SCOTCH PLAINS, NJ -- The Rotary Club met to discuss the Frazee House Historic Restoration Project at the Scotch Hills Country Club on Thursday, May 19.
The Frazee House Restoration Committee, comprised of volunteer rotarians and history enthusiasts, updated the public on their progress and the history of the project, which began in 2004 but came to a standstill after the 2008 financial crisis. The restoration project is back in full swing and has received 14 grants from various groups including Union County, the New Jersey Historic Fund, and the township of Scotch Plains following the approval of the new capital budget.
The entire project is estimated to cost about $1.8 million. All of the grants have only been for planning and research. The committee is now hopeful that construction will begin soon.
“What makes this house significant is that it was the home of the common maiden,” said Andy Calamaras, president of Fanwood-Scotch Plains Rotary Frazee House, Inc. “If you go around New Jersey a lot of the historic homes you’ll see are homes of the gentry; this was a farmhouse. And there’s this folklore attached to it that makes it very interesting.”
The house belonged to local figure “Aunt Betty” Frazee who had a famous run-in with British General Cornwallis. In 1777, as British troops filed through Scotch Plains during the Battle of Short Hills, the general detected the smell of bread wafting in the air and asked Frazee for a loaf to feed his troops.
The courageous woman offered the food but famously said, “I give this bread not in love but in fear.” The commander courteously denied the nourishment and continued marching onwards with his troops. The encounter has been memorialized in town history, and is one of the many reasons the Frazee house resonates with Scotch Plains and Fanwood historians.
In the 1950’s the Terry Family took over the house and created the Terry-Lou Acres Zoo. Many claim it was the largest private zoo in New Jersey.
The house, though still standing, is in complete disrepair. If left alone, the committee believes a snowstorm or even another couple years could bring the entire establishment down. The building suffers from severe termite and water damage and is structurally unsound.
The construction strategy is outlined in the extensive vision plan found here: Frazee House Vision Plan FINAL 2012 0801.pdf. It includes removing the outside envelope of the house, reinforcing structural beams, and then replacing the outer sheeting in the historic style of the time, with stone from the house. Eventually, they hope the entire site will be a tourist sight in Scotch Plains and an educational opportunity for students.
Preservation New Jersey lists the Frazee House as one of their 10 endangered historic sites in the state. Calamaras anticipates the entire restructuring process might take another 10 years but is hopeful that it will draw the attention of SPF residents.
“There really isn’t anything like it in New Jersey,” said Calamaras. “We think it could be a major attraction in the town.”
The actual address of the house is 1451 Raritan Road, Scotch Plains. More information can be found at http://www.frazeehouse.org. Donations can be made at https://www.crowdrise.com/auntbettyhouserestoration1a1b.
A 30-minute documentary called “Two Lords and a Lady,” created by John Fazio, recounts a fuller history of the house. It can be viewed here: