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Varleth-Sip Manor House
Southeast Corner of Newkirk Street and Bergen Avenue
Bergen
Presently at Five Cherry Lane, Westfield, New Jersey

Postcard of Sip Manor House
Courtesy, Jersey City Free Public Library

Southeast corner of Newkirk and Bergen Avenue
Site of the Sip Manor House
Photo: A. Selvaggio, 2002


Sip Manor House is now 5 Cherry Lane, Westfield, New Jersey
Photo: P. Shahoub, 1990

Present-day Sip Avenue is named for Jan Ariaense/Adriaesen Sip, who was the patriarch of one of the founding families of the colonial New Netherland and village of Bergen. His home, one of several houses constructed by the Dutch settlers within the original fortified enclave at Bergen, once stood not far from the present day intersection of Sip and Bergen Avenues . Arguably New Jersey's "oldest" existing house, the Sip Manor was saved from demolition in the 1920's by being disassembled, moved, and reconstructed as a private residence in the suburb of Westfield NJ.

The first owner of the Dutch Colonial house is presumed to be Nicholas Varleth, one of the patentees of the property in Old Bergen. It was built between 1664 and 1666, soon after the English take over of New Netherland from the Dutch for the formation of the colony of New Jersey under English rule.

The house stood on a town lot that was granted by the Director-General of New Netherland, Peter Stuyvesant, to Nicholas Varleth and Balthazar Bayard on January 3, 1662. The grant was later confirmed by Governor Philip Carteret of New Jersey in August 1671. Varleth had arrived in New Netherland in 1652 and was a prominent member the Court of Bergen and later the Council of Governor Carteret. After Varleth's death in 1675, his heir sold the house to Sip in 1699. Sip too had emigrated from Holland and possibly settled in Bergen prior to 1663. The garden on the Sip property was noted for the imported tulips from Holland, among other flowers and giant willow trees. The Sip family members were active in the settlement of Old Bergen and donated part of their property to the construction of the first Old Bergen Church.

In 1776, during the Revolutionary War, it is claimed that the British general, Lord Charles Cornwallis, came to the area of Bergen in search of General George Washington. Cornwallis spent a night in the Sip household; he reportedly hanged three spies on the branches of a willow tree before he left the next day. The tree is said to be one that Stuyvesant once sat under during a visit to the property. In 1824, General Marquis de Lafayette visited Bergen Township for Fourth of July celebrations, stopping at the Van Wagenen or "Apple Tree" House as well as the Paulus Hook home of his former comrade Colonel Richard Varick at Prospect Hall. While in Bergen, Lafayette planted two elm trees near the Sip Manor house.

Richard Garret Sip was the last descendant to live in house; in 1924, he put the house up for sale, hoping it would become an historic landmark. The banker General William C. Heppenheimer was briefly the "nominal owner" of the house, and then it was temporarily occupied by the Michel and Moore realty firm. The future of the Sip House soon look grim when renovations to Bergen Square and nearby Journal Square required the widening of Bergen Avenue. While city leaders protested the drastic changes that would forfeit a local landmark, Mayor Frank Hague deemed it an encumbrance. Saving the house meant that it would need to be moved. But it was considered too wide and too costly to be removed within the city to Lincoln (then West Side) Park as suggested.

The Sip Manor House had been purchased by Arthur H. Rule and was torn down in stages by the Goldberg Wrecking Company, starting on May 24, 1926, amidst secrecy to avoid local dispute. On August 20, 1929, the Jersey Journal reported that the house was rebuilt in Westfield under the supervision of New York architect Bernard Miller. He had studied photographs and paintings of the house as well as the landscaping of the original property to restore the building.

With its Dutch Colonial architecture, the Sip Manor House features a steep overhanging roof and the small dormer windows. The first story is of brick construction and the upper story and roof are shingled. Tunnel-like storage places in the bedrooms served as shelter for the children during Indian attacks. Beams were added to give support to the living room, a kitchen pantry was built, and the front door is now used as a back entrance. But the original brick and beam foundation were reused. Parts of the house that were lost or destroyed in the process, like the banister and hand rails for the stairs, were reproduced. Three-inch thick doors retain their original casements and sills, and the windows are in their original casements. Wooden pegs, rather than nails, were used to reinstall the flooring, and latches, rather than doorknobs, were used on the doors. The dormers, trellis work, windows, chimneys, and shutters have been changed or added.

A bronze tablet was placed on the Bankers' Building at the corner of Newark Street and Bergen Avenue to mark the site of the Sip Manor House. The dedication was conducted by Henry W. Runyon, president of the Jersey City Chapter of the Sons of the American Revolution. It read: "Site of Sip Manor. Jan Ariaense Sip. Erected 1666. First Dutch House in Old Bergen. Sons of the American Revolution." The plaque was stolen and all that remains is its outline on the side of the corner building at Newkirk Street and Bergen Avenue.

References:

Gomez, John. 'Historic Home Saved--Just Not in Hudson." Jersey Journal 5 January 2005.
Grundy, J. Owen. "Earliest Chapters in Jersey City History Written at Old Sip Manor House." Jersey Journal 8 March 1968.
"Historic Sip House, Torn Down Here, Rebuilt as of Old, 20 Miles Away." Jersey Journal 20 August 1929.

By: Carmela Karnoutsos
Project Administrator: Patrick Shalhoub