A Brief History of The Durand-Hedden House
Updated: Aug 18, 2022
The Durand-Hedden House, whose original structure was built in about 1790, sits on two acres of the original plantation that was part of a 72-acre tract of land acquired by Ebenezer Hedden before 1740. His son, Obadiah Hedden, was born on the land, and after the Revolutionary War was able to take title in 1787 to the 25 acres upon which he built a modest clapboard side-hall farmhouse.
Obadiah Hedden’s original house is now the southern half of the present house. The main room is a kitchen with a large, deep red sandstone fireplace whose beehive oven was reconstructed by the Durand-Hedden Association. A smaller room adjoining has a fireplace extending diagonally across the corner of the chimney, and was probably a bedroom. This is a relatively unusual example of two fireplaces on one chimney, an earlier example of which is in the Timothy Ball House farther along Ridgewood Road (1743). Upstairs in the original section are two bedrooms, one of which also has a diagonal fireplace, and a loft area that was used for storage, and possibly spinning and other activities.
In 1804, after his wife’s death, Obadiah Hedden sold the property to Dr. Watts Bonnel. In 1812, it was sold to neighbor Henry Durand.
The Durand Family
Henry Durand was the brother of Asher Brown Durand, who later gained fame as a founder of the Hudson River School of art, and grandson of Samuel Durand, who had settled in the town of Newark in about 1740. The Durands were an artistic and creative family. Samuel, termed “a skillful and modest clockmaker of the village", was born in 1713. His son John, born in 1745, was a jewelry maker who moved to Jefferson Village in 1774 and built a house near the corner of Durand and Ridgewood Roads. In the Revolutionary War, John Durand reportedly put his jeweler’s skills to use in repairing George Washington’s field glasses.
Henry and Asher Durand were born in the house near the corner of Durand and Ridgewood, which burned to the ground in 1843. Henry, carrying on the family tradition, made jewelry, silverware and watch crystals, and played the violin. He and his wife, Electa, moved to what is now the Durand-Hedden House in 1812 and lived there until his death in 1846. Henry’s son James Madison Durand (also a skilled engraver and watchmaker who established a major jewelry-making firm in Newark) and his family continued to own the property until about 1866, when Electa died. The northern half of the house, with a high-ceilinged front room, back parlor and side porch on the main floor and two large bedrooms above, was built around the mid-19th century, probably added by James. The peaked gables with rounded-top windows were Gothic Revival features popular at the time. Other interesting decorative and stylish touches from that period include an Italianate walnut staircase and a Greek Revival style front door, with a pedimented and eared door frame, which may have been added earlier in the 19th century.
The Ripley Years
The William Chauncey Ripley family purchased the house in 1923, and may have been the owners who remodeled the back parlor into a pantry and kitchen. They also added a small room as maid’s quarters to the rear, using red sandstone on the exterior to match the early kitchen fireplace. The house remained in the caring hands of the Ripley family until 1971.
Saved from Destruction
The house fell into disrepair in the years that followed and was threatened with demolition. A campaign to save the historic property was led by Maplewood’s mayor, Robert Grasmere, and the Town of Maplewood bought it in 1977 with the help of the state Green Acres program. The Durand-Hedden House and Garden Association was established by statute in 1979, and has spent the ensuing decades restoring the property and offering historical and educational programs to schools and the community. The House now sits on almost two acres of gardens and meadows in Grasmere Park, named in honor of former Mayor Grasmere.