A travel down Dunham’s Corner Road in East Brunswick past the new, highly-enforced, 30 mile per hour speed limit zone will reveal the oldest, most untouched part of the road. After passing Crystal Springs Family Aquatic Center, the road thins out to an area with no shoulder or asphalt. After going over the bridge by the aquatic center, the road becomes solid concrete; it was laid down over a half century ago. In the summertime, the trees curve over the road to create a beautiful canopy that makes you feel enclosed by nature.
Just past Crystal Springs on the left sits a small field which gets overgrown and plowed every year. To the right is a thick line of brush and woods. On the right side of this brush is farmland that spans most of this section of Dunham’s. The farm is still in operation.
At the start of the brush is a post where a mailbox used to be. Beyond this is a dirt path which leads to a large tree. It is most likely well over a century old as well, and its location indicates a split in the path being traveled. It was once a driveway for the farmhouse that lies behind the tree. The house is a white, two-story box, complete with a basement and attic. It was probably built between 1900 and 1910, considering that the architectural style and amenities match other houses of this time.
The porch steps have been badly damaged, so getting onto the porch is difficult. The wooden front door has beautifully carved designs, and its lock can fit an old-fashioned skeleton key. Entering the house puts you inside the living room, which has an overturned couch from its final tenants. Its rotted look gives the entire space an eerie feeling. At one time, the room was pink and white, but most of the pink has faded away. Three windows with drapes still hanging look out to the farm.
The ceiling of this room (much like the ceilings in every room) has been slowly, but surely, falling down since the place was vacated. The (probably lead) paint on the walls are peels all around, which makes for stunning photographs. The staircase banister is in exceptional condition. Its vibrant wood finish makes it stand out among the deterioration all around it.
Moving into the kitchen is a sight to behold. The sink and the cabinets are all surprisingly intact, and appear to be less than 30 years old. A large chunk of the wall near the room’s entrance to the right of a window has disintegrated. A rotted ceiling dangles overhead, as if planks are about to fall on top of you. The color scheme of the kitchen is yellow with a blue trim. As expected, much like the living room, the walls of the kitchen are peeling.
Modern home kitchens have built-in pantry cabinets for snacks and other assorted foods. Before the postwar period, homes were built with rooms off of the kitchen solely for pantry storage. This house is a prime example of that type of arrangement. The narrow pantry room has three stacks of shelves on each side. Under them are cupboards for more storage. This room is a bright yellow color, showing signs of deterioration, mostly on the ceiling. Behind the kitchen is a small, unfinished room that was probably used for storage. An overturned desk currently lays there.
A trip up the stairs leads to the house’s bathroom and bedrooms. Thankfully, the stairs seem sturdy and are unlikely to collapse while climbing them. The attic sits above these rooms, but it is unclear how to access it. Both of the bedrooms have a blue color scheme. One of them has pink window shades while the other’s are green. The bedroom to the top of the stairs (with the green shades) has a gaping hole in the roof which was most likely caused by a past weather event. Leaves and other forms of natural growth have crept into the bedroom due to the hole. A light fixture dangles from the ceiling which is slowly, but surely, coming apart. The floor is a mess.
The bathroom has a shower and tub. The toilet and shower are modern in comparison to the rest of the house. At some point during the house’s abandonment, vandals destroyed the wall separating the bathroom from the second bedroom, most likely to get valuable metals in the walls. The posts that held the wall up still stand in the open space. The remaining chunks of the wall suggest a brute force took it out, hence the vandalism theory. The door in the other bedroom is bent out of shape, and the roof hole extends into the room, which has caused significant damage all around.
A trip outside is the safest way to enter the basement. Instead of relying on stairs that could possibly be on the verge of collapse, an open cellar door on the side of the house ensures quick and safe passage. This entrance has an awning, as it appears to be a typical early 1900’s basement. The room is unfinished and made of brick. A rusted boiler lies in a corner with water leaking around its walls. Wires hang from the ceiling which suggest further vandalism. White wooden shelves previously used for storage align the walls and sit empty, save a few old newspaper pages. In the middle of the room is the base of the chimney.
At the bottom of the stairs are some old bumper stickers, most likely from the 1970’s. Across from the stairs is a modern circuit breaker, suggesting the house was most likely vacated in the late 1980’s or early 1990’s.
The backyard of the house leads into acres of woods containing dumped items that probably came from inside of the house. Among these are a rusted desk and a 1970’s television set. A large mound of beer bottles and cans sits in the backyard, suggesting the former tenants of the house were heavy drinkers. The amount of bottles and cans in the heap is staggering.
What was life like in this house? What type of family lived in it? Was it owned by one family over the course of the twentieth century, passed down, or was it bought and sold at random? These questions may never be answered. The house’s contents are almost completely gone. A few pieces of furniture are all that are left to tell the story of what went on here. The field to the house’s right is plowed every year. By whom? Unknown. Is the property owned by the large active farm next to it? Perhaps.
When searching for the who’s, why’s, and how’s of abandoned places, you’re often left to make educated guesses. This house and its property are testaments to the farming and agricultural empire of a bygone East Brunswick. The next time you’re taking a drive down the far side of Dunham’s Corner Road in East Brunswick, just imagine what life was like a century ago. And never stop exploring.