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Pepper The Cat Visits The MacKenzie House

When Pepper’s application came in for my Abandoned Beauty project I was a little hesitant to include him. I mean, how can a cat sit for an outdoor session and stay in a contained area?

But, let me tell you – Pepper is not your ordinary cat.

Not be a long stretch.

The beautiful baby is an exceptional model – required no leash and I swear was a dog in a previous life. Even on a busy road with trucks going by this cat kept his cool and was a perfect model.

Now on to the details about Pepper and his visit to the Mackenzie House located in Howell, NJ.

About The Mackenzie House

It was not that long ago that this beautiful home was actually at risk of being removed forever. In 2019, word on the street was that the historical home was going to be torn down, but thankfully a group of history buffs got involved and wanted to change the outcome.

It was not easy though.

This group attended the Howell Township Council Meetings so they could be educated and prepare a plan. It turned out the only way to save the home was to become an incorporated 501(c)(3) organization and offer validation they could financially support the house.

So, they did all the work and created the Howell Heritage and Historical Society! This organization then took over the deed for the Mackenzie Museum and Library on February 24, 2020.

Thankfully a grant was also received on that same day from the Monmouth County Historical Society.

The History Of The MacKenzie House

In 1779, A Quaker by the name of Solomon Wardell purchased a tract of land where he would build a gristmill and tavern. For the next 100 or so years, this property would change hands many times with the only remaining piece being the building that is now the MacKenzie Museum and Library.

The building was originally the miller’s house, a 1½ story, 2 room home, circa 1805, for what was called the Lower Squankum Mill.

In 1854, the Greek Revival section was added for the incoming miller, William Nesbitt, and his large family. Isaac and William, brothers, were in business together and Lower Squankum Mill was known as Nesbitt Mills.

One of the later owners of the home and land would be Captain William A. Prickett, who led the 25th Regiment of the U.S. Colored Troops in the Civil War. He would fall ill with dysentery during his time in service and his soldiers cared for him and helped nurse him back to health.

Why is this important? Well, his way of thanking them was to commemorate their efforts in a photo album. This photo album featured 17 black soldiers with their picture and name. It is incredibly rare to have pictures of colored service members – and even more rare to have names associated with them.

After his tenure in the the service ended, he would return to the NJ area where he would work in the banking and insurance industry and purchase the land that included the MacKenzie Museum.

The Museum and Library building’s last private owner, Jessie MacKenzie, gave her home to Howell Township in 1982 to be used for a museum.

The Howell Historical Society and Township Committee worked to restore the house until it was ready to open to the public. For many years, the house was the field trip destination for all 3rd graders in Howell Township schools. 

Unfortunately, a time came when it was determined that the building needed extensive structural repairs.

Just short of the wrecking ball, the newly organized Howell Heritage and Historical Society managed to acquire the property by deed in Feb. 2020. Since then, this new 501c3 non-profit organization has been working diligently to raise money and make much-needed repairs to the building.

Although, much has been completed, there is still much to be accomplished.

Features Of The Home

Some features of the home include the wide decorative door and the window moldings that are all part of the Greek Revival. The opening to the home entry way features a bright lit area filled with natural light and side lights. There is also a beautiful open staircase and original wide plank floors.

The inside of the home features so many amazing historical items! One that caught my eye was the stunning dress in one of the images below.

Makes me wonder – was it a wedding dress? Who wore it? I would love to know the history!

The upstairs has a very loft like feel with a very cool winding stairway at the back of the house to take you to the top – or of course you can use the main stairway at the front of the home. The loft area has been divided into some smaller rooms, but was originally one big room.

The main floor features an amazing room with a brick hearth where the family could cook and use to heat the home.

The backyard features some stunning landscape and the outhouse.

There is also a shed for storage – which, according to Pepper may have housed some interesting critters judging by his attention to it!

MacKenzie House Gallery

Pepper’s Story

Pepper was just a newborn baby when he and his siblings were found in a parking lot in Northern NJ. Born in March 2006 his little family found his way to the West Orange Animal Shelter.

From there they were taken in and fostered through Smitten by Kittens, a rescue organization in Morristown NJ.

Pepper’s parents were looking for a kitten to add to the family – and there he was! Pepper has had an amazing life with a family who loves him so much – and since one cat is never enough, the actually adopted his sister Lilly as well.

Just a few weeks after this session Pepper had to go in for some surgery to remove some tumors and part of a muscle removed. Thankfully, he is OK and his family helped him through it all with love and extra snuggles of course.

About Smitten By Kittens

Smitten By Kittens was started in 2002, so they have been around a while!

They focus on cat rescue/adoptions as well as trap, neuter, release (TNR).

If you are within 25 miles of 07960 and are looking to adopt a cat, please visit Smitten By Kittens! You can also join their group on Facebook or donate to help their cats in need.

Abandoned Beauty Final Thoughts

The MacKenzie House is such a beautiful piece of history thanks to the caring people that continue to maintain it. Without historic structures like these, we will lose our history – and this would be such a waste.

We can learn so much from the past – to help improve the future.

If no one cared, we would not see that change was happening even back then.

If there was no rescues to help stray cats, there would be no Pepper or many other cats that are living amazing lives because a rescue stepped up.

People can make a difference – especially when working together.

Whether you are a history buff or an animal lover, you can make a difference.

Join your local historical society. Volunteer at a rescue or shelters. Make a donation.

However you choose to help – JUST DO IT!

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