Sep 01, 2017

The Crawford House

By Lori Draz

Tinton Falls has just celebrated a watershed moment that has been underway for close to 15 years: they officially celebrated the grand opening of the historic Crawford House this past June 25. The property has been noted as a historic site since 1976 and just this past May, it finally met all the criteria to be added to the list of locations on the prestigious Weekend in Old Monmouth roster of destinations. The Crawford House is a not mansion; it is the last bit of a working complex of homes and buildings that represents a glimpse into more common life in an emerging nation, as well as being an industrial driver in the evolution of Tinton Falls and Monmouth County.

The Crawford House was built circa 1825 and is one of only a few remaining early 19th-century houses in Monmouth County that has a one-and-a-half story, heavy timber Dutch frame. It was the home of four generations of the Crawford family, who ran their family abattoir and butcher shop on the property from 1865 to the mid-1960s. The property pre-dates the Crawford family, however. Back in the 1670s, it was part of the Lewis Morris’ Tinton Manor Iron works, which helped supply the metal for a growing nation. In addition to generous grants from the early government, Morris had the aid of 60 to 70 slaves that he brought in from his native Barbados. A burial site for these slaves has been found on the grounds and the area has been cleared and marked to memorialize it.

Under their stay, four generations of the integral Crawford family lived on the site. John H. Crawford established a wholesale butchering business, and left it to his sons when he retired in 1897.  John C. Crawford also ran the general store (now the adjacent Portofino Restaurant), delivering groceries by horse and wagon to the surrounding farms. Allen E. Crawford took ownership of the house and business in 1924. He was a founding member of the nearby Tinton Falls Fire Company #1 and the town’s tax collector.

His wife Ruth assisted in those duties and eventually succeeded her husband as tax collector, working in that position for more than 40 years. Ruth’s daughter Ann succeeded her in the position until the mid-1980s. During most of that time, the tax office was in the Crawford home. Among the many items in the home is a rare changeable pitch piano. The story goes that the Crawford family members were well-known to be music lovers. It is said that certain taxpayers would call ahead when they were coming to pay their taxes and bring along their musical instruments. After the government got their dues, the taxpayers and the tax collectors would have impromptu concerts and jam sessions. Try bringing a bassoon the IRS today.

Structurally the house’s frame uses H-bents, which are a structural component that resembles a football goalpost that was used in many Anglo-Dutch homes. The ceiling (which is the second story floor) is old-growth wide wooden planks. The home underwent renovation in the 1920s, which left it with the existing Colonial Revival elements.

When Ruth Crawford died in 1987, the property was acquired by Stavola. In 1999, then-mayor Ann McNamara arranged a property swap, so the historic site could become a town property. The structure needed numerous renovations. The town commissioned an architect, developed a preservation plan, and those renovations were finally completed in spring of this year, with the official grand opening following weeks later.

The Historic Preservation Commission and the Environmental Commission use the house as their office and meeting space. The house provides gallery space for exhibits and information about local history, and is available to community groups as a meeting or gathering space. The Friends of the Crawford House, a non-profit group, operates a community garden on the property, and the freshest produce is now for sale every Saturday morning in the summer on the porch of the house. All proceeds benefit the Friends and their activities and it’s a great way to see the site.

Stacey Slowinski, who chairs the Historic Preservation Commission of Tinton Falls and also serves as chair of The Friends, says, “We have worked very hard over the years to acquire, preserve, and restore this home, and now we hope everyone will visit us on Saturdays and consider volunteering. We are most grateful to have been honored by being added to the Weekend in Old Monmouth list, as well. This was one of three sites of industry that supported the town and it is well worth your visit. We look forward to seeing you.”

In addition to the Saturday farm stand, they are working on an art show showcasing local artists and crafters, to be held on September 16 from 9:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. If you would like to show your work, please contact Stacey Slowinski by emailing Artists are accepted on a first come, first served basis.

The Crawford House is located at 750 Tinton Avenue in Tinton Falls and is open Saturday mornings from 9:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. through the middle of September. For more information, visit Friends of the Crawford House on Facebook; their new website is under construction.