Cultural & Heritage Commission
Self Guided Tour Of Shippen Manor
The following paragraphs describe the history and sights a visitor will experience during a visit to Shippen Manor and the Village of Oxford Furnace, NJ (or just Oxford, NJ). While a visit to Oxford Furnace will offer a more complete visual experience, this tour in cyberspace is intended to whet your appetite. The following pages consist of a reprint of a free document published by the Warren County Cultural and Heritage Commission.
Shippen Manor, an 18th. century iron master's residence associated with the operation of the Oxford Furnace, is listed on both the State and National Registers of Historic Places. The Manor was in either in private or corporate hands until 1974 when the property was purchased by the State of New Jersey. However, lacking funds for restoration the structure was left to deteriorate until 1984, when efforts of the Warren County Cultural and Heritage Commission culminated in the transfer of both Shippen Manor and Oxford Furnace to Warren County. It was at this time that the restoration effort began.
The Shippens were a socially prominent and wealthy Philadelphia family. Joseph Shippen, Jr. acquired title to the site of what was to be Oxford Furnace, New Jersey around 1741. The Manor was built in 1754, by William Shippen II and his brother Joseph Shippen II. In the early 1760's Joseph w. Shippen was installed by his father, William II, to manage the property. He secured the services of a local farm girl by the name of Martha Axford as "housekeeper". During their period of "housekeeping", they had seven children. To date no evidence has been found of a marriage taking place. Joseph W. died intestate (without a will), in 1795 his father, William II, came to live in the Manor to "administer his son's estate and oversee furnace operations." William is said to have grown fond of his grandchildren in spite of his disapproval of Joseph W. and Martha's (d. 1798) relationship and provided for all his grandchildren in his will. William II owned the Manor until his death, in 1801, in Germantown, Pennsylvania.
Archaeological excavations at Shippen Manor have produced a wide range of information about the past inhabitants of the site, and about the various changes that the manor house and grounds have undergone in previous years. Numerous subsurface features (including wells, builder's trenches, refuse pits, middens, and various architectural elements) and thousands of 18th.-19th. century artifacts have been recovered. Information about the Manor was also obtained through primary sources such as inventories, letters, wills, and diaries. The site of the house emphasizes the position of the Shippens in the local society. They were "masters of all they surveyed" and then some. The estate contained over four thousand acres including land on the Delaware River and a grant from the King of England to operate a ferry. The was basically self-sufficient, surrounded by tenant farms, various mills, a store as well as the iron furnace. The Manor is Georgian in style, constructed from local stone, two foot thick stone walls, and three immense chimneys. The ground floor consisted of six rooms. Upstairs there were two bed chambers and four garret rooms (currently unrestored and used for storage). In each room, you will find pictures depicting various renovation stages of selected architectural details. When the Manor was built in 1754, it was designed to be functional rather than luxurious. Three colors dominated the interior of that portion of the house restored to the colonial period: white, blue-gray and red. Through analysis of paint chips, taken from throughout the Manor, we have been able to reproduce the colors used in the restoration of the Manor. The baseboards in this portion of the house were painted black, this prevented dirt from showing on the lower section of the white walls. Where you see breaks in the black baseboards, this indicates a contemporary addition. The closet to the right of the fireplace in the Reception room has no black baseboard, because it was added during the restoration for storage purposes. The pine floors in the Reception room, Dining room, and Victorian parlor are original. The floors in the Robeson study and Shippen kitchen needed to be replaced due to damage. They were replaced with floors salvaged from other historical buildings that were destroyed.
As you walk through the divided or Dutch doors, look down to the right of the doorway, there you will see a section that shows the original paint of the house. The Robeson study is named for Morris Robeson who acquired part interest in the property in 1808. He was the grandson of Jonathan Robeson who built the original Oxford Furnace in 1741. Morris Robeson built the stone grist mill (now the Oxford Colonial Methodist Church) in 1813. Robeson died in 1823; it is in the inventory of his estate that provides us with much knowledge of the furnishings of the Manor in the early 1800's. Morris left his estate to his children and his wife, Tracy who was appointed executrix of his will with the right to sell his estate. The inventory described this room as an "office study". It was probably used as the Manager's office and sleeping quarters. The desk to the left is an 1840 Empire Secretary. Next to the window you will see two blanket chests which normally would be placed in a bedroom. To the right of the door is an 18th. century Ladder-back chair. This chair was the property of General Garrett Vliet of local Revolutionary war fame. A Civil War period clock rest on the fireplace mantel. The large square hole to the right of the fireplace results from the installation of the bake oven in the kitchen which abuts this wall.
As you walk through the doorway, you enter the reception room. This was a multipurpose room serving as a dining, sleeping and entertaining parlor. One of the early products of Oxford Furnace was firebacks. Firebacks were used to line the back wall of the fireplace to hold heat and then radiate it into the room. They also protected the fireplace stone or brick from burnout. Inside the fireplace of this room is an original fireback. Two firebacks, one of which bears the date 1762, were discovered when this bricked-up fireplace was opened, one fireback behind the other. The fireback hidden behind the original in this fireplace was almost perfectly persevered. Castings of this rear fireback were made and reproductions placed in all other working fireplaces. The wooden chair in this room and others scattered throughout the colonial rooms are reproductions of Windsor chairs (circa 1780-1800). To the right of the fireplace and in the corner next to the couch are two styles of tilt-top tables, the corner table is known as a candle stand, the round table is called a bird cage tilt-top due to the shape of its' base. The ceiling light fixture is a reproduction. It is not known if there was a light fixture suspended from the ceiling, but, this is how it may have looked if there was one. A Hepplewhite banquet table circa 1810 from Hunterdon County stands in the center of the room. Along the wall is an 1840's Empire sofa. Paintings in this room depict members of the McKinney family of Broadway, NJ, and date from circa 1830. A Rosewood melodeon manufactured in Washington, NJ, by H.K. White, and believed to have been the first musical instrument manufactured in Washington, NJ, stands between the front windows. There is also a Sheridan work/sewing table used as a bedroom accessory circa 1840.
This is the formal parlor with the original crown molding along the ceiling. Inside this fireplace you can see a reproduction of the fireback found in the rear of the reception room fireplace. The impressions in the reproduction can be clearly seen demonstrating the remarkable condition of this fireback. On the opposite wall is a Chippendale mahogany looking glass (circa 1750) and a painting of Mr. Fisher Ames of Boston, a contemporary of the Shippens. Mr. Ames was a financier of the revolution. The dining table dominating the room is a Queen Anne walnut dining table (circa mid 18th century). This table is thought to have been owned by Peggy Warne, resident of Franklin Township. The chairs around the table and at the window are a set of eight Federal mahogany dining chairs comprising six side chairs and two armchairs (circa 1790). The Federal inlaid mahogany sideboard is of New England origin (circa 1780) and would have held table linens and liquors. This sideboard also contains a desk. On the sideboard are matching knife boxes (circa 1770). The staircase leading to the second floor is original to the Manor. The double leaf doors across from the staircase are unusual for this area and reflect the position and wealth of the Manor owner.
AThe Shippen Kitchen was used from the time when the Manor was built until approximately 1790/1780, after which it was used as a bedroom. This kitchen contains the smaller of the two beehive ovens in the original main block of the house. Family meals were prepared in this kitchen, as well as the more elaborate dishes served to guests. Hanging in the fireplace, you can see part of a trammel, a device used to hold pots that could be raised or lowered to increase or decrease cooking temperatures. Inside the fireplace a bar goes across the bottom of the chimney which is used to suspend hooks or trammels. Some of the utensils in this kitchen include a reflector oven, griddle, and a three legged cast iron camp oven. The pewter cupboard located next to the window is a reproduction, and would have been used to store kitchen dishes and utensils. There is a reproduction pine hutch copied from Bucks County, PA original along the wall. The trestle table is a reproduction.
As you step out on the porch you have an excellent view of the community called Oxford Furnace. The name, of course, originated from the old iron furnace - the reason for the community's existence. To the right you have a view of three structures that were directly related to the Manor. The first you notice is now the Oxford Colonial Methodist Church, which was purchased in 1913 by the congregation. This stone structure was built in 1813 as a grist mill replacing a much earlier wooden mill. Directly behind the church are the remains of Oxford Furnace No. 1. The original structure was built in 1741; however, the original furnace is now enclosed by additional stone work added in the 1800's to strengthen it. The furnace is the rear building. The structure that faces on Washington Avenue is called the "blow house" and held machinery used to force air through the furnace bosh. The stone building across the street from the church and blow house was originally built as one of the foundries associated with the furnace complex. One of the products associated with this foundry was railroad train car wheels. Thus, this structure is frequently called the "wheel house". Directly in front of you there is yet another structure that was important to the furnace workers. The ell shaped brick building (that is painted gray), at the northeast corner of Wall Street and Washington Avenue, was at one time the company store, offices and dormitory for workers. This was used in the late 1800's through early 1900's. The bench on the Manor porch is from the Oxford Furnace Railroad Station, which no longer exists.
AThe Robeson family continued to own property for several years after Morris died in 1808, his heirs leased the furnace to several individuals and companies during this time. One of these was henry and Jordan company which took lease of the property in 1832. Mr. William Henry was responsible for many innovations at the furnace which contributed to its extended life and profits. He revitalizes the iron industry in Oxford, NJ and began the next significant era of the Oxford Furnace. Mr. henry hired Selden T. Scranton , George Scranton, and Charles Scranton. In 1839, Selden married Henry's daughter, Ellen, and in 1847 Charles married another daughter, Jane. Selden and George bought the furnace tract from the Robesons. When the main block of the Manor was built, the building was symmetrical. This room which is called the Scranton parlor, was originally two rooms. A stone wall divided the two rooms and each room had a corner fireplace. these rooms were remodeled in circa 1850 by the Scranton's and made into one large room, probably a dining room. The Scranton parlor was designated to represent the Victorian period of Shippen Manor. the treated wood trim and the fireplace, original to the room, are Victorian. The furniture located in this room dated approximately 1890. The walls were pink with a multi-colored sponge pattern. The lamps hanging from the ceiling date approximately 1910. To the left of the door is a Scranton writing desk, which was returned to the Manor by descendants currently residing in California. The marble fireplace mantel is original to the house. The painting above the mantel is rumored to have been originally in the Manor and is possibly a member of the Henry family. The painting to the right of the fireplace was originally owned by the Scranton family. The painting as well as the painting to the left of the fireplace are of the Hudson Valley School style. The visuals on the south wall above the couch from left to right: A likeness of William Henry who lived in the manor in the late 1830's, father-in-law to Charles and Selden Scranton. In 1832, William Henry, of Nazareth, PA, leased the Oxford Furnace and largely rebuilt it, in order to make iron for his forge on the Analomik Creek north of Stroudsburg, PA. This marks the beginning of the next significant era at Oxford furnace. The second picture from the left is a likeness of Joseph Henry, a son of William Henry, who was born at Shippen Manor and them moved to Stroudsburg, PA, because of his father's business. Following the death of his mother at the age of eight he was sent to the Manor to be raised by his sister and her husband, Charles Scranton. Joseph later worked for Charles for four years. He graduated from the Polytechnic Institute at Troy, NY and then graduated with honors from Poughkeepsie Law School. After this Joseph served as Corresponding Secretary to Colonel G.W. Scranton. He was the first New Jersey officer killed in the Civil War. The next painting is of Dutch School and is known as "View Of Antwerp" (circa 1650). This is followed by a picture of Mrs. Bergeld of Asbury, NJ (1890). A Cornish organ, made in Washington, NJ and dating from about 1890, stands in the corner. The Scranton forte at the opposite end of the room is original to the house and dates 1848. To the right of the forte is a mourning hair wreath, a popular craft in 19th. century America. Adjacent to the hair wreath is a painting depicting Slocum Hollow, later known as Scranton, Pennsylvania. The rug is a 19th. century Sarouk rug. A Victorian walnut side chair with needle point seat circa 1860 is in the corner. On the piano forte is a Victorian candlestick.
AIn 1989, the roof was restored with oak shakes hand crafted at a mill in Tennessee. Research indicated the original roof was probably Chestnut, which was abundant in the area at the time. As you walk around the Manor to the cellar kitchen entrance, you are walking on what was the roadbed of the Warren Railroad in the 1850's. The railroad was used to transport soft coal to the furnace. A plaque in the wall commemorates the completion of the Van Nest Gap tunnel in 1862. the tunnel starts in Oxford and travels under the hill towards Washington for 3/4 of a mile. The tunnel still exists, though currently unused. As you turn the corner in the driveway, you can see the eaves of the upper roof. When the roof was raised to accommodate two full height rooms at the north end of the main block, brick was used for construction instead of stone. the stone surrounding the Manor was constructed from the stone taken from the shell of the 1843 store house which stood at the crossroads and burned in 1862.
AShippen is one of the few manors associated with iron manufacturing. The cellar kitchen was used as a commissary for workers, serving two meals a day. The fireplace incorporates very large bake oven and probably furnished bread for the entire community. The Dutch doors give the cellar a possible commercial application. The fireplace mantel is original to the house. the trestle table is a period reproduction. In the 19th. century, the basement was entirely given over to storage; the kitchen and adjoining service room evidently were not in active use. The room also contains a small Canadian spinning wheel and a larger spinning wheel by the fireplace.
The room next to the kitchen is believed to have been the dining hall for the furnace workers and house servants. A reference has been found referring to the room as such. The trestle table is a period reproduction. Along the wall stands the original storage closet, which contains the original H-L hinges. today the closet contains items found in the Oxford area. The clothing trunk next to the staircase wall belonged to a Danish immigrant and miner at the Oxford Furnace Depot. The grain box (circa 1820/1840) under the window across from the cupboard is divided into four sections that were used to store various grains such as flour and cornmeal. The purpose of the hook in the ceiling is unknown. It is believed to have been used at one time to hang meat.
This room is used for storage. The large pillars in this room support four fireplaces and a chimney. If you look between the pillars, you can see a section of the original wooden beams that support the fireplace hearth in the Reception room. In the corner stands a one horse sleigh that was made by Drake and Tinsman, successors to William B. Laninger of Belvidere, NJ. According to Snell's 1881 History Of Warren County, the Drake and Tinsman carriage shop was on Prospect street, north of the Pequest River. It was built by Bouton and Cramer who manufactured carriages and sleighs for a few years and were succeeded by Drake and Tinsman who abandoned the business in 1879. Display cases have articles concerned with the mining operation and products of Oxford, NJ.
The bake oven in the basement kitchen is one of the largest known in Northwest Jersey. The stone work between the two columns houses the oven. It is believed that slaves and/or servants slept in this room as well as the Museum room. The brick floor is original. The design for the floor in this room was reproduced in the kitchen, dining hall and Museum room. There is some evidence that the basement floors were originally dirt; however at some early point they were laid with brick. The kitchen and dining floors had been cemented in the late 19th. century. The display cases contain artifacts collected from a Native American Rockshelter located two miles from Shippen Manor and materials excavated at the Manor from the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.