This article was originally published in the November 2017 Princeton Echo.
The Historical Society of Princeton presents its 16th annual house tour on Saturday, November 4, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., featuring five historic homes that showcase a range of time periods and architectural styles — as well as their own unique connections to Princeton history.
Homes on this year’s tour include:
75 Cleveland Lane
This Princeton landmark, the former estate of J. Seward Johnson Jr. and his first wife, Kristina Johnson, was designed by Ernest Flagg in the 1920s. Flagg also designed the Scribner Building in New York City and the Corcoran Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C. After Kristina Johnson’s death in 2013, the home was listed for sale by Johnson’s daughter, Kookie, for more than $2.5 million. The asking price a year later dropped to $2 million. Finally, in December, 2015, builder Jay Grant purchased the property for $1.6 million.
At the time, the selling point was not the historic home but the one-acre parcel of land that could be subdivided into two half-acre lots, necessitating the demolition of the existing structure. But Grant was ultimately convinced that the original house should be preserved, and after the more than a year of renovations the home is now on the market for $4,898,000.
The Chateau-style stone mansion and carriage house now feature high-end, custom details, including a Christopher Peacock kitchen and a built-in sound system with 26 speakers. Historic architectural features, like exposed stone walls and beams, carved banisters, and a cement tile floor, remain preserved.
Also known as “The Warehouse,” this building served as world-renowned architect Michael Graves’ personal home for more than 40 years. The building, constructed in 1927, originally served as storage for the Italian stonemasons working on the university campus.
After Graves’ death in 2015, the building was offered to Princeton University, but the school declined, saying that it could not meet Graves’ terms that the building be preserved and used for educational purposes. Instead, Kean University, which boasts the Michael Graves College of Architecture and Design, acquired the building in June, 2016.
40 Mercer Street
Prolific Princeton architect Charles Steadman built this house and its semi-detached neighbor in the 1830s, as part of the most intact surviving neighborhood for Princeton’s early middle-class settlers. Steadman designed more than 70 buildings in Princeton, of which about 40 are still standing. Renovations to this house include a curtained sun porch, breakfast room, and fully modernized kitchen that still preserves period details. The home is currently listed for sale at $1,400,000.
50 Patton Avenue
With a golden stone facade, broad porch, and views of the Michael Graves residence, this bungalow, built in the late 1910s, encloses a creative and efficient renovation by interior designer Katie Eastridge — whose own workspace, 342 Nassau Street at the corner of Harrison, was featured on last year’s tour.
Unique historic features, such as a Moravian tile fireplace, a claw-foot tub, and original hardwood floors coexist with contemporary additions, such as glazed cement tiles in the fully renovated kitchen. The playful interior design alludes to the owner’s love of books. (That owner is Margaret Griffin, former owner of Micawber Books in the Nassau Street space now occupied by the U-Store.)
73 Library Place
This Tudor Revival was designed in 1897-’98 by the Philadelphia-based architectural firm of Cope and Stewardson. Its original owner was Princeton University mathematics professor and Dean of Faculty H.B. Fine, after whom Fine Hall — the tall tower on Washington Road — is named. Cope and Stewardson also designed the university dormitory Blair Hall and Ivy Club, one of the undergraduate eating clubs on Prospect Avenue.
The current homeowners have preserved historic architectural features, including decorative plaster ceilings, hand-leaded windows, original wood paneling, carved wooden archways, and gargoyles. Previous owners installed chandeliers from New York City’s Paramount Theater after it closed in the mid-20th century.
Annual House Tour, Historical Society of Princeton. Saturday, November 4, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tickets, $50, are available by calling 609-921-6748, extension 105, or online at princetonhistory.org. On the day of the event, tickets may be purchased at the Updike Farmstead, 354 Quaker Road, or on the day of the tour by cash or check at any of the five homes.