SCOTCH PLAINS – Despite delays caused by the coronavirus-related shutdowns, it is possible that the Revolutionary War-era Frazee House could be open to the public by early or mid-2022.
That is the hope expressed by Andrew Calamaras, president of the board of the Fanwood-Scotch Plains Rotary Frazee House Committee, the group that has been organizing and overseeing renovations of the historic home located at the corner of Raritan and Terrill Roads. The Rotary Club’s efforts to restore the 300-year-old house began 15 years ago but have gained a great deal of steam — thanks to grants and private funding — over the past several years in particular.
Speaking this week to The Scotch Plains-Fanwood Times, Mr. Calamaras said the exterior work is largely completed except for the doors and windows and some special hardware for the windows.
Due to the summer heat and business shutdowns caused by the pandemic, the past few months were not as productive as he wished. The exterior of the building “should be finished-finished,” he said, but instead things are moving in “slow motion.”
In the meantime, the Rotary Club group has applied for another grant of some $600,000 from the state’s historic trust to fund some of the renovations to the house’s interior, which Mr. Calamaras said will entail restoring the two lower-level rooms at the western end of the house as well as one of the fireplaces. He expects to be notified in December if the grant has been approved, but he thinks “we’re in a good position,” citing the group’s successful use of previous grant funds for exterior work. He also is optimistic of securing new county grant funds as well as financing from private donors who have been supportive in the past.
Plans additionally call for a small public restroom building to be erected to the west of the house and connected to it by a ramp. The interior of the house itself will be heated and air-conditioned and be ADA-compliant.
Legend has it that after the Battle of Short Hills in 1777, British troops marching past the Frazee House smelled bread that Betty Frazee was baking inside. When two generals asked her for a loaf of bread, she offered it to them, with the caveat that, “I give you this bread through fear, not in love.” Hearing this, the British generals then left in a huff without taking any bread and marched to Westfield. The house was privately occupied in the 1800s and 1900s by families, most recently the Terry family who operated the Terry-Lou Zoo on the six-acre property on which the house sits.
The township acquired the property in 1998 to prevent its development, and in the mid-2000s, the house and immediate surroundings were leased to the Rotary Club for its restoration project. The township’s community garden is situated to the rear of the house and the overall property has been slowly developed into a passive park that is now called Frazee House Park.