Martin Berry

According to local historians, the Berry Family (also Berrie) arrived in this area between 1710 and 1712, making them some of the first families of Pequannock. The progenitor of the family, Samuel Berry, emigrated from Holland before 1690 and married Catalyte Ryerson, daughter of Martin Ryerson and Annetje Rapalje on May 31, 1690. Upon the death of Samuel in 1702, Catalyte married Paulus Van Der Beck in 1703. Van Der Beck had significant land holdings and through him, Martin Berry, his stepson, acquired his land which extended from today’s Newark-Pompton Turnpike to the Pompton River and on both sides of today’s Jackson Avenue.

Martin Berry was born in 1693 and married Maria Roome (1693-1734) on April 15, 1720. With the establishment of the Dutch Reformed Church in 1736, Martin Berry was named a deacon and his stepfather, Paulus Van Der Beck was named an elder. It is believed that at some point after his marriage in 1720 but before 1736 when he was known to live locally, he built the original house on the property. Martin and Maria Roome Berry had eight children: Jacob, Maria, Samuel, Hester, Peter, Martin Ryerson, Sarah and Henry. He also had several slaves including “Lease” and “Harry,” both named in his will. In the first tax listing available for Pequannock Township in September 1779, Martin was taxed for 150 acres of improved land and two slaves while Martin Jr. was taxed for 25, Peter for 25 as well as one slave, Henry and Jacob together were taxed for 92.5 This means that Martin’s estate totaled almost 300 acres of improved land.

Martin Berry House Construction

Assuming that oral tradition and previously completed archival research is correct, Martin Berry was married in 1720 and first showed up in the local public records in 1736. This, in conjunction with his reference to his house being “old” in his 1784 will, has caused the assumption that ca. 1720, Martin Berry constructed the original section of the house. This is both plausible and likely. There is a distinct difference between the first floor framing at the southwest corner of the building and the other first floor framing. There is also a large fireplace base along the west wall, indicating that at one time, it supported a much larger fireplace above it. Finally, there is documented proof of European settlement in the area by this time. While not many of these original buildings survive, this one seems to have, at least in part.


Martin Berry House Construction Phases

Martin Berry House Construction Phases

The original house was roughly 30 ft. across the south and 21 ft. deep. It was one to 1 1/2 stories, stone, oriented south, built into the hill with a full basement that likely had grade level access at the east. It had a “family room and hall” plan with a side hall running the full depth of the east end. The hall was one room, slightly deeper than the southwest parlor today and was the kitchen and living space for the family. There was a large cooking fireplace on the west wall, possibly jambless as this was typical for the Dutch at this point. The floor joists were likely exposed and there were probably two windows at the front. The interior walls were likely plastered; tradition holds that the Dutch tended to plaster their interior walls.40 This room was the center of the Berry family life. Here is where most of the indoor living-cooking, eating, and laboring-occurred. In addition to the numerous activities during the daylight hours, sleeping may very well have occurred in the dwelling room. “The division of public rooms and private bed chambers was a late eighteenth-century development. In early homes, and in small houses into the later colonial era, rooms were seldom used for a single purpose…Many families did all their living in one or two rooms.” They may have also slept in an unfinished garret; this was typical for the Dutch in this period. Martin and Maria had at least eight children (some sources say nine) and at least two slaves: a woman named Lease and Harry. According to one source, Lease had a son, Samuel, as well. While by today’s standards this would be a cramped house for 13+ people, in the mid-18th century, this was a traditional Dutch vernacular house.

This floor plan has been identified in the Bergen County Stone House thematic Nomination as being Type C which dates between 1740 and 1830. While 1720 is earlier than the years attributed to their construction in Bergen County, in his book The Hudson Valley Dutch and Their Houses, Harrison Meeske quotes a 1646 contract for a house similar to the Berry House, “House 30 x 20 -inside measure-, having on one side an aisle 8 ft wide, right through…”43 The Howsel-Wagoner House in Stanton, Hunterdon County found in Bailey’s Pre-Revolutionary Dutch Houses, attributed to the 1740s, is extremely similar to the original Martin Berry House with its 1 1/2 story stone construction, side hall plan, and built into hill giving it a full basement. In Morris County, the Johannes Parlaman House in Lower Montville also began as a three-bay side hall, 1 1/2 story stone house.

Remaining architectural fabric from this period is limited to the fireplace base in the basement, the first floor floor framing, and the stone walls. The window openings may also be original.

2nd build, Martin Berry, pre-1784
The original house was the typical beginning to a Dutch farmstead. Because of the necessity to quickly establish shelter, first houses were often small with only a single room topped by an attic. However, given the prominence of Martin Berry as well as the number of children in the family, it seems likely that by 1784, 60 years after initial construction, he had added onto the original building. There is evidence of this second build visible in the floor framing in the basement at the northwest corner. In addition, the three stuccoed sides of the building with the distinctive single uncovered stone gambrel end, seems to point to an evolving building with building seams on three of four sides, meaning the stucco could have been applied to hide the joints between construction campaigns.

We believe that during this campaign, Berry added to the north, adding a wing almost 16 ft. deep. This created a three room plan – two stacked rooms roughly the same size and a hall running along the east side. The building’s footprint was 35 ft. 8 in. deep by 30 feet across. This addition, therefore, increased the house by about 1/3. It seems likely that he extended the hall too, giving a footprint of two rooms on the west with the hall running the full length of the building. Both rooms had fireplaces. The house likely had a gambrel roof as the two-room deep Dutch houses rarely had a gable roof.

This floor plan with equal sized rooms and a side hall has been identified in the Bergen County Stone House Thematic Nomination as being Type H and dating between 1781 and 1828, putting its likely construction date by Berry to the second half of the 18th century. The Van Wagening House in Passaic is attributed to the middle of the 18th century and has a two room deep plan. Remaining architectural fabric from this second build is limited to the first floor floor framing, the northern stone walls, and the fireplace base in the basement. It is possible the window openings on the north wall date to this period.

Transcribed from HMR Architects Martin Berry House Preservation Plan.