Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Survey and Photography: Illuminations

Early to mid-June was taken up by the excellent VAF conference in Gaspé, Quebec. Back in Salem County on June 17, I set the drawing work aside to get back to each farm and get my head wrapped around each building and each farmstead by looking at them in detail. I surveyed room-by-room, taking notes on materials, workmanship, finishes, hardware, and clues about alterations and the evolution of each house and barn. Instructed by the survey and by the drawings before that, I went back for a round of careful photography to record the important features and views I had observed.

After eleven buildings, I set to work writing the narrative and found myself up against my deadline of July 31 with no chance of finishing. In typical form, I requested and received a grant period extension from the folks at the New Jersey Historical Commission, my funding agency.

But the good news is...I've discovered some really interesting stuff in these farmhouses and barns. The barns are really surprising me with their age. Two of the farms have barns that were born in the time when carpenters were hand-hewing timber frames, then grew in a variety of ways in response to changes in agriculture and the economy. That gives us a good opportunity to look at changes in farm buildings over a long period of time, knowing that hewing frames was the earliest method of cutting wood. Sawmilling may not have been available or near enough to the site for economical use, or the technology was not yet used for cutting posts and beams. So, these hewn frames could represent the earliest period of the farmstead. Subsequent alterations would reflect changes in farming on the particular farms as well as the larger agricultural context in which these farms existed.

Triangle Farm in Aldine

The hewn frames at Triangle farm include the house, part of one large barn, and a crib house. Considering everything I saw in the house, particularly nails and hardware, I think it was built between the Revolutionary War and 1800. If so, it may be that the two outbuildings were built in the same period, all as the establishment of a new farmstead. The finishes in the house are simple and lack of paneled doors typical of more elite houses, and so may signal a tenant house, especially since before 1817, this farmstead was on a 300-acre parcel known as the "Gamble Farm" on which was a pre-Revolutionary War pattern-brick house which would have belonged to the landowner. Sometime before 1749 William Gamble of Dublin, Ireland had purchased a large tract in Salem County. Left to his son, John, and then to John's son William, this land was occupied by several tenants, as noted in a newspaper notice to them in 1762.

The house today represents an evolution that continued through the first half of twentieth century. Initially a two-story house with a one-story step-down kitchen, with the facade of each section fenestrated in three symmetrical bays, the purchase by John and Rachel Watson in 1830 seems to have triggered the raising of the kitchen wing into two stories with an entire new sawn frame, and the redecoration of the main parlor in up-to-date Grecian-profiled millwork.

Watson was a miller who in 1826 had just completed the construction a saw mill nearby, owning the mill and the mill pond property with a partner. The Watson's purchase of this house may have been driven by the mill venture, and their need to reside nearby. One John A. Watson who was this John Watson's father was a shipbuilder in Alloway village held interests in two schooners when he died. The sawmill may represent an enterprise to exploit the abundance of uncleared forests in eastern Alloway Township and lower Pittgrove in the early nineteenth century to provide materials for shipbuilding and other local uses, as well as for export. The rebuilding and remodeling of the house may reflect Watson's socio-economic status as an industrialist and trader, and/or an inheritance upon the death of John A. Watson in 1838.

The milking barn was structured as a three-bay English type, which is characterized by a central drive-through bay where hay from the field was unloaded and stored in the adjacent mows, and where the wood floor was used for threshing grain. A small number of horses, oxen and milk cows were probably keep there as well, as work animals. Though Watson was a miller, he, like most people, farmed for both family subsistence and may have participated in market trade that was growing in that period.

Gable-end of the Milking Barn

West end of milking barn showing hewn framing of the original English barn.

The barn was extended by sixteen feet with sash-sawn joined timbers. It is likely that John Watson, who occupied this farm from 1830 to his death in 1864 is responsible for this extension and the replacement and relocation of rafters for the entire barn. The timbers were probably sawn in Watson's Mill. There is no evidence that this extension had a drive -through bay, so it may have been primarily for the housing of a larger collection of animals.

The next stage was the addition of a two-level shed on the long side, which may have been built for additional hay storage above and either animal pens or a milking area on the first floor. Its circular-sawn timbers and nailed braces suggest a late nineteenth-century period, perhaps that of William Simpkins, a miller and blacksmith who married Watson's daughter Jane and acquired the farm in 1869.

Upper level of shed addition
Lower level of shed addition
This became the milking parlor that exists today, possibly in the early twentieth-century when Herbert and Hattie Smith were the owners. When the state began regulating milk production and hygiene on farms, the present setup of metal stanchions, concrete floor and whitewashed interior was installed. These stanchions could date from the 1920s. It seems that in that period also, the "calf barn" was added at right angles to the main barn. It does not appear that the calf barn ever had a drive-through bay like the early barn, but always penned animals and provided extra space for milking below and hay storage above.

Calf barn

Upper level of calf barn
Lower level of calf barn
There is one more farm outbuilding that dates from an earlier period. The "wagon shed" was a drive-through corn crib, or crib barn. It is closer to the house, and also has a hewn timber frame, except for the sash-sawn floor joists.

Crib barn

The cribs were dismantled, but the mortise pockets for stud wall on both sides of the barn allow us the"read" the cribs on both side walls that were used to store corn cobs to feed animals. Like the other barns, much of the first floor framing and cladding has been transformed to concrete block, as weather and rot took its toll on old sills and posts. But enough remains to allow a reading of the original design and use.

Hewn corner post in crib barn

Joists in crib barn showing robbed mortises of the wall studs of the crib

Saturday, May 25, 2013

After the field notes...

I've been quiet. The work of measuring the buildings in the field is done (mostly), and my current push is to get them drawn in AutoCAD in my office. It seems less interesting for blogging, but it's challenging and I always learn something about the field methods of myself and others: what works best and what does not; what was missed that I need to go back for, etc. Something always gets missed, so matter how hard you try.

There is other fieldwork ahead of me, too. Such as photographing and taking survey notes on each building's facades and rooms, materials and finishes, structure and alterations, sufficient to write up the CRS (cultural resource survey) forms. As this is an intensive-level survey, I must write descriptive and historical narratives, not to mention an evaluation of National Register eligibility. What is the significance here? What have we learned?

A preliminary AutoCAD drawing of the Corn Crib/Wagon House and Shed at Triangle Farm. I plot the drawing and mark it up with my questions to answer in the field

Friday, March 8, 2013

On the Casper Wistar Farm with the Monday crew

By now, the Monday crew has completed basement and first floor plans and all but one room on the second floor of Casper & Rebecca Wistar's 1825 house.

Our second day there was February 11. Beverly, Stephanie and I completed the basement. Stephanie was initiated on the board, and did great. We alternated on the board by room. We speculated on the meaning of features like fireplace foundations, the extra-deep floor in the northeast room, and the thick, stone bearing wall under the hall. For a corner chimney to be supported by a masonry wall to the floor is unusual; typically they corbel back to the wall. Why did they use so much added masonry? The wall under the hall may be the north wall of the house that predated the Wistar's 1825 creation. We imagined the deep room as storage for roots crops, not far from a closed-off interior stair to the first floor, where a door may have led to the kitchen. Did the double arch-support under the kitchen fireplace signify an extension? Or is it about the difficulty of building only one arch under such a long length? The act of measuring forces you to notice things. It's tempting to ponder such questions while measuring, but that is why we are measuring. The drawings may reveal the answers in the metrics and arrangements of room and features. Also, I will be surveying design, materials, and workmanship in detail at a future time for my architectural description narratives.

Basement field notes

After telling my crew beforehand that we would be working inside the house on February 18, upon arrival I had to tell them we had to be outside after all. I realized that we had not completed the exterior plan on the first day. First things first. Though somewhat disappointed about working in the cold, Beverly and Maria soldiered through it. After completing the three remaining sides of the house, we spent the afternoon measuring the first floor, completing two rooms.

Maria Cerda-Moreno draws.
Beverly Carr Bradway, Maria Cerda-Moreno, and Maggie Culver, proud crew

Maggie supervises from her stoop.

On our next field day, February 25, Beverly, Stephanie, and I finished up the first floor except the rear shed.

This past Monday, March 4, minus both Stephanie and Maria, Beverly, Dave Culver and I completed the shed addition. Here, a protruding wall suggested a chimney. Part of it is utilized as a closet in the kitchen, but a void may contain the remains of a chimney that once ran up the rear elevation of the house. Was the shed a summer kitchen? Was it Suzanne Culver's great-grandmother Flora Hancock's onsite vegetable canning operation before she set up her factory in Salem?

First floor field notes
We then moved to the second floor and completed all but one room. Dave, a retired scientist, was immensely helpful in measuring a curve in the hallway wall, offering ways to mathematically describe the formula with Excel. Well, that would be a new methodology for architectural field work! We were satisfied with a hand-drawn best fit curve to overcome errors in our plumb lines (see Detail "A").

Second floor field notes

Friday, February 15, 2013

Diversion: Opportunity on the edge of obliteration

The Sinnickson-Clancy House as it appeared in 2006. It was a well-known sight on Salem-Pennsville Road. The front block was added circa 1850 to a late 18th century hall-plan house. Such early frame houses are rare to find unaltered. It was vacant for many years and I had wanted to get inside to document it. Never did.

After meeting to confer over her Wistar wagon shed drawing this morning (Feb 9), Beverly Carr Bradway, Sharon Washburn and I set off on a mission to record the remains of the Sinnickson/Clancy farmhouse in Pennsville. Its demolition was on pause over the weekend, and now was a window of opportunity to record before it was totally inaccessible under fill. "It can't take long, it's just the foundation." Famous last words, as we spent four hours on a sunny, mildly cold afternoon measuring and photographing.  

North end of the Period II, circa 1850 section. Brick piers once supported a chimney.

We found the hole empty and scraped pretty clean of architectural material from the house. It was stone and built in two periods.

Looking south into the Period I basement (left). Period II basement was attached as an ell.
One fragment of a basement window frame in the rear section suggested an eighteenth-century origin. The opening had been bricked up in the past, but on the interior, one side of the oaken frame with three pieces of wooden grille bars still attached stood as evidence.

Bricked-in basement window frame with fragment of wood frame.

Wood grille bars are a sign of an early house.
Both sections were built of the same stone (not the native Jersey sandstone, but schist possibly from Pennsylvania) and whitewashed on the interior. The older, Period I section was 18x20 in plan, its broken east wall discernible where the two sections joined. At the west end was pile of brick and stone rubble that was the ruin of a large fireplace support. 

Looking toward the Period I basement. Sharon Washburn gathers fragments of architectural evidence.

We dug and clawed enough debris away to discover a fallen brick relieving arch, tell-tale of an early chimney support. After exposing the limits of the whitewash on the wall, we measured the dimensions of its extents at the back wall. It was seven feet wide and two feet deep, enough for a five-foot wide cooking fireplace. There was probably a winder stair above the space in the right-hand corner.

Debris from fireplace support in Period I section after digging for signs of its original location.

Me photographing the foundation. Photo by Beverly Carr Bradway.

Faded into the past.

Friday, February 8, 2013

Crew II: Training at the Casper Wistar Farmstead

1825 Casper Wistar House
Today (Feb 4) I began the training aspect of the grant project. I have dreamed of having trained, local building recorders to help me document the built landscape here in Salem County and southwestern New Jersey (I must include Cumberland County in my study area, being the other part of John Fenwick's original tenth portion of West New Jersey, other wise known as Fenwick's Tenth or Fenwick's Colony). So I included a training componenet in my project proposal this time.

The idea today was to have two crews of three begin documenting the Casper Wistar Farmstead, with two experienced crew chiefs on the boards (recording measurements and drawing the building) and the others running the tape measure. Beverly manned the board at the wagon house with Dave and Maria measuring. I took the house with Stephanie and Suzanne.

Wagon House
I am blessed with such a talented group. Beverly is headed for the University of Delaware's Historic Preservation Program next Fall and took the recording training last Fall. Maria is a registered architect who has measured many buildings for historic restoration projects, but wants to learn "the UD way." Stephanie, who I met on one of the county arts tours at her table in Alloway, had studied the related discipline of archaeology in college. Dave and Suzanne are the owners of the Wistar House, which they have opened for tours several times in the past. Dave is a past president of the Salem County Historical Society, and is currently the Mannington Township Historian.

The crew: Dave and Suzanne Culver, Beverly Carr Bradway, Stephanie Long Fazen, and Maria Cerda Moreno.
With temperatures in the high 20s F, we worked outside until lunch. Once warmed up, we succumbed to the offer for a tour through the house, which took the rest of the afternoon. However, having that understanding of the house and its history will help us as we start measuring the interior. The house has some very unusual amenities. One is a portion of the basement that has a floor about four feet deeper than the rest of the house. Its historic function is unknown. Another is the closet of feather bed racks in the attic. Though this gracious Federal style house dates from 1825, the existence of one corner fireplace suggests that a portion of it dates from before the Revolution. Whose house was it?

The land here goes back to Bartholomew Wyatt, the English Quaker immigrant of 1690 who purchased 600 acres of land in 1692/3 and 250 acres of wild marsh in 1708. He built a log house near Mannington Meadow and Puddle Dock Creek (not far from this house) and later a brick house a half-mile north on Mannington Creek. He left the 850 acres to his son, Bartholomew in 1726. This Bartholomew (II), in repayment of a debt, left his son-in-law, Richard Wistar, 691 acres of land, meadow, and wild marsh in 1765. Richard Wistar was the glassmaker of Wistarburg, well-known as the first successful glassworks in the English colonies. Richard, who resided in Philadelphia, left a 640-acre portion, to his son John, who settled there with his wife Charlotte Newbold, apparently in an existing house on a different site. John left his son Casper Wistar a 151-acre farm in the tenancy of one Jonathan Knight, who probably occupied the older section found in this house. Casper and his wife Rebecca Bassett Wistar rebuilt the existing house on this site in 1825, displaying the construction date on a downspout scupper.

1765 Survey of Division of Lands between Bartholomew Wyatt, Jr. and Richard Wistar. The Salem River winds on the left, and Mannington Creek at the top. Puddle Dock Creek is the small stream at the bottom. Some of these property lines survive in the lands parcels of today. (Salem County Historical Society)

More details to come...

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Second Day: Twenty Degrees Warmer and Dropping...

Wyatt Farm in Mannington Township, September, 2012.
On Thursday, January 31, measuring continued at the Wyatt Farm with Becky Sheppard, Cate Morrissey, (Lord) Alex Till, (Lady) Alex Tarantino, Keisha Gonzalez, Jenn Nichols, Ginny Davidowski, Michael Emmons and myself. Cate's and my crews worked in the house, completing the basement plan, first floor framing, and first floor plan. After lunch, Cate's crew moved to the barn and mine moved to the second floor of the house. Becky's crew labored all day in the cold granary. I took no photos, as I was in the measuring groove!

At lunch, the group gathered in the kitchen to eat, enjoying conversation in the presence of the very large and ancient cooking fireplace and hearth. A question I hope to resolve is, what period is this portion? Did it come first, or was it always the kitchen wing of the double-pile section? The interior of the fireplace shows evidence of change, such a second bread oven.

There is a very worn tread on the stairs to the second floor that Mr. Hancock used to slip on nearly every day, it is said. Upon exploring the layout of the house Professor Sheppard found the same step and took Mr. Hancock's traditional tumble, but no harm done (thankfully!).

Also dropping was the temperature. Starting around a bearable 49 degrees F in the morning, it dropped into the thirties by mid-afternoon. When brain freeze began to set in, the day was called at about 3 PM.

Thursday was a good window between a warm day of rain the day before, and a cold day of snow the next. Moving right along...

Next week, we hope to finish at the Wyatt Farm.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Fieldwork Begins at the Wyatt Farm

CHADsters and me

Yesterday, a very frigid day in New Jersey, I and my fieldwork assistants from the University of Delaware Center for Historic Architecture and Design began work at the Wyatt Farm. Considering the warming trends of late, this week has been especially cold with temps in the low 20s (-7 to -3 Celsius for my Canadian friends). The names of these intrepid folks deserve mention: (from left) Keisha Gonzalez, Alex Tarantino, Virginia Davidowski, Alex Till, Melissa Blair, Cate Morrissey, Michael Emmons, Prof. Rebecca Sheppard, and me.

We split into three crews of three and measured the footprints of the house, barn and granary. Becky Sheppard's brave crew stayed out all day working on the granary, while the rest of us moved inside the house and worked on basement and first floor plans.

Granary/Corn Crib/Wagon House

According to Becky Sheppard, who has studied agricultural buildings all over Delaware, Maryland and Pennsylvania, this granary (which means a building used to store grain), or corn crib/wagon house (because it has two corn cribs built in and two drive-through bays), is unusual (by comparison to those areas) in that it has a cellar. A key question is, why? What was it used for? Suzanne Culver, who grew up here, says that in her lifetime, it was used for storing seed potatoes. Was that its use from the time it was built? Why is it constructed of stone, not brick? Indeed, what was grown on this farm over the many decades of its existence? Research is needed to tie this building with agricultural production records for this farm over time.

The foundation of the house is stone, so perhaps the granary dates from the time of the house, but when was that? Suzanne's mother remembers a date in the wall of the basement, "1788." We could not find this evidence, so it may have gotten covered by a layer of mortar applied in 1963 (so thoughtfully documented by the children of the house, who recorded their names and ages in the wall under the kitchen fireplace). I think the house is certainly as early as 1788, but more likely earlier. In any event , it has a curious evolution that our drawings will help us figure out.

Frozen toes drove the CHAD folks back into their cars at 3 PM and back across the river, heater on full blast.

Next week...back to the Wyatt House. Hopefully it will be a warmer day.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Project Publicity

I met a South Jersey Times reporter and photographer at Triangle Farm last Thursday to get some publicity for the project. Here is the article, published today.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Watson's Corner

Cow time in Aldine, 2008
Triangle Farm at Aldine in Alloway Township is well-known for the driving of the cows up and down the road between Alloway and Elmer, from the lower pasture to the milking barn and back. In the late afternoon brothers Donn and Dale Smith would drive them up to the barn for the late milking where they would stay overnight, stay for the morning milking, then saunter back down to the lower pasture for the day. It was an traditional way of life here, where cow time was everyone's time, where the filling and emptying of udders ruled the human pace of life for most of the twentieth century.

The daily moves by the herd halted auto traffic at the intersection of Alloway-Aldine Road (once called the road from Pittstown to Allowaystown) and Friesburg-Aldine Road (once called the Road to Cumberland), which had to wait for the cows to complete their journey. Commuters learned either to avoid the route, or to join cow time and enjoy the wait.

In recent years the brothers Smith retired. A young farmer leased the farm and valiantly tried to make his own dairying venture work, but it was short-lived. The cows no longer dot the grassy fields or take to the road twice a day. Folks miss it, but the forces of the economy work against the small family dairy farm. Now the farm is home to miniature horses instead.

My friend Steven Smith knew the plain house at the corner as Aunt Betty's house. His great-aunt Elizabeth Smith served him many an after-school snack there. After Aunt Betty died, the house became Steven's, and thus it became one of my study houses for my master's thesis in 2007. I was fascinated with its articulated timber frame and other signs of antiquity. I found it was a good example of a "simplified Anglo-American box-frame," which differed from the heavy timber New English variety and the Dutch-derived H-bent framing also found in Fenwick's Colony. With my latest grant, I'm continuing the study of this farm, beyond the farm house this time, to the outbuildings and the story of farming.

I spent a couple of days in the County Clerk's Office searching the deeds for this farm. Mapping the land descriptions in the deeds will show me how land ownership has changed over time, and if I'm lucky, will shed light on the evolution of the people and the buildings.

Before it was Aldine, this crossroads hamlet was known as Watson's Corner, according to old maps and deeds. John Watson and his wife Rachel, who originated in Pittsgrove, began buying land around this crossroads in the 1820s, with many transactions through the 1850s. Many of their nine sons and daughters stayed in the area to farm, mill and can. John Watson was born about 1778 and died in 1864. Rachel Seads was born in 1781 and died in 1851.

Aldine sits on a high spot between the headwaters of Alloways Creek and the Cohansey River, both of which still contain many mill ponds impounded in the nineteenth century. John Watson built a saw mill on a branch of Alloways Creek not far from here. The recent completion of the mill in 1827 was stated in a deed of land from Adam Minch to John Watson in that year. In consideration of constructing the mill rather than cash, John Watson earned from Minch the ownership of one-half  of the 28-acre parcel and saw mill. Partnering the two men's assets, Minch's land on a  watercourse, and Watson's competency in mill-building, made the enterprise possible.

In 1830 and 1837, John Watson purchased two adjacent 25-and-a-half-acre parcels from Isaac Johnson and Jacob Hitchner, who had scooped up a 300-acre parcel known as the Gamble Farm in 1829. These two parcels form the nucleus of today's Triangle Farm. The current farm house is on the parcel Watson bought in 1830. It probably predates 1830, because the deed refers to "land and premises." Premises means real estate including house and buildings in addition to land.

Watson House at Triangle Farm
Also, if John Watson, a saw mill owner, had built it, almost certainly he would have sawn the timbers in his mill (as miller Samuel Shivers had done in Woodstown in 1742). However the frame of the earliest portion of Watson's house is hewn, meaning hand cut with axes and adzes.

Hewn frame (post, plate and wall tie) in the Watson House
It is likely that Watson did some renovating when they moved in, however, as evidenced by an ogee molding around the parlor fireplace mantel that has a profile common around 1830.

An 1830-era ogee molding frames the fireplace
The house was likely built in the eighteenth century when this land was part of the Gamble Farm. John Gamble inherited the farm from his father William, of Dublin, Ireland in 1773, who owned it at least as far back as 1749, when he wrote his will. A house built circa 1760 (according to the HABS report of 1940) was on the property and it is one of Salem County's famous pattern brick houses, located just north on the Aldine-Daretown Road. So, the hewn-frame house that John Watson bought in 1830 may have been a tenant farmer's house on the Gamble Farm.

The form and fenestration of the house is typical of a house of the eighteenth-century: a one-room hall on the first floor with a central door flanked by two windows ("window-door-window"), a pattern which is repeated in the kitchen wing. We might call it the "Gamble Tenant House" but for now, the "John and Rachel Watson House" will do since there is more evidence of their presence here.

The Watson House in 2007, before rehabilitation.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Woodward and Schmidt on New Jersey Agricultural History

Yesterday I sequestered myself in the bowels of Morris Library, reading the major overviews on New Jersey's agricultural history by Woodward (1927) and Schmidt (1973).

New Jersey has a complex rural history. I knew that the state was one of the most ethnically diverse in the colonies, but due to her various soils, topographies (coastal plains, piedmont, highlands and Appalachian ridges), and periods of initial settlement, so was agriculture. Throw in the "barrel tapped at both ends" phenomenon, and, what a mix.

According to Schmidt, from initial settlement to about 1810, the pioneer farmers learned by trial and error what worked in the new environment of  New Jersey. Growing crops and raising livestock mainly for subsistence, they, except for a few elite and educated farmers, got set in their ways. Some of their ways were, according to the opinions of some critical outsiders, wasteful and careless. Because land was the cheaper of a farmer's assets, which also included capital and labor, it got the least respect and stewardship. Untended fields and sloppy practices appalled European observers. Much soil was washed away. Most farmers were illiterate, so ideas circulating in the press did not reach them. And because of the diversity of soils, etc, improved methods that worked in one area would not necessary work across the state. As long as time-tested methods provided a living to New Jerseyans, they were not about to risk changing their ways. This resistance was the worst in the earliest-settled areas--the northeast and the southwest. Salem County, my subject area, is in the southwest.

Woodward's overview recounted the early promoters of agriculture in the colony--the gentlemen farmers who had the means and time to experiment with farming, and who recognized the universal need to improve it in the colony. After 1750, these early promoters began forming agricultural societies, though the cities tapping the barrel of New Jersey--New York and Philadelphia--also tapped its leaders to their societies, and New Jersey's own failed in no time. Two men from Salem County, Robert G. Johnson and Clayton Wistar, joined the Philadelphia society between 1808 and 1818. A county society founded in 1826 also did not last.

Other means of promotion were fairs, until they were banned for uncontrollable bad behavior, and printed media--almanacs, newspapers, and farming journals. The effect of print was limited, and state and local ag societies did not take off, until the mid-nineteenth century, when the populace was better educated. Then, the early, privately-initiated efforts to educate farmers gave way to publicly-sponsored means, such as the State Agricultural Society in 1856, the Federal Morrill Act and the establishment of New Jersey's land-grant ag school at Rutgers College in 1864, the State Board of Agriculture in 1872 and the Agricultural Experimental Station in 1880.

That was helpful. Next--local, site-specific research.


Sunday, January 6, 2013

Beginning the background research

It is 2013 and my grant work begins!

This week I set to work reading historic contexts and organizing site-specific research. I need to read about the history of farming and farm buildings before the field work starts in order to better understand the farmsteads I will be looking at: why they look the way they do and what they mean.

I started my agricultural readings, not with New Jersey material, but with the "Pennsylvania Agricultural History Project" found at http://www.portal.state.pa.us/portal/server.pt/community/agricultural_history_project/2579. I knew that this effort to develop the agricultural contexts tied with with the architectural aspects of farming had been in the works for some time, so I checked in to the Pennsylvania SHPO website again and was really "wowed." There I found "narrative histories describing the evolution of different farming systems around the state, historic census data, a field guide to historic farm buildings and landscapes, and bibliographic resources. Developed to support the evaluation of farming resources for eligibility to the National Register of Historic Places, the project provides the data and guidance needed for state and federal agencies, scholars, teachers, and the public." The principal investigator and project coordinator is Sally McMurry, Professor of History at Penn State University, also a longtime member of the Vernacular Architecture Forum.

My thinking is that southwestern New Jersey's agricultural history may have settlement and market patterns and even built resources similar to southeastern Pennsylvania's, since they are both part of the Delaware Valley. In any event, it is turning out that the guidance provided for evaluating resources will really help me with my farm study here in Salem County!

What Sally McMurry has done for Pennsylvania has not been done in New Jersey. There is no state context of ag history written through the lens of agricultural buildings.

Another work I am reading for the same reason is Rebecca Sheppard's recent dissertation “Making the farm pay: Persistence and adaptation in the evolution of Delaware’s agricultural landscape, 1780-2005.” It rested in part upon the evidence of the over 450 farms recorded or surveyed there by the Center for Historic Architecture and Design since 1985. Becky Sheppard, also a long-time VAFer, will be helping me document the Salem County farms for my grant project, so her insight from Delaware will be greatly helpful in shaping my understanding of the buildings we will be recording. 

Closer to home, I am reading Land Use in New Jersey: A Historical Geography by two eminent scholars of early New Jersey: geographer Peter O. Wacker and historian Paul G. E. Clemens, both of Rutgers University.  The book, a late Christmas gift from my brother, just arrived in the mail this week. How timely! Using sources like farm diaries, account books, and tax records, the authors looked for "what notions shaped the agricultural lives of farm families" and explored the interplay of market relationships and community life from settlement to 1820.

Histories of New Jersey agriculture by Carl Raymond Woodward (The Development of Agriculture in New Jersey, 1640-1880 a Monographic Study in Agricultural History) and Hubert G. Schmidt (Agriculture in New Jersey: a Three-hundred-year History) will require a trip to the library in the coming weeks. For that I will trek to Morris Library at my alma mater, the University of Delaware.