1042 Shunpike Road: Red Knot Farm
“A local guy told me this house was the only house on the street when he was growing up,” said Jeff Weigel, who with his wife Kristina owns the Red Knot Farm at 1042 Shunpike Road in West Cape May.
“All of these homes around us were fields supporting this house – this was the only house on the street for the longest time. I know a guy, he’s in his late 70s, who tells me as a kid he rode up and down Shunpike – it was just a dirt road at that time – and it was just fields, fields, fields and then this one house with a big barn.”
The Red Knot Farm is a quaint and historic property sitting in one of Cape Island’s most serene spots, just south of the canal. The original construction dates to 1845 and consisted of a single room and a fireplace. Today this three bedroom, two bath farmhouse (with a big barn out back) is just waiting for you to sit on the porch, flip off your shoes and immerse yourself in its tranquility.
“We called the property the Red Knot farm because we love those birds. We’re still a farm out here so we grow different things, including tomatoes, blackberries, and raspberries. We often get comments from some guests about how they like picking fresh fruit,” said Kris.
Most of West Cape May was farmland at one time and much remains preserved farmland today. I called local guy Chuck McPherson because he’s a long timer in these parts and because Kris thought the property may have at some point been part of the McPherson family farm. Chuck told me his great grandfather was the brother to Hollis McPherson, who owned that property.
“That property is related to Doug McPherson—he has Cold Spring Campground on New England Road,” said Chuck. “Doug’s grandfather had a dairy farm on New England Road, but his great-grandfather Hollis had the farm up on Shunpike. Doug’s father was also Hollis – after his great grandfather. He was my great grandfather’s brother.”
Doug was also happy to share some history on the place.
“Hollis lived there with his wife, Catherine Brown,” said Doug. “They owned a store in Cape May not far from where Collier’s is. My grandfather Michael had a dairy farm, so they sold eggs and such off the back of their huckster wagon. When I was a kid, I played in that barn a lot. You could back a truck into the barn with those big doors. And he had the best tool room. Big tools for the wood mills, hand tools, and tools I didn’t know.”
“I grew up here,” added Chuck. “I’m still on Shunpike and I’m still part of the farm that my great grandfather got. So, my great grandfather got a piece, his brother got a piece, somebody got a piece on New England Road, and I’m still on the original property. My grandfather was a butcher, so he raised beef and pigs, and the family on Shunpike sold a lot of fruits and vegetables too. They both had huckster wagons pulled by horses and made money driving through Cape May selling their produce. I’m the fifth generation Cape May living on the same piece of dirt.”
Agriculture is still a way of life in West Cape May and each year there’s a summer farmers’ market, and strawberry, tomato, and lima bean festivals. And the borough has been known as the Lima Bean Capital of the World.
“After the war (WWII), a German family came and farmed gladiolas. We would go over there, but I couldn’t understand them – but the smells coming from that kitchen were wonderful. And I remember the kitchen was off level,” said Doug with a laugh. “It looks like it’s been restored quite nicely.”
The property is well-shaded in spots, with a big open space for ball games and a large, pick-your-own garden with ripe raspberries and other veggies. The spacious private yard has a working fountain, outdoor shower, hammock, firepit, picnic table, and a gas grill. And there’s that 4,000 square foot dairy barn with cedar doors. It’s where the bikes are.
I stood eating fresh raspberries staring at the big barn and enjoying the relaxing environment as Jeff, Kris and I chatted in the yard.
“We purchased it from Lester Daisy, who had bought the property about 10 years earlier. Lester was an antiques dealer and had a place on Route 9. We went to a barn sale at the house, and we got to talking. We just kept in touch. I don’t know, he wanted to sell it to us and stay in it while he looked for a house. And we wanted to buy it. So that’s what we did – we bought it and he stayed there but he only stayed for four months. He and his partner Chuck said their vows – tied the knot – on the front porch before they left.”
Kris told me her research found several previous owners, including Ann Kozak, who owned the home before Lester Daisy. Before Ann was Tony Barbieri, who was a West Cape May fireman, and prior to Ann the owner was Floyd Brown.
“The barn is a rebuild,” said Jeff “We were told it was built with the house, then later burned to the ground and was rebuilt around 1900.”
Jeff’s research leads him to believe the original part of the house consisted of one room with a fireplace.
“This center portion of the house we believe was built in 1845,” said Jeff. Today high-speed internet runs through the property, with cable TV in the living room. There are ceiling fans on the porch, in the kitchen, and in all bedrooms as well as central air, washer, dryer, and a fully equipped kitchen. There’s a queen bed in the front and back bedrooms, and a small third bedroom with a queen bed and full bathroom and tub.
The house is decorated in relaxed white and cream tones with light green highlights on the outside and colorful accents inside. The house features pleasant natural light with a mixture of vintage and modern furnishings. It is available year-round and includes six beach cruisers and a Steger Beach Box to store all your paraphernalia at the beach. But be sure to spend some time on the porch if you stay.
“The porch may be why we bought the place, we really love it,” added Kris. ν