Historic Structures

Cavalier Jouet Mansion - The Old Chateau Elizabeth New Jersey

Date added: February 2, 2018 Categories: New Jersey House Mansion

This is the sole remaining example of the Georgian mansion in New Jersey as fully developed with central unit and symmetrical flanking wings, a scheme frequently used in the great houses of Maryland and Virginia.

Remarkable similarity of Its central unit with the Dey Mansion on Totovia Road, Lower Preakness, Passaic County, said to have been built about 1740-50 suggests the inspiration of its design and materials of construction from that well known house. It is obvious, incidentally, that the six-over-six lights in the windows of this unit of house here considered are replacements of nine-overnine, which latter remain in the windows of the wings. Whether such repairs were necessary from damage done by anti-Loyalist patriots or others, we have been unable to discover.

Sources show that this house was owned by Cavalier Jouet at the time of his arrest and confiscation of his property on account of his unpatriotic sympathies and activities in 1778. Put up at auction in 1779 by the Commissioners of Forfeited Estates of Essex County, the Mansion was sold apparently to Nathaniel Hubbel son of the rector of St. John's Church, who may not have made full settlement for it. The public records of the County contain no transfers of this property from that time until 1813, when it appears of record as the property of Dr. Gideon De Camp.

By his will dated 6 December of that year and proved 13 January 1816, Gideon De Camp of Essex County ordered his executors to sell and convey all his real and personal estate and.divide the proceeds among his four grandchildren, John, Louisa, Gideon and Juliet P. De Hart, when of age 21.

Accordingly, by deed of 3 December 1819, Ralph Phillips of Maidenhead, Hunterdon County executor of the will of Dr. Gideon De Camp, deed, conveyed to Dr. Oliver H, Spencer for $6800, a "certain dwelling house and out houses with land, in the Borough of Elizabeth Town, being 18 acres on both sides of the Great Six Rods Road leading from Elizabethtown to Milton and New Brunswick".

Dr. Oliver H. Spencer who thus acquired the property in 1819, held and occupied the same at the date of his will, 18 May 1824 (proved 1st June following) in which he describes himself as of Elizabethtown, formerly of New Orleans. He empowered his executors to sell "the house and land where I now live if thought desirable" and devised the use of the proceeds and the balance of the estate to his wife Hannah during her widowhood and afterwards to his children, Robert, Mary Gibbons, Susan Williamson, Dayton, and Anna Ogden Spencer equally as they came of age 21 years. Accordingly, "by their deed of 1st May 1826 the executors of the estate of Oliver H. Spencer, deceased, conveyed to Philip Ricketts of Elizabeth, for 6000, the "mansion house late the residence of the said" Spencer, with its 18 acre tract conveyed to him in 1819 as cited above.

By deed of 5 May 1826, Philip Ricketts, above named grantee, and his wife Mary, of Elizabeth, N. J., conveyed to Peter Kean of Union Township, Essex County, N.J., for the same price, the same 18 acre tract and the mansion house thereon, in trust for John Thorp Lawrence and his wife Julia, late Julia Ricketts, also of Elizabeth, N. J. The trustee Peter Kean died before 1st April 1829, on which date Beverly Robinson of New York City was appointed in his place by the Lawrences.

Subsequently, by deed of 14 November 1833 Robinson, as trustee of the estate of Julia Lawrence, with John Thorp Lawrence and wife, Julia, of Elizabeth, N. J., conveyed to Dr. Moses Marsh. Woodruff of same place for $5000, the same 18 acre tract and the "Mansion house late the residence of Dr. Oliver H. Spencer" decd., upon the "Great Six Rods Road from Elizabeth to New Brunswick". From Dr. Woodruff and wife it passed by deed of 1 October 1835 to Pliny Freeman of New York City and from him by deed of 15 April 1845 to Julius A. Fay of Elisabeth Town, N. J., with other land.

The last named died in Elizabeth, probably in this house, 15 November 1887, having devised his estate to his wife Margaret R. Fay. But in 1879 he had mortgaged the premises to the Trustees for the Support of the Public Schools of New Jersey, and after foreclosure proceedings it was taken and sold by the Sheriff to those Trustees by deed of 19 October 1891, being "A portion of the homestead property" having 373 feet frontage on the south side of Rahway Avenue and 442 on the west side of Grove Street at their intersection, "including the mansion house of Julius A. Fay, which he purchased of Pliny Freeman" in 1845. The Trustees conveyed to Frank Schmieder and wife, of Elizabeth, N. J. , by their deed of 21 February 1906 the same property and they resided in the mansion until their deaths, respectively in 1916 and 1922. His second wife and widow continued residence in the manslon and died in 1929, whereupon the executor of the Schmieder estate conveyed it to his four children by deed of 2 April 1930 in equal division among them.

On 6 March 1938, when occupied by three or more tenant families, a fire starting in a bathroom damaged the modern frame two story porches at the rear of the mansion, and a lieutenant of firemen was killed by their collapse, but the mansion house itself fortunately escaped. One of the owners, Henry Schmieder, architect, examined the structure at the time and declared that "No damage was done to the colonial portion of the house, and its historic value therefore is unimpaired."