Rufwud Cottage Stands as a Reminder of Yesteryear
By Linda Dougherty
Inside of Rufwud Cottage
In this modern era, there are few homes and buildings remaining on Seven Mile Beach that date back to the early 1900s, and fewer still that have been placed on the National Register of Historic Places by the U.S. Department of the Interior.
Yet one of those on the National Register of Historic Places is right in Stone Harbor. Located on 93rd Street, the house known as Rufwud Cottage was built in 1917 by Oscar Mons Hokanson, a noted Philadelphia architect. It was placed on the register in 2014.
Rufwud Cottage was designed by Hokanson in 1915 as his summer beach home, and is a rare example of an arts and crafts-influenced craftsman-style summer cottage on the Jersey Shore. Hokanson and his wife, Elizabeth “Bess” Denny Culbertson, lived in the home until 1950. Hokanson died the following year.
Its name, Rufwud, comes from the brown, rough-sawn wood sheathing used in its construction; rough-sawn wood is defined as wood milled on a band saw, which gives it a rough yet uniformly even surface.
On the National Register of Historic Places’ certification form, it notes that “the foundation under the main block and rear ell is composed of an unusual mixture of cement with lump coal aggregate, reportedly an experiment by the architect to lighten the foundation’s weight.”
The certification details the interior, including the first floor: “The main block contains a screened, full-width porch and a combination living and dining room with a fireplace. The rear ell contains a stairway, kitchen, small entry with pantry, and a maid’s bedroom with half-bath on the first story. Floorboards are original, narrow-width hard pine. Except where noted, joists throughout are exposed overhead and doors are original board-and-batten with their original wrought iron lift latches. As was typical of summer cottages, the house has no heating system.”
The plaque on Rufwud Cottage.
In the section labeled “integrity,” the certification states that “the house has an exceptionally high state of preservation, retaining almost all of its original features. These include clapboard-covered exterior walls, pent roof, exterior wall brick chimney, casement windows with multi-paned sashes, interior rough-sawn and beaded-board vertical pine planking, built-in furniture, fireplace, and the mantel with gargoyle corbels.”
Rufwud Cottage remained in the Hokanson family until late last year, when it was sold for $999,000, according to public information. Its condition was virtually unchanged from when Hokanson summered there, including antique kitchen appliances and furniture. Several artifacts were acquired by the Stone Harbor Museum.
Rufwud Cottage, circa 1916
Hokanson was born in St. Paul, Minn., in 1871. He apprenticed as an architect in that town for several years before moving to Philadelphia and enrolling at the University of Pennsylvania, where he received his Certificate of Proficiency in Architecture in 1895. Following graduation, he worked for two Philadelphia architectural partnerships until 1899, when he and classmate J. Linden Heacock established Heacock & Hokanson, with offices at 931 Chestnut St. in Philadelphia.
Heacock & Hokanson designed a large body of work, including many large private homes, churches, schools, industrial and commercial buildings, a post office, hospitals, banks, small houses, and summer bungalows, according to the Philadelphia Architects and Buildings Project. They were proficient in the leading architectural styles of the day, including Colonial Revival, Classical Revival, Tudor and Craftsman. The partnership thrived even during the Depression years, as they had many jobs for suburban Philadelphia school districts such as Abington, Buckingham, Cheltenham, Haverford, Horsham and Yeadon.
Rufwud Cottage, current day
Also among their accomplishments were the designs of the Bristol Borough (Pa.) Town Hall; the Doylestown (Pa.) Courthouse; Holy Trinity Church in Willow Grove, Pa.; Jeanes Hospital in Philadelphia; Philadelphia Motor Speedway, and the Wyncote Country Club.
The partnership with Heacock lasted until Hokanson’s retirement in January 1950.Hokanson’s architectural talent earned him many honors over the course of his lifetime, including the silver medal in the Robert Clark Competition held in Chicago in 1896, second honors in the first Stewardson Scholarship of 1896, and an honorable mention in that competition in 1898 (when the design project was “A City Church for a Protestant Episcopal Congregation”).
Upon the completion of his Stone Harbor summer cottage in 1917, the Cape May County Times printed a small note in its issue of March 16: “The very pretty cottage at 92nd Street and Sunset Drive is for Oscar M. Hokanson of the Bailey Building, Philadelphia, and is to be named ‘Rufwud.’ The cost is given as about $3,500.”
Chris and Lynn Brown are front and center with their Stone Harbor playmates on the steps of Rufwud Cottage, circa 1943.
In his historical remembrances for the Stone Harbor Museum, Hokanson’s great nephew Christopher P. Brown wrote about his summer childhood memories at Rufwud Cottage, beginning in 1940.
He recalled eating fish that Hokanson caught at the bulkhead at the bay end of 93rd Street or out at sea, as Hokanson was an avid fisherman. “Aunt Bess” (Hokanson’s wife) would spend hours needlepointing seat covers, while the children would pass time playing cards, checkers and dominoes.
Brown also wrote of vivid memories of the 1944 hurricane, when his mother, Katherine, and cook Helen T. Elliott rushed around and placed pots under the leaks in Rufwud Cottage, “emptying them as fast as they could. The cottage swayed like a sailing vessel and windows were blown out.”
Rufwud Cottage, circa 1916. The man on the left is possibly Oscar M. Hokanson.
Before 1949, the year when electricity was installed on the second floor of Rufwud, candles were carried to bed at night, he recalled.
“Rufwud Cottage had five bedrooms, most separated by rattling, half-inch thick board walls, in a house of about 1,200 square feet,” wrote Brown. “Three generations felt right at home living on top of each other, because, of course, it was only a seashore cottage. The outside walls of the cottage had no studs, made simply with clapboard nailed to upright planks; precluding insulation between the walls ... at the end of the season, newspaper was draped over the pictures and mirrors and sheets over the furniture.”
Although the Hokanson and Brown family no longer own Rufwud Cottage, it still stands as a unique, historic home, and a reminder of a time gone by.
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