Holmdel’s Samuel Ogbourne House is now the private residence of Sylvia Allen, the successful public relations maven, public speaker, and founder of Sylvia’s Children, which supports the educational and physical needs of more than 1,000 children and their families in Mbiriizi, Africa. Sylvia is a colorful and strong woman, much like the 305-year-old farmhouse she shares with her husband Thomas Bridges.
Since moving into the home upon their marriage, Sylvia has worked diligently to restore and preserve the home, along with continuing an ongoing campaign to have the home listed on the National Register of Historic Places. So many of the homes of Holmdel, one of New Jersey’s earliest settlements dating back to 1664, have been lost and she is determined to keep this property as part of the threadwork of the town.
The land was originally owned by Richard Stout, Jr., the son of Richard and Penelope Stout, the first settlers of Monmouth County. The Ogbourne family acquired the land in 1712, which they ran as a farm property, complete with the farmhouse, a barn, storehouse, and the other buildings common to a farmstead. In fact, the well-aged chicken coop still stands on the edge of the property.
The home was constructed in two sections: the 18th-century two-story Georgian-style section, and a two-story addition that was built in the 19th-century with a Federalist style. The home has most of its original woodwork, walls, and ceilings, though much had once been hidden under cosmetic renovations. There are even original hardware door closures and some leather hinges. The home contains 9/6 and 6/6 sash windows with their original glass. There are six fireplaces and three chimneys. The oversized front door leads you into a central hall, with the central stair. To the left are two sitting rooms. The first, considered the living room, features a large arch-topped fireplace, which may have served as a cooking station. Just behind that is the rear parlor that was used for more formal occasions and funerals. It has its own diagonally set fireplace. Across the hall is the kitchen, which has been the site of much of the restoration efforts. Removing the drywall and ceiling revealed the brick back wall and the original oversized chestnut beam ceilings, which are now the display station for Sylvia’s collection of baskets, hung from above. The dining room has its own fireplace.
Upstairs, there are four bedrooms with an attic space above. The home’s charm is enhanced by her eclectic collection of antique furniture, each with its own intriguing story. The pieces are in cherry, walnut, oak, mahogany, and other woods, yet they all work together. There are antique spinning wheels, art collected from around the world, and splashes of Christmas in this corner and that. Much of the furniture has been reclaimed with the same passion the owner has poured into the home. Among the standouts in the collection is the solid black walnut barrel roll top desk that was owned by Sylvia’s grandmother, Nola Schorr.
Another lovely piece is the large dining room table, made with black walnut wood that her great grandfather Marion C. Wray, handcrafted from a tree that he harvested. Sylvia’s mother, Dorothy Allen, had the base and turned the walnut into the table top.
The upstairs master bedroom has an impressive cherry bed, complete with a solid cherry wood burl. Near the front door is an umbrella stand filled with solid wood walking sticks, uniquely hand-carved by her great grandfather.
The rear parlor features a piece whose story mirrors the restorative energy of the home. The artfully carved green settee was a roadside find. It was broken and abused. It took $60 to bring it home and only $3,000 to restore it its present condition.
If you would like to see this historic property and the contents within, the good news is that a Christmas tour to benefit Sylvia’s Children is being planned for December. To learn more, visit www.sylviaschildren.org. The Samuel Ogbourne House is located at 89 Middletown Road in Holmdel.