Tuckerton Seaport Readies to Preserve Oldest Structure in Ocean County
The Andrews-Bartlett House on the grounds of the Tuckerton Seaport is one of the oldest, if not the oldest, standing structures in Ocean County.
It’s not much to look at in its current state: The wood shingles are a weathered gray, and the windows are boarded up to keep out intruders, both human and animal. Earlier in January, the Seaport trustees were alarmed to find that the chimney on the eastern end of the house had crumbled on the inside – the roof held up the chimney on the outside, so no one had been clued to the destruction. Corlis and Sons came with a crane and removed the remaining chimney and temporarily patched the roof.
During Superstorm Sandy, the entire wall on the east side became detached from the main frame though it didn’t fall to the ground. “A cast-iron vent pipe saved it,” said Seaport Executive Director Paul Hart. “It came away just a few inches, and the gap was so small, we didn’t see it at first.”
But in 2012, the Seaport was struggling to come back from the flooding from Superstorm Sandy that infiltrated all of the buildings along the Tuckerton Creek and destroyed or damaged much of the historic exhibits so carefully and lovingly installed just 12 years prior when the re-created maritime village opened to much fanfare. The Andrews-Bartlett House, sitting high on the hill behind the Sea Captain’s House, did not sustain salt water flooding, so it was not an immediate priority and was thought to have weathered the storm. Soon after applying for Sandy Disaster Relief Funds for the Seaport’s properties along the creek, the gap between the wall and the frame was discovered. A quick builder’s remedy propped up the wall from the outside.
Seaport trustees applied for a second Sandy Disaster grant in 2014 and were awarded $261,000 for repairs to the historically significant structure. The grant was a reimbursement grant, and the Seaport just didn’t have the ability to start the project.
Now, Hart said, the state has decided it will work with the Seaport and advance the funds so the work can get going. “It’s important for people to know we did not have the money all this time,” he said.
Hart said they have signed contracts and expects the work to start in May with a completion date by Sept. 30. The work is to make the structure safe and for reconstruction of the façade, including the windows and clapboard siding. “We will be looking for partners to complete the inside of the building, which we hope will be utilized as an activity center or maybe a dormitory for interns doing historic research.”
Tim Hart, Ocean County historian and deputy director of the Tuckerton Seaport, said the New Jersey Historic Trust also gave the Seaport a $49,000 grant in 2014 to hire a preservation archeologist to do the history of two original buildings on the site – the Andrew-Bartlett House, also called “The Homestead,” and the Saltbox House – as well as the site of the Hallock-Bartlett Castor Oil Mill. The study is for the application for listing in the state and national registers of historic places.
This is a brief history of the site as gleaned from the extensive research done by preservation architect Michael Calafati; it contains much of the history of Tuckerton, a town that goes back to Colonial days.
One of the first settlers of Tuckerton in 1699 was Mordecai Andrews and according to local lore, he first sheltered his family in a cave on the west bank of the Tuckerton Creek. There was a significant deposit of gravel and sandstone on the property, and an 1876 map shows an Old Quarry Road bisecting the property (the property that is now the 40-acre site of the Tuckerton Seaport.)
From a replacement deed, we find that his first homestead burned down in 1709. The oldest part of the house that still stands today dates between 1750 and 1800 and is a rare example of American-Dutch frame houses. It had a parlor with a large brick fireplace with a fireplace closet, a staircase to an upper chamber with hand-planed floorboards, and an unfinished attic with hand-hewn oak rafters and pine logs with bark removed.
The house was added to over the years: In 1824, a federal-style addition enlarged the living quarters with a second parlor and fireplace. The high ceilings in the addition included an entrance hall with a two-window transom doorway. An elegant staircase retains the original newel post and square balusters. A second room upstairs also had a fireplace and a small closet. A porch was added to the front.
The 1928 rear addition added modern indoor bathroom and kitchen facilities.
According to Tim Hart, the house was occupied by renters up until the 1970s. In 1979, it was deeded to the Tuckerton Historical Society, and although the society tried to raise money for its preservation, it was unable to do much more then clear out the raccoons that had colonized the house, protect the oldest part of the structure with modern siding and board up the windows and doors to keep out vandals. The historical dociety deeded the house and one acre over to the Seaport in 1997.
The people who lived in it enhance the historic significance of the house.
Mordecai Andrews owned 430-plus acres along the west bank of the Tuckerton Creek. An inventory of his property at his death in 1736 showed he owned cattle, sheep, hogs, carpenter tools, farming implements and a “servant man.” His son Mordecai Jr. continued in the farming trade until his death in 1763, when he willed the land to his two sons, Isaac and Jacob, but left the house and orchard to Jacob.
In 1769, Daniel Shourds purchased Jacob Andrews’ tract and willed the plantation to his son John upon his death in 1779. Then John Shourds sold the tract including the house to his brother-in-law Jonathan Smith, and in 1799 Smith sold the property to Jeremiah Ridgeway.
Ridgeway then sold the tract to John Hallock, a Quaker preacher from New York, in 1812. Hallock then established a castor oil mill and patented a screw press to extract the oil from the beans. He convinced local farmers to grow the beans for a burgeoning castor oil market – the oil was used as a machine lubricant and for medicinal purposes.
According to Leah Blackman’s History of Little Egg Harbor, written in the late 1800s, raising castor beans and manufacturing castor oil were the basis for many of the fortunes made in Tuckerton.
In 1823, Hallock sold half his interest in the farm and the castor oil manufacturing to Nathan Bartlett and three years later sold his remaining interest to Timothy Pharo, who had patented his own process for removing oil from the beans in 1822. Pharo in turn sold his interest to Nathan Bartlett later that year. Bartlett operated the mill up until 1827.
In the 1850 census, Nathan Bartlett is listed as a farmer. The 1860 census shows him living in the house with his three daughters; Phoebe died in 1886, Mary in 1887, and Deliverance lived until 1915. The house passed to her nephew Samuel Bartlett, a successful Tuckerton merchant and collector of customs for Tuckerton. He lived there with his wife, Annie, and his aunt Deliverance. In 1931, the house was willed to Jarvis Henry Bartlett, who in 1945 left the house to his daughter Martha Bartlett Jones, who left it to the historical society, which gave it to the Seaport in 1997.
— Pat Johnson