September 4, 2019

Cadwalader Heights House Tour Celebrates “112 Years Young”

CADWALADER CHARACTER: The home of Mercer County Freeholder Sam Frisby and his wife Teska, and family is one of 10 on the upcoming Cadwalader Heights House Tour.

By Anne Levin

For Sam and Teska Frisby, a drive down the leafy streets of Trenton’s Cadwalader Heights neighborhood was all it took.

It was 2003, and the couple had just built a home in suburban Westampton. But when Sam Frisby became Trenton’s director of recreation, they needed to make the move to the city. “When we saw the landscaping by Frederick Law Olmsted, with tree canopies that looked almost like they were hugging the street, we said, ‘This is it,’” said Sam Frisby, who has been a Mercer County freeholder since 2011. “It was just an incredible visual delight.”

The couple — Teska Frisby works with National Junior Tennis & Learning of Trenton — moved with their children into a six-bedroom, 1912 Arts and Crafts style Tudor on Belmont Circle, and have never looked back. The home is one of 10 in this architecturally diverse neighborhood that will be open to the public for the annual Cadwalader Heights House Tour on Saturday, September 14 from 12-5 p.m., rain or shine.

It was the people, as well as the visual beauty, that convinced the couple to move to Cadwalader Heights. “Right from the beginning, they were amazing,” said Teska Frisby. “So inviting, so friendly — the first night we were here, which was right before Christmas, we got two raps on the door, and it was neighbors bringing over cakes. Everybody welcomes you, and everybody looks out for each other. It’s been that way since we came here.”

Most of the homes in Cadwalader Heights were built in the early 20th century. Famed landscape architect Olmsted — best known for New York’s Central Park — laid out the neighborhood, the only residential community credited to him in New Jersey. Houses cover a wide range of styles and sizes, from cottages on the small side to an immense, 22-room mansion overlooking the park. In its manufacturing heyday, the area was home to local bigwigs. Early residents included the heads of several of the city’s potteries, as well as local builders, the principal of Trenton High School, and the candy maker William Allfather. Banker Mary Roebling lived in Cadwalader Heights for a few years. The neighborhood has also been home to former New Jersey Governor Richard J. Hughes and Judge Philip Forman.

The Frisbys’ home has 53 windows, which means lots of light. “On the first floor, we have a tray ceiling, which we’ve painted two different colors,” said Teska Frisby. “It has so much character. We have double doors, too. It’s a very inviting space. I love the colors, which are warm and jubilant. The objective for me is for each room to have a certain energy.”

According to the couple, the house had two previous owners before they moved in. “It feels like a home that has many stories to tell,” said Sam Frisby. “It started out with three fireplaces and now there are only two. People have told us one used to be in the kitchen. And if you look from the outside, you see it has a really huge chimney stack, with four different flues. One was for that old fireplace.”

The family have made some changes to the house, including the removal of a wall to make the first floor rooms flow more effectively into each other. One year when the house was on the tour, Sam Frisby heard an older woman wandering through ask, “Who took this wall down?”

“I said, ‘It was me.’ And she said, ‘I’m Mrs. Murphy. I’m the one who put it up. And it does flow so much better.’ She also wanted to know what happened to the bookshelf, which I had taken down with the wall. That turns out to have been a Nakashima original that was probably worth about $75,000, she said. Well, there went college tuition. We laugh about it all the time. What can you do?’”

The neighborhood is known for the diversity of its population. It is home to performing and visual artists, educators, architects, entrepreneurs, and business and science professionals. “This is a very diverse and inclusive community,” said Sam Frisby. “We have African American, Eastern European, gay, straight, people from wealthy and much less so backgrounds, married, unmarried — you name it.”

“There is a family feel here,” adds Teska Frisby. “We check on each other. It’s an old-school feeling. Everybody watches, everybody waves to each other. The crime rate in this neighborhood is low because of that. If you’re dealing with one of us, you’re dealing with all of us.”

A portion of the tour’s proceeds will benefit Kappa Botics, the Capital Area YMCA Youth Programming, and Trenton Circus Squad. Young representatives of each will be on hand to demonstrate their skills during the tour.

Tickets are $20 in advance, and $25 the day of the event at Ellarslie, the Trenton City Museum in neighboring Cadwalader Park. Visit for more information.