Published in the Courier News, Thursday, September 7, 2006
(Photo, Courier News)
Nothing plain about it
A self-guided tour visits 11 historic homes in Plainfield this Sunday
By LIZA JAIPAUL
You can't travel back in time -- but you can come close this weekend in Plainfield. The first Plainfield Open House Tour is 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday. The self-guided tour features 11 homes -- in all six of the city's residential historic districts -- plus the Society of Friends Meeting House.
"It's like walking through the centuries as you tour these houses," said Victor Quinn, Plainfield House Tour committeeman.
The idea for the tour came to Quinn after attending a house tour in Paterson last year.
"I'd like people to understand how beautiful Plainfield is, and how historic it is," Quinn said. "I believe we have more historic structures than any city in New Jersey, even Cape May. I want people to come away thinking, 'Wow, this is Plainfield.' "
Apparently, many people agree with Quinn. Although he wasn't sure how willing people would be to participate in the tour -- much less offer their houses for display -- he had an overwhelmingly positive response.
"We are showcasing the architectural heritage of our city and the commitment of all of our citizens to putting their best foot forward, thereby improving the quality of all of our lives," said Rashid Burney, a Plainfield city councilman who owns one of the houses on the tour.
This is the first time since Plainfield's first historic district was formed in the late 1970s that there will be a house tour featuring homes from all of the residential historic districts.
The criteria for a house to be included is that it is tour-ready, will show well, be of the age of the district and have some architectural significance. To get ready for the tour, homeowners did "all those little things that you ignore, and suddenly you say, 'I have to do these things,' " Quinn said. For example, people painted and put wallpaper up, plus other finishing touches, he said.
Cedar Brook Farm, the oldest home on the tour, and the oldest home in Plainfield, was built in 1717 by William Webster. The beamed ceilings in the room, the wide-open fireplace hearth and beehive oven take you back to yesteryear.
The house was expanded in 1750 from a farmhouse to a Georgian-style home with a more formal Colonial floor plan. Like many older homes, it has been expanded over the years, with various rooms added.
Other homes on the tour represent a variety of architecture and time periods, to include a 1929 Norman French Revival home, a 1927 Tudor-style home, two Colonial Revival mansions, a 1925 English Tudor, a 1913 Tudor Revival home, an early 20th-century Edwardian home, an English Arts and Crafts-style home from 1906 and two Victorian-style homes built in the 1800s.
Of particular interest on the tour is the Quaker Meeting House at 225 Watchung Ave. It was built in 1788 and has been used as a religious facility continuously since then. It features a clapboard exterior and has the original woodwork. The original pews are still intact as well, with each one slightly different, as they were built to the proportions of the various members.
"This is truly a monument to the care and craftsmanship of a bygone era and appropriately completes this tour of the rich heritage of the most historic city in New Jersey," said Quinn of the Meeting House, the last stop on the tour.
IF YOU WANT TO GO
- WHAT: Plainfield Open House Tour (self-guided)
- WHERE: 11 homes in Plainfield's historic residential districts, plus the Society of Friends Meeting House
- WHEN: 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday
- HOW MUCH: Advance tickets are $20 at Swains Gallery, Watchung Avenue, Plainfield; Queen City Diner, South Avenue, Plainfield; Meeker's Florist, Westfield; Century 21, Park Avenue, Scotch Plains. Tickets sold Sunday are $25 at Netherwood Train Station, South Avenue, Plainfield, 10:30 a.m. to 2 p.m.
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