Parker Homestead Historic House Museum at Little Silver NJ
Like many others in the community I have always been intrigued with this beautiful little farm house up on a small hill sitting prettily looking out on one of the busy two lane roads here in Monmouth County. Although the area is dotted with many of these vernacular styled 18th and 19th Century farmhouses, this one has a pretty unique story.
The Parker Homestead is a historic farmstead that was built on land that was acquired by Joseph and Peter Parker who settled in the area in 1667. The Brothers originally settled in Rhode Island and the town is named after their fathers estate in Portsmouth Rhode Island, Little Silver. The original house dates from 1720 but there is evidence of an earlier structure. Making this one of the oldest extant homes in New Jersey. The farm remained in the family until the last descendant of the original settlers, Julia Parker, died in 1995. She bequeathed the farm and all the structures to the town with the condition that it be preserved.
Admittedly my first introduction to the Parker Home was purely a selfish one. As I was “scouting”, read (being a pest), all local historic houses in a search for information in the preservation of my own historic home. In this case I was looking for that perfectly ubiquitous but elusively satisfying white color for the exterior of my own home. A slightly off-white historic house color that wasn’t too warm or too dark or too yellow. I didn’t want to repeat the “refrigerator white” that was on my house at the time. If you just ask for white you will get a cool white that will be too white and bright especially for an antique home. These types of plain whites don’t glow and feel kind of dull looking in an exterior setting. While driving by the Parker Homestead I always admired the way the light played off of all the the old irregular mixed surfaces and textures of this house; the beaded clapboard, the hand dressed shingles and later additions of plain clapboard sheathing. It seemed to be the just the right mix of a clean gray- cream -colored off -white. It definitely glowed! Not too light, and not a dark overly done putty color either. While I was already fairly set on an obscure, not very popular Benjamin Moore off-white color I had narrowed down for my house; nonetheless, I felt compelled to do my due diligence, and end a year’s long search for the perfect, historic, white, house color. (I even found out what white color “The” actual White House was!) Low, and behold the samples from the Parker Homestead nearly matched my off-white color! No effort lost, as it only confirmed that my direction and vision was consistent. I had finally found the perfect off-white historic house color!
When I met the people that were the caretakers of Parker Homestead I began to learn more about the history of the house and the fine people who run the show there. They showed me around the property and told me that they would be interested in having me take a look at painting the exterior of the house. The more I thought about it, the more I wanted to help them do this. But, I wanted to do it without charging them any profit or overhead, this way I would have a chance to show the larger community in this area my work and introduce them to our services. I basically proposed to do the work for them at my direct labor cost plus discounted paint and materials using all of my tools, ladders and equipment. My personal time and efforts would be donated free of charge, as well we would be doing the job at labor cost for them. I thought this was a winning solution for everyone!
About 2 years passed and we finally got a call from the people at Parker Homestead that they had gotten some grant money and some donations and they were ready to move forward with my idea! We had planned to fit the work around all of our other scheduled paid work over the course of the season, so as not to interrupt our flow of work, but as it turned out the pandemic of 2020 had other plans for everyone. Faced with lockouts on all of our scheduled projects we turned to this project a little earlier in the season pecking at it a few days a week at the start, as temperatures and rain allowed us to access the work. This turned out to be very beneficial for us working outside, and a few days of the week at a time, keeping all of my painters working through some of the closures and lockouts that were going on in March and April of 2020. This was a little bright light in the midst of terrible and depressing events that we’re going on all around. Our minds and hands were busy and it gave us something to look forward to.