2003-04-16 / Front Page

Town gets support for Stout house purchase

By maura dowgin
Staff Writer

By maura dowgin
Staff Writer

HOLMDEL — People from all over the country are calling and writing e-mails, trying to save a historic house in the community.

The Township Committee is investigating the possible purchase and preservation of the Penelope Stout house, 78 Crawfords Corner Road.

The house once belonged to Penelope Stout, whom many people consider to be the founder of Middletown and a pioneer woman, said Bill Scott, current owner of the house.

"We’re continuing to discuss [the purchase of the house] in closed session," said Mayor Larry Fink.

"We’re supposed to give [Scott] a couple offers," said Committeeman Terence Wall. "If something comes together, that would be great. We would have to amend the budget."

The township has been "working a little more closely with me in preserving the home," said Scott.

"We Stouts are in shock and disbelief that the township of Holmdel would want to destroy a site of such historic importance. This home was built in 1690 and must surely be one of the oldest and most historic sites in all of New Jersey," said Richard L. Stout, a Penelope Stout descendant who lives in California.

"In a day of instant coffee and microwaves, it is reassuring when some history is allowed to stand. I am hopeful that this will be the case for the Stout home. I would very much like to visit it one day, and not just the patch that it once sat upon," said Maribeth Nissen, also a Penelope Stout descendant in California.

"I feel like Penelope is reaching out to us and she doesn’t want her house torn down," she added.

Scott has received permits allowing him to demolish the house if the township does not purchase it, according to Wall.

If the township does purchase the house, Scott wants either to have the house moved off his property or have the township divide the property into three lots, he added.

Wall said two of the lots would be behind the historic structure, and one would be used for Scott’s family: his wife, his three children and himself, he said.

The other lot would have a new house on it which will be up for sale, he said.

"I would prefer to see [the house] sitting in the same spot it’s been on since 1960. But I would rather risk moving it than destroying the house," Nissen said.

Moving the house and making it into a museum is a good idea, said Ron Stout, a Penelope Stout descendant from Arizona.

Mary Lou Strong, chairwoman of the Middletown Landmarks Commission, said, "Moving (the house) should be a very last resort."

Relocating the house means taking it away from its original landscaping and taking a little of the history away from it, Strong said.

There are only four other two-story Dutch farmhouses in all of Monmouth County, according to Gail Hunton, principal historic preservation specialist of the Monmouth County Park System.

Most Dutch farmhouses are one or one-and-a-half stories, and there are only 14 Dutch farmhouses total left in Monmouth County, Hunton said.

"The original part of the house was built around 1960 by one of the sons of Richard and Penelope Stout, who are credited with founding Middletown. Penelope Stout lived in the house for the final 20 years of her life," according to a letter that Scott sent to Wall on Dec. 2, 2002.

"Originally shipwrecked at Sandy Hook, where [Stout] was half scalped, stabbed and left for dead, she survived by chewing on the bark of a tree for a week! She was then rescued and nursed back to health by friendly Indians," according to Scott’s letter.

Penelope married Richard Stout and raised 10 children, according to the letter.

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