Historic Structures

Westbrook-Bell House, Old Mine Road, Hainesville New Jersey

Date added: July 22, 2021 Categories: New Jersey House

This house was probably built by Johannes Westbrook, who settled in the Minisink area in 1700 on the basis of the Ulster Cotmty, N.Y., voting records which indicate that he resided and voted in Minisink in 1701. Exactly when he built the house is unclear, but the village of Minisink was surveyed in 1725, and the area appears to have been quite stable by 1730. The Indian deed, then, is probably an effort to legalize ownership well after the land was settled, perhaps as an attempt to foil claims of N.J. Proprietors.

This house remained in the Westbrook-Bell family from its construction until 1957. The Bell name was introduced to the house when Clementina Westbrook married Benton Bell.

The other remaining eighteenth-century houses in Minisink Village area are the William Ennes House and the Everitt House.

The first Johannes Westbrook was born in Albany in 1687. He was one of the earlier settlers in the upper Minisink region voting there in 1701. He died in 1727. About 1724 one son, Anthony, purchased 120 acres on Minisink Island and 120 acres on the main land. Cornelius Low in 1725 surveyed and plotted three five-acre house-lots along the river bank; on one of these house-lots, Johannes Westbrook, Jr., is believed to have built the present house. He was baptized in Kingston in 1698 and married in 1715. The house remained in the possession of the family from the date of erection. The last Westbrook to have possession of the property was Clementina, who married Benton Bell.

Near this house is the site of the Old Minisink Fort. During the French and Indian War in 1755-58 a series of forts were built along the Delaware, one here by the Westbrook house known as the Minisink Fort; one down at the Isaac Van Campen House, and one at the Abram van Campen House.

The L-shaped house consists of two sections constructed in two different stages. Both sections are early, appearing to date from the eighteenth century, but judging from architectural evidence, the larger portion is the older of the two. The back wall of the main house is continuous while the stone kitchen wing is a three-sided structure joining the main building. The roof of the main house appears to have been completed and later cut into to provide a doorway to the attic over the kitchen wing. The roof over the kitchen does not seem to be altered as would be the case if it were an earlier roof extended to meet the main roof.

The cellar below the east portion of the stone house is reputed to have been built as a refuge from Indians. It is accessible only from a trap door in the room above. Openings in the northeast side apparently once provided access to a tunnel that led to a nearby ravine.