Friends of the Wm Green Farmhouse

Construction Phases


Prior to 1730 a log cabin existed on the site. Its original foundation still remains and was retained during the third building stage. That cabin remained a part of the house until demoilished, save the foundation, during the third building stage.
 

Phase 1 The house as it presently stands consists of sections from three distinct building periods. The oldest of these forms the southeast segment of the building. Originally, it was a  two-and-a-half story brick house, one room deep, with a divided basement, single room on the first floor, and two above. Although this portion of the building has traditionally been dated 1717, it seems unlikely that it was constructed so early since, shortly after acquiring it, William Green, Sr. moved into his “new” house near the Delaware. 1730 is often quoted as the more likely date of construction. There was, however, a house on the site prior to construction of this section, and to which this house was adjoined.
Phase 2 The second section, chronologically, is located behind this 1730’s section, forming the northeast segment of the house. This consists of an addition of two rooms and a stairhall on the first floor, with two rooms above. Again there is no written documentation of a construction date, but the forms of the interior detailing and materials used, including mud and hair plaster and hand-wrought rosehead nails, are characteristic of work done in this area between 1750 and 1790. A date towards the latter part of this period is more likely, since the double and triple-beaded paneling on several doors, now hanging elsewhere, but originally made for this section, is generally found locally in buildings of the post-Revolutionary era.
Phase 3 The third building stage, a two room deep addition to the west, nearly doubled the size of the house. This again was constructed of brick, laid up, however, in common, rather than Flemish bond, with seven rows of stretchers to one of the headers.  Again there is no documentation for the date of construction of this section. Because of the presence of circular saw marks on much of the interior lath, it must be concluded that it could not have been built much before 1830. Two likely dates for construction activity follow Samuel Green’s acquisition of the property in 1833 and Henry P. Green’s in 1848. For a variety of reasons the former date is more likely than the latter. This section of the building was evidently erected in the location of the earliest house on the property. It may, indeed, incorporate the foundations of the earlier house (the log cabin purchased from John Severns), and perhaps, at least partially, its large cooking fireplace.

 

Excerpt from Historical Analysis and Feasibility Study: William Green House

The report was prepared for the Division of Building and Construction; New Jersey State Department of Treasury; Control No: DBC 1776 in August of 1976 by Short & Ford , Architects and Heritage Studies, Historical Consultants. Both were based in Princeton, NJ.



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HISTORICAL RESEARCH
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There is a long-held misunderstanding about the early particulars of this house. An apparently incorrect traditional account holds that this house was erected in 1717 (according to a date supposed to be lodged in the west wall, but never found) on a 345-acre tract that William Green Sr. bought of Daniel Coxe in 1712. It is believed to have been the first brick house to be built in Trenton (now Ewing) Township.

The story appears to have been recounted in the mid-nineteenth century by a member of the Green family, to Eli Field Cooley, author of Genealogy of Early Settlers in Trenton and Ewing, published in 1883. The family storyteller was probably Henry P. Green, for he was living in the house while Cooley was preparing his book and he was a great-great-grandson of the alleged builder, William.* Rueben Pownall Ely lifted the story from Cooley, added a few embellishments of phrase, and used it in his own genealogy of the Ely family, published in 1910. The story partly reappears again in Henry Charlton Beck's Fare to Midlands, published in 1939, but this time the source is an oral one once more--- Reeder Green, son of Henry P., who was born and raised in the house. From here the story appeared in a number of newspaper articles, and a plaque on the house that was erected in 1929 from the contributions of school-children identified as the "Lanning School Pupils." None of these sources offers convincing evidence. It appears that Cooley was not unlike many other local antiquarians of his time. He was a competent genealogist and an incompetent historian.

Cooley's account, although inaccurate, is suggestive of the truth. The William Green house stands on a piece of ground that Daniel Coxe did sell in 1712. It was part of Coxe's large "Hopewell" tract, but the buyer was not Green, but one John Severns. This estate lay from the west to the east branches of the Shabakunk Creek, straddling both sides of "the high road from the Falls of Delaware commonly called Rogers Parks Road." This road had been laid out in 1700 and was resurveyed in 1741. It was the "Middle Road", that came to be known later as the Trenton-Pennington Road or Rogers Road. John Severns evidently sold to William Green Sr. the land east of this road, shortly after his purchase in 1712, although no deed is recorded. In 1714 he sold the property on the other side of


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the road to Robert Lanning. In this deed, fortunately recorded, Lanning’s purchase was bounded on the east side “by the said (Roger Parks) road upwards about sixty-five chains more or less by the land of William Green and the said John Severns.”

This William Green, William Green Senior since he was the first of several Williams to reside on this farm, had gained something of a local standing as a justice in 1714 when Hunterdon County was set off from Burlington. He became a Judge of the Court of Common Pleas shortly thereafter. His will, dated January 11, 1721/2 is the earliest evidence of a house on or near the site of the present structure. Green bequeathed to his second and third oldest sons, Joseph and William Jr., “That House and Plantation that I bought of John Severans…to be Equally Divided by them.” Therefore, the earliest house on this property was already standing by 1714; it could not have been built in 1717. William Sr. gave to his oldest son, Richard, his “New Dwelling House and Plantation.” It is quite plausible that this “new” house was built in 1717. It was new compared to the older house of John Severns. However, this cannot be, as has been assumed, the house on the Trenton State College campus. Richard lived out his life on the plantation he inherited, including the new dwelling house and his will, dated 1741, indicates clearly where that house was. His plantation lay, “Joyning on the King’s road next Delaware.” (River Road, three miles away.)

The subject of this report, the house on the Trenton State College campus, stands on the northern part of the plantation that William Green Sr. bequeathed to his sons Joseph and William Jr. It is possible that William Sr. lived on this farm, in the house formerly of John Severans, before the completion of his new home by the Delaware. It is not known when William Jr. and Joseph Green divided the land between themselves, or which one received the house already on it, but William received the northern half of the farm and Joseph the southern half. Green Lane (formerly Bull Lane) was laid out in 1832 as “Bull Alley” along the boundary between these two properties.

The house under investigation here, that will be called the “William Green house”, stands on the land that was devised to William Green Jr. William Jr. was just reaching majority when his father died. He was born in 1702 and married Lydia Armitage, probably around 1730. A reference in the minutes of the Ewing Presbyterian Church reads,

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"Nov. 25, 1733 Lydia Green, wife of Willm." Lydia and William had four children, their first born in 1734.

Enoch Green, born 1734, was the oldest child of Lydia and William and the only child raised in the Green house to achieve a measure of distinction later in life. He was graduated from the College of New Jersey in 1760 and became a missionary for the Presbyterian church. The collections of the New Jersey Historical Society and Rutgers University Library's Special Collections contain journals of two of his missions. He became the pastor of the Presbyterian church in Deerfield, New Jersey in 1766. Cooley relates that he subsequently served as a chaplain in the Continental Army during the Revolution; he contracted camp fever and died in 1776.

William Green Jr. moved from the house sometime before 1779. In his will, written that year, he gave the house and the land to his son, William Green III, who was already occupying the same. Again, a key phrase in the description identifies it as the William Green house and farm. "I give unto my son William Green all my other land and plantation with the appurtenances, whereon he now lives Together with that part lying and adjoyning thereto situated in the Township of Maidenhead." When the will was written the boundary of Maidenhead (now Lawrence) Township was the Shabakunk Creek as it passes near the house. Part of William Green's farm did lie to the east of the creek in Maidenhead Township.

William Green III was born at the house in 1743. He may have served in the Hunterdon County militia during the Revolution. (There is a rejected pension claim for him.)
He married Phebe Moore, daughter of Samuel Moore, probably 1775. (Dates of birth and marriage seem to be very elusive for this family. Perhaps Cooley's genealogy does not give precise dates because he did not find then either.) Seven children were born to William III and Phebe, Elijah, the second son being born in 1782. This increasing family size may have served as the motive for erection of the frame enlargement to the original brick house.

William Green III died on the farm in 1815, leaving his entire real and personal estate to his wife, Phebe, in trust for their children, to divide the estate equally among them. Phebe was still in possession of the property when Green Lane was surveyed

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in 1832. A map of this road includes no reference to the Green house or any related buildings. Phebe’s son, Samuel M. Green, purchased the house and farm in 1833. The 251- acre farm, together with the piece of land on the east side of the Shabakunk was described. Phebe died in 1837, aged 84.

Samuel was born about 1791. He married Mary Perrine, daughter of Henry Perrine, perhaps a few years before 1815. No doubt they lived at the house before Samuel purchased it in 1833. They had nine children. Their second son, Henry P. Green, was born in 1819. He married Virginia Reeder, and they had six children, two of whom died in childhood or adolescence. For one dollar and an agreement to support his father, Henry purchased the house and farm from Samuel in 1848. However, the farm now included only 197 acres on the west side of the Shabakunk. Samuel had sold in 1840, all of his property adjoining on the east side of the creek to another son, William A. Green. This William was Henry’s older brother, born in 1816. His initials, found in a stone on the grounds outside the house, must date from the interval between 1816 and 1840. Samuel may have ordered the building of the western addition to the house, the second alteration of the original building. His household was the largest of any of the generations of the Green family to inhabit the house. Beside his wife and nine children, there was his mother, Phebe, and her black indentured servant. Unfortunately, the mortgages that Samuel entered into offer no clue whereby to date the western addition.

Samuel’s son, Henry P. Green, was apparently curious about the old house. Beck says that it was Henry who found the “antique tombstone” of William Green Sr. (died 1722) and had it repaired. If, as the traditional story goes, there had been a date stone in the west wall of the original house, Henry may have seen it as a boy, before the western addition probably put up by his father obscured the stone permanently. Even when Henry was a boy there was no one still living who remembered when the house was built. His grandmother, Phebe, was still living, had resided for the entire married life in the house, since circa 1775. She could have retold whatever her husband, William III, had passed on about the house, but it is unlikely that even he was yet born when the house was erected. Therefore, any tales that Henry told to Cooley are suspect.

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Henry sold in 1879 to Lydia Ann Moore, who may have been a relative. The trustees of her estate conveyed the property to Willis P. Bainbridge in 1910. The acreage of the farm was shrinking continually. From 251 acres in 1833 to 197 in 1848, to 155 when Henry Green sold in 1879. After a series of transactions, A. Jewell Blackwell bought the house with 125 acres in 1915. He held the house and most of the remianing farm until the State of New Jersey bought him out to create the site for Trenton State College. The occupation of the campus was completed by 1934, and the William Green house has been in its possession ever since.

The available documents shed very little light on the house itself, its size, number of rooms, type of construction, or dates of erection or alteration. The house that John Severns had owned before 1721 may or may not have stood on the site of the present house. William Green Jr. was residing elsewhere when he died in 1786, so that his inventory of that date is not relevant. The inventory of 1815 is relevant but not helpful. The 1832 survey map of Bull Lane makes no note of any buildings. There is only enough documentary evidence to establish chain of title, and little more.

END of this section


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The William Green House is located on the southern boundary of the Trenton State College campus, facing Green Lane. The house as it presently stands consists of sections from four distinct building periods. The oldest of these forms the southeast segment of the building. Originally, it was a two-and-a-half story brick house, one room deep, with a divided basement, single room on the first floor (Room 101), and two above (Rooms 201 and 202). Although this portion of the building has traditionally been dated 1717, it seems unlikely that it was constructed so early since, shortly after acquiring it, William Green, Sr. moved into his “new” house near the Delaware. There was, however, a house on the site prior to construction of this section, and to which this house was adjoined. Traces of the roof of this earlier one-and-a-half story building appear on the partition wall between the east and west sections of the building. (Fig. 28) In addition, many reused fragments of an early framed house appear in the western section, including mortised and white-washed timbers in the crawl space; rough hand split lath in some of the partitions; and a corner post used to lintel in the doorway between the eastern and western sections of the cellar. (Fig. 15) Furthermore, there seems never to have been a cooking facility in the early brick section of the house. The large fireplace contains only a warming oven, not a baking oven with a separate flue.

Although no documentation of the date of construction can be found, it seems likely that this portion of the house was built in the early 1730’s when William Green, Jr. had married and started a family. Although no comparable house exists in the immediate vacinity, the William Green House does resemble a small group of houses located in Burlington County, just south of Trenton, and built in the 1730’s and 1740’s. The resemblances include the material,



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Flemish checker brickwork; the general size and proportions; the placing of openings; and details of the interior woodwork, including somewhat unusual three-panel doors. While the south façade and east gable end are laid up in Flemish checker, that is, rows of alternating stretchers and black-glazed headers, the north façade and west gable end are of English bond, that is, alternating single rows of stretchers and headers. Although this bond appears in Virginia and Maryland brickwork of the late seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries, it is comparatively rare further north. Early eighteenth century houses in Chester County often followed a similar pattern of Flemish checker on the main facades and English bond elsewhere. No other published examples have been found in New Jersey. Although no longer visible on the exterior, this bond was observed from the crawl space under the north addition to this section and through selected probing of what are now interior walls.

The second section, chronologically, is located behind this 1730’s section, forming the northeast segment of the house. This consists of an addition of two rooms and a stairhall on the first floor, with two rooms above. Again there is no written documentation of a construction date, but the forms of the interior detailing and materials used, including mud and hair plaster and hand-wrought rosehead nails, are characteristic of work done in this area between 1750 and 1790. A date towards the latter part of this period is more likely, since the double and triple-beaded paneling on several doors, now hanging elsewhere, but originally made for this section, is generally found locally in buildings of the post-Revolutionary era. Building activity in the early 1780’s would coincide with acquisition of the house by William Green, III prior to 1779 and the formation of his growing family. This section of the building is of frame construction, brick-nogged, and originally covered with beaded clapboard. The construction and original exterior finish are still visible in its western gable, which now serves as a partition wall between the east and west sections of the attic. At the time this section was built, the roof was raised and enlarged to cover both the new construction and the existing 1730’s section.
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The third building stage, a two room deep addition to the west, nearly doubled the size of the house. This again was constructed of brick, laid up, however, in common, rather than Flemish bond, with seven rows of stretchers to one of the headers. Again there is no documentation for the date of construction of this section. Because of the presence of circular saw marks on much of the interior lath, it must be concluded that it could not have been built much before 1830. Two likely dates for construction activity follow Samuel Green’s acquisition of the property in 1833 and Henry P. Green’s in 1848. For a variety of reasons the former date is more likely than the latter. Although this part of the house is neither as well constructed nor detailed as the two older sections, what detailing there is reflects eighteenth rather than nineteenth century tastes. This is particularly true of such detailings as the mouldings around the window to the left of the door on the south façade. (Fig. 6) Furthermore, the size of the cooking fireplace and the presence of a beehive oven, although these may have been survivors of the earlier house, indicate a date in the 1830’s rather than the 1850’s. By the latter period, wood and coal cooking ranges were fairly widely available and it seems likely that a new building would have been planned to accommodate one. In fact such a stove was eventually placed in this position, as witnessed by the large hole for a stovepipe, now filled in, above the fireplace.

One additional clue may be the flat stone embedded behind this section of the house adjacent to the driveway. This bears the initials, “W.A.G.” for William A. Green, son of Samuel Green, born in 1816. While this can by no means be considered conclusive evidence, it is not unlikely that a teenage boy would carve his initials to commemorate so important an event as construction of a major addition to his home. Furthermore, William A. Green moved from the house by 1840.

This section of the building was evidently erected in the location of the earliest house on the property. It may, indeed, incorporate the foundations of the earlier house, and perhaps, at least partially, its large cooking fireplace. Some joists in the crawl space of the northern part of this section show traces of

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whitewash, and at least one contains regularly spaced, now non-functional, mortise holes, indicating their re-use from a framed structure. Re-used hand-split lath appears, in conjunction with circular-sawn lath in the east-west partition on the second floor, and around the fireplace.

The general form of this section and its reiteration of the eighteenth century opening patterns and details indicates a date in the earlier part of the nineteenth century rather than mid-century. What is characteristic of the latter period is work carried out on the façade of the 1730’s section. This consisted of covering the Flemish bond brickwork on the basement and first floor level with stucco to imitate stone, thereby closing up the windows flanking the door, and enlargement of the central entrance to accommodate a double-leafed door. A porch may have been added at this time, although the present wood porches appear to date from the last decades of the nineteenth century.

The fourth building phase encompassed the addition of a kitchen with shed roof, to the northeast corner of the building. Because this addition would presumably not be included in the restoration of the house, its features have not been considered as part of this analysis. Replacement of window frames and sash continued through the latter part of the twentieth.

The above discussion has dealt with the major structural development of the house. The detailed information which follows identifies the surviving original fabric and indicates subsequent alterations to that fabric.

50-odd pages follow…