May 8, 2024

Encouraging Residents to Help Save Endangered Joseph Hornor House

To the Editor:

At the historic crossroads of Nassau and Harrison streets in the Jugtown Historic District, a developer has proposed a massive 16,000-square-foot, four-story apartment addition to the 18th-century Joseph Hornor House. The suggested complex would overwhelm and dominate this historic building as well as the skyline on this side of town. If approved, it would set the precedent for other similar buildings to be constructed in the area.

It clearly does not follow Princeton’s Historic Preservation Ordinance 2014-44, which states that a development application “shall be approved only if the proposed action … (a) Is appropriate to and compatible with the existing structures and landscape of the historic preservation district; and (b) Would not adversely affect the ambiance, character, and appearance of the historic preservation district and the relationships among structures and between structures and public ways in the district.”

It similarly does not comply with widely-accepted state and national standards and guidelines for the treatment of historic districts and properties.

In fact, just this week, Preservation NJ, the statewide nonprofit historic preservation organization, has named the ca. 1760 Joseph Hornor House as one of New Jersey’s 10 Most Endangered Historic Places in 2024, a list which “spotlights irreplaceable historic, architectural, cultural, and archeological resources in New Jersey that are in imminent danger of being lost.”

So, what can be done?

The developer proposes a total of 15 apartments, including three affordable housing units. But importantly, a more appropriate three-story building which conforms to our Historic Preservation Ordinance and lives in harmony with the surrounding neighborhood, could provide the same total number of apartments and the exact same three affordable units. So, it becomes more a question of money and overreach versus doing what’s right.

The unique sense of place bestowed to us by our historic districts is something that is easily lost if we are not careful — and once lost, can never be replaced. So, I hope our Historic Preservation Commission (HPC) and Planning Board do what’s right and reject this proposal in favor of a better solution which respects the irreplaceable history and character of our town.

For everyone who cares about historic preservation in Princeton and drawing the line at new development which goes too far, please show up and speak up at the HPC meeting on Monday, May 13 and Tuesday, May 14, both at 5 p.m. at the municipal building at 400 Witherspoon Street, and then at the Planning Board meeting on Thursday, May 23, at 7 p.m. online via Zoom. Formal action is expected to be taken at these meetings.

Harrison Street