UNION, NJ — Joseph Hely grew up in town and was always drawn to a red-and-white colonial house at 1835 Vauxhall Rd. bearing a sign showing it was built in 1763.
Hely and his wife, Donna, would eventually purchase the home in 1995. The house, now painted blue and on the market, is believed to be one of the first built in town during the 1700s.
The exact year of construction is under debate by local historians, books and other records.
“It’s the third old house my wife and I had,” Joseph Hely said in a recent phone interview. “This one is actually the oldest.”
Other than some minor improvements — such as a bathroom update and landscaping projects — the house has maintained features such as its 200-year-old chandelier and five wood-burning fireplaces. The Helys, who still live in the house, hope that the next owner will be dedicated to preserving its historic charm.
“That’s the hope … That’s what my wife and I really hope,” Joseph Hely said, adding that he and his wife are selling the house because they’re “empty nesters.”
That’s music to the ears of the local historical society, which doesn’t want to see the property knocked down to make way for a modern home or multiple units either.
“It would be nice to get the word out so hopefully someone will choose to buy it and preserve it, as houses on larger lots in the area tend to get demolished to make way for larger new units,” said Tom Haggerty, a Union Township Historical Society trustee, in a recent email.
The area that now encompasses Union was formerly known as Connecticut Farms, until it broke off from Elizabethtown and became incorporated in the early 1800s.
Other colonial houses in the area have been demolished, Barbara La Mort, president of the historical society, said. A historic house on Colonial Avenue was torn down by a developer in the early 2000s, she said, and the same fate would have met the parsonage on Caldwell Avenue if not for the intervention of a former mayor and business administrator.
“The parsonage also would have been torn down by a developer if not for Lou Giacona, Mayor Biertuempfel and others who formed the Union Township Historical Society,” La Mort said in an email. “Unfortunately, the bottom line is the bottom line — there’s just not enough money to do this for other historic homes.”
The house along Vauxhall Road stayed in the Brant and Headley families from the 1700s to 1936, Haggerty explained. Many gravestones bearing the names of those families still remain in the Connecticut Farms Presbyterian Church cemetery on Stuyvesant Avenue.
The first owner, William Brant III, left the house to his son, who later passed it on to the grandson, William Brant IV, who died in 1881, Haggerty said. William Brant IV then left the
house to his daughters, Abbie A. Burnett and Susan E. Thompson.
The first Brant is believed to have emigrated from Holland to New York around 1600. His sons and grandsons moved to the present area and had roles in the Revolutionary War, according to historical books.
The Vauxhall house was sold to a member of of the Headley family in 1883, and stayed in that family until 1936. County records show that the Helys obtained the deed for it from Brian and Kathryn Christo in 1995, but it’s unclear how long the Christos owned the property. The house is currently listed at $450,000, according to Zillow.com.