Florham Park Historic 

Preservation Commission

John hancock house



HISTORIC NAME: Reverend John Hancock House

COMMON NAME: Hancock House

LOCATION: 45 Ridgedale Avenue

BLOCK/LOT: 2605/37 MUNICIPALITY: Florham Park COUNTY: Morris USGS Quad: Morristown _______________________________________________________________________

dESCRIPTION Construction Date: 1802

Source of Date: Documentation

Style: Vernacular Form/PlanType: Three-bay side-hall

Number of Stories: 2

Foundation: Fieldstone

Exterior Wall Fabric: Clapboard

Fenestration: 6/6 sash windows; narrow “Knee hi” windows across façade under eaves.

Roof/Chimneys: Gable roof, interior end brick chimney

Additional Architectural Description: A single-story wing stands off the couth gable of the main house. This gable-roofed structure has the center-entry flanked by narrow windows characteristic of 18th century service buildings.

SITING, BOUNDARY DESCRIPTION, AND RELATED STRUCTURES: Behind the house stands the Cider Mill, an important part of the family’s livelihood in the 19th century. It is a 2 ½ frame structure, with gable roof and clapboard siding. The primary façade is the gable end, which contains wide doors on both levels to facilitate bringing apples into the upper part of the mill. Processing into cider, like many milling operations, worked from the top down, with the final product emerging at the door.

Replacement doors and windows have lessened the building’s architectural integrity.

SURROUNDING ENVIRONMENT: Residential suburban neighborhood. A 1960’s subdivision lies across street, and split levels of similar vintage stand on either side of the Hancock House.

The Hancock family cemetery is located a short distance to the southwest (see survey # 1411-57).

SIGNIFICANCE: Reverend John Hancock, a Methodist minister, married in 1802, and purchased about 4 acres from his stepfather at the bend in Ridgedale Avenue where the road turns from its north-south orientation in Florham Park to go west to Madison.

The property already contained a small building, used as a watchmaking shop at the time. This is now the small wing of the house. The next year, Rev. Hancock added a larger house to the shop.

The Hancock House was a center for preaching, and for the farm that supported him and his family. Rev. Hancock added more land to his holdings, eventually owning about 100 acres.

The Hancocks made brooms (as did many other families in the area); raised produce, and most especially apples. The apple cider pressed in the barn behind the house became locally famous, and the business was carried on by his children and grandchildren from the same location. Rev. Hancock produced only fresh cider, and vinegar.

After his death, his descendants also produced sparkling champagne from apples, until 1871 when the Township proclaimed itself “dry”. They did not produce the hard cider or apple jack which was a very strong alcoholic drink known also as “Jersey Lightening”.

The house remains in the Hancock family. PHOTOGRAPH

ORIGINAL USE: Residential

PRESENT USE: Residential PHYSICAL CONDITION: Excellent REGISTER ELIGIBILITY: Yes – Individually listed on the National Register 1984.

THREATS TO SITE: UPDATE SEPTEMBER 2001 – In the summer of 2001, the house was extensively renovated, raising it up a story, replacing windows, and re-siding it.

It has lost considerable architectural integrity, and no longer resembles the East Jersey Cottage vernacular building that it was. The cider mill appears to remain intact, but insensitive remodeling of that structure would jeopardize the site’s National Register listing.

REFERENCES: Saga of a Crossroads, page 22-24. ___________________________________________________________________________ RECORDED BY: Janet W. Foster