Dr. Wm. Robinson Plantation Museum
Circa 1690
houseListed on the New Jersey and National Registers of Historic Places, the Dr. William Robinson plantation is a rare example of late 17th century frame construction, notable for its chamfered and carved summer beam, rubble stone foundation and massive fireplace foundation in the cellar, steeply pitched roof, crenellated chimney, diamond-paneled casement windows and broad overhanging corner pendants. 
Built circa 1690 on the 700 acre farm of Dr. William Robinson, one of the first known physicians in the area, who emigrated here from Scotland with his family.
A circa 1957 addition on the back contains modern utilities and the house was occupied as a residence until 1973.  There have been a total of five families that occupied the house since 1690.
The township acquired the structure in 1973 and it was restored by the local historical society during 1973 -1980 and opened to the public in 1978

Families that occupied the Dr. Robinson house:
1686-1693                     Dr. Wm. Robinson
1693-Early 1700ís        His son, Wm. Robinson
1771-1860                     DeCamp Family
1860-1904                     Lewis Smith
1904-1944                     Edgar Smith
1944-1965                     Nelson and Edward Lawrence
1965-1973                     Schacter Real Estate
1973-present                 The Township of Clark

This house was built in 1690 by Dr. William Robinson, a physician and surgeon that emigrated here from Scotland. In June of 1684 he first visited New East Jersey and then returned to Scotland to bring his family and others back with him. In early 1686 he returned with his wife and three children along with the other families he had signed up. The trip took six to eight weeks of sailing. In 1686 Dr. Robinson bought about 50 acres of land along the Rahway River and later that year he bought another 700 acres adjacent to  this property. In 1693, at the time of his death an inventory was conducted of his possessions and can be read at the house today. The property is now only 100' x 400' and is one of the few examples of 17th century architecture remaining in the United States.
The house is registered as a historic site by the State and Federal Governments.

This house is one of the few examples of 17th century architecture remaining in the United States. One outside feature is the 17" overhang at the east end of the roof which is different from the west end. This is called a Garrison Overhang and is one of the features of houses of this period. It protected a person in the window from missiles.

Our costumes are of a style that would have been worn in the early 1700s. Travel was mostly by horseback or a horse drawn wagon.

The beams, gunstock posts supporting them and all the framework are original. The wide board flooring is original. Three layers of flooring were removed on the first floor (tongue and groove flooring, plywood and floor tile) to get back to the original flooring. The chestnut Summer Beam measures 10"x 20" x l7' and weigh approximately 2,500 pounds. It is unusually large for a house of this size. The name "Summer Beam" stems from the French word "somier", meaning "pack horse" because it carries the weight of the house. All the other beams are oak. They are decorated with carefully carved "chamfered" edges and decoratively carved lamb's tongue and diamond endings. The framework is meticulously fitted with notches cut in such a way that the weight of the beams lock them in place -  all marks of an expert carpenter. They can be seen best with a flashlight.

The fireplace is a replica of the original using bricks which were found on the premises during restoration. The mantel is made from a beam from a barn in Flemington. Family life revolved around the fireplace. It was the only source of heat and its fire was the sole means for cooking and baking. It is wide enough to accommodate several cooking areas.

The beehive oven was used chiefly for baking bread. It is completely lined with bricks. A fire is built in the oven and maintained until the proper temperature is reached. The coals are then removed and the oven is ready for use. A peel (sometimes called a salamander) was used to place and remove food from the beehive oven.

The "Betty" lamp used animal grease or fish oil and a flax or reed wick. In the 18th century candle-making became an important household chore. Methods included drawn beeswax candles, poured tallow candles, dipped beeswax. or tallow candles. Around 1800 candle molds came into use.

Notice the construction of the walls. These are handmade, sun baked bricks, held together with mud mortar. Every ninth course of brick, a piece of board was nailed to the studs to stabilize the wall. This is called "nogging" and is a form of insulation. It keeps the house cool in the summer and tends to keep it warmer in winter. It is also a fire deterrent. The studs are squared off saplings which are mortised into the sill and plate. Plaster was made from ground clamshells and was applied right over the brick nogging, thereby eliminating lathe.

Notice also the huge beam with its fitted notches. This known as a girt. The floors in this room, the bed chamber and the second floor are original to the house.

On the second floor, you will notice how the rafters are held together with wooden pegs. Wooden pegs at the peak where the rafters come together are called king pins. The rafters and collar beams are numbered with Roman numerals I to VII. They are carefully shaped with "bird mouth" cuts at the footings. Rafters were fabricated on the ground and put together to assure a proper fit. Then they were disassembled, raised and reassembled in their numerical order. The floor is original. The floor boards are of varying widths up to 24". A rug has been installed to protect the wood and to prevent accidents and wear.

On the east end, the massive beam is part of the Garrison Overhang. A grave stone is on display. It was found about 8 inches below the soil in the vicinity of the front door, but remains a mystery as to whom it belonged. Other artifacts displayed are pieces of smoking pipes which have been dated, and miscellaneous things found around the house.

Dr. Wm. Robinson Plantation & Museum
Scott McCabe, Director
593 Madison Hill Road, Clark, NJ 07066
Phone: (732) 340-1571
Email: info@drrobinsonmuseum.org
Webmaster - Lisa@drrobinsonmuseum.org

© 2009 Lisa Jennings. All Rights Reserved.