PLAINFIELD, NJ — Christian "CJ" Estevez grew up in Plainfield and moved six years ago to Scotch Plains, where he is now a senior at Scotch Plains-Fanwood High School and a member of the school's wrestling team. He is also a member of Troop 73 out of Holy Trinity in Westfield and is currently working on his Eagle Scout Service Project.
Fondly recalling visits to Plainfield's Drake House, where George Washington met with officers before commanding the Battle of Short Hills in 1777, Estevez chose a project to repair and improve the grounds of the museum.
"I've always had positive memories of coming to the Drake House. I just love the grounds, and I love the history," Estevez said.
Estevez said that Nancy Piwowar, president of the Historical Society of Plainfield, on previous occasions, has always been very nice in helping Scouts and people interested in history in general.
"It was an easy choice to come in and revitalize part of this wonderful museum," he said.
Piwowar explained that Estevez came up with a plan to stabilize the hill, and worked from an old photograph from 1922 that she found in the Olmsted archives.
Along with his fellow troop members, Estevez removed unwanted thorny bushes from the side yard, and will replace them with a flower bed of historically accurate daffodils. Stones donated by Plainfield resident Janet Dillon were used to create a decorative planter wall for the upper and lower flower beds. A path of paving stones are being placed, and a bench will be installed to overlook the flowers.
"It is an honor and a pleasure to work with the young men from Troop 73 based at Holy Trinity, Westfield, and their parents and leaders," Piwowar said. "CJ Estevez once played an elf at the Drake House Tree Lighting many years ago, and he has returned to help the community where he grew up. The generosity of spirit and hard work is most appreciated by the Board of Trustees of the Historical Society."
The weeds, invasive plants, poison ivy, and thorny bushes made the side area inaccessible. Litter would collect in the brush, and there have been instances of dumping, Piwowar noted. The Scouts and their parents raked the entire hill that had not attended to in many years.
"We wanted to make the Drake House more appealing from the curb on the western side,” Piwowar said.
Historically, she added, General George Washington came up the hill from along the brook to access the Drake House. Docents will now be able to explain to visitors in a more visual way how high the Drake House is from houses to the west, and how Washington would use high points in his military maneuvers.
The clearing of the underbrush will allow for exterior tours for school children who will be able to see how close the museum is to the Green Brook, and the importance of it to the Drake family in the 18th century.
Piwowar noted there is a plan to restore and replace the exterior fencing around the Drake House, and this area needed to be cleared for that to happen.
The Drake House is located at 602 West Front Street in Plainfield. Visit www.drakehouseplainfieldnj.org for more information.