The Full Story
In August of 2023, the Medford Historical Society made its first acquisition in decades with the help of Medford Township: the Haines-Tomlinson House at 51 Union Street. Known to many as the "Haines House" for its original owner Jonathan Haines, or the "Tomlinson House" for the late Eph Tomlinson and his family who lived there. This house is the oldest in Medford Village and serves as a unique example of period architecture that is featured in the Library of Congress. Further, both Haines and Tomlinson were important leaders and visionaries of Medford, adding to the home’s importance as a unique link to Medford’s history. This acquisition and preservation of this home was made possible with the help of Medford Township and includes a deed restriction that will ensure the home’s preservation and use for historic and cultural purposes.
51 Union Street, originally a farmhouse, is one of many houses built by the Haines family in this area that are still standing today. The Haines, for the most part, were a Quaker practicing family who owned substantial land in Burlington County, New Jersey and as such were instrumental in shaping early prosperity in the area through their development of mills, communities, farms, and forest use occupations. This history is still visible today as historic homes, routes, and place names that continue to persist to this day. Many of the Haines endeavors brought early prosperity, employment, and resources to the Burlington County section of the Pine Barrens.
The first section of the Haines farmhouse at 51 Union Street was erected in 1760 by one of many Jonathon Haines. According to the Haines family tree, this Jonathon Haines was the Jonanthon III, and grandson of Jonathon Haines I who owned the Jonathon Haine’s farmstead on Fostertown Road and built what is currently Medford’s oldest home there (where). The original part of the home on Union Street is the portion facing Union Street and features the Flemish-bond style brick façade. John III had many children, including sons 1) Isaac Haines, with whom he and Samuel Phillips (another prominent landowner of the area) built the original portion of Kirby’s Mill, and 2) Nehemiah Haines who built the brick “Miller’s House” across from Kirby’s and would eventually fully own the mill. In 1820, a descendant, also named Jonathon Haines made a large addition to the rear of the Haines/Tomlinson House. Jonathon III and many of his descendants were also among the original members of the Quaker Meeting House on Union St. and helped develop early education in Medford. The house remained in the Haines family until 1917.
In 1950, Ephraim Tomlinson II and his wife Alice purchased the home to raise their young family. Eph was a key leader and giving friend to the community as many still recall. A prominent attorney, bookkeeper, and advisor to many in the community, as well as township solicitor for 19 years and mayor for 15, the home was warmly frequented by much of the community from the 1950s through the early 2000s. Many long-time residents who grew up in Medford in the 1960s, 70s, and 80s also fondly remember the Tomlinsons, with their yard being freely available for recreation and Alice ready to offer up a glass of water or lemonade. Among many contributions, Eph is credited with acquiring a portion of the park in the center of town, volunteering in the Burlington County Council of Boy Scouts of America and personally constructing many improvements of former Boy Scout Camp Lenape, and having a vision for significant development and open-space preservation in Medford. This vision culminated with Ian McHarg’s renowned landscape architecture study and ecological plan for Medford, published in 1974 ahead of the major development pushes of the 1970s, 80s, and 90s. That plan, which is considered a masterpiece of its kind and continues to be used in landscape architecture classes around the world today, guided policy and the preservation of Medford’s forest areas through substantial building in Medford and still has much relevance today.
Future of the Haines-Tomlinson House
The Medford Historical Society is currently working to open this historic home into a public space for all to enjoy and learn from. Michael Gallagher, a Vice President of the historical society, is serving as project leader and is developing a museum plan for the property with a Tomlinson House Committee. While the plan is still in development stages, some current ideas include a display dedicated to the Medford’s interesting history as a frontrunner in organized structure and wildland firefighting in the United States, an interpretive section dedicated to the Rancocas Watershed’s significance in Medford and the surrounding area, a “family room” for rotating displays of local families Medford artifacts, and a display on the significant community leadership and volunteerism of Eph Tomlinson. The committee is also assessing repairs needed to restore the structure, provide improved accessibility, and prevent degradation. The Medford Historical Society welcomes financial donations toward the repair of the Tomlinson House, as well as items specific to Medford’s history or local art depicting Medford through time. We look forward to updating you on our progress!