Seabrook–Wilson House facts for kids
|Location||119 Port Monmouth Road, Port Monmouth, Middletown Township, New Jersey|
|Area||less than one acre|
|NRHP reference No.||74001178|
Quick facts for kidsSignificant dates
|Added to NRHP||October 29, 1974|
Seabrook–Wilson House (also known as the Whitlock–Seabrook–Wilson Home and nicknamed the Spy House) is located in the town of Port Monmouth, a part of Middletown Township in Monmouth County, New Jersey, United States. The house was built in 1663 and was added to the National Register of Historic Places on October 29, 1974.
The original house was built in 1663 by Thomas Whitlock, who came to the North America in 1641, first living in Brooklyn. It no longer exists. It started out as a 11⁄2-story, one-room cabin, and Whitlock lived here with his family. The house was turned into a two-story home by its second owner Thomas Seabrook, who was a patriot in the New Jersey militia. Over the years the Seabrook family added to the original structure. The home stayed in the Seabrook family for a total of 250 years.
Listed on the New Jersey and National Registers of Historic Places, the Seabrook–Wilson House is one of the oldest surviving houses in the Bayshore. The Seabrook‐Wilson House began as a small cabin about 1720 and over the years was expanded and altered many times by later generations. By 1896 (photo left) the house had grown to its present size and appearance.
For most of its history, the farm on Sandy Hook Bay was home to generations of two prominent Port Monmouth families, the Seabrooks and the Wilsons. Ship owners and captains, a Revolutionary War militia officer, local business owners and investors, and a clergyman were part of these notable families, many of whom served in local government positions. Until the mid 1800s, the Seabrook‐Wilson House stood alone on this stretch of the Bayshore, surround‐ ed by a farm of several hundred acres and salt marsh. With the development of steamboat service and the railroads in the mid‐1800s, the village of Port Monmouth grew up around the steamboat pier and commercial fishing, transforming the area into a bustling port. Tourists flocked to the area for its fresh air, sandy beaches and recreational fishing. By the early 1900s the old Seabrook‐Wilson farmhouse had become an inn for tourists, known first as “Bay Side Manor” and later as “The White House.” After almost fifty years as a boarding house and tavern, the Seabrook‐Wilson House stood empty and in severe disrepair by the mid 1960s. Concerned Middletown residents convinced Township officials to purchase the site in 1967 and save the Bayshore landmark from destruction. The Middletown Township Historical Society and, later, the Spy House Museum Corporation, operated the house as a local history museum for over twenty years.
In 1998, Middletown Township transferred the property to the County of Monmouth and it became part of the surrounding Bayshore Waterfront Park, which preserves a thriving coastal landscape of salt marsh, dunes, mile of beach and scenic views across the water. Visitors can once again enjoy the historic site and create new memories of Port Monmouth and the Sandy Hook Bay.
The house is open to the public from April through October from 1 - 4 p.m. on Sundays only.
The Seabrook‐Wilson House Restoration Q&A
What was the purpose of the restoration project? The objective of the Seabrook‐Wilson House restoration was to return the exterior of the landmark to its documented historic appearance, and to renovate the entire building for its new use as Bayshore Waterfront Park's Activity Center.
How did the Park System research for the building restoration and the exhibits? Monmouth County Park System staff researched historical documents, photographs, and maps from all over the state and region. Local residents also contributed valuable information and many historical photographs. The building itself was investigated with the help of historical architects, Farewell Mills Gatsch of Princeton, who prepared the restoration plans. The research resulted in a more thorough and accurate understanding of the building's origins and changes over time, and guided the restoration plan for the building.
What work did the building restoration project include? Restoration of the Seabrook‐Wilson House included comprehensive exterior and interior repairs to ensure the building's preservation and to provide adequate facilities for public use. The project restored historic fabric and features, repaired structural deterioration, replaced outmoded mechanical, electrical and plumbing systems, and made improvements for the safety of the building and its occupants.
When was the restoration completed? Construction began in 2008 and was completed in 2009.
How was the project funded? Funding for the building restoration and site improvements was provided by the County of Monmouth and a grant from the Garden State Historic Preservation Trust Fund administered by the New Jersey Historic Trust/State of New Jersey. The Friends of the Parks funded the exhibits, which were planned and researched by Park System staff, and fabricated by The Cherry Valley Group, an exhibit design/build firm.
How will the building be used? The building is now Bayshore Waterfront Park's Activity Center, and will function as a site for Park System public programs and special events. The first floor includes a meeting room for public programs and exhibit areas for permanent displays on the ecology of Sandy Hook Bay and the history of the Seabrook‐Wilson House. Rooms on the second floor will serve as offices for Park System staff assigned to Bayshore Waterfront Park. Due to code constraints, public access to the second floor is not ordinarily permitted.
In attempting to create interest in the building, in the 1960s part-time caretaker Gertrude Neidlinger fabricated a story that the house was a tavern during the Revolutionary War where British troops were spied on by patriots. There is no evidence that the house was ever a tavern at that time. It was a private home. It remained a private home until the early twentieth century. However, the tale caught on and helped keep local interest in the house, probably aiding in preserving the property.
The Spy House Museum, which conducted candlelit ghost tours, was creatively alleged to be “haunted” by its part-time curator, Gertrude Neidlinger.
Seabrook–Wilson House Facts for Kids. Kiddle Encyclopedia.