The Brinkerhoff-Demarest House
By Dorothy Belle Pollack
Source: The Teaneck Shopper, Wednesday, October 21, 1970, page 11 - Supplement
Spiritually, they agree, mathematically, they are years apart. We refer, of course, to the marker and the owner of the cozy little house at 493 Teaneck road, the Brinkerhoff-Demarest homestead.
In 1964, at the end of New Jersey's official Tercentenary Year, the American Legion Women's Post #2080 decided to put up a marker at the site of this historic home. The marker stated that it was built in 1735.
"But that's wrong" states its charming owner, Mrs. Frederick Schuh. Our house was built in 1728."
Be that as it may, the neat sandstone edifice, with white trim, is the oldest house in Teaneck, and one of the oldest in all Bergen County. On those two facts, all are agreed!
The structure, a classic example of "Jersey-Dutch" architecture, stands today, exactly as it did 242 years ago, with but three slight changes, recalls Mrs. Schuh. Her grandfather added the dormer windows in 1913; a few years ago her son made a sixth bedroom out of a huge closet, when they needed a nursery for the latest, Schuhscion; and Bergen County was responsible for the third change.
Progress always brings changes. In the mid-forties the County, in order to accommodate increasing vehicular traffic, decided it had to enlarge Teaneck Road. The Schuh's home stood right beside the road. Ergo: the kitchen facade had to come down. It did, and when it was rebuilt, the kitchen had lost the chimney fireplace, the Dutch oven, two of its doors, and fifteen of its feet.
But that kitchen, Mrs. Schuh's favorite room, still has ample space. In the olden days, houses were built spaciously, to live in, and to last.
The original abode had eleven rooms and one bathroom. (The eighteenth century, we'll have you know, did not measure status by the number and grandeur of bathrooms)! There were five bedrooms, a living room, front and back parlors, dining room, library , and kitchen. "Wonderful meals were cooked on the old fashioned wood stove in the old days in this kitchen," reminisces Madame.
The house was originally built by Mrs. Schuh's great-great-grandfather Hendricks Brinkerhoff, whose daughter married great-grandfather Demarest. The bright blue lettering on the cast aluminum marker tells us that the house has been in the possession of the Brinkerhoff and Demarest descendants since it was built. The Schuhs moved in almost forty years ago, when they bought it from her aunts, the Ladies Demarest.
Hendricks Brinkerhoff had built his home on land owned by his grandfather since the seventeenth century, and a huge parcel of land it was. "Now we occupy a acre", explained Mrs. Schuh. The land was prolific in fruit trees. "The room above the kitchen was used to dry all the fruits, so that we could make preserves for winter-time" recalls Mrs. Schuh.
Inside the two-story domicile is housed a veritable treasure trove of Early Americana. The wood table in the foyer with the large wall mirror, and the two whale oil lamps in the rear parlor date back over two centuries.
The visitor to the Brinkerhoff-Demarest house will delight in the tiny cradle carved by Great-Grandfather DeGraw, a cabinet maker, for his infant son. Near it is the music box that Great-Grand-father imported from Switzerland. Mrs. Schuh would have us know that it plays a lovely melody, and that it still works perfectly today.
Interesting plaques and family portraits adorn the walls, especially one of Grandfather Demarest, who served in the New York Lincoln Cavalry during the Civil War.
Antique furniture and Early American (and Teaneck) bibelots abound: an old melodion that the mistress of the house still plays; a padded stool in the shape of a rolling pin, a type of footrest that was definitely "in" a hundred years ago; Staffordshire china handed down through the generations; curious clocks and candelabra; a huge, multi-colored quilt, hand spun by Mrs. Schuh's great-grandmother around 1850.
The "piece de resistance" a very special portrait, hanging in the front room, is an historic picture that makes you see triple. When you stand right in front of it, you see Washington; a left hand view reveals Grant; and a right hand view reveals Lincoln. It is a fascinating enigma that defied solution.
Edna Schuh finds delight in her historic home, almost but not quite as much delight as she finds in the newest Schuh grandchild, just born in June -- "our first granddaughter," she proudly confides. And so now, a seventh generation will be able to share the joys of living in the Brinkerhoff-Demarest homestead.