The Boudinot Southard Ross Estate
A Restored Somerset Hills Gem
Basking Ridge section of Bernards Twp, New Jersey
This article is part of an ongoing series to expose and explore some of the historic gems in the Somerset Hills. Situated just north of the Basking Ridge section of Bernards Township lies this expansive historic estate that once served as home to the 4th President of the Continental Congress and the 7th Secretary of the Navy.
While the property and estate is currently under the ownership of the Somerset County Parks Commission, THSSH works in partnership to open the house and present events annually.
The Boudinot House was placed on the New Jersey and National Registers of Historic Places Sept. 11, 2009 and Dec. 18, 2009 respectively.
The fifty-acre Boudinot-Southard-Ross property, which borders the Basking Ridge Country Club and Lord Stirling Park, has three historic buildings: a house, barn, and outbuilding. The original house, which retains some early details, was built in 1777 by Elias Boudinot. The property is surrounded by preserved open space and offers wonderful panoramic views.
Samuel Lewis Southard (1787-1842) would serve as a U.S. senator from 1821-23, Secretary of the Navy under Presidents James Monroe and John Quincy Adams from 1823-29, state attorney general from 1829-32, governor from 1832-33 and U.S. senator again from 1833-42. Subsequent owners of the property included: John C. Spooner, a former U.S. senator from Wisconsin who used it as a summer home from 1913-19; and William D. Bancker, who founded the adjacent Pennbrook Golf Club, now the Basking Ridge Country Club, while living there from 1919-40. The Ross family owned the home from March 1952 until May 2005 when they sold the 61-acre property to the county for $6.79 million.
County officials have yet to come up with a public use for the farmstead. The property is closed to the public, although it’s been opened for the county’s “Weekend Journey Through the Past” each October.
Township Historian June Kennedy said Martha Washington reportedly visited the Boudinot home at least 10 times while her husband had his Army headquarters in Morristown. Thomas D’Amico, historic sites coordinator for the Somerset County Cultural and Heritage Commission, however, said an architectural investigation found the house to be typical of the early 19th century, with no 18th century fabric or beams. Still, he said, Boudinot could have lived in a prior home on that site.
“It’s an example of an old farmhouse turned into a colonial revival farmhouse by fairly well-to-do gentlemen,” D’Amico said. “That was a trend in the Somerset Hills area from the 1920s to the 1940s.”
Download the complete Boudinot Southard Ross timeline - Click Here
Elias Boudinot (Pronounced Boo -Din-know) was the 4th President of the Continental Congress (1782-1783) and served as a NJ Congressman and the Director of the US Mint.
Born on May 2, 1740 in Philadelphia where his family was a neighbor of Benjamin Franklin, it wasn't until 1771 until Elias moved west and bought property in Basking Ridge from resident Edward Lewis.
In 1782, Boudinot was elected President of Continental Congress.
Boudinot is one of the most famous residents to ever live in the area.
He was also the Founder of the American Bible Society.
Samuel was the 7th Secretary of the Navy, 16 September 1823 - 3 March 1829 serving under James Madison and John Quincy Adams. (see image below)
Samuel Southard was born on June 9, 1787 in Basking Ridge, New Jersey, and died in Fredricksburg, Virginia on June 26, 1842. He was 55. Samuel was the 10th Governor of New Jersey(1832), Chief Justice of the NJ Supreme Court and United States Senator.
He was the son of NJ Congressman Henry Southard and the brother of NJ Congressman Isaac Southard. The son of the second owner, Samuel Southard, became a US Senator (1821), Secretary of the Navy for President James Monroe (1823), Secretary of War (1828), and Secretary of the Treasury (1825), 10th Governor of New Jersey (1832).
The Destroyer USS Southard was named in his honor.
His father Henry Southard (US Congressman) is buried in the Basking Ridge Presbyterian Cemetery. (10/7/1747 to 5/22/1842). He was 94.
On March 7 1952, Edmund B. Ross purchased 37.406 acres from Nathaniel Burgess(previous owner) and was the last owner of the estate. On January 17, 2005, Edmund B. Ross died at age 85. The property conveyed to his children. That same year, Somerset County bid and acquired the property, which had been expanded to 61 acres, for $6.79 million.
Download the complete Boudinot Southard Ross timeline - Click Here
Historical Timeline Summary (Boudinot/Southard)
- 1740 - Elias Boudinot born May 2 in Philadelphia, where his family was a neighbor of Benjamin Franklin.
- 1760 - Boudinot admitted to NJ bar and began law practice in Elizabeth.
- 1762 - Boudinot married Hannah Stockton, sister of his mentor, Richard Stockton, who later signed the Declaration of Independence.
- 1763 - July 22: Boudinot purchased a small house called the “Whitlock House” on Madison Ave. in Elizabeth from Samuel Woodruff.
- 1768 Samuel Woodruff died. Woodruff’s large house, “Boxwood Hall” on E. Jersey St. in Elizabeth, was built by the time of his death.
- 1771 - July 31: Boudinot purchased 82 acres in Basking Ridge from Edward Lewis.
- 1772 - Boudinot purchased 20 more acres in Basking Ridge from Lewis. Boudinot purchased Boxwood Hall in Elizabeth, where he entertained his good friend Alexander Hamilton.
- 1776 - Boudinot served as aide-de-camp to Brigadier General William Livingston.
- 1777 - Boudinot commissioned Commissary-General of Prisoners by Continental Congress. By July: Boudinot moved to Basking Ridge to escape British and Tory raids. November: Elected delegate to Continental Congress from NJ.
- 1782 - Boudinot elected President of Continental Congress; Mrs. Boudinot moved to Philadelphia.
- 1783 - As President of Continental Congress, Boudinot signed the Treaty of Paris of peace with Great Britain.
- 1784 - Boudinot returned to Boxwood Hall in Elizabeth.
- 1785 - Boudinot sold Basking Ridge property to Henry Southard.
- 1789 - Boudinot elected to US House of Representatives.
- 1789 - Boudinot serves as a US Representative (until 1795) where he was appointed Director of the US Mint (forerunner to the Treasury)
- 1803 - Boudinot has a house built on West Broad Street in Burlington NJ.
- 1805 - Boudinot moved to Burlington NJ.
- 1816 - Boudinot also organized the American Bible Society.
- 1821 - Boudinot died October 24 in Burlington NJ, where he is buried.
- 1823 - President James Monroe is seen discussing with his advisors the policy later known as the Monroe Doctrine. From left to right, they are Secretary of State John Quincy Adams, Secretary of the Treasury William H. Crawford, Attorney General William Wirt, President Monroe (standing), Secretary of War John C. Calhoun, Secretary of the Navy Samuel Southard, and Postmaster General John McLean. (Courtesy www.usdiplomacy.org)
Grounds & Property History
The gardens and property are currently maintained by the Somerset County Parks Commission.
||Boudinot’s mansion is depicted on the map as “C. Cross Est.,” which presumably referred to John C. Cross, who purchased the 102-acre property in 1843. In 1873, Madisonville, which developed around a Revolutionary War-era tavern called “Coffeeshop,” was still a thriving hamlet with a sawmill, a wagon shop, and a number
of dwellings clustered at the intersection of present-day
Madisonville Road and North Maple Avenue.
||The east kitchen wing and the screen porch had both been added by 1937, probably by William D. Bancker, who purchased
the property in 1919. The house was built for a wealthy owner in the 1770s, and would
have been considered a mansion at that time, although its fields would have been actively farmed by a tenant farmer. Over the
years, as it became increasingly a gentleman’s farm, the house
was remodeled several times to add modern amenities and to
update it stylistically.
This 1938 survey depicts the original stable wing of the bank barn as well as at least five outbuildings north of the barn and caretaker’s cottage that are not visible in any of the photos from this period.
One or more of these buildings were probably chicken coops, which became very common in the area during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The survey also depicts the portion of the original property that William D. Bancker developed as Pennbrook Country Club.
See a copy of the 1937 property survey:
- 1771 July 31: Elias Boudinot of Elizabeth purchased 82 acres from Edward Lewis of Basking Ridge.
- 1772 Elias Boudinot purchased 20 more acres from Edward Lewis.
- 1777 By July, Boudinot and his family moved to Basking Ridge from Elizabeth to escape British and Tory raids.
- 1785 Henry Southard of Basking Ridge purchased 102 acres from Boudinot.
- 1787 Samuel Southard was born in the house on June 9, 1787.
- 1818 June 16: George Slater purchased 102 acres from Southard.
- 1826 April 14: Samuel Perry, Jr. purchased 102 acres from Slater and immediately sold same to Edward A. Darcey.
- 1832 April 15: James Van Horn purchased 102 acres from Darcey.
- 1839 May 1: William Dowden purchased 102 acres from Van Horn.
- 1843 Jan 13: John C. Cross purchased 102 acres from Dowden.
- 1873 Property depicted on Beers Atlas as “C. Cross Estate.”
- 1879 Sept. 6: Daniel D. Craig purchased 102 acres at Sheriff’s Sale.
- 1880 Ann B. Cross purchased 102 acres from Craig.
- 1899 Sept. 27: Abram Cross acquired title to 102 acres from his siblings after his mother’s death in 1889.
- 1913 Oct. 15: John C. Spooner purchased 116.13 acres from Fannie A. Cross, widow of Abram L. Cross. According to 1938 broker’s listing, Spooner “modernized” the buildings in the early 1900s.
- 1919 Jan. 2: William D. Bancker purchased 116.13 acres from Spooner.
- 1925 Bancker built Pennbrook Country Club on part of his 116.13 acres.
- 1940 Feb. 16: Edwin J. Beinecke, Jr. purchased 37.406 acres from Bancker. According to 1938 broker’s listing, the house featured “decorated walls, fine old woodwork and original hardware” at the time of purchase by Beinecke. Outbuildings included: 6-room caretaker cottage; bank barn with 6 horse stalls and 4 cow stalls; ice house; wood shed; wagon shed; 2 chicken houses; windmill and engine. Listed for $29,500.00.
- 1947 Nov. 6: Nathaniel E. Burgess purchased 37.406 acres from Beinecke. According to 1947 broker’s listing, at the time Burgess purchased the property, outbuildings included: “Two large splendid outbuildings painted white. One barn unit with basement area converted to four-car garage area, Main area of barn at upper level for machine storage and hayloft. Second Barn (bank barn) used for tool shop and animal pens. Separate well and pump house, chicken houses and large earth covered root cellar.” Property was listed for $60,000.
- 1952 Mar. 7: Edmund B. Ross purchased 37.406 acres from Burgess.
- 2005 Jan. 17: Edmund B. Ross died at age 85. Property conveyed to his children. That same year, Somerset County acquired the property, which had been expanded to 61 acres, for $6.79 million.
Held annually normally during the second weekend in October.
Somerset County History Weekend Open House (2007)
Photos: Brooks Betz
Parking is available to the left of the estate after you enter up the long entrance driveway.
The Boudinot property is approximately 1/2 mile north of downtown Basking Ridge at 135 North Maple Ave.
Click the map for Directions.
135 North Maple Ave
Basking Ridge, NJ 07920
Submitted: November 2008
Special thanks goes out to THSSH Trustee Ann Parsekian for her research for this piece.