The Architecture of the Hancock House
The exterior of the Hancock House is an outstanding example of the early
vitrified or " glazed" brickwork used in the tidewater areas of the colonies,
for it is patterned with the mellow blue-glazed and red bricksmost often
idenified with the Tudor period in England. It was natural that the settlers
in Fenwick's colony should follow the building procedures to which they
had been accustomed. The type of colonial architecture developed in Salem
County was a part of the Culture and was distinctive.
The vitrified bricks were produced from clay containing a quantity of
potassium nitrtate. To achieve the glazing it was required that those
specific bricks be placed in the kiln next to the fire so that, during
the process of "burning' the nitrate could run and create a dark, blue-glazed
surface over the end of the brick.
Particularly unique is the gable end of the house for there, just under
the peak of the roof, the blue-glazed bricks form the initial "H" idenifying
the builder's surname. Directly beneath this to the left and right are
the initials "W" (William) and "S" (Sarah,his wife). Under the initials
the sparkling, glazed bricks then show the builder's date of 1734. The
remainder of the wall is patterned with a vertical zig-zag or herringbone
design. The large section on the eastern side of the house, also carries
the same herringbone theme. The blue-glazed "header" bricks, both on the
front and the back of the house have been laid in Flemish Bond pattern.
Much has been written concerning the durability of the bricks used in
building these old houses throughout Salem County(41 to be exact). Their
enduring qualityis owed principally to a law passed in March of 1683,
when the Wesy Jersey Asembly enacted that the standard size of bricks
should be 9.5 incheslong, 4 inches wide and 2.75 inches thick, and be
"well and merchantably burnt". They were carefully examined and appraised
by two persons appointed by the courts, and, if they found the brick faulty,
they were promptly broken and the makers fined by the court. When acceptable
the bricks were laid in oyster shell lime and sand mortar.
A Pent roof commonly referred to as a "pent-cave" has been carried across
both the front and back of the dwelling.IN the craftmanship of the Hancock
Housewe can see the quiet, austere Friend(Quaker)-dominant throoughout
the Salem County area- for the Quaker built his doorway with simple and
self_respecting trim,without side lights where the busybody might peer
within, and with the most minute of entrance steps giving little encouragement
to the loiterer. Glass eith hand blown or bull's eyes pane affored light
over the front door.
The framing of the houseis of white oak, mortisee and doweled with wooden
pins. A native heart pine was used in the original paneled walls, mantels,
and wide, random width floor boards.Each room has its own original fireplace.
Three of the rooms also have a llittle slip of a window(two panes over
two panes) to llight the closeton the side of the chimmney and light is
provided to the closet by the authentic, hand carved,decorative grill-
so often used in the early Salem County home, but rarely found intact
after more than 250 years- set in the paneling over the closet doorin
the keeping room
Mary T, Hewitt(2-15-68)
edited James T. Schulte(5-21-03)
History of Hancock House
Built in 1734, the Hancock House is an important link to understanding
the History of Salem County, and our nation's struggle for independence.
It was the home of a prominent Salem County family and is an excellent
example of English Quaker patterned end wall brick houses associated with
the lower Delaware Valley and Southwestern New Jersey. It was also the
scene of a British led masacre during the revolutionary War.
The story of the Hancock House begins in 1675 when John Fenwick, a lawyer
and Quaker from England, arrived in West Jersey(now Salem County). With
land purchased two years earlier, he established the first permanent English
settlement here, called "Fenwick's Colony" and founded the town of Salem.
Eager to populate the area with skilled, industrious individuals, he advertised
the area's assets by stating ".....if there be any terrestrial "Canaan"
'tis surely here, where the land flowed with milk and honey."
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