Open Doors and Open Arms Await Cadwalader Heights House Tour Guests
HISTORIC RESTORATION: This home on Whittier Avenue in Trenton has its own Instagram account to show its renovations in progress. The 1923 brick Colonial Revival is one of 11 homes on the Cadwalader Heights Historic House and Garden Tour on September 23 from 12 to 5 p.m.
By Wendy Greenberg
Just northwest of Trenton’s downtown sits a neighborhood laid out by the eminent designer of Central Park in New York, the Biltmore Estate grounds in Asheville, S.C. , and the National Mall in Washington, D.C.: Frederick Law Olmsted.
For years, landscape and history enthusiasts have enjoyed a tour of Cadwalader Heights — the only neighborhood in New Jersey designed by the celebrated landscape architect — but the biennial tradition was disrupted by the pandemic.
Now, with the tagline “Welcome Back to the Neighborhood,” the first Cadwalader Heights Historic House and Garden Tour since 2019 is planned for Saturday, September 23 from 12 to 5 p.m. Proceeds will support HomeWorks Trenton, a nonprofit which operates a free afterschool residential program for marginalized high school girls. The program supplements public school with a goal of developing community leaders.
“It’s an opportunity to say, ‘welcome back,’” said Erika Knudson, tour co-chair with her neighbor, Tracy Patterson. “This is something we love doing, showing the incredible vibrance of the neighborhood.”
Indeed, those who are opening their homes this year extol the neighborhood’s fine architectural details and its “open arms and open doors during the tour,” said Knudson.
Of the 75 homes, a sampling of 11 are on this year’s tour. One such home is a Parkside Avenue Colonial Revival home built in 1916 for Marc and Helen Purlee Solon, a Trenton businesswoman, volunteer, and civic leader. The house, renovated in 2020, features a 15-foot by 4-foot mural of Cadwalader Park, designed by the owner, showing the park in an imagined heyday.
A neighboring home was designed in 1916 by premier Trenton architect William A. Klemann for Trenton dentist Dr. Frederick Collier and his wife Edith. It features a beamed ceiling in the living room, floor and ceiling moldings, stained doors with egg-shaped glass doorknobs, Palladian transom windows, the original red slate roof, and a carefully upgraded mid-century St. Charles New York kitchen.
A 1923 brick Colonial Revival home on Whittier Avenue has its own Instagram account
(@thewhittiercentennial), which chronicles it restoration, and is shown as a work in progress. Its owners have retained the Trenton-made tile on the downstairs fireplace and in the foyer, and other details throughout the house.
Knudson’s and Patterson’s homes are also on the tour. Patterson’s Tudor Revival home on Belmont Circle, built in 1911, was once home to Mary Roebling, the first woman in charge of a major U.S. bank.
The house Knudson shares with her husband on Bellevue Avenue — with a grape arbor approach — has what she describes as an “eclectic and colorful interior,”including a “closet that turns a library into a speakeasy,” school auditorium seating from Brown County, Ind., and a dog portrait gallery.
“We were looking for a house that had a big yard for our dogs, with room inside to express creativity,” says Knudson. “What we found was a neighborhood full of friends in a city we love.”
Cadwalader Heights has been home to the titans of Trenton’s industries, government, and educational and fraternal organizations. One of the area’s first residents was Philadelphia physician Thomas Cadwalader, who was elected as the city’s first mayor in 1746. His son, Lambert Cadwalader, served as a delegate to the Continental Congress (1784-87) and two terms in the House of Representatives (1789-91; 1793-95) when the nation’s capital was in Philadelphia.
It was his grandsons who engaged Edmund Hill to develop the property, and it was Hill who championed a park and teamed up with Olmsted.
More about the neighborhood history is found in a book available for purchase at the tour, Cadwalader Heights, The History of an Olmsted Neighborhood, by Glenn R. Modica, for $20.
Book@dathil.com for details.
The tour is an opportunity to see this history up close. “If you haven’t been on the house tour, you will be surprised and delighted to find the Olmsted firm’s work in Trenton, and see the architectural diversity, and diversity of residents and professions,” said Knudson. “There is real community spirit.”
Also included on the tour is the Trenton City Museum at Ellarslie, an Italianate villa that was built in 1848 and was acquired by the city of Trenton. The museum features the exhibit “Ellarslie Open 40” with 150 pieces of art by 109 artists.
Tour tickets are $20 per person in advance on the Cadwalader Heights Neighborhood Association website at cadwaladerheights.com, or can be purchased on the day of the tour for $25 a person at the registration center at Ellarslie, located in the heart of Cadwalader Park. The GPS coordinates are 299 Parkside Avenue, Trenton.