Cooked to Perfection

by Anne Motto, Curator of Collections
February 21, 2023

“Perfect” Stoves in 1914 catalog. A 111E is advertised for $88.50 (~$2,650 today)

In 1896, to much fanfare, a large Brooklyn manufacturer of stoves and furnaces, Richardson & Boynton, moved its plant to Dover, NJ. The company, first founded in 1837, built a new state-of-the-art facility along the town’s Delaware, Lackawanna & Western Railroad and became one of the area’s largest employers. Over the next 45 years, the Richardson & Boynton company faced a rocky road, but nonetheless produced a series of “Perfect” stoves and heaters used in homes across the country, including Acorn Hall.

Oven and fire box on Acorn Hall’s Perfect 111E

The c.1909 Perfect 111E stove still tucked into a brick alcove of Acorn Hall’s basement (where the kitchen once resided), is a typical model from the series. With skill, the coal-burning cast iron stove could be used to prepare a whole array of dishes from roasts to delicate desserts. Advertised as matching those to be found in “all first class hotels and restaurants,” the stove provided a variety of mechanisms that allowed the intensity of heat reaching the eight burners and two ovens to be masterfully controlled. A central fire box, emblazoned with the model number, had an adjustable grate below it to release the ashes into an ash box, and a warming oven (or “hot closet”) underneath the ovens allowed food to be kept warm until it was served.

Not long after Acorn Hall’s stove was produced, Richardson & Boynton hit one of its biggest bumps in the road. In June 1914, nearly the entire facility, which employed 1,100 people, was lost in a large fire; only the shipping department was spared. The company rebuilt, but struggled over the coming years, and the plant was sold in 1941. However, the Hall’s stove and ones like it can still be found in historic homes, remaining a “perfect” example of Morris County’s rich industrial heritage.

Plate 14, Dover, Sanborn Fire Insurance Atlas, 1916. The sprawling works began with five main buildings. Building 1: foundry, Building 2: sandblasting castings clean and storing iron patterns, Building 3: nickel plating, polishing, blacksmith and machine shops as well as the mounting department where stoves were assembled, Building 4: store room and shipping department, Building 5: boiler and engine rooms.

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