County: Camden County
The Ephraim Tomlinson House (the “Mansion”) is a three-story, brick Greek Revival mansion built by Ephraim and Sarah Tomlinson in 1844. The Mansion is a brilliant example of Greek Revival architecture, as is clear upon examination of the entrance, which features a marble staircase and Greek Revival portico, including a pair of ionic columns and matching pilasters supporting a classical entablature. Five additional, matching ionic columns are featured as part of the porch located at the south-facing exterior of the Mansion. The third story of the Mansion is shorter than the first two stories, which gives the impression of a Greek-style frieze.
The Greek Revival style was popular in the United States in the mid-nineteenth century, as Americans rejected the British influenced Federal style, and paid homage to the ancient architectural style of democracy’s birth place. Greek Revival gems, such as the Mansion, are rare in South Jersey, given that the area was sparsely populated during Greek Revival’s heyday. Notwithstanding some renovations and modifications over the years, the Mansion retains a high degree of integrity, particularly with respect to its exterior. The interior of the Mansion features three original fireplaces, original crown molding, and original trim around the doors and windows of the first floor.
The home’s builder, Ephraim Tomlinson, was the great-great-grandson, of Joseph Tomlinson, a Quaker from London who settled the area in 1686. The Tomlinson family is one of the most prominent families of the early history of what is today southern Camden County. Ephraim built the Mansion overlooking a gristmill and sawmill, which he had constructed nearby several years earlier. Around the mills and Mansion, Ephraim founded the small community of Laurel Mills, which consisted of a slaughterhouse, several homes for Ephraim’s workers, and a schoolhouse (which still exists). This community later grew into the towns of Stratford and Laurel Springs.
After World War I, the Mansion was no longer used as a residence and became occupied by a maternity hospital. In subsequent decades, it would be occupied by the Stratford Military Academy, the Camden County YWCA, and, most recently, the Stratford Classical Christian Academy. The Mansion has been vacant since 2015 following the closure of the Classical Christian Academy.
The Borough of Stratford’s crest features three images; the White Horse Tavern (a tavern established in 1749), the Whitman Oak (an oak tree named after Walt Whitman who spent several summers in the region), and the Mansion. Of the three icons featured on the crest, only the Mansion is still in existence. The Mansion is listed on both the New Jersey Register of Historic Places and the National Register of Historic Places and is the oldest surviving building in the Borough of Stratford.
In August of 2020, the site upon which the Mansion sits was sold to a private developer who plans to develop the site into an assisted living facility for senior citizens. Local preservationists, including the Stratford County and Camden County Historical Societies have lobbied to preserve the Mansion.
Given its significance to the history of the Borough of Stratford and Camden County and its significance as one of the finest examples of Greek Revival architecture in southern New Jersey, it is imperative that the site be developed without demolishing or otherwise compromising the integrity of the Mansion.