A Miracle from the Past

After doing a little research at the county courthouse, we were able to get copies of all of the deeds that the house ever had.  It turns out that in the 1800's and early 1900's, deeds were very detailed documents that disclosed quite a bit of personal information. Through this information we were able to piece together all of the names and dates of the previous owners.  The owners that intrigued us the most were the Hope Family who lived in the house from 1921 to 1970.  Mrs. Lillian Hope was well known in the community and people still speak of her today.  She was said to have loved this house as she lived here for almost 50 years.

Though Mrs. Hope passed away over 30 years ago, I was hoping to find a living relative that could fill me in about those years.  I began with death records and trying to locate the executor to her will.  The last name was not a common one and I found a phone number here in NJ that matched.  I called a number of times and left messages, but received no reply.  I thought I had hit a dead end. 

One day, my wife was sanding some woodwork on the front porch when she saw a car driving by really slowly.  This happens pretty often because the local newspaper ran a few stories on the house and people like to come and look at it.  Anyway, my Wife smiled and waved and the car drove away.  A few minutes later the car was back, this time it pulled up on the side of the house. A lady stepped out of the car and came up and introduced herself to my Wife.  She told her that her mother was in the car and that she used to live here many years ago.  My wife (very excitedly) asked if her last name was "Hope"?  Yes, it was!  It was one of Mrs. Hope's two daughters, Genevieve who is 90+ years old and in very good shape.  My Wife calls me at work, freaking out.  She told Genevieve that we had been looking for her for quite some time.  Genevieve chose not to come in the house as she wanted to remember the house as it was when she was a little girl.  We exchanged information, as they could not stay that day.  We later contacted each other and drove to Genevieve's house and spent an afternoon talking about what it was like growing up in my house during the 1920's


This is a picture taken that day at Genevieve's house.  The pictures we are holding are of her parents Lilian and Robert Hope. We went through old photo albums and she showed me pictures of the house from the 1920's.  It was amazing!  We are arranging to have the photos scanned in the Spring. (She lives in Florida in the Winter)  As soon as I get them, I will post them.  As an added note, a few months later, I spoke to Genevieve's older Sister, yes older, who lives out of state.  We spoke on the phone for the better part of an hour.  She was so sharp it was uncanny.  She remembered details about the house that I wouldn't remember after a week let alone that many decades.  Both women were fascinating to talk to, and gave me a whole lot of insight into the house's history.  Much of the detail you read below comes from those conversations.



Almost a year later, we made arrangements to return for another visit with Genevieve and her family.  This time we came prepared with a laptop computer and a scanner to capture some of the old photographs she had from when she was a young girl.  These are some of them...

This picture was taken in 1921


This picture is circa 1930


This is the front porch Mr. Hope built in 1920.  (The same porch I am rebuilding today)  Mr. Hope was an Engineer and did beautiful work.  I have some really big shoes to fill on this one.



The land which originally consisted of three acres of land was purchased from the Central New Jersey Land Improvement Co. by Cornelius W.L. Martine (of Westfield NJ) in 1874 for $7,327.50.  The town had not been formed yet and had no streets, but the plans for the streets were already established. This is the same year that the town's landmark Victorian train station was built. (as seen here) 

Cornelius Martine had our house built in 1875 making it the first house in Fanwood.  He would reside here while overseeing the development of early Fanwood for the next seventeen years until his death in 1892 and the house was sold by his sister Catharine Maria Martine (executor) in February of 1893 to Robert B. Reilly for a sum of $4,300. This is the part of the history that is a bit of a mystery.  Mr and Mrs Reilly lived here and had a daughter named Elaine in the Spring of 1900.  We have pieced together that Mrs Reilly had either died or moved away sometime before 1910.  According to the deed records, Mr. Reilly died around 1910.  The house was left to his daughter Elaine Reilly who was living in Brooklyn NY at that time.  Elaine Reilly was only 10 yrs old.  The laws at the time did not allow a guardian to take ownership of the house. The house remained held in escrow & empty for the next ten years until Elaine turned 21 on May 16, 1921.  Elaine Reilly wasted no time turning a profit on her inheritance and sold the house 5 days later to Robert DeVere Hope of Fanwood.  The amount of this purchase remains unclear.

During the decade that the house was vacant, it fell into great disrepair.  Robert Hope secured a deal in the Spring of 1920 (a year before taking legal ownership) where he was legally allowed to come to Fanwood on the weekends and work on it.  The windows had been broken out by vandals.  There were homeless people living inside.  All of the doorknobs and some of the hinges had been removed and sold by the squatters. The front porch was rotting and was not safe to walk on.  The house had no heating system, so Mr. Hope installed one.  In order to save money on heat, the Living Room was divided into two rooms and made into bedrooms.  The Hope's lived on the first floor of the house for three years.

Robert Hope lived here with his Wife Lillian B. Hope and two daughters. During the Hope years, in 1947 the Hopes sold half of the land to a man named William Gilson for the sum of $1.00.  We are not sure who this man was, but we can assume it was a family member of some sort.  Both Mr. and Mrs. Hope lived here for the rest of their lives.  Mr Hope passed away in 1950 and Mrs. Hope passed away in September of 1970.  Her family sub-divided the land into the lots that remain today.

The house remained empty for almost a year until it was purchased by The Garrison family (of Brooklyn NY) in July of 1971.  Leonard and Mary Garrison lived here with their 8 children.  The house changed hands within the Garrison family until I purchased it from Bridget (Garrison) Jaramillo in February of 2001.  Making my Wife and I the 5th owners in the past 111 years.


Original Construction Costs

The following costs were taken from a Victorian House plan book called "The Building of a Modern House" by Russell Sturgis published in 1888.  The costs are based on an almost identical house to this one.  I made changes to quantities of things like windows and doors to increase it's accuracy.

·        Excavation – 200 yards @ .25 per yard = $50.00

·        Masonry – 20,000 brick, foundation and chimneys (complete) @ $15.00 per 1000 = $300.00

·        Plaster - 1250 yards plastering @ .30 per yard = $375.00

·        2700 squares slate @ .09 each = $243.00

·        Lumber

o       6000 ft of timber @ $20.00 per 1000 ft = $120.00

o       120 Joists @ .16 each = $19.20

o       300 wall strips @ .11 each = $33.00

o       5400 feet sheathing @ .03 per foot = $162.00

o       450 Clapboards @ .16 each = $72.00

o       31 bunches of Shingles @ $1.50 per bunch = $46.50

o       950 feet outside flooring @ .05 per foot = $47.50

o       3350 feet Inside Flooring @ .04 per foot = $134.00

o       8 Cellar Windows @ $3.00 each = $24.00

o       57 Windows @ $8.00 each = $456.00

o       42 Doors @ $7.00 each = $294.00

o       3 Staircases @ $13.00 each = $39.00

o       1 Basement Stairs = $4.00

o       1 Wrap Around Porch (finished) = $72.00

·        7 kegs of nails @ $4.00 each = $28.00

·        Stain & Varnish = $25.00

·        4 Marble Fireplace Mantles @ $30.00 = $120.00

·        Copper Gutters and Leaders = $28.00

·        Carting of Materials = $25.00

·        Painting (labor & materials) = $240.00

·        Carpenter’s Labor = $315.00

·        Gas piping and lighting fixtures (installed) = $85.00

 Total (labor included) = $3,357.20


People in the Victorian Age really got into their work

An interesting, little-known fact about the construction of plaster walls in this era is the fact that they used to mix human hair into the plaster to give it strength.  Barber's would collect the hair clippings from the floor of their shops and sell it to the plaster workers as sort of a side business.  During the removal of some of the old plaster in the house, some very distinct hair samples were uncovered.  In one afternoon I collected samples of blondes, brunettes, brown, and auburn hair.


Even the Great-Grand-children of these people are most likely past away yet a piece of them still gives strength to these old walls.  When these people went to the barber in the 1880's,  I imagine that they had no idea that their hair would be seen again over a century later.  Pretty cool eh?

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