House Snooping: 14 Manor Road

By on August 13, 2010

If your idea of an old house is anything built before 1980, the house at 14 Manor Road is not for you. It was built in 1880, maybe earlier. If you can’t identify every tool in a Sears Craftsman set, the house at 14 Manor Road is not for you. It will need all of them–and more–to bring it back to its original glory. If your knowledge of old house restoration begins and ends with PBS television, the house at 14 Manor Road is not for you. It needs real, hands-on experience.

Who is 14 Manor Road for then?

  • Someone who loves Verona Park: The land for the park belonged to the original owner of this house and the park is still the front yard of its half-acre property.
  • Someone who loves Verona history: This house was built by the preeminent builder of Victorian Verona.
  • Someone who lives, eats, sleeps, and breathes old houses: This one could be the grandest of them all, in Verona and maybe in all of Essex County.

The house at 14 Manor Road was built by and for Hiram Cook, a Yankee captain in the Civil War who arrived in Verona, improbably enough, as a land speculator in the late 1860s. A railroad line was in the offing and Cook bought land from what is now Wayland Drive clear through to the eastern shore of Verona Lake to capitalize on it. An engineer and carpenter, Cook built a series of houses across the tract, several of which survive to this day. “Captain Cook’s houses are very distinctive and they were very clearly his handiwork,” says Bob Williams, a Verona native and old house buff who is a descendant of one of Verona’s founding families. “Idlewood”, he adds, using Cook’s name for 14 Manor Road, “is one of the greatest houses in Verona.” (Williams’ book on our town’s history, “Old Verona”, has an extensive history of Cook and his house and is available through the Verona Historical Society.)

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Time hasn’t always been kind to 14 Manor Road. The Cook family owned it until Prohibition, Williams says, when it became a rum-runner’s hideaway. It later served as a convalescent home. The original front porch, which you can see in the slide show below of photos from Williams’ collection, is long gone, as is its summer kitchen. The $475,000 listing, which belongs to Patricia Bishop of Prudential New Jersey Properties, notes that the house now needs a total renovation.

But the bones of this house are as grand as they are old. The double parlor at the front of the house rivals a McMansion living room in size and still has its original molding. The doors and woodwork are original, as are most of its gingerbread windows, and they have character you’d never get in a big-box store. The kitchen is a good size for any era, as are the four bedrooms upstairs.

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And as its owner, you could sit on the front lawn and watch the picnics in Verona Park, just as Captain Cook once did.

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