27 Annie's House

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Annie's house in 1931 (left) and 2006 (right)

Serendipity in Blawenburg

Sometimes we learn things intentionally, and at other times, learning is serendipitous. I learned the story of Annie’s house through a serendipitous connection a few years ago.

One summer day in 2014, Nancy Curtis, who was the administrator at Blawenburg Church at the time, called me with a curious question. “A woman emailed the church and asked if I knew where the Cyrenius Voorhees house was in Blawenburg. Do you know where it is?”

“I sure do,” I replied. “I live in the house that Cyrenius built.” I wondered why someone would want to know about the original builder of my house.

Thus, began the story of Annie’s house, a story that taught me so much about my house and its past residents. The email had come from Marty and Dan Campanelli, residents of Quakertown, NJ. Marty and her late husband, Dan, a nationally known watercolor artist, were co-curating an exhibit at Morven Museum in Princeton of embroidered samplers that had been made by girls throughout New Jersey from 1726 to 1860. In those days, needlework samplers were known as schoolgirl samplers because learning to make samplers was a way to teach girls essential sewing skills.

As Marty and Dan searched for samplers, they came across a sampler made by Annie Voorhees in 1846 in a village called Blawenburgh. (Originally, Blawenburg was spelled with an H at the end.) Realizing it was a sampler of New Jersey origin, they immediately bought it from the Antiques Associates of West Townsend (CT). While the sampler was not included in the exhibit, the Campanellis wanted to know more about its creator, Annie Voorhees.

I replied to the Campanellis to tell them that Evelyn and I lived in Annie’s house and invited them to visit the house where it was created. Marty wrote in an unpublished article, “We were thrilled with the news (that we had found Annie’s house), and even more excited to be able to visit David and his wife Evelyn to see the Voorhees house in person. This experience made the sampler even more dear to us, after walking through the very rooms where Annie grew up and then resided in after her parents passed away. We could just imagine the twelve-year-old stitcher taking her sampler home to work on and sitting in the parlor as her fingers executed the precise stitches with colorful silk thread.”