SOMERVILLE, NJ - The public is invited to the historic Wallace House and Old Dutch Parsonage on Sunday, April 7, to meet Paul Soltis, the State Park Service’s new resource interpretive specialist who will be in residence at the historic sites at 71 Somerset St.
Soltis is hosting the open house from 1 - 4 p.m. and will exhibit souvenirs of historical places in Virginia, New Jersey, England and Wales where he has studied and worked, and to discuss their connections to Wallace House & Old Dutch Parsonage.
Informal talks will take place at 2 p.m. and 3 p.m. Admission is free, and refreshments will be served.
Call (908) 725-1015 to register.
The Old Dutch Parsonage was constructed in 1751 with funds from three Dutch Reformed Church congregations of the Raritan Valley. This two and one half story brick Georgian building was first occupied by the Reverend Mr. John Frelinghuysen and his family. While Frelinghuysen served the three congregations, he also tutored several young men in his home, preparing them for the seminary. John Frelinghuysen died in 1754 leaving behind his wife, Dinah, and two children, Frederick and Eva.
He was succeeded by the Reverend Mr. Jacob Hardenbergh, one of the young men whom he had once tutored. Unlike his predecessor, Jacob Hardenbergh did not tutor students in his home. He was, however, interested in education. In 1766, Hardenbergh drafted, circulated, and submitted a petition to the Royal Government to establish a new "classical and divinity" school in the Colony of New Jersey. As a result of his efforts, Queen's College was chartered in the same year.
In 1785, Jacob Hardenbergh became the first President of Queen's College, known today as Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey. Jacob Hardenbergh also played an important role during the American Revolution. A supporter of the American cause, he served in the Provincial Congress of New Jersey. While the Continental Army was encamped in the Watchung Mountains during the winter of 1778-79, Hardenbergh became friendly with General Washington. Jacob Hardenbergh helped ease tensions between the army and local residents who, although supportive of independence, were greatly inconvenienced by the troops' presence.
In 1781, Jacob Hardenbergh left Somerville to take a position in New York. The Dutch Parsonage remained a pastor's residence until 1810, when the church sold the building to Dr. Peter Stryker, a prominent local physician. In 1836, Stryker sold the house to the Doughty family.
The Doughtys owned the house until 1907, when they sold it to the Central Railroad of New Jersey. The railroad purchased the property to make improvements to the railroad right-of-way and slated the house for demolition. The Parsonage was saved by interested persons who moved it to its present location in 1913. The State of New Jersey acquired the property in 1947.
Jacob Rutsen Hardenbergh, a Dutch Reformed minister who lived in the nearby Old Dutch Parsonage, sold a small farmhouse and 95 acres f land to John Wallace, who was a merchant and fabric importer in Philadelphia. In 1775 and 1776, Wallace bought more 12 acres and in 1776 built an eight-room Georgian mansion next to the farmhouse. Wallace named the estate "Hope Farm," and planned to retire there.
The Continental Army camped in the Watchung Mountains at Middlebrook, 3 miles from Hope Farm during the winter of 1778-79. The Wallace House became George Washington's headquarters, though he only stayed there for 11 days before leaving to attend the Continental Congress in Philadelphia for 6 weeks. Washington returned in February 1779 bringing his wife Martha. The Washingtons were given use of half the house. He then used the house to host foreign dignitaries and official dinners, and to plan military strategy. In particular, he planned the 1779 campaign against the Iroquois League known as the Sullivan Expedition. Guests at the parties included Benedict Arnold, Nathanael Greene, Alexander Hamilton, Henry Knox, and Baron Steuben.[
Washington left on June 3, 1779, and paid Wallace $1,000. The Wallace family and their slaves then returned to their normal lives in the house.
John Wallace, his wife, and his mother-in-law all died in 1783-84, and his youngest son William inherited Hope Farm. William lived there until he died at age 33 in 1796, leaving three orphan children. William's brother Joshua took care of the children and sold Hope Farm to Dickinson Miller in 1801.
The Revolutionary Memorial Society bought the house in 1896, and gave it to the State of New Jersey in 1947.
Soltis encourages those unable to attend the open house to consider sharing ideas for improvements with him at another time. Visit for a tour of the historic houses or simply call or write to discuss your interests or suggestions. Individuals may visit Wednesday-Saturday 10 a.m.-noon and 1-4 p.m. and Sunday 1-4 p.m. Call ahead to confirm the schedule for a given day. Reserved group tours for organizations can be scheduled.