For over 380 years C. A. Nothnagle Log House in Gibbstown, NJ has stood as a living witness to the very beginning of European settlements in the United States. Built between 1638 and 1643, its continued preservation provides for an outstanding study of one of our nation’s earliest methods of vernacular building.
The C. A. Nothnagle Log House is a native wood construction of square-hewn logs that are horizontally laid and interlocked with dovetail joints at the corners. In the 1630’s the only essential tools needed to build a log house were an ax, hammer and knife. No metal fasteners were used. Instead, the builders used trunnel pins or “treenails.” Where needed, these small wedged wooden dowels were hammered through the intersecting corners to achieve added strength. To seal the inevitable spaces between the oak log walls, a packed aggregate of mud or “chinking” was jammed in between the logs and left to dry hard and fast. The house foundation was made of semi buried field stone and the asymmetrical side gable roof was built without a ridge pole. The house is 16 by 22 feet and substantially larger than the 12 by 12 footprint that was typical for construction for that period and place. Inside this one room, open beamed space is a corner fireplace of imported brick. It is adorned with iron cookware believed to be created in the 1590s, a 1730 wood floor was installed over the dirt floor and many original artifacts are arranged to expand on the history of the house and the surrounding land.
Log construction was a common building form in many parts of North Eastern America. The construction methods arrived with craftsmen from the Northern European and the Baltic countries such as Sweden, Russia, Finland and Norway. Although sited near Swedesboro, NJ the C. A. Nothnagle house indicates a Finnish builder, possibly Benjamin Braman. Thusly, this building is also known as the Braman – C.A. Nothnagle Log House and has been listed in the NJ State and National Registers of Historic Places as NJ State ID#1385 (1/14/1972) and on the National Register as Reference #: 76001153 (4/23/1976).
The Twenty First Century owners and Historic Preservationists, Doris and Harry Rink, first acquired the house in the 1970s. The property having been in Harry Rink’s family since 1907. Through the years they lived there, the couple carefully preserved the integrity of this extraordinary building and its surroundings. Their fingerprints are literally all over the structure. After meticulously sourcing a historically correct mud and clay mixture found in Salem County they made repairs to the chinking by hand pressing the materials between the logs. Harry Rink, affectionately known as “Cabin Man” was not only a dedicated preservationist but also served as a councilman and eventually Mayor of Gibbstown. Besides many other historic concerns, Doris Rink regularly traveled to Trenton to serve on the New Jersey Historic Sites Council. Unfortunately, Harry Rink passed away in 2018. But Doris Rink continues to field historic research on the house and still welcomes visitors by appointment (thank-you). Doris cares for the building and lives in the larger 1753 wood frame addition that is attached to the original log house. The two structures, a four car garage, workshop and other out buildings sit on 1.3 acres of beautiful land close to the Nehaunsy Creek.
After Harry’s death, Doris began seeking a sympathetic buyer to takeover as the trusted custodian for the preservation of this important house. She wants to remain close to the house while she continues to fulfill her lifelong mission of education and preservation of the C. A. Nothnagle Log House and the rich history of Gloucester County. “Every day is a new adventure, and a new learning.” …Doris Rink
The C. A. Nothnagle Log House is located at 406 Swedesboro Rd. Gibbstown, NJ 08027. You can find it off US I-295 and just a few hundred feet northeast of the Gibbstown Branch of the Greenwich Township Library, a part of the Gloucester County Library System.
Currently, this historic property is listed for sale at $750,000 with Christina Huang of Weichert Realtors Sales Associates in East Brunswick. Christina’s phone numbers are 732-742-9437 (Cell), 732-254-1700 (Office) and her email is firstname.lastname@example.org.
William “Billy” Neumann is a Preservation New Jersey Board of Director and chairs the Marketing Committee. He is the former Chairperson of Bergen County’s Historic Preservation Advisory Board and led Rutherford’s HPC for five years. He has authored two local history books, several National Register nominations and presents talks, walks and demonstrations on history, historic preservation, commercial photography and beekeeping.