Township of Ocean Historical Museum
An Open Door To History
Copyright 2016 (C) Township of Ocean Historical Museum 
Township of Ocean Historical Museum
Address: 703 Deal Road, Ocean, NJ 07712
Mailing: P.O. Box 516, Oakhurst, NJ 07712-0516


(732) 531-2136
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New Exhibit - The History of Houses and the Things That Make Them Home
Opening - Sunday, June 29, 2014, 1:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m.
Eden Woolley House, Richmond Gallery, 703 Deal Road, Ocean, NJ 07712
Since prehistoric times, where we live has been about much more than shelter (think of those cave paintings). A new exhibit explores just how our human instinct to nest has played out in the structures we inhabit and the stuff we put in them. “The History of Houses and the Things that Make Them Home” opens Sunday, June 29, in the Richmond Gallery of the Eden Woolley House.

The new exhibit examines the influences on the design and content of the American home--from the traditions early settlers brought with them, to the availability of materials, to the transforming power of technology. It takes guests on a virtual house tour, revealing room by room how things have changed and how those changes have shaped our lives.

What is home?

Sure, it’s where the heart is and there’s no place like it. But beyond shelter, our homes express our tastes, values, and social status. Our neighborhoods abound with homes that illustrate the point, and the new exhibit asks us to see our familiar surroundings in a new light.

It reveals the lineage of familiar house styles--colonial, neoclassical, Victorian, and modern, for example. It explains that the colonists of the new world built houses in the style of the old. That the founding fathers, all men of the Enlightenment, adapted the designs of Greeks and Romans whose rationality they admired. That the clutter and ornamentation of the Victorians expressed their fascination with goods made possible by the Industrial Revolution and made available by the railroads. And that twentieth century architects rejected Victorian fussiness in favor of designs that challenged old assumptions and took advantage of new technologies and building techniques.

The exhibit takes us inside 

But house design is just the beginning. The real fun is inside. For all but the rich, our earliest homes were one-room dwellings. The very concept of a single-purpose room (living, dining, bathing, etc.) is relatively new. And even in early multiple-room houses, people moved from room to room more in pursuit of sunlight and warmth than specific activity. In effect, all rooms were “living rooms.”

Revolutionary new technologies --indoor plumbing, central heating, and electric light, in particular--made room specialization practical. The bathroom, bedchamber, dining room, library, and parlor emerged as distinct spaces in ways that both reflect and influence life style.

Take the living room (aka parlor, drawing room, sitting room, and salon). It has come full circle. As parlor, it was a room often reserved to receive visitors. In time, it became the place where the family “withdrew” to gather around the piano --later the radio and then television. Today, the “great room” has assumed that role and in many homes, the living room is again a more formal space reserved for entertaining guests.

The exhibit makes that case that every house has a story, every room has a history. Join us June 29 to learn more. “The History of Houses and the Things that Make Them Home” will be up through June 2015.
The oldest portion of the Woolley House (rightmost
in the photo) was built in 1749-- within memory of the New Amsterdam community --in the Dutch American style. Seventy or so years later, Eden Woolley built the large addition in the Greek Revival style much admired in the fledging democracy and appropriate to his rising status in the community.
Even through the darkest days of the Revolution,
Washington wrote home weekly to direct work on his beloved Mt. Vernon. He spent 30 years remodeling and expanding the original farmhouse in the neoclassical style he admired. It is arguably the most copied house in the country.