Preserving Vernon history

Township's Historic Commission deals with nuts and bolts, paint and siding


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Photos



  • William Parker farm on Sisco Hill, circa 1883. Photo by J. Percy Crayon, from the book 'Images of America Vernon Township.'



VERNON — Restoration of a more than 200-year-old house on Route 515 is the latest project being undertaken by the Vernon Township Historic Commission. The all-volunteer organization is one of a number of committees and commissions overseen by the township but its members are sworn in the way other township employees are.

The Parker-Sisco house, originally constructed in 1797, is located on Route 515 near the intersection of Breakneck Road. The historic commission has chosen to oversee the restoration of this home, but Chris Hanke, co-chairman of the commission for the past 10 years, spoke very highly of the work done by its owner, Marleen Ford, who is a direct descendent of the original owners.

Ford has been doing a great deal of restoration on the home, Hanke said. He describes the interior as “immaculate” and said that entering the house is “like stepping back in time.”

Way back when
William D. Parker was the original owner of the property, which he sold to Grant Sisco. According to the book "Images of America, Vernon Township" by Ronald J. Dupont Jr., Sisco was Parker's son-in-law.

Parker was Vernon’s Clerk and its Postmaster from 1898 to 1927. Sisco added on an 8- by 10-foot rear wing on the house, which became his office where he then conducted his duties as town clerk until 1954.

“Everything that went on in Vernon went through that little room,” Hanke said.

A niece, Harriet Sisco, also served the township as a clerk.

The property was also known as Cedar Crest Farm and was an operating dairy farm for over 100 years.

Restoring a piece of history
When an owner of historic property wants to restore a home or building, the commission keeps an eye on what materials are used and helps give suggestions. In order to be named as “historic” there are certain criteria that must be met. Materials and paint colors similar to the original have to be used. The architectural style needs to be kept, although the commission understands that an owner may need to upgrade certain areas of a home to make it livable. For instance, windows can be replaced with thermal pane windows as long as they are of the style that was originally used. For example, Hanke, pointed out, the number of panes should be kept the same.

No meddling
“We don’t stop people from doing things,” said Hanke. Instead, the commission might gently say, “Maybe you should do it this way to keep it historic.” He said that ultimately, it is the owner’s property. “We are just an advisory commission.”

The commission is also responsible for placing plaques on properties memorializing their historic value and local significance. Funding for these comes from the commission’s limited budget, and that, said Hanke, is why only one property a year can have a plaque placed on it.

But before that happens, the commission must submit its plan to memorialize a property to the Vernon Land Use Board. Just last week, the Parker-Sisco house passed this hurdle. Now, the township council has its say and finally back to the Land Use Board for an ordinance to be created and once more to the council for a vote.

The process typically takes about two months, Hanke said.

The Parker-Sisco homestead has already been deemed eligible for inclusion to both the State and National Register of Historic Places. That occurred in 2008. But if Ford, the current homeowner, wants to make that happen, she can ask the Vernon Historic Commission for help — once they've placed their own plaque on the house, Hanke said.

According to Hanke, if a home receives a state or federal historic designation, the owner can apply for grants to help fund the restoration project.

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