Mar 24, 2022

Historic Havens: All Saints Memorial Church Carriage Shed Restoration

By Lori Draz

This month, The Journal focuses on home improvement projects. As anyone who has ever undertaken an improvement project knows, it’s not without its challenges. That is even more so when you are renovating and repairing historic properties. Last year, Historic Havens took a look at the restoration of The Parker House. This year, we travel to the eastern corner of Middletown to learn about the restoration of the carriage sheds at All Saints’ Memorial Church.   

All Saints’ Memorial Church, also known as the Stone Church, is a strikingly different and beautiful compound of buildings including the church, meeting hall, stables, rectory and cemetery that is ringed by stone retaining walls. It sits atop a hill in the Highlands of Navesink, in a nearly six-acre section of Middletown Township. The church has long been listed on National Register of Historic Places. The ranking of the grounds were upgraded to a listing on the exclusive National Historic Landmarks list, joining the Guggenheim Museum, Sandy Hook Lighthouse and Monmouth Battlefield. It has an active and welcoming Episcopal community who is quite happy to share the many historic details of the church and surrounding buildings.

The church was one of the first established in Middletown, when that section was still known as Riceville. One of the founding families was that of Episcopalian John Henry Stephens, who came from the Isle of Wight. One of Stephens’ daughters caused a bit of a stir when she married a Quaker named Charles E. Milnor. Milnor was “read out of meeting,” like an excommunication for marrying an Episcopalian. It was these two families, the Milnors and the Stephens who donated the land and hired prominent English Gothic architect Richard Upjohn to design the church to reflect their memories of the English manor houses they loved. All Saints’ Memorial Church was formally consecrated on Sept. 23, 1864 by The Right Reverend William Henry Odenheimer, Bishop of New Jersey and one of the most powerful Episcopalians of the era. That framed Certificate of Consecration is still hanging on the south wall of the church.  

The church and schoolhouse were the first two original buildings from 1864, but soon the church expanded adding all the other buildings, including a cemetery, where many of the members of the founding families are interred. In 1915, the graves of Old Reformed Church in Highlands (later St. Andrews in Highlands), were reinterred in All Saints’ Cemetery. An obelisk has been placed there to commemorate these graves. In May 2014, the remains from the Memorial Garden of the Church of the Holy Communion, Fair Haven were reinterred and recommitted in the All Saints’ Cemetery as well.

Currently, the All Saints’ National Landmark Trust has undertaken a fundraising effort for the repair of the church’s historic carriage sheds, which were used to protect horse-drawn carriages from the elements. These sheds are among some of the last remaining examples of these simple utilitarian structures in New Jersey and they are in need of immediate attention to prevent possible collapse. 

The trust voted to approve funding the repairs in February after a sudden separation of the rafters from the ridge beam was discovered. The sheds are both historic and current as they host a large variety of the church’s continued programming like plays and seasonal events. 

The open-air sheds were constructed in two phases. The earlier section was thought to have been built before 1890. Earlier preservation efforts in the 1980s left most of the original features. As with earlier preservation efforts, original features, such as the gnawing marks left by horses, will be protected. The attached tack barn and two-seater outhouse are not immediately threatened. Rough-sawn lumber similar to the original wood will be used for replacement boards and beams.

Other projects undertaken by the All Saints’ National Landmark Trust include a recent church and rectory slate roof replacement and bell tower restoration. Upcoming projects include a design to provide easy access up to the front door of the main church building, and they welcome your support. For more information or to make a donation, visit StoneChurchTrust.org. Checks can be made payable to All Saints’ National Landmark Trust, Inc. and mailed to All Saints’ National Landmark Trust c/o All Saints’ Memorial Church, P.O. Box 326, Navesink, NJ 07752.

All Saints’ National Landmark Trust is a nonprofit 501(c)3 corporation founded for the purpose of seeking, receiving and disbursing funds contributed to the trust for the maintenance and preservation of the historic landmark property of All Saints’ Memorial Church buildings and grounds. Its board of trustees consists of parish leaders, parishioners and local community members

The entire church family welcomes your visit. All Saints Memorial Church is located at 202 Navesink Ave., Atlantic Highlands. Visit AllSaintsNavesink.org.