Just off the intersection of Routes 10 and 46, the Roxbury Historic Trust is in the process of restoring the King Store and Homestead. Hidden New Jersey friend Kelly Palazzi suggested we check it out, but it wasn't easy: the property is open only on the second Sunday of the month and is closed entirely from January through March.
|It's easy to imagine a few neighbors trading news|
on the porch of the old King Store.
Our friendly guides explained that the store was built around 1826 on what was then the Essex-Morris-Sussex Turnpike, one of the first roads chartered by the New Jersey Legislature at the start of the 19th century. The original owners, the Woodruff family, operated the store until 1835 before closing it for unknown reasons. Two years later, canal boat owner Albert Riggs bought the property and reopened it to serve the local community and the increasing traffic through the nearby Morris Canal lock and two planes. Riggs transferred ownership and operation of the store to his son-in-law Theodore King in 1873, and the new storekeeper and his wife Emma moved into the living quarters above the mercantile.
|Brands of the past find their homes on the King Store shelves.|
King died in 1926, and with him the store. His daughter simply locked the door, leaving the goods sitting on the shelves. Dwindling traffic on Canal had ended with its termination a few years before. According to our guide, family members would come in from time to time to take items they fancied, but for the most part, the building was a de facto time capsule. Louise King divided her time between New Jersey and Florida until her death in 1975.
|Fresh milk, anyone?|
While work clearly needs to be done to stabilize the structure to prevent further decay, there's much to be said for keeping a good part of the current look. Too much paint and varnish would take away the character of a classic general store. As it stands, it doesn't take much to imagine a local farmer or canal mule tender at the counter, ordering supplies and settling his bill.
The next stop on our visit to historic Drakestown was the King house, just next door... but that's a story for our next installment.