150 feet from the Morris Canal basin (Wiki/Museum website).
Theodore King was the son in law of Albert Riggs, took over the store in 1873. He lived on the second floor of the building with his wife, Emma Louise and daughter also named Emma Louise. In 1881, Mr. King built a new residence on adjacent property and then began a renovation of the store, changing the decor to Greek Revival and the color scheme to cream with brown trim. In the process, the exterior was given a smooth coat of stucco which was scored to resemble large blocks. The interior of the store was given an Italianate design with a cream and maroon color scheme (Wiki).
Mr. King died in 1928 and his daughter closed the building, its contents remaining just as they were with a few occasional openings in the 1930’s to help the locals in the depths of the Depression. Emma Louise King maintained the closed-up store and lived in the well cared for home until her death at 92 in 1975. From 1989, the Roxbury Rotary Club has worked with the Roxbury Historic Trust to restore the exterior and the first-floor shop and create the King Store Museum (Museum website/Historic Ledgewood Guide).
The King Canal Store Museum has grocery items lining the walls
The Theodore F. King Homestead:
The King Family Homestead at 211 Main Street was in the family until 1975
The King Homestead, a vernacular frame house to start had several additions with Italianate and Queen Anne influenced detailing. It is possible that the original house may just have consisted of the current parlor, the two exhibition rooms and one or both of the staircases to the second floor. There were two front bedrooms and a smaller bedroom in the rear of the home.
The stairs to the basement contained the kitchen (which was a common practice during Victorian times) with a dumbwaiter added to the dining room so that the food could be brought up from the kitchen. Another addition to the home was the first-floor front office used by both Mr. King and his daughter. The mural in the first-floor dining room was by artist James William Marland in 1936 (Wiki).