• This Is Rutherford

George Woodward, Architectural Pioneer

Updated: Jan 1

By Rod Leith, Borough Historian


George E. Woodward was a pioneer architectural designer and civil engineer whose architecture was well regarded in New York and New Jersey as well as Waukesha County, Wisconsin, where he built his first house in 1850.

The so-called Markoe House, Nashotah Village, Delafield Township, Wisconsin. Designed and built by George E. Woodward in 1850, it was most recently acquired as part of the Rogers Behavioral Hospital complex.

Current Rogers Behavioral Hospital

But long before he designed an unusual English rectory-style house for an Episcopal clergyman in Nashatah, Wisconsin, George Evertson Woodward (1829-1905) was employed in the Midwest as a young surveyor and civil engineer with the Chicago Milwaukee St. Paul Railroad. He rose to the position of engineer-in-chief for this railroad, built from the Mississippi River to Milwaukee. As engineer-in-chief, Woodward helped build the Chicago, Milwaukee and St. Paul Railroad westward from McGregor, Iowa in 1847. The railroad ultimately culminated in Milwaukee.


In building the house in Nashotah, Woodward had all the woodwork fashioned by hand in a Milwaukee woodshop and brought by wagon to the tiny village on the shore of Upper Nemahbin Lake in Delafield Township, about 30 miles west of Milwaukee.


The 1850 house was built for William Markoe, who served as rector of St. Sylvanas Church, an Episcopalian chapel in Delafield. Markoe, best known in Wisconsin as an early American balloonist, sold the house in 1855 to Thomas J. Tylston Pares. Although Woodward was raised as an Episcopalian, it remains a mystery as to how and why Markoe chose the young civil engineer to design his house. Markoe had moved to the rustic village of Nashotah from Philadelphia at the invitation of the Episcopal bishop, Jackson Kemper.


The so-called Markoe house, with 22 acres of grounds. was ultimately purchased by the Bloodgood family. It was acquired in this century by Rogers Behavioral Hospital, which has a facility on the shore of Upper Namahbin Lake. The house became part of the hospital’s complex, as illustrated in an accompanying image.


The Markoe house was found to be extant some 80 years after it was built by Woodward, as was described in an article in the Milwaukee Sentinel. Remarkably, the article, published September 16, 1934, included an interview with Woodward’s youngest daughter, Olive Evertson Woodward, who shared her recollections of the house. At the time, she had married Milan Hulbert, who owned a summer home near Delafield. Olive Hulbert was born in the Yereance-Kettel House in Rutherford in 1870, the youngest daughter of George and Eliza Woodward.

Illustration of a farm cottage by George E. Woodward from his 1865 book, "Country Homes."

Much of what we know about Woodward, who was born in Ithaca, New York, on September 26, 1829, to William Amos and Frances Mary Evertson Woodward, is due to his pioneering work in Rutherford and his authorship of several books and articles on architecture. He is particularly known for his book, “Country Homes,” first published in 1863. He is also known for his knowledge of horticulture and rural art. Woodward was married in Brooklyn to Eliza Bethia Deodata Mortimer, daughter of Rev. Benjamin Mortimer, on October 31, 1854.

The historic Yereance-Kettel House, built in 1809-1810, was restored by George Woodward in 1866. This is the birthplace of three of the children of George and Eliza (Mortimer) Woodward - Adele (1866), Benjamin (1868), and Olive (1870). his historic farmhouse was restored by George E. Woodward after the house and 4.1 acres were purchased in 1866 from Floyd W. Tomkins. It is designated on the Bergen County historic stone house survey. Built by Christopher Yureance (sic) in 1809 it was acquired by the Kettel family in 1876 and so remained until 1954 when it was acquired by Fairleigh Dickinson University. (photo credit C. Ellsworth Concklin, aka, Agnes Blakiston Concklin-1964.

Woodward’s earliest architectural work in what is now Rutherford began in the 1866 purchase of the former home of Christopher Yureance (aka Yereance) in what is now 245 Union Avenue, best known historically as the Yereance-Kettel House. The original house, built by Yereance in 1809, with 4.1 acres was sold to Eliza B.D. Woodward in 1866 by Floyd W. Tomkins, a founder of Grace Episcopal Church.

Photo credit Bergen County Historic Preservation Advisory Board.

Besides Olive Evertson, whose middle name is taken from her great-great grandfather, American Revolutionary War figure Jacob Evertson, several other children of George and Eliza Woodward were born and raised in this house, including Adele and Benjamin. The Woodwards occupied this house for about a decade before moving to Paris, France, and subsequently settling in New York City.


Olive Evertson Woodward (1870-1945) was the youngest daughter of George and Eliza Woodward. She was born in the historic Yereance-Kettlel House (extant) at 245 Union Avenue, near Prospect Place, Rutherford. Photo credit: Find a Grave website

Even with some modifications, due to many of the features traced to the remodeling by Woodward, the Yereance-Kettel House house was included in the thematic nomination to the National Register of Historic Places for the Early Stone Houses of Bergen County. Woodward is said to have “Victorianized” this old early 19th Century farmhouse.


Besides its architectural significance, the house is certainly historically important. Among the Woodward children raised in the Yereance-Kettel House was Ethel Deodata, who was married in 1892 to Mortimer Lamson Earle, a noted Columbia University scholar. Ethel Earle, born in 1864, two years before Woodward purchased the house at 245 Union Avenue, became a prominent figure in the work of the American Relief Administration and was particularly active in the European Children Fund. She was assigned to serve the ARA through her employment with the American Red Cross. Her work was commended in 1920 by President Herbert Hoover.


“Her service extended throughout northern Bohemia and Slovakia,” according to Arthur C. Ringland, who was chief of the European Mission of the American Red Cross. Ringland had high praise for Ethel Earle’s work as a field inspector for ARA programs. Her work “demanded patience, judgment, and intelligence of a high order,” Ringland said. She served the European Children Fund, administering warehouses and kitchens throughout much of Europe. Her service of supplying desperately needed food to youngsters extended from May 1819 to July 1, 1920.


Another of Woodward’s children, Benjamin Duryea Woodward, was born March 15, 1868, in the Yereance-Kettell House. . He was an accomplished scholar and professor of romance languages and literature at Columbia University. He was married to the California singing artist, Glady Van Buren Fiver, in 1903. He was also an adjunct professor of roman languages at Barnard College. Benjamin Woodward served as Assistant Commissioner-General of the United States at the 1900 Paris Exposition. His daughter, Adele Mortimer Woodward, who never married, became a languages teacher in New York.


The Woodwards youngest daughter, Olive Evertson Woodward, was baptized in the Yereance-Kettel house on June 30, 1870. The baptism ceremony was conducted by The Rev. W. H. Lord, the original rector of Grace Episcopal Church. In those days, many of Rutherford’s Episcopal families held home baptismal ceremonies before Grace Church was built in 1872.

The signature of George E. Woodward who was very much a part of the history of Grace Episcopal Church in Rutherford. He was, with Robert Walter Rutherfurd, selected by its vestry as its first warden in 1869.

In fact, the baptismal ceremony for Olive Woodward took place just about a year after Grace Church was formed. George E. Woodward and Robert W. Rutherfurd, grandson of U.S. Senator John Rutherfurd, were chosen as the first wardens of the church on May 24, 1869. At the same meeting in which Rev. Lord was appointed, “a committee, consisting of F. W. Tomkins, Geo. E. Woodward and Wm. Ogden was appointed to ascertain on what terms land could be procured for the church building,” according to a history written by Margaret Riggs. The history reveals that Tomkins gifted a parcel for the church’s construction, completed in 1873 at the corner of what is now Wood Street and West Passaic.

Ran in the Independent Republican Tuesday, February 7, 1905

The research on the life of George Woodward revealed a curious statement to his reputation. The Milwaukee Journal published the announcement of his death in a page one obituary on January 27, 1905. It was titled simply, “George E. Woodward Dead.” It included a brief biographical sketch of his railroad building accomplishments, noting that Woodward was educated as a civil engineer and became engineer-in-chief of the Chicago Milwaukee St. Paul Railroad. He died quietly of pneumonia at his home in New York City at the age of 75 years. So while Woodward appears to have been celebrated in Milwaukee, research revealed there were no death notices or obituaries on Woodward in any of the New York or New Jersey newspapers. He died in near obscurity in his old neighborhood.


This is surprising since Woodward had become president of the Rutherfurd Heights Association in 1868. The association sold land to many prominent landowners of Rutherford, including David Brinkerhoff Ivison, who built his 25-room Chateaux-style mansion he called Iviswold after purchasing land from Woodward’s association in 1875. It is known that Woodward’s architectural patterns favored Italianate-style houses, therefore it should not be surprising that after they purchased land on Donaldson Avenue, Lafayette and Harriet Hoage chose an Italianate-style design for a house they built on property acquired from Woodward’s association in 1871.


One other of Woodward’s land sales was to a local publisher named James W. Bookstaver, who purchased from the Rutherfurd Heights Association in 1869. Bookstaver, who published the Bergen County Herald, authored a brief essay titled “Names” for Margaret G. Riggs 1898 book she called “Things Old and New from Rutherford.” Bookstaver offers a slightly rude, perhaps even jealous expression in his reference to Woodward. He wrote that the Rutherfurd Heights Association “holds most of its property originally purchased of a Mr. Barclay by George E. Woodward, of whom I bought and who, after getting rich from his land sales and moving to Paris, sold the balance of his lands to Mr. Bell’s company.” This refers to Henry G. Bell, one of Woodward’s earliest neighbors on Union Avenue, who was a founder of the Church of Our Father, Unitarian, in Rutherford.


But finally, Bookstaver’s essay about street names in Rutherford offers a note of respect. His essay disclosed that “Mr. Woodward has a memorial street also,” referring to Woodward Avenue.


382 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All