Joseph Falkinburge House
We are currently facing serious preservation challenges and are awaiting funding through the Cape May County Open Space, Farmland and Historic Preservation grant. As stewards of this magnificent and exceptional property, we are committed to preserving it for generations to enjoy. As one of the most significant historic buildings in the county, it stands as a reminder of those who came before us and contributed to the founding of our local landscape and culture. The property is on the state and national historic registry and also contains an exceptional example of an English style barn that we have stabilized and preserved for posterity.
The property contains approximately eight acres and includes the house, a frame barn and some sheds and outbuildings. Oak trees found here are said to be the oldest in Cape May County. The house is a two story, five bay Georgian and Federal Style influenced L-shaped brick building dating from the 1800-1806 period. The bricks were reportedly brought to this county as ships’ ballast. The structure is made unique in that it is the oldest known brick house in the county. Exterior details of the main house include a wood shingled roof and many shutters with original hardware. The front entrance to the brick portion of the main house is embellished with six raised panels beneath a semi-circular fanlight. The entrance hall, as well as other portions of the brick section, display a mix of Federal and Italianate style woodwork and trim design. The newel post, hand rail, balusters, architraves, baseboards, cornice and plaster ceiling medallions are large and robust and characteristic of the 1860’s and the Italianate style. The hall also contains a hanging oil lamp, now electrified, of the 1860’s period. The room north of the hall contains a mantelpiece that retains its federal detailing including fluted colonnettes and a central tablet with a delicately carved swag. The basement of the brick section is distinguished by a parallel row of brick arches running east-west, approximately beneath the hallway walls. The arcaded support system seems to be unusual in the south Jersey region. The one-and-a-half story kitchen wing originally served as the kitchen, where the fireplace accommodated a bake oven. The second floor of this portion of the building contained the servants quarters.
Little is known about Joseph Falkinburge prior to his construction of the brick house. He married into one of Cape May County’s founding families, the Ludlams, who maintained a position of wealth and leadership through three centuries. His only child married into another founding family of equal prominence, the Leamings. Other than Joseph, the name Falkinburge does not appear in Cape May County history.Joseph Falkinburge is said to have come to Cape May County in 1791. One account says he arrived as a poor boy, trained as a tailor; another says he came from Tuckerton in Ocean County, where his family owned substantial land and several businesses including a tavern that was a favorite hangout for pirates and privateers. According to the diary of his grandson, Coleman F. Leaming, he was born April 24, 1769. In 1795 he married Abigail Ludlam, eldest child of Henry Ludlam. Joseph and Abigail had one child, also named Abigail. Two weeks later, Joseph’s wife, Abigail, died of complications from childbirth. On March 1, 1801, Joseph married his wife’s sister, Sarah Ludlam. Shortly after, he acquired this land from his father-in-law and built the brick house. From 1803-1804 and 1810-1811, Joseph served in the New Jersey Assembly. He also served in the Legislative Council 1808-1809 and 1812-1824. Joseph died on April 30, 1846. His daughter, Abigail had married Jeremiah Leaming on October 3, 1814. At some point in time they moved back into the Falkinburge house, after living away. Their sixth child, Richard is said to have taken over the house sometime between 1865 and 1872. Richard then left the property to his son, Coleman F. Leaming, Jr. who, in turn left it to his son, Richard S. Leaming, the last of the family to own the property. In 1940, it was sold to Joseph Kenner Skilling and Anna Mary Reed Skilling. They sold it to Charles M. and Constance Ashton. The Ashtons sold 8.5 acres to Wellington W. and Myrtle Dalling in 1949. In 1968, the Dallings sold it to Mauyer Lindsey and Barbara M. Lindsey who in turn sold it to Edgar L. and Lane L. Van Nuis in 1972. In 1989, it was purchased by the present owner, The Arc of Cape May County, Inc.