Raritan Public Library

54 East Somerset Street
908-725-0413

History:

The General John Frelinghuysen House, which currently accommodates the Raritan Public Library, belonged to one of the most prominent families of New Jersey and has its historical origins in the early eighteenth century. The land upon which the house stands was a section of a large tract of land purchased by Dutch settlers in 1683 from a Native American tribe for a paltry sum. Cornelius Middaugh was one of the earliest owners of the Frelinghuysen property and it is believed that he may have constructed what is now the west wing of the house. Built in the early 1700's, the west wing is identified as the oldest section of the house and is presumed to have been used as a tavern, as well as a public meeting hall and jail for the then governing Township of Bridgewater. The solid unfinished style of this low structure reflects the economical nature of the early Dutch settlers who utilized the home in its totality. The small wooden structure faces north to what was known as the Old York Road, once a wilderness trail that grew into a major artery connecting New York and Philadelphia. During the pre revolutionary era the New World saw many New Jersey towns, such as Raritan develop along the Old York Road.

As Raritan evolved, so in turn did the General John Frelinghuysen House. Colonel Frederick Frelinghuysen, John's father, was the first Frelinghuysen to acquire the property which became familiarly recognized as the Homestead. Frederick or a previous owner, may have been responsible for constructing the first brick story adjacent to the clapboard frame sometime before 1780. This section of the house is dated with more confidence since the building material glazed headers from Holland, was a popular feature used by affluent homeowners between 1740 and 1780. By 1810, during John's tenure the second brick story had been added and the house was given its finished Federal style.

From the late nineteenth century to early twentieth century the house underwent renovations and alterations which were historically insignificant and will be only briefly mentioned. When Peter Frelinghuysen purchased the house in 1970, the structure was soon donated to the Borough of Raritan. In 1971 the house was recognized for its historic value and placed on the National Register and New Jersey Register of Historic Places. During the early 1970's the house was partially restored with alterations and additions for use as a library under the supervision of architect John Dickey. Today further plans are underway to restore the General John Frelinghuysen House to its original grandeur. Proposed restoration work is being funded by a matching grant from the Historic Preservation Bond Program under the jurisdiction of the New Jersey Historic Trust. Further barrier removal work is being funded by the Somerset County Community Development Block Grant Program.

Although there is little precision regarding dates of early construction lore about members of the distinguished family has endured through the years. The first Frelinghuysen to set foot in the New World was the Reverend Theodorus Frelinghuysen who left Holland to practice religious freedom. He arrived in the Raritan Valley area in 1719. Theodorus is remembered as a highly intelligent zealous pastor who at times used methods so vigorous and passionate that he served to shock and confuses his congregation. As history has shown however his heavy handed tactics sustained a positive spiritual growth in the community. Religious fervor echoed throughout the colonies and this Great Awakening' would flourish over the next few decades. Theodorus's son Johannes was also an influential force within the religious community and though he lived a very short life he was one of the founders of a religious training school which eventually became Rutgers University. The next generation of the family entered into law and politics. Frederick was a Princeton University educated lawyer who like his son for whom the house is named served his country extensively in government and the military. Throughout the twentieth century later generations of the Frelinghuysen family have been involved in state and local community interests.


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