Raritan Township February 2019

I drive along Route 31 in Hunterdon County often, daily, in fact, for many years now.  Never have I noticed a spring house or any historic outbuilding along the highway.  This weekend, however, my husband pointed one out to me!  And several other buildings as well.  I pulled up to the spot as close as I could, jumped out to take a good peak, and yes indeed!  Prospects for the spring house or other historic outbuilding looked promising.

What a surprise, to say the least!  Since we have gotten a reprieve from the freezing cold, I grabbed my camera during lunch and tracked through the brush and trees to get a few good shots of my stone outbuilding.  Here are several views, showing how it is built into the side of a hill near a stream.  This looks to be a very good location for a spring house but this is quite large – and perhaps was the original home.   From its placement into the hill, it could have been a root cellar, well protected from the elements.  It is very hard to see from the road.  Below is a view of the back of the house.


This structure is in fair condition – fairly large.  Roofing is intact but needs some help.  As you can see, there is no chimney or flue of any kind and some of the stone has been pushed in along the back wall.

On one of the short sides, there is a large vent.  There are markings that show the location of another shorter structure outlined on the side with the vent.  This structure may require some additional research.


The opposite short side is shown below.    The short sides are about 12 feet long.


This outbuilding has two doors on the front of the structure.  I just learned the name of the prior property owners and will do some research at the historical societies and the hall of records.

I suspect that this is a spring house from the interior of the two compartments – one is lower and very wet and the other is higher and dry.  The wet half is the spring house and perhaps the second dry compartment was for making butter and cheese.  There is a well on the outside of the springhouse.  The well is covered now but was likely enclosed by the missing section outlined on one of the outer walls.



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The two compartments of the spring house are shown below.  The work shop for butter and cheese making is damaged.  We can see the wet bottom of the springhouse section.


This stone building isn’t the only historical outbuilding on this property.  There is a small barn/shed and a corn crib.  Each is in good condition and we see foundations of stone.




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The barn with the white doors does have a cupola better shown below.


And a water pump is shown below.


We seem to be off to a good start in 2019.  Perhaps weather permitting,  I will be able to photograph a few more priceless historical outbuildings this week.

I have recently learned that this outbuilding/property is included in the Raritan Township Historic Sites Survey prepared for the Committee of Historic Preservation of Raritan Township, dated March, 1987.  The stone outbuilding discussed above is thought to be mid-19th century, perhaps a “combination springhouse/smokehouse with two batten-doored, timber-linteled entries and in the north gable end a ventilation slit and wooden-grilled window”.  The springhouse/smokehouse is thought to be of particular note with possibly eligibility for national register.  At least that was a thinking in 1987.  I think we should strive to pursue that thought, even if at the local historical preservation level.

For those of more scholarly interest, this property is Inventory #1021-106.

Raritan Township 2018

There is a property in Raritan Township of Hunterdon County NJ that always catches my eye.  Many times in all kinds of weather, I just have to stop and gaze at the beautiful barn and landscape, much to the chagrin to the motorists behind me.  I noticed that there were several outbuildings hidden by trees and brush somewhat hidden from view but I knew they were there and always tried to find a better view.


I sent the owner of this property a note, asking if I might be allowed to photograph their outbuildings and surprisingly, he said yes!  Needless to say, I was excited for this outstanding opportunity and we set a date, this was mid 2018.  He was a most gracious host.

The property has two outbuildings, a summer kitchen and also a spring house.  The owner thinks that the summer kitchen was actually a residence for the servants of the homestead.  Certainly it is large enough to serve as a residence.  Both are beautiful stone buildings and quite large.  Unfortunately, I do not have dimensions as yet, but I will promise to get these some time soon.  Several views of the outside of the 2-story summer kitchen is shown below.





The beautiful wooden door is original and so is the hardware shown in detail below.


Inside there is large hearth and it has a year, 1879, stamped at the cement floor of the hearth.



It was exciting to be able to date the summer kitchen.

The blue door in the photo below is a small closet between the hearth and the stairway going to the second floor.



The second floor is shown below:


The building is very well constructed with plenty of windows to let in the light of the day.  The stairwell is also well built to carry whatever needed to go up or down.  I will have dimensions to complete the picture of this summer kitchen as soon as I can.

Further down the sloping property is a large spring house.  The area around the spring house is quite wet and marshy, the reason for the location of this tall spring house!



The spring house is quite tall and the inside is very handsome, as shown below.


The roof has been redone.  The owner has shown great care in preserving the historic outbuildings.

So much of the original details have been preserved on this property.  It is a tribute to the current owner.


This property gave me an opportunity to study its history in depth.  I was able to study a property’s history at the Hall of Records and the Hunterdon County Historical Society library.  I spent hours tediously reading through deeds of this property and the various changes of hands.  And while at the Historical Society on Main Street in Flemington (an amazing place!), I learned about the early owners and settlers of this property.  I looked through the bible entries of the family that built the beautiful barn and probably the various outbuildings.  It was an awesome experience and I am most grateful to the owner for his invitation to learn who built his beautiful barn!  I had initials and a year – and with the help of the resources in Flemington, I was able to come up with a family history going back many generations.  I would like to thank the Hall of Records and the Historical Society for their helpful discussions and suggestions.



Photo Essay of Hunterdon County


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April 24, 2018:  I noticed my first spring house (photos above and below) in Delaware Township about 8-9 years ago.  It is on a small narrow country lane, one that I drove down every day for several years on the way to work in our lab/offices in Rosemont, NJ.  I never noticed it until one day there was a traffic jam of ducks waddling across the road – and they took so long that I had lots of time to get out my camera and start taking photographs of the quacking grid lock that was developing.  I raised my eyes, and there she was.  The most beautiful spring house you could imagine.  Very over-grown with tall weeds, grasses, vines, brush trees.  The variations in color and textures were perfect – and the stones equally appealing.  It was a perfect stone structure for the spring house.  I fell in love.


I visited and photographed this spring house in all four seasons, many times.  Hoping to get the “just right” photograph.  My biggest fear, even today, is that one day I will return to do this again, but it will be gone…..

So, what exactly is a Spring House?  Or Springhouse?  Well, it usually has water, from a surface spring.  This patch of water, which can be flowing, is protected by an enclosure, typically from stone, brick or wood, with a door that can be closed from the elements and possible intruders.  It is damp, and cool, year round.    The surface area varies and the materials of construction vary as well.  Some are solid structures made masterfully from stone with great care and cost.  Others are more simple, but each springhouse contains the same elements of an enclosed water source.

These spring houses can be quite cool, serving as a short term refrigerator for dairy products, especially milk, and roots, vegetables.  In some communities, with dairy farms, these spring houses were a drop off spot for milk containers, for subsequent deliveries. In some cases, it seems that the spring house was solely build to protect the surface water source.  These can be quite small, perhaps 4′ wide x 6′ deep and 8-10′ tall.  The inside space no bigger than a small coat closet.

On richer homesteads with surface water, spring houses can be quite large.  They may have dirt floors and solid thick stone walls and roofs.  Possibly a window or two.  In some cases, the spring house can be combined with the summer kitchen which is delightful to see!  These structures look like self contained small dwellings, possibly two floors or lofted, with hearths, baking ovens, water channels, etc.  A picture of ingenuity!  Indeed, it is easy to see that necessity is the mother of invention.  They are not the water wells of the homestead, but cool locations for storage and protectors of surface springs.

May 15,  2018: Traveling through Hunterdon County’s townships, I occasionally run across a gem of a spring house, summer kitchen or combination structure, if I am lucky!  Here is a one near a road in Delaware Township.  It is a fine stone two story building in Delaware Township.  I’m wondering is this, perhaps is a smokehouse?


Not far from this springhouse is another set back from the road.

I especially like the wooden doors that have survived on these structures for a century or more.  The hardware and the wood capture my attention quite easily.

Raven Rock b3

June 17, 2018:  Occasionally I run into a little perfect springhouse.  This one is in Delaware Township on an exquisite rural road – one of my favorites.  This springhouse is hidden behind the home, slightly recessed from the dwelling.


The lush garden surrounding the springhouse is impressive.  Sometimes I am only able to snatch a photo and can’t explore inside for details. I’ll try to revisit this outbuilding on another occasion.

Occasionally I stumble across a springhouse that has not survived.  This one is just off the road in Raritan Township.  It is on a property where a new house is under construction.  Sadly, this will probably disappear soon.



Franklin Township 2019

I have a list of historic outbuildings in Franklin Township NJ, Hunterdon County, given to me by a generous local historian but have not had the opportunity to scout the locations for imaging all of the sites.  This is due to bad weather – mostly rainy  weekends!  But I have recently added to my photo essay collection.  Here is a beautiful small spring house and water well, I believe, just off a winding, narrow road.   I think the small wooden addition to the springhouse is a water well.

There was a recent hard rain, so it was impossible to walk off any dimensions of the spring house but I would guess that it is roughly 9′ x 12′ without the well.


On the eastern view, there is some damage at the bottom of the wall not visible in the photograph but there is a window..


This spring house is in a perfect location.  Driving away from the spring house, I came across a handsome well, shown below.


Some spring houses are quite small and low to the ground as shown below.  This one is also quite close to the road as you can see.


So much of Franklin Township is unspoiled rural landscape dotted with old and new homes between sprawling farmlands.  Sometimes, like today, it takes my breathe away but I know these times are changing quickly.