The Wallace House and Old Dutch Parsonage Association

Dedicated Supporters of Two National and State Historic Treasures
Old Dutch Parsonage - Architecture

In spite of its name, the architectural style of the Old Dutch Parsonage is much more English than Dutch. Indeed, the overall form and style of the house can be viewed as “Proto-Georgian,” or, as a Georgian form that is not quite fully developed.

In its most classic form, the American Georgian house is a five bay, two and a half story structure. Almost always, a center architectural artery, either a passage (as is found in the Wallace House), or a hall (actually a room, as is found at Carter’s Grove or at Cliveden) divides the floor plan in a visually symmetrical arrangement. Also, a fully-developed Georgian home is most often “double pile, “ or two rooms-deep. The Dutch Parsonage, while possessing some of these characteristics, is a single-pile home which features a center passage on both floors, and is one-room deep.

When first completed in 1751, the Parsonage had a somewhat more primitive appearance than it does at this writing (2016). The floor joists were exposed, with those visible on the ground floor ceiling being “dressed” with ornamental beading. Additionally, the flooring of the ground level was ornamentally painted. A portion of this survives in the southwest corner, where soon-to –be added cupboards, and, still later, a nineteenth century floor layer, protected it from erasure. Improvements and alterations were made in the 1760s, when ceilings were improved with plaster and lath and the addition of more cupboards and closets. Paneled walls were added and enlarged in the structure, which already included significant amounts of raised paneling beneath the windows. It is worth noting that the panels beneath the ground floor windows originally incorporated window seats: a feature found in several other Raritan Valley masonry homes of the same period.

The kitchen was located in the cellar, a somewhat common location for such rooms in the eighteenth century. In this particular region, a more typical kitchen type was that of the attached wing, but many home builders found that cellar kitchens saved construction expenses by incorporating multiple chimney flues into a single column, especially (but not always) when a house was built into the side of a slope, thereby having a cellar that had separate ground-level access. Houses found south of Delaware often had separate outbuildings for kitchens, primarily to divorce unwanted heat from the main household (not, as often erroneously believed, because of fear of fire). In central New Jersey buildings such as the Dutch Parsonage, such heat was seasonably welcomed.

The nineteenth century saw many changes to the Old Dutch Parsonage. Interior woodwork was removed, wings were added, porches were changed, and the roof and chimneys were altered to keep pace with current tastes. In 1907, however, the Jersey Central Railroad purchased the house, with the ultimate intention being its demolition. In order to save it, the house was moved to its present location in 1913, with ensuing work being done to the exterior that approximated its colonial-period appearance. Recent research and architectural investigation has led to interpretive reconstruction of the interior, with hopes that the entire house will someday appear as it did at the time of the American Revolution.


The Wallace House and Old Dutch Parsonage Association
P.O. Box 225, Somerville, New Jersey 08876