BENEFITING: SPF ROTARY FRAZEE HOUSE INC
The Frazee House is a significant historic property located on the north side of Raritan Road in the Township of Scotch Plains, NJ. The house is important for its place in local Revolutionary War history and for its 18th century timber construction. Unfortunately, after a series of owners and additions in the 20th century, the house became vacant and was listed by Preservation New Jersey on their 1998 Ten Most Endangered Sites in New Jersey.
The Story of Aunt Betty Frazee
The Fanwood Scotch Plains Rotary-Frazee House seeks to promote the story of the Frazee House and site through interpretation of various stories, which include the Revolutionary War and the local Battle of Ash Swamp, restoration of the house, archeological investigation, 18th century carpentry and cabinetmaking, and Dutch construction techniques. The most celebrated and recognized story to be interpreted is the story of Aunt Betty Frazee and General Corwallis. The story is as follows:
After the Battle of Short Hills on June 26, 1777, Cornwallis and his troops passed by the Frazee house as they headed for Westfield. It was about noontime when the army came up to her residence. "Aunt Betty" was baking bread for the Continentals, who were stubbornly falling back before the enemy. The hungry Cornwallis caught the appetizing odors coming from the large dome shaped bake oven. As the line halted he dismounted, went to the door of her home, and with a courtly air requested, "My lady may it please you to give to Lord Cornwallis the first loaf that comes from your oven of baking bread." On saying this he confidently betook himself to a shade tree in the yard, for the day was unusually hot. When the bread was ready to be taken from the oven, Aunt Betty, with a steaming loaf, unhesitatingly complied with the general's request; but on presenting it to him retorted, "Your lordship will please understand that I give this bread in fear, and not in love." Standing before her in military salute with admiration for her courage, Cornwallis replied, "Not I, nor a man of my command, shall accept a single loaf.” As recalled in secondary source materials. (Marion Nicholl Rawson, Under the Blue Hills (Plainfield, New Jersey: Interstate Printing Company, 1974), 175-176; Frederick W. Ricord, History of Union County (Newark, New Jersey, 1897), 513; Honeyman, History of Union County. 502).
The Fanwood-Scotch Plains Rotary–Frazee House, Inc. (FSPRFH) has leased a one-acre parcel of land, which includes the Frazee House, from the Township of Scotch Plains and has been working diligently to preserve the house and the surrounding open space. A Condition Assessment and Emergency Stabilization Report was completed in December 2008 and the house was listed on the New Jersey and National Registers of Historic Places in 2009. Most recently a wood assessment report, including resistance drilling to determine the soundness of the framing and dendrochronology to identify its authenticity, were completed; the dendrochronology performed by Dr. Richard Veit confirmed the structure’s 18th century origin. Recent construction included the implementation of the emergency stabilization of the wood frame and careful mothballing of the house in 2009, which was funded in part by Union County. The building is now mothballed and stabilized on the interior with a structurally designed interior scaffold support system.
While much has been done to preserve the Frazee House, an appropriate use and interpretation of the property needed to be developed. This task was further complicated by the adjoining 5 acres of open space owned by the Township, which forms part of the rural landscape backdrop to this historic house. For many years the members of the FSPRFH have been focused on preventing further deterioration of the structure itself. In 2010 members of the FSPRFH recognized the need for a vision for the future of the entire property, if the house was to be saved.
In order for FSPRFH to successfully embark on supporting the transition of the property into public use, Historic Building Architects has recommended that the master plan recommendations for the Frazee House and Site be divided into three manageable phases. This fundraiser addresses the first phase of the project.
Phase IA & IB: Welcoming the Public Back to the Property
The First Phase will focus on bringing the public back to the site. The success of the restoration of the house and site is contingent upon continued public interest and support. Phase I implements items in the Master Plan that will result in immediate public use. In addition, it is hoped that the house can be structurally stabilized and the front façade restored to improve public perception of the site. At the end of Phase I, the site will be much more welcoming and available for various uses including gardening, educational programs, a farmer’s market and
passive recreation. Phase I is separated into two stages, “A” & “B”, to break this larger task into manageable and achievable parts; part “A” focuses on the larger site and landscape elements, while part “B” focuses on the property immediately adjacent to the Frazee House to correspond with area leased by FSPRFH.