THE DRAKE HOUSE, Plainﬁeld’s historic link with its colonial past, was built in 1746 by Isaac Drake as a home for his son, Nathaniel. Today it is a city-owned public museum administered by the Historical Society of Plainﬁeld.
It was at the Drake House that George Washington consulted with his officers during and after the Battle of Short Hills fought over the entire Plainﬁeld area (present day Ash Brook Golf Course, Scotch Plains) on June 25-27, 1777. Nathaniel Drake, his wife, Dorothy, and his daughters Sarah and Phebe, were all patriots. Their sons, Abraham, Cornelius and Isaac, served in the Essex and Somerset Counties militia, and their freed slave, Caesar, was a Wagoner with the Continental forces. Washington and his ofﬁcers were often entertained here when they were in the area on military maneuvers.
The original farmhouse was a typical New Jersey one-and-a-half-story building, with four rooms and a lean-to kitchen on the ﬁrst ﬂoor, and a loft. In 1864, it was purchased from the Drake family by John S. Harberger of New York City, president of the Manhattan Banking Company which later became the Chase Manhattan Bank. Harborger made many architectural changes in accordance with current Victorian tastes. He extended the downstairs hall, and added the library. By raising the roof, he made the loft into a music room, and the towers he built completed the architectural style we see today.
The Drake House's ﬁrst-ﬂoor kitchen, bedroom and dining room are typical of those in homes of the 18th century. Parlor furnishings represent the late Empire and early Victorian time.
In 1921 a group of citizens came together to save the Nathaniel Drake house from demolition. That group, The West End Civic Association, became the Historical Society of Plainfield and in 1922 they deeded the Drake House to the City of Plainfield, "for the purpose of establishing a museum for the citizens of Plainfield". The society's fifteen member Board of Trustees is the governing body, and the bylaws of the corporation give the board the power to conduct affairs and decide policy, as well as to perform functions designated in the bylaws or assigned by the members at annual meetings.
During the past nine decades the Historical Society Of Plainfield has been the stalwart steward of the museum, amassing a collection of artifacts, furnishings and paintings, from the Colonial and Victorian Periods, related to the City of Plainfield. The museum receives thousands of visitors annually and offers educational programs to the children of Plainfield and surrounding communities. Phase I and II of a three-phase strategy have been completed, resulting in the restoration of the house to its original grandeur.
Partners And Supporters
We are grateful for the essential support provided by all our supportes including the following:
New Jersey Historical Commission, a division of the Department of State
Union County Office of Cultural and Heritage Affairs, Department of Parks and Recreation
Garden State Historic Preservation Trust administered by the New Jersey Historic Trust/State of New Jersey
Union County Open Space, Recreation and Historic Preservation Trust Fund
City of Plainfield
Plainfield Cultural and Heritage Commission
EJ Grassmann Trust
1772 Foundation in cooperation with the New Jersey Historic Trust