What will $5 million buy you? Right now in Princeton it could buy the Pyne Mansion — the home at 211 Winant Road currently being marketed by Jud Henderson of Callaway Henderson for $4.95 million. And while the seven-digit price tag gets you a five-bedroom, nine-bathroom, 12,000-square-foot home on 1.1 acres, it also comes with a history that is a veritable who’s who of famous Princetonians and noteworthy architects.
Let’s start at the beginning. The home was built in 1897 for Albertina Taylor Pyne, the widow of National City Bank president Percy Rivington Pyne. If the last name sounds familiar, it should: her son, Moses Taylor Pyne, was one of the great benefactors of both Princeton, the town, and Princeton University. His estate, Drumthwacket, is now the governor’s mansion, and in addition to multiple campus buildings he also lent his name to Lower Pyne, the distinctive building at 92 Nassau Street that now houses Hamilton Jewelers. Pyne also contributed to the establishment of many of the university’s undergraduate eating clubs.
Two of those clubs, Cap & Gown and Campus, were constructed by Raleigh Gilderseeve, who was also enlisted to construct the Pyne Mansion. Albertina Pyne came to Princeton to be closer to her children, Moses and daughter Albertina. With her husband, Archibald Douglas Russell, the younger Albertina created a nearby estate called Edgerstoune that is now the Hun School of Princeton and a subdivision of 56 homes known as the Russell Estates. That home cost more than $1.5 million to build — almost $45 million in today’s dollars.
Likewise, little expense was spared in the construction of the Pyne Mansion. The floors and walls are 18 inches thick, and the roof was finished with Ludowici tiles, the same company that produced tiles for the Plaza Hotel and New York Life buildings.
But Albertina Taylor Pyne was not destined to enjoy her mansion for long. She died suddenly in 1900, at age 67, and the house was used by various descendants, a French artist named Andre Girard, and assorted members of the Saudi royal family. Ultimately it fell into disrepair and was abandoned.
In 1985 the mansion was sold for $100,000 to Sally Roberts, who promised to renovate it. But renovations stalled, and the house was condemned in the mid-1990s. It was rezoned as a multiple-dwelling unit in hopes that it would be easier to sell, but that turned out to be unnecessary: current owners John and Carrie Pallat were looking for a unique home, and they found everything they wanted in the Pyne Mansion.
The Pallats hired architect David Abelow of New York City-based Abelow Sherman Architects — his other clients include U2 frontman Bono —who combined old-world materials like Venetian plaster walls and new touches like recycled aircraft tire floors to create a unique blend of wood, metal, glass, and stone.
Restoration specialist Chuck DiSantos of New York City-based Walter D. Melvin Architects spent 18 months redoing the roof, retaining the Ludowici tiles, and making the building structurally sound. The rear loggia, looking out to the back yard, has an iron canopy inspired by the Paris Metro that was designed and constructed by M. Cohen and Sons in Philadelphia and transported to Princeton in one piece. It is covered with glass formerly used in the greenhouse at the Brooklyn Museum.
The blend of past and present also includes some decidedly modern touches: a 750-square-foot home theater with seating for 18 and a 14-foot-wide screen. The lower level also includes a catering kitchen and a 4,000-bottle wine cellar.
Pyne Mansion, 211 Winant Road, $4,950,000. Marketed by Judson Henderson. For more information: callawayhenderson.com or 609-921-1050.