On the Shinn Digs

The Thomas Shinn House in Mt. Holly, NJ dates back to 1712.

Interestingly, the Shinn house wound up, over time, being a house-inside-a-house.

According to Wikipedia:

The early settler’s home of hand-hewn logs originally built in 1712 was encased in a house and was uncovered in 1967 when the surrounding house was demolished. It was in the possession of the Curtis family for 147 years, since 1802, and is now owned by the Mount Holly Historical Society.

And, per the Burlington County Times:

“Mr. G. Howard Curtis gave my grandmother room and board rent free,” said Rich [a previous tenant as a young girl], who is 80. “Mr. Curtis was afraid of electricity and we had no electric or running water.”

The log cabin eventually was moved to its present location in the Mount Holly municipal parking lot/jurors parking between Rancocas Road and Washington Street.

The reason for a house being built around the log cabin was quite simple according to Rich: the family kept getting bigger.

“On the ground floor he added a kitchen, called a summer kitchen, and he added a room under the ground floor where the temperature stayed the same year round,” said Rich, who is a member of the Mount Holly Historical Society. “Upstairs he built two bedrooms and a parlor — a grand living room. And on the top floor he built four more bedrooms.”

Every home has many stories to tell, but if walls could talk, I imagine that you could be up into the wee hours listening to tales about the Shinn abode.

I personally would be intrigued to hear the tale of how the cabin was built in the first place.

The photo I took shows a corner of the house where the logs were joined together.

Gazing at the sturdy building, I can envision a landscape of farms and dense woods surrounding the area that is now Mt. Holly.

If you haven’t been to New Jersey, or really most anywhere on the East Coast, for that matter, there are scant few large, old growth trees still standing, as the forests have been cleared many times over the years.

Clearly, during the Shinns’ time, immense trees were readily available, based on the thickness of these logs. Indeed, these logs are relics of a different topography.

Subsequently, a number of family and/or community members would have had to help fell the trees, haul them to a plot of land, cut them with manual tools, and ultimately construct the house.

Sure, this process still occurs today in some communities such as Amish settlements, but it’s a rare and impressive accomplishment.

Dare I say that if the builders failed at this feat and the house collapsed, it would have been a real kick in the Shinn?

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