Henry H. Berry – 2

Upon the death of Henry H. Berry in 1833, the property passed to his son Henry H. Berry (born in 1800) and Elizabeth Mandeville Berry (born in 1804). They had two children: James Henry Berry and Sophronia Jacobus Berry. Henry H. Berry was a prominent man in the local community. In 1840, there were 14 people living in the Martin Berry House including 12 whites, 1 free “colored” male between the age of 10 and 23 and 1 male slave between 55 and 99. Two people were engaged in agriculture, presumably one was Henry. By 1850, there were 17 people living in the Martin Berry House including Henry H. and his wife Elizabeth and Henry’s mother Leah and sister Jane Berry. The rest of the people are unknown as is their relationship to the Berrys. They were Elisabeth Mead, 76 and Mary Mead, 53 (Mary was listed as insane); Jane Ryerson, 82; Mary Williams, 15. John Blinkerhoff, 37, was listed as a laborer. Leah Voorheis, 11 and George Voorheis, 7. Joseph Seger, 15, Charles Beedle, 12, Thomas Vanwinkle, 13. The last three members of the house were black: Philis Post, 70; Betsy Vanwaggoner, 54 and Elisabeth Brown, 2. Leah Lambert Berry, Henry H.’s mother, died one year later on November 8, 1851.

Ten years later, in 1860, there were ten people living in the house: Henry and Elizabeth and Henry’s sister Jane. Mary Mead and John Blinkerhoff remain; they are both listed as farm laborers. Philis Post, a black domestic who was 80 also remained in the house. Sophronia was back living at home, following her husband’s death. She had three children also living in the house. Her son Henry Jacobus was listed as a farm laborer. Two years later, at age 62, Henry sold the Martin Berry House. By this time, the property had been in the family for four generations and 150 years.

Martin Berry House Construction

When Henry H. Berry’s father died in 1833, his will and inventory point to the fact that the large addition that created the house that is extant today had not yet been constructed. There are two things that point to this conclusion. First, while his inventory is long and totals $1,481, it is dominated by farm implements, livestock and crops. The domestic list is very limited and totals only $111.50. Between his will and inventory, there are only four beds mentioned. These things point to a small house, not the large house with six bedrooms the addition created. Second, in his will, Henry gave his daughter Jane the bed “standing in the parler.” This seems to mean that through 1833 the Berry’s continued the tradition of multi-use rooms as the parlor continued to be used for sleeping as well as living. If the upstairs bedrooms existed in 1833, they wouldn’t need to keep a bed in the parlor. From this, we surmise that the eastern 1/3 of the house wasn’t built until after 1833.


Martin Berry House Construction Phases

Martin Berry House Construction Phases

Following their inheritance of the house, Henry and Elizabeth made dramatic changes to the house. They added the eastern 1/3 of the house as well as a new roof structure over the entire house (they may have made the house taller too) and completed a complete overhaul of the first and upper floors, creating the five-bay center hall house topped by six bedrooms extant today. The vast majority of the architectural fabric of the house dates to this construction campaign. Some features have Federal style influences including the pedimented entrance on the south and the fireplace mantels with projecting embellishments and pilasters and columns. The sash were six-over-six, also typical for the Federal period. While 1833 is a little late for the Federal style, McAlester’s Field Guide extends the style through 1840.

According to Janet Foster, the center-hall, five-bay Federal influenced Dutch Colonial “was a fully developed and distinctive vernacular architecture in New Jersey” by the early 19th century. This hybrid of Dutch vernacular with the English center hall plan was found all over the Dutch dominated areas of New Jersey including Bergen County, adjacent to this part of Morris County. By the end of the 18th century, the Dutch and English cultures and through it the architectural traditions and styles had merged, creating English floor plans built with Dutch influences including the gambrel roof and the stone construction with the frame upper gable end. But the formal hall with doors on each end flanked by stacked parlors of the same size with centered fireplaces and decorative mantels are quintessentially English in the Federal style.

This was a typical development pattern in New Jersey. The first settler, in this case Martin Berry, tended to build a utilitarian, culturally vernacular house on his undeveloped property. He then added again, likely in the mid-18th century, as he became more settled and his wealth increased. The house passed to the next generation and surprisingly, doesn’t appear to have been changed by the first Henry H. Berry. It wasn’t until the second Henry H. Berry inherited the property in 1833, that the house moved beyond its vernacular origins and became more formal and high style architecturally with use-specific rooms. While this change occurred more typically by the end of the 18th century when communal living was no longer acceptable and separate parlors and individual sleeping chambers became the norm, Henry Berry continued this way of communal living until 1833. His son, Henry, added on and changed the way the Berry family lived.

This floor plan is identified in Bergen County as a Type J with four equal sized rooms with four fireplaces separated by a center hall. This type is dated to between 1809 and ca. 1830. In this case, it evolved into this standard plan over three campaigns. This was common. Often a three-bay side hall house was expanded into a five bay center hall house. “The typical center hall Dutch colonial house was a later development, often built or modified, in response to English balanced and formal styles that came into fashion during the eighteenth century.” This occurred at the Johannes Parlaman House in Lower Montville and the Van-Duyn-Jacobus House in Montville also evolved this way

During this construction campaign, Henry H. Berry moved the kitchen from the first floor and put it in the new section of the basement level. He built the small stone wing to the east as well. Although HABS documents this as a smoke house, this seems unlikely. Because of its numerous openings – two doors and two windows – as well as its attachment to the house, this does not seem like a smoke house but rather another utilitarian structure used in connection with the original kitchen. Henry Berry totally redid the existing first level making the original kitchen into a parlor and adding two more formal living spaces. He also totally redid or possibly heightened the second floor. The mid-19th century Federal Censuses confirm that there were a lot of people living in this house by 1840, including slaves and free blacks. By 1850, there were 17 people living in the house; they were not relatives nor were they listed as laborers. It is unclear what their relationship was to Henry and Elizabeth Berry. Although the Berry’s only had two children, they filled their house with a lot of people and needed additional bedrooms to accommodate them. The flooring, woodwork, mantels, stairs and exterior doors all date to this period. In the basement, the fireplaces date to this period and possibly one built-in cupboard in the kitchen. The second level also dates to this period. Because the roof framing is all consistent, he re-roofed the entire structure at this time. It is possible that the small dormers are original to this time period too although they may have been added later. The unstuccoed east gambrel wall also dates to this period. Its uncovered appearance lends further credence to the idea that the house evolved in three campaigns. This is the only wall that doesn’t have a construction seam between building eras so it was left natural.

Transcribed from HMR Architects Martin Berry House Preservation Plan.