Welcome to the Jonathan Dunham House in Woodbridge, NJ, named for the first of former President Barack Obama’s ancestors to be born in America. The house is on the national and New Jersey registers of historic places and has a historical marker from the Woodbridge Township Historic Preservation Commission.
The house was originally built around 1717, according to research done in applying for the registers. Subsequent testing of samples from wooden joists on the house’s first-floor put the date even earlier, specifically 1709.
Jonathan Dunham moved to Woodbridge from northern Massachusetts in the second half of the 1660s. He received a land grant from the newly formed township, and built the area’s first grist mill in 1670. While it was long believed he also built his namesake house, research shows he died in 1704 and one of his sons, Benjamin, was responsible for its construction.
Exterior walls of the house feature Flemish checker brickwork, as documented by the New Jersey Historic Preservation Office for a statewide submission to the National Register in 2017. Patterned brickwork houses were included on Preservation New Jersey’s list of the 10 most endangered historic places in 2018.
Trinity Episcopal Church has used the house for its Rectory, or priest’s home, since 1873. The house was expanded and renovated before being donated to the church. Restoration work was done over four years, starting in 2014, by congregants at Trinity and volunteers from the local community.
The church celebrated the house’s 300th anniversary, based on the earlier 1717 dating, and the completion of the project with an open house in April 2018. A tree was planted near the house in memory of Sandy Kalista, who led the restoration with her husband Steve and died suddenly eight days before the event.
Archaeological digs took place in the house’s yard in 2002 and September 2019. The latter project turned up parts of two earlier foundations, along with numerous historical artifacts, Findings from both excavations were released in a September 2020 report.