THE DRAKE HOUSE, Plainfield's historic link with its colonial past, was built in 1746 by Isaac Drake as a home for his son, Nathaniel. Today it is a City-owned public museum administered by the Historical Society of Plainfield.
It was at the Drake House that George Washington consulted with his officers during and after The Battle of Short Hills, fought over the entire Plainfield area on June 25-27, 1777. Nathaniel Drake, his wife Dorothy and his daughters Sarah and Phebe, were all patriots. The sons of the family, Abraham, Cornelius and Isaac, served in the Essex and Somerset Counties militia, and their freed slave, Caesar, was a wagoneer with the Continental forces. Washington and his officers were often entertained here when in the area on military maneuvers.
The original farmhouse was a typical New Jersey one-and-a-half story building with four rooms and a lean-to kitchen on the first floor, and a loft above. In 1864, it was purchased from the Drake family by John S. Harberger of New York City, president of The Manhattan Banking Company which later became The Chase Manhattan Bank. Harberger made many architectural changes in accordance with current Victorian tastes. He extended the downstairs hall, and added the library. By raising the roof, he made the loft into a music room, and the towers he built completed the architectural style we see today.
In the Drake House, the first-floor kitchen, bedroom and dining room are typical of those in homes of the 18th century. Parlor furnishings represent the late Empire and early Victorian era.
THE HARBERGER LIBRARY, initially restored as a Bicentennial project, is furnished in the popular Victorian style of the late 1800's. The restoration which you see today was completed in 1995, while the Julian Scott painting, "The Death of General Sedgewick," was out on a national tour. This traveling exhibition , entitled "Picturing History: American Painting 1770-1930," was sponsored by the Franuces Tavern Museum through a grant from the IBM Corporation and the National Endowment of the Arts.
Restoration of the seven by nine foot oil painting, which is the room's main feature and the museum's most prized artifact, has been performed through the sponsor.
The members and Trustees of the Historical Society of Plainfield are grateful to those donors who have provided us with the necessary funding to complete the restoration of the Harberger Library.