Hi! I thought I'd do something different with this post and just cover one topic. I know. But with lots of supporting materials (links, photos, videos). I know. I'm expanding my blogging horizons.
Last week I took my three year old son to visit the Proprietary House in Perth Amboy, New Jersey. My only regret is that I took my three year old son to visit the Proprietary House in Perth Amboy, New Jersey. For real. That kid is getting nowhere near two hundred and fifty year old objects/rooms ever again. Much less around docents who clearly cannot handle being interrupted, constantly, by a three year old boy who just wants to climb on chairs. Old chairs.
I tried taking him to Marlpit Hall here in Middletown a while ago and that, too, was a bust. But he was older this time, I thought. It'll be better this time, I thought. *sigh*
In any case, there's so much to say. So much! Oh, so much.
The visit in itself, while brief, was great. I'm going back! They offer tea and a tour for $7 every Wednesday. For real, if you're ever "visiting" Perth Amboy (and by that I mean, oh my God, how did we end up in Perth Amboy, I'm scared. Oh look! A historic house. Huh.) you should totally visit the Proprietary House. Oh, what I like/love about the website I just linked about Perth Amboy are one general and two specific things. First, generally, it's very honest. Unlike the official Perth Amboy website. Honest is refreshing. Secondly, there's a picture of a cat in the main slide show. Great. Thirdly, there's a warning about going there after dark. Again, honest. And great. Check it out.
It was originally built with the goal, from what I can tell, of becoming the Royal Governor's mansion in the 1760's or so. Eventually, with a lot of back and forth from the Royal Governor, William Franklin (below), illegitimate son of Benjamin Franklin and devout Loyalist, it did become the Governor's Mansion for East New Jersey. For two years, 1774-1776. Then he was arrested by the Continental Army. I got a big "Nero's playing the lyre while Rome is burning" kind of a vibe off of that, but that's probably just my interpretation. Regarding this portrait, I think he's a handsome looking devil, but the arched left eyebrow kills it a bit. Again, just me.
In any case, it's an enormous house. Very lovely. In pretty bad disrepair cosmetically, but lovely. And they had such visitors! Ben Franklin, of course, trying to persuade his son to come over to the rebel cause. But then William was all "No, you, come to the dark side," while breathing heavily (he had a cold). Ahh, I jest. Also, John Adams. Basically a who's who of important Loyalists/British officers and Revolutionary figures. Dare I say it? Maybe Phebe visited them! Oh, if I could prove that, I'd die.
After the Revolution, it was owned by a former British spy who was also mayor of Perth Amboy. I know! That's a cool side story. Another time. Then a bazillionaire (for the time) and then it was made into a hotel. Then disrepair. Then an orphanage. Then more disrepair. You get the idea. But now it's this behemoth building right smack dab in the middle of lots of row houses, in disrepair, in a generally very poor, very depressing town. I really had trouble picturing what the area must've looked like before. That also is another post, as I found a really good series of maps and aerial drawings of Perth Amboy from the 1770's. In any case, this drawing below, from this good website, gives an idea of how it looked as an estate.
OK, more supporting materials!
Let's start with the tea room. I found a picture! (Most pictures come from the Proprietary House website. A few come from me and a few more from da Google. I shall specify each case.) This room was originally a wine cellar and then an ammunition storage room. It's fantastic. I would hang out there all the time, if I could. It's on the basement level adjacent to the kitchen and servants' dining room. Not good if you're claustrophobic, I suppose, but I liked it. This grainy picture from here.
Alright. This is the part of the post where I tell you that this house is also on the map today because...wait for it...people believe it to be haunted. For real. Riddled with ghosts. Again? Great. And, of course (of course), there are lots of fantastic videos about this on youtube. I'll walk you through some of those in a bit. First, I want to show you more of the house and emphasize that it really is lovely, as a historic house, I mean.
The main floor of the house has a beautiful big entryway. With a lovely dining room off on one side and a lovely, big parlor off the other. I'll post below two pictures from this room. (I'm not a good photographer, especially of interiors. Huh. I'm better than whoever took that picture of the tea room, right? Right. I feel better.)
More on that mirror in the picture above in a bit.
Another photo of the interior from their website below, because I didn't want you to get the sense that all the rooms are that finished. They're not. Not by a long shot.
You can see lots more (bad) photos on their website. Check it out. And, seriously, if you ever find yourself in downtown Perth Amboy on a Wednesday, first of all, God help you and second of all, visit the Proprietary House.
Alrighty, time for the ghost stories. The house was "investigated" by Ghost Hunters. (For some reason, won't embed. Sorry.) Now, I've never seen this show, which runs/ran on SyFy, except for the video down below, but...well, I find it hilarious. These people, the TAPS people. So hilarious. A fair bit of the video is set in the basement tea room. "Are you afraid of us?" "No." I like Bruce. He seems awesome.
Anyway, I did not know any of this when I went to the Proprietary House, but I love it. OK, the ghost thing gets better though. I know. You say, "Wha? How can it get better than Ghost Hunters?" Right? It does. Enter psychic Jane Doherty, who I've read about before and who, of course, would be involved in this. Not only is she involved, but they let her give tours (in the banner of the previous link, they give some info. Sorta.). Oh and the best part about her? Her magic stomach. It's true. It's magic. In this video below (which is fantastic), you get to see it in action in the Proprietary House. Skip to 0:56 if you have to. "Here I am!"
Before I leave the ghost thing, one last video. Quick one. The mirror in the parlor in my picture above is the subject. I've watched this one about twenty times.
Almost done. Phew. Last thing to talk about in this whole big bag of awesome is "The Reenactment." So many things to say. You know what? I need to itemize. One, I just missed it and was really excited to go next year. (It's "performed" every year in early June.) Two, my favorite part of the video is the part when they write "The drama is about to begin." Three, uhhhh, Colonel Heard? Who was Phebe Taylor's brother? Yea, not how I pictured him. He's like a clean shaven Artie Lange here. Not how I pictured him. Four, my second favorite thing is the butler guy. Five, I have to confess I didn't make it past two minutes, which leads me to my last point. Six, I probably won't go next year due to my sensitivity to second hand embarrassment. For to enjoy.
In my last post, I believe I mentioned my interest in wearing an 18th century costume. My views on that are evolving.
Until next time...