THE COOK/BURNET HOUSEAround 1750, Ellis Cook, who was among the pioneer settlers in Bottle Hill, owned and occupied a house situated on the N.E. corner of Park Avenue and Ridgedale Avenue, his land, over 110 acres, extended from about Cook Avenue south to where Glenwild Road is now, and west from Green Village Road to about the border of Drew University. He was a blacksmith by trade and his shop was across the street on the opposite corner from his home where Madison Academy was constructed in 1809, on property donated by James Burnet.
There was a fireplace with a beehive oven in the basement of the home; it was much larger than what a normal size home would require. What could have been the reason for such a large oven? Mrs. Mary Cook could have been the local baker, or she could have rented the oven out for others to use, which apparently was common in those days. Another theory is that the house was the original Bottle Hill Tavern; however there are no records that would confirm that possibility.
In 1756, Cook planned to accompany two of his sons, Epaffras and John, to Oswego, N.Y., where they were enlisting in the Jersey regiment under General Schuyler. Unfortunately, Cook was killed on the way. His sons eventually came home safely. Ellis Cook’s last will and testament was dated March 11, 1756. It was held in the office of the Secretary of State in Trenton, his sons were named as recipients. The property was given to his oldest sons Williams and Ellis with legacies to his other sons.
The Burnet family was also one of the pioneer families in Bottle Hill. David and James were the first to arrive purchasing twenty-four hundred acres from the Indians. Over the years the Burnets acquired both the house and the land. Both families always had a bit of a connection: they were both from Yorkshire, England and Matthias Burnet married Nancy Cook, granddaughter of Ellis Cook.
The Burnet family made many contributions to Madison. In 1748, David Burnet gave the property for the Old Meeting House and Hillside Cemetery. James Burnet donated the land for Madison Academy in 1808 on the northwest corner of Park Avenue and Ridgedale Avenue. One of the first post offices in Bottle Hill was in the home of Matthias Burnet, who was also one of the first postmasters. There was also Burnet’s Hardware Store, on Main Street in the center of town, from 1896 to 1985. And of course, Jim Burnet who today is a very important part of Madison’s government.
Over the years, the home underwent several renovations and enlargements. It was demolished in 1962. The barn and a shed/garage still occupy the corner of Cook Avenue and Ridgedale Avenue, as seen in the background of the picture on the left.
--Researched and written by Staff Asst. Helene Corlett