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Prepared for
Dr. Charles Shioleno
Mendham, N.J.
March 1993

By Acroterion
Historic Preservation Consultants
P.O. Box 950
Madison, New Jersey 07940


The property where the Ogden-Murphy House is located was part of the holdings of the Pitney family in the 18th century. Their land was subdivided for transfer from generation to generation; some of it may have been farmed, other portions were cleared and used as meadow; and still other tracts remained as woodland.

This lot in the corner of the Washington Turnpike (Route 24) and Tempe Wick Road, and two others located to the south of the present property, formed the inheritance of sisters Rebecca and Mary Ann Pitney, daughters of Byram Pitney, when his estate was settled in 1833. There is no evidence that at that time, any structure stood on any of their properties. l The women were married and both lived in Sussex County. They sold their land to one James Aspell for a total of $ 2250.00. Other than the fact that Aspell bought and sold a great deal of land in Morris County in the 1830s, 2 almost nothing is known of him. He was most likely a real estate speculator who moved onto other deals in other parts of the country by the 1840s, for there are no records of pirth, marriage, church affiliation, or death in the Mendham-Morristown area to fill out his life. 3

In 1839, James Aspell sold two of the former Pitney lots to Matthias H. Ogden and Hannah H. Ogden, his

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wife, for a total of $ 1,800.00. 4 The fact that the sale price for two out of three lots was roughly two-thirds of the purchase price of six years prior indicates that no improvements had been made to the property. The deed description of the property is based upon tree stumps and approximate distances, and apparently was archaic and vague enough even for the 19th century that Ogden commissioned his neighbor, farmer and surveyor Ephraim Leighton, to resurvey the entire property and provide a more accurate boundary description. This was completed in 1841, and attached to the deed to the property.5

Matthias Henry Ogden (l811 - 1895) and his wife, Harriet Hudson Ogden (1802 1890) were most probably the builders of the core of the present house on Tempe Wick Road. Matthias Ogden was from a prominent Elizabeth, New Jersey family, which counted a Revolutionary War General (also named Matthias) and a governor of New Jersey (Robert Ogden, who served 1812-13) among their many members. Matthias and Harriet married in 1834, and their purchase of land in 1839 seems to mark the beginning of their effort to establish a permanent home for themselves and their young children. 6

Construction of the house may well have been undertaken by Mendham's most talented and prolific carpenter-builder of the mid-nineteenth century, Aaron Hudson (1801-1888). He worked in the Greek Revival style, and the Ogden'S house represents the blending of the formal Greek Revival style with a tradi tional", vernacular house type. Aaron Hudson was kin to Harriet Hudson Ogden, which strongly supports his involvement in the construction.

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Matthias Ogden is noted in the 1850 census as a farmer, although a farmer whose real-estate worth of $6,400 placed him well above the average of $2500 in the community. His son Elias, aged 15 at the time of the census, was also listed as a farmer, although it was noted that he attended school as well. His sister, Mary, then age 13, did not attend school. The household was complete with two servants; Rebecca Hughey, age 23, and Thomas Hine, age 19, identified as a laborer. 7

Ogden was not just a farmer, but also an associate of John Marsh, whose carriage factory was one of the premier industries of pre-Civil War Mendham. 8 Matthias Ogden is said to have come to Mendham as a young man to learn the carriage building and painting trade from John Marsh. 9 Marsh's factory on Main Street in Mendham turned out handsome carriages which had a large market in the South. The civil War brought an end to the business, and presumably to Ogden's career as a carriage maker.
In 1875, with their children grown and married, and no business ties to Mendham, Matthias and Harriet Ogden sold their house and property to William and Julia Ann Menagh for $ 15,000 . 10 The Ogdens moved to Brooklyn, to live near their daughter and her husband John Huntting.. The Menagh ' s owned several properties in Mendham, including their own home on Main Street, and so used this house as a rental property.

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When the Menagh's sold the house in 1909, it was conveyed along with the existing tenant, who had occupancy rights for another year. ll The new owner was Franklin Murphy (1846-1920), a former governor of New Jersey (1902-1905) and founder and president of "the Murphy Varnish Company in Newark, New Jersey. Franklin Murphy lived in Newark, but he had a "summer place" at the Mendham estate he created called Franklin Farms. While the imposing stone house at Franklin Farms was being constructed, during the years 1910-11, the Franklins used the old Ogden House as a summer retreat.


After Franklin Murphy died, Franklin Farms was sold, but his son, Franklin Jr., kept the Ogden House. Franklin Murphy, Jr. and his wife Harriet Long Murphy, remodelled the old house to make it their summer home. They enlarged the original house, adding the kitchen, installing new fireplaces, building a wing to the south for servants and a garage with additional servants' quarters. The most significant alterations, however, were done not for aesthetics or to shelter more hired help, but to accomodate tragedy. Franklin Murphy, Jr. was striken with polio as an adult. The first floor of the old house was re-worked, with one large, airy room created as his "day room" from the former parlors and back porch, and a bedroom and bathroom added off of it. The bedroom overlooked a formal garden, which was the pride of Harriet Murphy.

To escape the stresses of being a full-time nurse to her ailing " husband, Harriet had the small garden house at the rear of the property constructed. Her retreat, for reading, sewing, and privacy, stood in the orchard behind the formal garden. The Murphy's

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also had an olympic-sized swimming pool installed, to provide recreation and therapy for Franklin.12


After Franklin Murphy, Jr. died in 19xx, his widow moved to Mendham to make her year-round home there. Mrs. Murphy died in 1948, and in her will, gave all her Mendham real estate, along with her furniture, automobile, silver, and china, to Zacariah Belcher.
Belcher worked at the Murphy Varnish Company, and, living in Mendham, had become friendly with Mrs. Murphy. He became, for her, the son she never had, and thus inherited a great deal of the property that a son might have received.


The Belchers were careful stewards of the inheritance. They maintained the house and its grounds as it had been left to them, with the sale exception of closing the pool. There were no alterations to the house from 1948 to the present.


The Ogden-Murphy House is a three-dimensional document of the history of a century of Mendham. From farmhouse to summer house on an estate, it reflects the social changes which had a tremendous
impact on Mendham during that century. Its original 19th century architecture, as well as its substantial early 20th century alterations, reflect the taste and needs of two different families, as
well as the taste of they were a part.

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eaves. The front doorways are also handled similarly on all four houses, using a transom and sidelights within a broad frame of pilasters.


The porch of the Ogden-Murphy House is now screened, but it would originally have been constructed as an open porch with the same square column supports as are found on the Homan, DeMunn, and Losey Houses. The zig-zag pattern of the Ogden House balustrade is traditional, although it was probably added in the renovations of the 19205, as few Greek Revival style porches had any balustrades to interrupt the visual
effect of piers or columns.


The dormered addition to the south of the main block of the Ogden House is also 19th century in date. The extension of service wings to one side of the main house, rather than to the rear, or in symmetrical parts to either side of the main block, is a regional characteristic. The DeMunn and Losey Houses exhibit the same pattern as in the Ogden House, and
in all three houses, the addition is slightly lower in height than the main block.


The long, low, single-story addition to the south of the house is clearly a 20th century addition; one which we know to have been added by the Murphy's for servant's quarters. Although interesting for its tongue-and-groove interior walls , it is not significant historic fabric for the house.


The interior of the Ogden-Murphy House was substantially remodelled in the 1920s by the Murphys. The addition of the room to the north of the old house was necessitated by Franklin Murphy, Junior's," requirement for single-level living quarters. The kitchen was remodelled, and the butler's pantry with its buil t-in wooden cabinets added at this time. Many of the floors were replaced, giving a smooth, even surface suitable for wheelchair access. The fireplaces and chimneys were also rebuilt, in a style that bears more resemblence to the popular Craftsman esthetic of the early 20th century than to Greek Revival design.

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Because of the substantial changes made by the Murphys, the house is no longer a pure example of the Greek Revival style. However, the changes made to it reflect the early 20th century taste for the Craftsman style, and the burgeoning interest of the 1920s for saving and preserving old houses. Up until that time, people of means like the Murphys would
have been just as likely to raze and rebuild a house on the property, but a new awareness of the beauty and value of historic architecture was emerging in the 1920s, which led to the redevelopment of Williamsburg and the creation of Historic Parks in the National Park Service system in the 1930s.


The proposed change of the property from residential use to commercial use will preserve the house and grounds as they have been passed onto the late 20th century. The residential quality of the house, with porches, wooden doors and windows, shutters, and the traditional garden, will be preserved. The house is a local landmark, not only as the lone survivor of an earlier age in a busily commercial area of town, but for these very features which give it, and the neighborhood, character.

The Ogden House is important architecturally as one of a handful of Mendham houses sharing similar Greek Revival details, illustrating the work of local craftsman Aaron Hudson. Some of that work has been
compromised by the alterations done for the Murphy family, but since no evidence of the original fabric remains, it is not feasible or even desirable to recreate those missing elements in order to "restore" the house to 1840. The changes brought about by . the Murphys have achieved a historical validity of their own, both in their design and as
a window into the social history of another time, when even priviledged adults suffered polio.


The house is an important part of the historic community of Mendham, but it is not a static museum. In order to have life, the building must have a use, and this proposed use is in the best interests of preserving and maintaining the historic building.


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Architectural History


The Ogden-Murphy House, built about 1840, is a fine example of the merging of the 19th century taste for historical revivals with the practical forms of traditional architecture. The two-story, three-bay side-hall plan house is a long-lived one in northern New Jersey. Examples from the 18th century can be seen in Mendham, for instance, at the Old Presbyterian Parsonage (1763) or the Elias Babbitt House (ca. 1790) on Mountain Avenue (see Attachments A & B ). This same house type continued to be built well into the 19th century as the backdrop for the embellishments of a variety of Victorian-era styles, ranging from the simplest, like that found on the Schenck House at 49 East Main Street (Attachment C) to more elaborately decorated versions, such as the
Augustus Whitehead House in Washington Valley.


The Ogden-Murphy House used the vocabulary of the Greek Revival to give it style and presence. It was probably constructed by Mendham's most famous and prolific mid-19th century carpenter-builder, Aaron
Hudson. Hudson used the Greek Revival style in his own home (11 Hilltop Road), and in his remodelling of the Phoenix House. But he did not simply rely on tall columns to carry the message of the style. He
was also a master of more subtle and complex design, as seen in his local masterpeice, the house for Samuel Leddell, on Roxiticus Road (Attachment D). The Ogden Bouse was probably built in 1839-40,
within a year of the Leddell House, which was completed in 1841.


The Ogden-Murphy House is quite similar to three others in the area: the DeMunn House (33 East Main Street), the Joel Homan House (Mountain Avenue, Mendham Township), and the L. Losey House (Roxiticus
Road, Mendham Township), all of which are also dated to the 1840s (Attachments E,F,G). All three houses have the corner pilasters which mark the front facade of the Ogden House, and the broad fascia
between the tops of the second floor windows and the


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Letter

Belcher Photographs
of the
Ogden-Murphy House

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side

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NewHouse

BRIEF HISTORY
of the
OGDEN-MURPHY HOUSE
Tempe Wick Road
Mendham, New Jersey

 

 

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