Not far from the Merchants and Drovers is a house that had already been standing a century when the tavern and those other structures were built. In fact, the house in question was built in the days of East and West Jersey, 85 years before the start of the American Revolution.
|The Robinson House, 21st century...|
Dr. Robinson came to East Jersey in June 1684, as part of a movement of Scots encouraged to settle in the English colonies of the New World. Finding the area suitable, he returned to Scotland to retrieve his family to settle here in 1686. He'd bought a parcel of land on the Rahway River and built the a house in 1690, eventually expanding his holdings to nearly 750 acres.
|... and a century ago.|
After gaining possession of the house in 1973, the Township of Clark restored the building to its original rustic, New England style look, eliminating extra windows and other features that had been added since Dr. Robinson's day. It's been lauded by historians as a superior example of early American architecture, one of the few still existing in the country that incorporates aspects of medieval architecture.
Likewise, the Clark Historical Society has assembled a fun collection of artifacts from Dr. Robinson's era and beyond. Regular visitors to Colonial house museums will recognize some of the staples -- spinning wheel, candle molds, butter churn, bedwarmer -- but the Medicine Room is a special treat. Besides a representative sample of herbs used by physicians of Robinson's day, artifacts include a blood-letting knife that would have been used to draw the "bad blood" from an ailing patient.
When you visit, be sure to check out the cellar and the attic, too. Upstairs, the Historical Society maintains a wall-mounted, poster-sized scrap book that includes photos of the restoration process, along with maps, an inventory of Robinson's property at death, and documentation on the house's provenance. The cellar, once the probable shelter protecting livestock from bad weather and predators, now holds an assortment of items that range into the 20th century. Depending on your age, you might remember some of them from your grandparents' garage or basement, or possibly from the Smithsonian.
Step outside and you're back in the 21st century, wondering about the mysteries other houses might hold. Could there be a home in your own neighborhood, older than it appears to be?