|"Historic Walnford" Acrylic on Canvas|
THIS ARTICLE WAS WRITTEN BY MY HUSBAND, BOB GILBERT FOR OUR LOCAL COMMUNITY NEWSPAPER, "THE GRAPEVINE" I HAD TO INCLUDE IT IN MY BLOG, AS IT IS AN INTERESTING AND ENJOYABLE ARTICLE
WANT A CHANGE OF SCENERY?
By Bob Gilbert
If you would like to visit a picturesque setting and learn about local history, consider a trip to Historic Walnford, a 36-acre site in Upper Freehold, NJ that is listed on the State and National Registers of Historic Places.
Walnford is the estate of a Philadelphia Quaker named Richard Waln, who purchased the property in 1772 and moved there with his family in 1773. The site includes Waln’s elegant home, a grist mill, a corn crib, and other buildings. The Waln family occupied the property for two-hundred years, and it was ultimately donated to the Monmouth County Park System in 1985.
Walnford offers an interesting view of life during the colonial period and beyond as you walk the grounds, see the buildings, and enjoy a guided tour of the house, all at no charge. Here are some points of interest that we enjoyed:
The carriage house built in 1879 was their version of our modern day garage. It housed the family’s carriages and carriage horses. A buggy and a sleigh (used for travel in the snow) were on display. We learned that when the sleigh was used, it was so silent as it moved through the snow that "sleigh bells" were sounded to alert people that it was coming.
The ice house (which pre-dates refrigerators) stored large blocks of ice cut from the frozen creek in the winter for use in the warmer months. The structure was strategically located slightly below ground (where it is cooler) and was vented on the roof to allow the warmer air to escape (warm air rises).
The main house is 5000 square feet, which is more than twice the size of most of the homes in our development, and has ten foot ceilings. (Luckily, they did not have to worry about changing light bulbs or smoke detector batteries.) The house is modest on the outside because the owner was a Quaker, but beautiful inside. The kitchen has a brick oven, which would have made great pizza (except for the fact that pizza had not yet been invented). And can you guess why the closets in the house had no hanging rods? Hangers had not yet been invented either. (They used hooks.) Most rooms had fireplaces, as central heating was not an option.
The grist mill was powered by water diverted from the creek. The best feature of the mill was the cat (later identified to us as "Captain") who resides there. When we entered, we heard a loud "meow" and then sighted Captain prancing down the steps from the upper level to greet us. We patted him and he accompanied us during the rest of our tour.
One interesting piece of history about Richard Waln – he opposed independence from England and was arrested and exiled to Staten Island for refusing to join the independence movement. There is on display at Walnford a letter that Waln’s twelve year old son wrote to Waln during this exile, in which the son tells the father in great detail how he is trying to fill in as the man of the house in the father’s absence.
If anybody is interested in visiting Walnford, it is located on 62 Walnford Road, Upper Freehold, NJ, telephone 609-259-6275. It is approximately a thirty minute ride. Our GPS took us down Route 130 to Robbinsville and then on very scenic roads to the site. While I can’t guarantee that Captain the cat will give you the royal treatment like he did for us, I think that if you enjoy picturesque historical places, you will have a good time.
Since a picture is worth a thousand words, I am including a photo of Captain and a copy of an acrylic painting by my wife, Linda of the grist mill and the main house.