May 8, 2024

Property in Jugtown Makes Preservation NJ List of Endangered Sites

By Anne Levin

With Princeton’s Historic Preservation Commission set to review a development application for the Joseph Hornor House at 344 Nassau Street next week, the recently announced inclusion of the property on Preservation New Jersey’s “10 Most Endangered Historic Places” list comes at an opportune moment for those opposed to the housing development proposed for the site.

“We are delighted that Preservation New Jersey has recognized the Joseph Hornor House at 344 Nassau Street to be an irreplaceable historic resource in New Jersey, and is in imminent danger of being lost,” said Catherine Knight, who lives in the Jugtown neighborhood where the property is located, and is active in efforts to prevent the development from being approved. “To allow a massive addition behind and partially on top of the single most important and pivotal building at the Jugtown crossroads will endanger the survival of the Jugtown Historic District.”

Selections for Preservation New Jersey’s annual listing of endangered properties are based on historic significance and architectural integrity, as well as “the critical nature of the threat identified, and the likelihood that inclusion on the list will have a positive impact on efforts to protect the resource,” according to a statement from the organization.

The Hornor House sits at the crossroads of Nassau and Harrison streets, which neighbors opposed to the development idea say is a gateway into town and a dangerously busy intersection. Princeton Council adopted an affordable housing overlay zone in 2020, addressing a mandate for the town to promote housing with 20 percent affordable units.

In the first development proposal in Jugtown under the overlay zone, a proposed four-story, 20,000-square-foot addition of 15 apartments, including three affordable units, “would destroy part of the two-story Joseph Hornor House and build partially on top of it, overwhelming it physically and visually in conflict with the Historic Preservation Ordinance and National Park Service Guildelines for the Treatment of Historic Properties,” reads a statement from Save Historic Jugtown. “The addition as proposed would also overwhelm the historic Jugtown crossroads and set a negative precedent for future development in the Jugtown Historic District and in other historic districts in Princeton and elsewhere.”

Joseph Hornor was the grandson of John Hornor, a Quaker who purchased land on both sides of what would become Nassau Street in the late 17th century. The younger Hornor built the house at 344 Nassau Street in the 1760s, “probably with bricks made from the nearby clay pit and brick yard,” according to a book on the Jugtown Historic District by Clifford Zink. The house served as a stop on the Underground Railroad. “Although expanded over time, the design of the additions to the Hornor House have respected its pre-Revolutionary origin, and illustrate the natural growth of a building over three centuries,” the book reads.

According to the statement from Save Historic Jugtown, the group has had informal discussions with Princeton Council members regarding future incentivized inclusionary development in the district. Specifically, they have talked about “an amended, targeted overlay zone that explicitly recognizes the Jugtown Historic District, and protects its historic character and scale by complying with the Historic Preservation Ordinance and The Secretary of the Interior’s Standards for the Treatment of Historic Properties. The new overlay zone would be adopted in 2025 as part of Princeton’s compliance planning for the upcoming Fourth Round (2025-2035) of fair share housing to ensure an appropriate balance between Princeton’s affordable housing and historic preservation goals.”

Additional properties on the Preservation New Jersey Endangered list are St. Paul’s Abbey in Newton, Palace Amusements Artifacts in Asbury Park, Anderson Farm and House in Bayville, Garden State Park Gate House in Cherry Hill, Orange Memorial Hospital in Orange, Homestead Plantation Enslaved Quarters in Clark, and MLK House in Camden. Also included this year are the themes “Urban Historic Districts” and “State Owned and Managed Historic Properties.”

The Historic Preservation Commission’s review of the proposal, which was rescheduled from an earlier date, will take place on Monday, May 13 from 5-7 p.m.; and on Tuesday, May 14 from 5 p.m. in the main meeting room of Witherspoon Hall. Planning Board reviews are to follow on Thursday, May 23 at 7 p.m., via Zoom.