Status: Progress Made
7/2010: In 2004, the Rotary Club of Fanwood-Scotch Plains assumed responsibility for the restoration of the house in 2004, which is still underway. The restoration has relied upon several different sources of funding. A $22,824 NJ Historic Trust grant funded archeological testing, the preparation of a National Register nomination, and other work in 2007. Two Community Development Block Grants administered by Union County funded stabilization and shoring of the house in 2009. A “Preserve Union County” 2009 grant administered by Union County funded dendrochronology studies. In 2009, the house was listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Restoration efforts continue.
11/2012: Historic Building Architects, LLC has completed a vision plan for the Frazee House and the property it occupies. The plan, which employed community surveys and meetings, includes multiple ideas for sustainable uses for the property (unprogrammed public open space, community gardening) as well as the house (community meeting place, event space). The New Jersey Historic Trust-supported plan has successfully engaged new audiences in the future of the property and is fully supported by the current municipal leadership (the municipality is responsible for stewarding the land around the house), which has already secured grant funding for new landscaping initiatives.
The Betty Frazee House, a locally designated historic site, is significant for one woman’s rumored role in the American Revolution, and as an excellent example of 18th-century vernacular residential architecture. The house is reported to have been constructed circa 1720-1740 by the husband of Elizabeth (Betty) Frazee. As the legend holds, after the Battle of Short Hills, Lord Cornwallis and his troops passed by the house while marching toward the notch in the Watchungs, located a few miles to the north. Hungry and tired, the troops smelled Betty Frazee’s baking bread and Cornwallis approached her, requesting bread for his troops. Betty is said to have replied, “I give this, sir, in fear, not in love.” Cornwallis is said to have refused the bread, stating, “Then, neither I nor a soldier of mine shall eat it, Madam,” and continued on his way. While the story may never be authenticated, archival research to verify that day’s troop movements and to present the history of the property and its inhabitants is presently underway.
More recently, the house was used by the operators of a zoo that operated on the six-acre property from the 1970s through 1996, since which time the house has been vacant. Except for an unfortunate, but reversible, enclosed porch constructed in the late 1980s shortly before the creation of the local historic preservation commission, the building retains a high level of integrity. But it is unheated, and water is leaking into the basement.
The house was acquired by the Township of Scotch Plains in 1998, via eminent domain, for the creation of a park, including possible restoration of the house as a community meeting facility. But as negotiations over the property grind on, the house continues to deteriorate from neglect and vandalism. The township, which has been maintaining the grounds since 1999, plans to better secure the building. Today, it stands as a reminder of the need to protect historic resources on publicly-owned open space.
Friends of Frazee House