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First inland settlement in New Jersey. Trading post and stagecoach stop on the Old York Road. Farming village. Revolutionary battleground. Milltown. Summer resort for Manhattan’s gentry. Commuters’ hometown. Leader in the crusade of urban revitalization.
This is Plainfield, possessor of a unique and distinguished past. The homes of its people line the shaded streets, reflection 300 years of civilization in this fertile plain beneath the Blue Hills.
The rich variety of Plainfield’s three-century collection of architecture is unrivaled along the eastern seaboard, with much of the wealth contained in the City of Plainfield’s nine residential historic districts. In 2012, This Old House Magazine named the Van Wyck Brooks Historic District one of the twelve Best Historic Districts in which to reside within the Mid-Atlantic Region.
The Van Wyck Brooks National Register Historic District is the largest and most diverse of the six residential districts and captures within its twelve block radius the full span of the city’s and the nation’s growth. Many generations have lived upon this land, and their story is spread for us to read in the wood, brick, stone and shingle of their homes. Here, French chateaux hobnob with Tuscan villas. Modest shingle cottages rise beside a Queen Anne townhouse. Mansard and half-timber Tudor mansions share the block with their restored carriage houses. A Georgian colonial cedes a portion of its lot to the neighborhood’s first split level. Styles overlap, one upon another, with companionable, and unstudied charm.
The Van Wyck Brooks Walking Tour provides only a brief introduction to the district. You are welcome to start the tour and end where you wish, enjoying the district in its entirety or in a smaller sampling. The homes described in this self-guided walking tour serve as examples of the handsome assortment of styles to be discovered as your journey into the past unfolds.
The Van Wyck Brooks Historic District cordially invites you to visit at your leisure, chat with residents you may encounter along you way, and share our pride and pleasure in the beauty of our surroundings.
Portions of this brochure were funded through a grant provided by the City of Plainfield, Cultural and Heritage Commission and members of the Van Wyck Brooks Historic District. The brochure was written by April M. Stefel with excerpts from Dorothe Pollard. The photographs were taken by professional photographer Richard Lear. The author would like to personally thank Loretta Wiggs of the Plainfield Tax Assessors Office and Debra McDaniel of the Plainfield Building Department without whose help and diligent record keeping much of the information in the brochure might not have been attained. In addition, special thanks to Sarah Hull, Head of the Local History Department of the Plainfield Public Library for her guidance in locating copious amount of historical material that made this walking tour possible.