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Living History On A Gentleman's Farm - The Griswolds
08/30/2011 - By A.J. Perna
Photography by AK Photo / Al Kruper
The Griswolds are students of their home’s 300 year history
The original portion of the Griswold’s home is a true Dutch Colonial, built by wealthy Dutch settlers in 1700 on a plot of land that was originally over 500 acres. The rich soil on the property is mostly red clay and was perfect for growing hearty fruit and nut trees. In fact, all of the wood used in the construction of the home is from locally grown trees. In 1830, an addition to the home in a Greek revival style was completed using much of the same woods.
The home and estate has seen a tremendous amount of history in over three centuries. George Washington and his troops camped on the property and stayed in the house, seeking respite after the Battle of Monmouth during the Revolutionary War. It is thought that the home was a major stop on the Underground Railroad, giving escaped slaves a place to safely rest and hide as they made their way northward before abolition. Some freed slaves even stayed and were employed at the estate. For a brief time, relatives of Jackie Kennedy owned the property, and the future first lady would visit and take horse riding lessons.
The Griswolds are happy to put their stamp of history on the old place, as well. Since moving in, Dave and Joan have researched the property and have made improvements and restorations in keeping with that research. Miniature horses, guinea hens, wild turkeys and chickens are all kept on the property – and Dave even sells organic eggs from his “Gentleman’s Farm” right on the front porch.
Mickey and Darby, the miniature horses, roam a huge fenced area behind the house. A hen house with 40 chickens weekly yield dozens of what Dave calls, “the best organic eggs that you will ever taste.” The horses, birds and pasture provide a relaxed country atmosphere for both the kids and adults.
Trees on the property come from all over the world and thrive in the rich red clay soil. Some trees are well over 300 years old and a few are measured and recorded annually by the Monmouth County Park System.
Unlike many historic homes, the Griswold home has plenty of built-ins, closets, cabinets and cupboards. The kitchen has all of the modern amenities, but still sports an old copper hood and the original hearth and mantle are still in place. Of course, the décor would not be complete with out a pair or two of wooden shoes!
The large, open family room is located in the “new” portion of the house and features one of the four fireplaces of varying styles that are all original to the home.
The ceiling beams in the dining room are rustic, rough-hewn timbers from right on the property and the original tongue and groove, nearly 2 1/2 inch thick, wide plank flooring runs through most of the home – including the master bedroom, where another working wood burning fireplace also resides.
All of the two-piece Dutch doors and leaded glass are original to the home and above the front door is a traditional Dutch carving.
The only wood in the entire home that was not grown locally is the three story mahogany railing along the entryway staircase.
Dutch tiles and crockery, as well as horses, are design themes throughout the home – paying homage to the original settlers.
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