The Victorian “Taylor Family complex” mansion complex, located at 127 Kings Highway in Middletown, includes one house from the 18th century and another from the mid-19th century.
The older of the two structures is Marlpit Hall, which is a blend of English and Dutch architectural styles. The main portion of the floor plan is a traditional, two-room deep/central hall Georgian style, while elements such as the split or “Dutch-style” front door recalls the Dutch settlers of the area. It was the residence of a Loyalist family and was laid out as lot No. 36 in the original 1667 survey of Middletown village; it has been occupied continuously since the 1680s.
Around 1756, Marlpit Hall was constructed by Edward Taylor, a Monmouth County resident and successful New York City businessman. He was a farmer and a Loyalist, and he even spent time confined to house arrest for relaying information about the whereabouts of the county militia to his son, Colonel George Taylor, who served in the local Loyalist militia unit.
The original cottage became the kitchen, and its salt-box shape determined the roofline of the new section. Edward Taylor, a brother of John, took possession of Marlpit Hall in 1771. The house descended within the Taylor family and was, for the most part, rented to tenant farmers. The house is currently furnished with many pieces of fine 18th century furniture and decorative arts, including several pieces which descended within the Taylor family itself.
During a Kings Highway realignment project in 1919, Marlpit Hall was moved back roughly 30 feet due to the energetic efforts to preserve it by Mary Holmes Taylor. But gradually, the house fell into decay. In 1935, Marlpit Hall was purchased by J. Amory Haskell, a pre-eminent collector of early American decorative arts who lived in Middletown.
Haskell, a principal patron of Monmouth County Historical Association (MCHA), had the house restored, and in 1936 presented it fully furnished to the MCHA. It became the first historic house museum in Monmouth County to open to the public.
Marlpit Hall is a key property in the Middletown Village Historic District, which is listed on the New Jersey State and National Register of Historic Places. The house is also listed on the New Jersey Women’s Heritage Trail.
Joseph Dorset Taylor built Orchard Home in 1853, one of the finest Italianate structures surviving in Monmouth County today. His wife, Mary Holmes Taylor II, was the daughter of Edward Taylor (his wife, Mary’s mother, was the first Mary Holmes Taylor). Joseph and Mary were first cousins (Joseph’s and Mary’s fathers were brothers). Joseph was a successful import merchant, trading imported select teas, rhubarb, ginger, fabrics such as silks and satins, ceramics including tea sets and dinner services, and other items from China to the United States.
Joseph and Mary Taylor were deeply influenced by the writings of Andrew Jackson Downing, and their copy of Downing’s “Landscape Gardening and Rural Architecture” is in the association’s collection. They raised their family – Edward, who enjoyed photography, and daughter Mary Holmes Taylor, named after her mother.
The family was well-known in the community. In fact, on Dec. 9, 1891, a large fire in a nearby house threatened Orchard Home. When a portion of the roof caught fire, the quick action of local residents saved the house and its contents from destruction. Mary Holmes Taylor III placed an ad in the newspaper afterward, thanking her neighbors for their bravery and kindness.
Mary Holmes Taylor III died on Dec. 8, 1930. The house stood vacant and unsold for a decade, when architect Henry Ludwig Kramer and his wife, Harriet Wardell, purchased the property in 1941. The Kramers modernized the electrical and plumbing systems, while carefully retaining many of the house’s beautiful, original features, including folding window shutters, marble mantelpieces, and the elaborate woodwork. The Kramers also changed the house’s original exterior paint scheme from dark brown to the brilliant white with dark green shutters still seen today.
George W. and Helen Dietrich Butler purchased the house from the Kramers in 1954. Butler, an executive of Standard Oil of New Jersey (later Exxon), was a native of Baltimore. Their elegant Christmas parties and other social events in the Taylor family’s Italianate house are still remembered by many residents today.
In June 1999, MCHA purchased the house, making it the association’s fifth historic property, while reuniting the two Taylor family properties – Marlpit Hall and Orchard Home – once again. The house was renamed the “Taylor Butler House” in honor of the original owners and the Butler family.
This unique and fully renovated property can be rented through the MCHA for events like weddings and fundraisers. The house will re-open for general touring in May, but private tours can be scheduled in the off-season. Contact Pati Githens at 732-462-1466, ext. 11 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
For more information on this and many other historic properties in Middletown and Monmouth County, visit the Monmouth County Historical Association’s website at MonmouthHistory.org.