May 15, 2024

Meeting on Jugtown Historic Property Goes Into Second Session

By Anne Levin

Testimony was set to continue at Witherspoon Hall Tuesday evening on an application for a 15-unit addition to the Joseph Hornor House, an 18th century property at the corner of Nassau and Harrison streets that was recently listed by Preservation New Jersey as one of the 10 most endangered historic places in New Jersey.

Some 40 people, many of whom live in the Jugtown Historic District where the house is located, attended Monday’s 5 p.m. special meeting of the Historic Preservation Commission (HPC) to express their views on the proposed project. Because Princeton Council was to meet in the room at 7 p.m., the HPC ran out of time before any of them had an opportunity to speak. With this in mind, the commission scheduled a second meeting for 5 p.m. Tuesday, after press time, without a time limit.

Developer and property owner Daniel Barsky wants to add the 15 units, three of which would be designated affordable, to the rear of the building. Fifteen parking spots are also included in the proposal. The earliest part of the house, which dates from the 1760s, would be retained.

The HPC is to either approve or reject the proposal, passing their recommendation on to the Planning Board, which is scheduled to consider the project at a meeting on May 23.

Those opposed to the proposed plan have said the four-story addition would overwhelm the original building, make traffic more dangerous for vehicles and pedestrians, and set a precedent for future additions at the historic crossroads. They want the HPC to follow standards in the Historic Preservation Ordinance by making the proposed building smaller and more compatible with the historic district.

Monday’s meeting began with an overview of the project by Elizabeth Kim, Princeton’s preservation officer. “The applicant really did everything right, until the end,” she said of revisions that would step back the building from the Harrison Street right of way, cut 4.5 feet off the fourth floor, relocate the sidewalk to make it safer for pedestrians, and alter the architectural style. “While these efforts deserve to be recognized,” she continued, “they are not enough.”

“There is more that really is needed to provide meaningful protection for the historic building and the streetscape,” Kim said. “The addition continues to tower and dwarf the historic building as a result of its height. Its mass and siting on the property, appropriateness and compatibility regarding the roof lines, style, and size of windows, and of material and other color schemes, are also a concern.”

HPC member Elric Endersby followed with a detailed presentation on the history of the Hornor House, comparing aspects of the building to Bainbridge House and other historic buildings in Princeton and Lawrenceville. “I thought it was important to have a better idea of the interior as well as the exterior,” he said.

Attorney Bruce Afran is representing the neighborhood group that is opposed to the proposal. Those expected to speak at the Tuesday hearing include resident and architect Cathy Knight, author and historian Clifford Zink, also of Jugtown; and fellow resident David Kinsey, a professional planner.

Update May 16: After hearing testimony from experts and neighbors at the second meeting of the HPC on Tuesday night, members voted unanimously to deny Barsky’s RB Homes permission to begin demolishing part of the 1985 addition to the Hornor House. HPC also voted to endorse the recommendation of Princeton Historic Preservation Officer Elizabeth Kim that the proposed project be rejected.

These recommendations have been referred to the Planning Board, which will hear the application on Thursday, May 23. That meeting is available via Zoom. The link can be found on