For any American history buff, architecture fan, or just anyone who appreciates colonial America, Peachfield Plantation is sure to please on all fronts. This plantation/museum is open for private tours and has been certified by the New Jersey Historic Society and registered as a National Historic Place.
The plantation, which is located in Westampton, was built on a 500 acre piece of land purchased by John Skene in 1674. Skene was the first free Mason of the western New Jersey colony, and also served in its General Assembly as the Deputy Governor. After Skene’s passing, Henry Burr bout Peachfield from Skene’s widow Helena in 1695. Burr added a farm house in 1725, and other additions were made years after including an extra wing added by Burr’s son in 1732.
The Burr family and its decedents owned and operated Peachfield for almost two centuries, producing many important contributions to society along the way. One of Peachfield's most famous sons was John Woolman. Quaker by practice and also Burr's grandson, Woolman lead one of the earliest anti-slavery movements of his time. His organization, Family of Friends, bought slaves from many neighboring estates and businesses in order to educate them and treat them humanly. Woolman also sponsored one of Peachfield's earliest marriages between ex-slave and Friends member William Boen, and a Burr family servant girl named Dido. Other important contributors from the Burr clan included John Burr Jr. who was one of the earliest developers in Mount Holly. John Jr. built the “Upper Hotel” there in 1749, which later became known as the Washington House.
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The Burr farmhouse, which is known as the Peachfield estate, looks every bit the times as one can imagine. Its front is solid colonial style brick, the interior styled and furnished in classic 17th century decor. Many of these elements are not original to the estate however, as a great fire in 1928 destroyed nearly every aspect of the estate. The fire, which started after the Peachfield farm house was struck by lightning during a storm, left only a few stone walls of what was once a proud home.
In 1932, restoration of the estate was begun by its new owner, Miriam Harker. The restoration was completed by architect R. Brognard Okie. Okie, a UPenn graduate of 1897, specialized in the colonial revival style of architecture and ran a firm that specialized in that field until 1918. With other restoration works of Okie including that of the Pennsbury Manor in Morrisville Pennsylvania, he successfully finished restoring the estate to its original colonial interior, foundation and stone wall structure in 1945.
After her death in 1965, Mrs. Hacker bequeathed the plantation to The National Society of The Colonial Dames of America in The State of New Jersey for use as the society’s headquarters. Today, the estate is open to the public, with private tours being conducted on a daily basis.
Peachfield is open to the public by appointment. Tours may be arranged by contacting NSCDA-NJ at 609 267-6996 or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
There are holiday events throughout December at Peachfield, including the Annual Holiday Tea party and the Annual Holiday Tour.
So whether you enjoy history, or simply enjoy a relaxing day of colonial intrigue, Peachfield Plantation offers a window into the past in its most elegant form. For information on how to reserve your very own private tour of the grounds, or about upcoming events being held at Peachfield, contact Peachfield’s executive director Maureen O'Connor Leach at 609-267-6996. For more information, go to colonialdamesnj.org/.
Peachfield is located at 180 Burrs Road in Westampton (08060).
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Author: Bill Green, R. Cohen
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