The Whyman House, located at 705 Newark Avenue in Elizabeth, is a fine example of a cubical Italianate villa. Constructed between 1860 and 1871, the wood-frame home consists of a nearly-square two-and-one-half-story main block with a low-pitched hipped roof and a two-story rear ell with a flat roof. The house epitomizes the Italianate style and is detailed with an elaborate front porch, segmentally-arched hung sash windows with architrave trim, a bracketed cornice, and a square cupola with segmentally-arched windows and bracketed eaves with perforated bargeboards and pendants. While cubical Italianate homes were once common in Elizabeth, the Whyman House is likely the last remaining unaltered example in the City. It is not only the best local example of its type, but also of residential architecture of the mid-to-late Victorian period. In addition to the architectural significance of the Whyman House, the site as a whole is significant for the intact outbuildings and landscape features including a carriage house, privy, fountain, chicken coops, greenhouse, and other features. The site is a rare surviving example of the suburban villa properties that were prevalent in Elizabeth during the second half of the nineteenth century.
After its construction between 1860 and 1871, the home went through a series of absentee owners before being purchased in 1902 by Thomas Whyman. Members of the Whyman family continued to live in the home until 1966 when Joseph K. Whyman died. Joseph was one of five children raised in the home, and he worked in Elizabeth in the real estate and insurance businesses. He was actively involved with the Central Baptist Church, serving as assistant Sunday school secretary. Joseph willed the home to the Central Baptist Church, for use as a parish house, church, or manse. The church utilized the home as its Parish House for several decades.
Unfortunately, the home has been vacant over the last decade and conditions have deteriorated due to lack of maintenance. The property is now for sale and is threatened by development. Its large lot size, location, and commercial zoning make the property attractive for commercial development. The Central Baptist Church, still the current owner, has been unresponsive to residents’ inquiries about the future of the property. Preservation New Jersey encourages the Church to reach out to the broader community and City officials to develop a community use for the building and property. If the property is to be sold, the Church should seek a sympathetic buyer who appreciates its historic significance and will rehabilitate the house and property. Something must be done before Elizabeth, one of the oldest communities in New Jersey loses this important local landmark and wastes an opportunity to show the value of our historic and architectural resources and their ability to be adaptively reused.
Preservation New Jersey