By John Burton
LITTLE SILVER – While the borough has owned the historic Parker Homestead for nearly 20 years, next month the public will have its first formal opportunity to see the more than nearly 350-year-old site.
The Parker Homestead Committee will be holding an open house from 1 to 4 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 22, with the public invited to see the interior of the farmhouse, where some restoration work has been done to shore up the long-deteriorating structure.
“It looks wonderful,” Jennifer Pardee, a committee member, said of the building, one of the oldest in the state.
The committee applied for a grant from the Monmouth County Historical Commission and received $8,000 that allowed it to do some interior work to clean up and repair three rooms on the house’s first floor, primarily the ceiling and floors.
“The ceiling in the front parlor was falling down. It was falling down in big chunks on a daily basis” prior to the work, Pardee said.
While doing the work, which started earlier this fall, contractors discovered original large timber beams used to support the ceiling and the wide-planked floorboards above it with what looks to be the original stain on it. That got Pardee and the other committee trustees excited, so much so that they wanted to open the home.
“The whole goal is to get people into the house to see it, experience it,” she said.
Workers also unearthed a bricked-over fireplace that is believed to date back to about 1721. “To me, it’s just beautiful,” Pardee said.
In 2012 the committee received a $250,000 grant from the Monmouth County Open Space Preservation program that required local matching funds. Those funds were used to repair the site’s three barns, which were in serious need of restoration, according to Pardee.
The Parker Homestead, located at 235 Rumson Road, encompasses about 10 acres with the farmhouse and three barns. It dates back to 1665 and continued to be owned by members of the Parker family 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 listed with the New Jersey Register of Historic Places in 1976 and the National Register of Historic Places in 2012.
When the borough assumed ownership, some work was done to the farmhouse, including painting of the exterior. Contents of the house, including furniture and documents, were removed and stored. Currently, they are being cataloged for historical value.
Farm equipment found in one of the outer buildings has been loaned to the Monmouth County Historical Association and will be incorporated into a 2014 exhibit highlighting farming in the county from 1600 to the present, at the association’s Freehold museum.
Because the Parker family donation did not come with an accompanying trust, money was in short supply to do the extensive work needed for the repair and upkeep of the site and it languished for much of the time the borough owned it.
“The real novelty of it is that it was in the same family for over 330 years,” Pardee said.
Research done by some interested borough residents hasn’t found any other site in the state that can make that claim, she said.
A couple of years ago the borough council established a new committee, which includes Pardee, Robert Sickles Jr. and Keith Wells, to replace a former group to oversee the operation and restoration of site. “I think everyone is frustrated because it’s taken so long” to get things done, Pardee said. There has been progress during the last couple of years, which will be highlighted with the open house.
The committee has applied for 501 (c) 3 not-for-profit tax status and will begin fundraising efforts in earnest to get money needed to establish some sort of educational and cultural resource at the site.
“We’re working as hard as we can,” Pardee said. “I think it can and should be a part of the community.”
Additional information about the Parker Homestead is available by visiting www.parkerhomestead-1665.com.