Trinity Episcopal Church traces its history back to 1698, when a missionary named Edward Portlock visited Woodbridge from nearby Perth Amboy and conducted the first services. More than a century and a half passed until the church bought its first Rectory, or home for its minister.
The congregation spent $5,000 on a “fine commodious house” to use as a Rectory, the Rev. Edward Randolph Welles wrote in a history of Trinity. While he gives the property’s location as 166 Rahway Ave., an address that no longer exists, legal documents show it was 95 Green St. instead. The house was built by Gilbert Heard about 1840 and sold to the church by Mary Freeman Heard, his widow, in March 1864.
Trinity then was able to buy the Jonathan Dunham House, known as the Brick House property at the time. The house had been in the family of Ellis Barron, an early Woodbridge settler like Dunham, since the mid-1700s. The last family member to own the property was Samuel Barron, a great-grandson of Ellis, who attended Trinity. He died in March 1870.
The purchase was made through the efforts of George C. Hance, who led Trinity’s governing board as Senior Warden. Hance’s dealmaking began in March 1872, when he bought property between the church and the Brick House from William H. Peterson for $7,500. Six weeks later, he turned over the land to Trinity with one condition: the right to reserve a burial plot wherever he chose.
Hance then bought the Brick House and nearby land from Samuel Barron’s heirs, Eliza C. Brewster and Sarah H. Cutter, in October 1872. The purchase price was $800. He had the home expanded and renovated before handing over the property to Trinity in December 1873.
The expansion doubled the size of the house. Behind the original home, a dining room and kitchen were added on the first floor and two bedrooms were added on the second floor. The original dining room became the priest’s study. Exterior brickwork for the addition matched the pattern of Trinity’s church building, not the original house.
The house’s original foundations and cellar beams, which were hand-hewn, were retained along with the earlier Flemish brickwork.
Renovations included a relocation of the front door to the south side of the house from the west. Welles recounted how there was “evidence of a circular carriage drive in front of the present side door, which then would have served as the main entrance.”
Welles cited other improvements: “lovely chestnut woodwork all over the house, Gothic arched doors and window-trimmings, and a fine old English Walnut built-in book case in the Study.”
All the work was finished at a cost of about $13,000, according to a report to the 1873 Convention of the Diocese of New Jersey. Some of the money was raised by selling the first Rectory
The 95 Green St. house was sold to Susan Arrowsmith in April 1872 for $8,000. (Members of Arrowsmith’s family attended Trinity. Four are commemorated by stained-glass windows in the church. Others are buried outside near two of the windows, and Susan is among them.)
The new Rectory was followed in 1874 by construction of the original Parish House, now St. Martha’s House, for more than $4,000. Today, several support groups meet on the first floor and Trinity’s sexton, or caretaker, has a second-floor apartment.
The Rectory, St. Martha’s House and the rest of Trinity’s buildings and grounds are guarded by a wrought-iron fence, installed at a cost of more than $1,000. The fence is another product of the 1870s building boom.