Consultant to update historic Brearley House preservation plan

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The Lawrence Township Council has awarded a contract to a consultant to prepare an updated preservation plan for the township-owned Brearley House.

The historic Brearley House is the site of the annual New Year’s Eve Hogmanay bonfire, sponsored by the Lawrence Historical Society. The 18th-century brick farmhouse sits at the end of Meadow Road, off Princeton Pike near Lewisville Road.

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The Brearley family is counted among the earliest settlers of Maidenhead, which is the original name for Lawrence Township.

Trenton-based Consultant Clarke Caton & Hintz will be paid $38,710 to update the preservation plan for the Brearley House. The preservation plan was prepared in 1990 and has not been updated.

Lawrence Township received a $34,800 grant from the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection’s State Historic Preservation Office. There is additional money to make up the shortfall from the township’s open space fund, officials said.

The updated preservation plan is needed so Lawrence Township may apply for grant funding for future improvements, township officials said.

The preservation plan will document the history of the house and evaluate the overall condition of the building and its internal systems, such as electrical, plumbing and fire protection systems. It will include a recommended scope of repairs and maintenance.

The Brearley House, which was acquired by Lawrence Township in 1978, was built in 1761 by John Brearley II and his son, James Brearley. It is built of bricks made from local clay soil and most likely fired in an oven on the property, according to the Lawrence Historical Society.

On the east side of the house, the date “1761” is visible in the glazed brickwork. The bricks are different in color from the rest of the house because they were closest to the fire in the oven, the historical society said on its website at www.thelhs.org.

The Brearley family arrived in Maidenhead/Lawrence Township from England in 1690. The brick Georgian farmhouse that is known as the Brearley House was built on the foundations of two earlier houses built by John Brearley I, according to the Lawrence Historical Society.

A series of archeological digs in 1998 and 1999 uncovered the earlier foundations, as well as the foundations of two kitchen rooms beyond the southeast corner of the house, the historical society said.

James Brearley, who was the third generation of Brearleys to live in Lawrence Township, married three times. He had 11 children. The house passed to James Brearley’s oldest son, John Brearley III. The house remained in the family for five generations, until it passed out of their hands in 1918.

The property changed ownership several times, until Lawrence Township bought it in 1978 with state Green Acres Program money. A township-commissioned study prepared in 1979 recommended incorporating the house into a park or outdoor education center.

In 1986, then-Mayor Carl Kreger appointed the Brearley Tract Advisory Committee to determine the best use of the house. The committee presented a 10-year plan to preserve the house. The architectural firm of Short and Ford was hired by the township in 1989 to study the house and make recommendations to preserve it.

The Brearley House was restored in 1999-2000 by Nickles Construction Co. of Philadelphia. Money to fund the $700,000 project was raised through a grant from the New Jersey Historic Trust, plus funding from Lawrence Township and the Lawrence Historical Society.

The Brearley House has been leased to the Lawrence Historical Society since 2000. The house is open for free tours on the third Sunday of every month.

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