Restoring an 1800s farmhouse Preservationists hope, with volunteer aid, to reopen it to the public.

Posted: November 21, 2004

Preservation efforts in the 1970s saved Washington Township's Old Stone House, one of the municipality's oldest homes.

Now residents hope that similar efforts will result in the reopening of the Creese-Quay farmhouse, long closed to the public.

The three-story white clapboard house was built in 1825 by John Turner of Turnersville. This section of the town was named after Turner, a Methodist minister, carpenter and prominent landowner, said Bob Gruber, the township's chief park ranger, who is leading restoration efforts.

Turner built the house for Thomas Creese, a Philadelphian who had come to Gloucester County in 1822 to start a charcoal company.

Creese felled trees on Egg Harbor Road to make charcoal to sell to foundries in the Pine Barrens. He soon abandoned the project because foundry owners discovered it was more economical to use coal, according to Joan Michael, the township historian.

"This house predates the township as a municipality," Michael said. Washington Township was incorporated in 1836.

The house is also named after the Quay family. In the 1850s, Michael said, Charles Quay, a farmer, bought the house and it remained in the Quay family until the early 1980s. At that time, Charles Quay, the township's onetime chief of police and a descendant of the original Charles Quay, willed it to the township.

"Township residents have been very supportive of this project," Gruber said of the restoration, which began last spring. "This effort is being accomplished at no cost to the taxpayer, and we hope to have the house open again for tours by late spring."

Much of the work this winter will involve adding steel beams to the structure to prevent it from falling over, Gruber said.

Although the house is not yet designated historic, the township hopes to get it listed on the state and federal registries.

The farmhouse, with four fireplaces, is at the same site on Egg Harbor Road as the township's Old Stone House Village, a collection of structures brought from other sites in the community. The farmhouse had been on Hurffville-Cross Keys Road, where the Heritage Valley housing development is now.

In the summer of 1986, Michael said, the farmhouse and three other buildings - the old post office, a church and the railroad station - were moved to the site on the same day.

For the last five years, the farmhouse, which has tongue-and-groove woodwork and much of its original siding, has been closed to the public because of a weakened frame, which causes the building to list, and dry rot.

"This farmhouse is one of the few surviving buildings from the 19th century and is a good example of rural architecture of that time. It's certainly worth saving," said Michael McAughlin, the head of a building restoration company and a longtime Washington Township resident who is doing much of the restoration work.

Although the township owns the property, it has not had the money to restore the farmhouse, said Gruber, whose duties include overseeing the historical park.

For Daniel Wassenar, a longtime Washington Township resident and head of Forensic Construction Technology, the restoration has a special meaning.

"When I heard Bob Gruber was looking for volunteers to restore the farmhouse, I volunteered immediately," said Wassenar, an engineer whose company specializes in restoration. "I was raised in Washington Township, and I remember Charlie Quay, who had a big impact on my life. He lived a short distance away in another house but enjoyed opening up the farmhouse to school groups and others. He had a small museum set up in the house, and I still remember all the Indian artifacts he had found over the years."

Contact suburban staff writer Louise Harbach at 856-779-3861 or lharbach@phillynews.com.

Information

* Volunteers and materials are needed to help restore the Creese-Quay farmhouse in Turnersville.

Phone: 856-589-6427.

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