Greenfield Hall

by Natasha King | Aug 11, 2008
Greenfield Hall Although it is currently home to Haddonfield’s Historical Society, Greenfield Hall got its start rather historically in 1728. It was the third home built on property that was a gift from Elizabeth Haddon Estaugh. Her first cousin, John Gill I, was the recipient of 87 acres of land to the north of Kings Highway. The first house built on the property was a small cabin “that stood on the north side of the mill stream,” according to John Clement. It was later torn down (the date of destruction is unknown).

The property was received as a gift to John Gill II from his father in 1747. The second house was built right on King’s Highway. That very spot would eventually become the site of the present day Greenfield Hall. Despite the fact that the two small rooms that are attached to Greenfield Hall on the east side are remnants of the original house, there are no description or pictures of the original 1747 John Gill II house. The house then passed on to two consecutive owners, to John Gill III in 1796 and to John Gill IV in 1838.

The house went through two owners without change until John Gill IV. He was the son who built the house that would be eventually known as Greenfield Hall. Before his father’s death, John Gill IV had been living in Montwell, which was a brick mansion house built by the first European settler in Haddonfield, Francis Collins. John Gill IV was involved in banking and politics, along with owning and farming large tracts of land in Haddonfield and the surrounding area. He was a widower with two daughters and two sons.

In 1841, John’s marriage sights fell upon Elizabeth French. Elizabeth was successful, wealthy, and independent. Elizabeth resided in Moorestown in a French mansion along with her mother and three sisters. She was responsible for managing not only her own wealth, but also the financial affairs of her sisters and a deceased brother. It would certainly take a lot of work on John’s part to entice Elizabeth to leave her comfortable life in Moorestown and become his wife in Haddonfield.

To accomplish this goal, John Gill IV tore down the old house and build a new mansion that would be more appropriate both to his station and his intended bride’s station. The new house was quite similar to Elizabeth’s family home in many ways. The Georgian house was red brick and the center hall was two and a half stories high. The house was not built in any of the styles that were popular in 1841 and instead echoes the 1820s design of Elizabeth’s house in Moorestown. Only the front door with its Greek Revival with Italianate details is different from the rest of house, which displays the same early Classical Revival style found in the French family home. The floor plans of both houses are similar. Construction began on April 15, 1841 and was finished on October 15 on the same year. John Gill IV was successful in his bid for Elizabeth’s hand for they married on October 21, 1841.

The house passed on to his daughter, Rebecca Willits, in 1884 after John’s death. Rebecca died in 1904 and the house was passed on to her son, John Gill Willits. The son fell on hard times and turned the house into a combination nursing and “old-folks” home. After John Willits’ death in 1920, his wife put Greenfield Hall up for sale. From the early 18th century, the house had always been in the hands of the Gill family and now it was finally passing out of the family. Greenfield Hall passed through a series of owners with the Bauers being the last owners of the house. They lived in Greenfield Hall until 1960 when it became the headquarters for the Historical Society of Haddonfield.

The house has remained relatively unchanged from its original 1841 due to a succession of caring and sensitive owners. The Bauers did add a modern kitchen, but carefully kept the historical fabric of the mansion intact. Greenfield Hall was included in the Historic American Building Survey in the 1930s. Three rooms of the house, a parlor, dining room, and bedroom, are kept in keeping with the period when Elizabeth French Gill was the first mistress of the house. Other rooms are used to display various items from the society’s collections. These items showcase other important periods in the history of Haddonfield and the surrounding area.

For more South Jersey History, visit our South Jersey History page.

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Author: Natasha King

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