When I came home today after a delightful walk amongst the yellow flowers that border the old mill run at Haddon Heights Park, after dropping off two books at the Free Little Library and taking one away, I found the newest issue of Early American Life Magazine in my mailbox!
I love this magazine for so many reasons. Today was a special issue because it held an article with a photo of a house I adore, the Abel Nicholson House, in Salem County, NJ. I have been out there many times to visit the house which is very very hard to find. It is off Fort Elfsborg Road and I only know it by a patch of dirt on the side of a small unmarked dirt road. You can find a HABS photo of it at the Library Congress, American Memory site.
At times when I have visited the house, I have waded through puddles on the flooded road to the house that were as deep as my knees! I had to take off my shoes and socks and roll up my pants and wade through hoping not to encounter snakes, or broken glass.
The article in which the photos of the house appear was about brick making in the Colonial period, a subject with which I was once obsessed. When I worked as a volunteer at Gloucester County Historical Society, I researched around and found a tiny beautiful little book on brick-making in New Jersey. There are no words to express the deep warmth, respect, and gratitude that floods my heart when I come across the work of these often forgotten and obscure historians who have researched and written about these topics which are, in fact, vitally important to understanding the world we live in.
Having been born the daughter of a craftsman of many talents, my father, Joseph Wright, who was a hobby stained glass artist, a carpenter of much skill, who made beautiful pieces of furniture and who re-built a burned out historic home, and when he retired, built his own house on a hill in West Virginia. I have always had sincere appreciation for the man-made or woman-made object, whether a house, a quilt, a carving, a painting, or a brick!
The June 2017 issue of Early American Life has a fabulous essay on the art of brick-making along with the aforementioned photo of the Abel Nicholson House in Salem. It is well worth buying and reading. I have a subscription and I have enjoyed it for many years, whether for Christmas ideas, or gardening, recipes or building, and I very much enjoy the essays on the restoration work that people have done on early houses.
There is also a great essay on canals. Anyone who has ever hiked along the many canals accessible to those of us who live in the middle of New Jersey, will find this article of interest. Somewhere back in my 400 odd entries there is a blog post on the headquarters and museum of the D&R Canal, which a friend and I explored and found one summer day trip.
A long long time ago, another friend and I ice skated on the Delaware Canal up near Belle Meade, which is not far from Princeton. She was an art school friend of mine, a gifted painter who now lives in California. We used to get together in the summers from time to time to make paper. She had a nice stone patio overlooking the meadow, and a very sturdy press. She gave me a book made of hand-made paper once for a birthday gift, which I treasure. Paper is another of those old-time basics that were once man and woman-made. And I will close with a little rhyme on that subject:
rag make paper
paper makes money
money makes bankers
bankers make paupers
paupers make rags
ps. The old myth that houses were made of bricks carried in ships from England as ballast is untrue. Only expensive and valuable goods were worth carrying across the Atlantic, and most brick houses were made right on the property being built, because as you know, New Jersey is made of clay and sand.