Rural Renewal: Life on the Parker Homestead

Little Silver's Parker Homestead, dating back to 1665 and home to eight generations of Parkers, will host a farm-to-table fundraising dinner on September 13.

Growing up on a farm in Little Silver, Bob Sickles had an inkling that his great aunt Julia Parker’s house next door was something special.

In time, Sickles learned that the Parker Homestead dated back to 1665 and had been home to eight generations of Parkers, the only family to have ever lived there. When Julia Parker died in 1995, she left the homestead—the main house and three barns on 10 acres—to the borough of Little Silver to be preserved as a historic landmark and educational site. In 2012, the house was placed on the National Register of Historic Places; the same year, Sickles helped establish a nonprofit to raise funds to restore and preserve the home. Its 501c3 status was recently approved.

Restoration began last fall. “This is more a stabilization than a restoration,” Sickles says. The work has revealed much about the history of the house, which was cobbled together with additions over the centuries. The false Victorian fireplace was removed to expose a 5-foot-high colonial-era cooking hearth. Crumbling plaster revealed horsehair and mud insulation. Red-oak beams—many more than 200 years old—have stood the test of time, but other materials proved less durable. “The red-oak timbers are still solid as rock,” Sickles says, “while the lesser woods in the structure are almost sawdust.”

Among the relics found on the grounds are antique tools, farm equipment and a 1960s truck with Parker Farm painted on its side. One surprising discovery: the hull of a child-size iceboat, handcrafted of scrap materials, that was sailed on the Parkers’ pond as far back as the 1890s. Trustees discovered a black-and-white photo of the boat in use on the pond.

Sickles and his family, well-known locally for Sickles Market—the fourth-generation, family-owned, fresh produce, nursery and gourmet food market—intend to preserve the home for generations to come. “This is a state treasure, a national treasure,” says Sickles.

Parker Homestead-1665 Inc., the Monmouth County Historical Society and Sickles Market will host a fund-raising farm-to-table dinner on September 13 on the homestead’s large lawn. Tickets start at $150.

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