Just around the bend of a country road in Southampton, Burlington County, sits a house that seems meant to be just where it is.
Surrounded by fields, it's the sort of home that might be in a Norman Rockwell painting, with lots of brick, dormer windows, tasteful simplicity, and a touch of rural Americana.
Locust Hill Farm owners Linda and Ted Eckenhoff seem straight out of central casting themselves.
The couple are part of only the third family to own this 1812 farmhouse — and are used to the astonishment of visitors who cannot believe its pristine condition. While the house has spanned three centuries, it has benefited from TLC all along the way.
"It does take work," says Ted, whose late wife, Eleanor, was the daughter of the third family of owners. "My wife's father, Dr. Penrose Thompson, had passed away, and her mother, Ruth, really wanted to keep the home. So we bought it from her; that was where we settled." Ruth Thompson remained with them for the rest of her days.
Ted himself was the well-known owner of Philadelphia's Center City Cadillac Agency and later Eckenhoff Buick in Moorestown. "But I've always worked the farm, which grows corn and soybeans," he says proudly. "Automobile agencies are challenging, but farming is truly humbling because nature is really the boss."
When Linda Eckenhoff came to South Jersey from her native Durham, N.C., for a teaching job, she never dreamed she'd someday live on a farm.
She juggled teaching and the motherhood of two sons, but everything changed when her husband died. She and Ted, a widower, discovered that romance can bloom even after loss. They married in 1989.
Linda's educator roots continue as she serves as board president of the Lenape Regional High School District, comprised of Lenape, Shawnee, Cherokee, and Seneca high schools and Sequoia Alternative school.
The home that Ted and Linda have created together, which includes treasured pieces from each of their previous marriages, is wrapped in tradition, comfort, and beauty.
The farmhouse has innate grace from the formal foyer and handsome staircase, through the living room, library, country kitchen, and a sun room added a few years ago.
The couple created a symbolic bridge from past to present when they went to great lengths to incorporate an exterior brick wall in the new sunroom. The room, decorated in pastels, is filled with comfortable furniture and, like so many spaces in the farmhouse, offers beautiful vistas of the 283-acre property. One hundred of the acres are wooded.
Fidelity to tradition can be seen in the full sweep of preserved wooden floors, classic wallpapers, and treasures such as a clock that once resided in Ted's Cadillac agency. The original "master clock," which synchronized other clocks, was designed by the International Time Recording Co. (a company we now know as IBM).
The massive interior cherry wood doors in the living room, which often elicit comment, have their own story. They were once stolen while the home was temporarily unoccupied but were recovered quickly by the New Jersey State Police.
On the way to the massive staircase to the second floor is a "road sign," whimsically labeling "Eckenhoff Lane." It was presented to Ted by Virtua Voorhees Hospital as a gift for his longstanding — and ongoing — service on the board of what is now known as the Virtua Health System.
A formal dining room contains three china closets full of much-loved dishes and glassware. One special party held there comes at the end of harvest season, when local farmers gather at the Eckenhoff farm for some well-earned celebration.
Several upstairs bedrooms would fit easily into a bed and breakfast. The master bedroom, near the top of the stairs, has as its centerpiece a four-poster bed and a cozy fireplace — and a spectacular view.
A nearby guest room, one of the original bedrooms, boasts a handmade crocheted canopy, while another original bedroom has random-width pine flooring that dates to 1812.
The Eckenhoffs, whose blended family includes eight grandchildren, delight in entertaining the next generation at the farm, also home to 32-year-old rescue horse, Jessie. On a recent afternoon, they were sharing a perfect autumn day with their daughter-in-law, Laura Vaccaro-Sullivan, and her children, Sloane, 4, and Arrow, 17 months old.
"Yes, the kids do love this place," Ted says. "And we welcome them, of course."
"Sometimes I just look around," Linda says as she took in the living room case that holds her cherished collection of vintage Madame Alexander dolls, "and I think to myself that I'm a very, very lucky woman."