A historic house in Cranbury finds a new home

Scott Jacobs

A historic home with a connection to history will have a new location in Cranbury.

The Cranbury Historical and Preservation Society (CHPS) plans to move an iconic landmark to a new site in order to preserve the home.

The CHPS acquired the historical home legally on Sept. 1, 2018, when Peter Camamis purchased the land from Mildred Scott. Wanting to build a new house on the newly acquiring property, Camamis transferred the deed of the historical home to the CHPS in order for them to preserve it on a new piece of land. Camamis is not permitted to have two houses on his property at the same time.

The house, which was originally built in 1713, is located at 87 Old Trenton Road. Its site gives a glimpse into the colonization of New Jersey and a direct line to what led to the American Revolution, according to CHPS officials. Set to be moved on Oct. 1, CHPS is moving the building across the street to Cranbury Millstone Park.

“I knew that when I first saw this house I knew it had to be at least mid-1700s, and after some exploration, it leaned to the early 1700s,” said Steve Golisano, trustee of the CHPS.

In September 2018, CHPS members found out there was a demolition permit for the historic house.

“We are trying to get the house off the land it currently is on by Oct. 1, because we do not want the building demolished or taken apart. We believe this will be a great museum,” Golisano said. “We are still working on a couple approvals, but everything is being lined up for that date. It is all looking good so far.”

Two months after finding out the home was to be demolished, the CHPS members voted to move the home after doing more research, according to Vice President of the CHPS Audrey Smith.

The about 500 sq. ft. building, through research, is considered to be either the 34th or 35th oldest building in New Jersey, according to Golisano. The original deed to the land where the house was eventually built, dates back to 1693, which is several years before Cranbury’s first recorded buildings in 1698.

“We are proud that the society felt that this house was important. We try to save properties and we were financially able to do this one,” Smith said. “We do hope to apply for grants for preservation and the first thing we will want to do is get this on the state National and Historic register. We will apply for grants from there.”

According to Cranbury Township officials, in 1664, King Charles II of England granted to his brother James, the Duke of York, land in North America stretching from New York to Delaware, which included what is now New Jersey. Officials said Cranbury was part of the colony of east New Jersey, and was controlled by a board of 24 proprietors, who sold the land in parcels.

“We have the original copy of the 1693 deed for the land where the house stands. The land had a Scottish proprietor, which is the holder of property,” Golisano said. “Thomas and Robert Fullerton were trusted friends of the proprietor. We have been doing research and believe that they were setting this up as part of a tenant-farmer system in the area. They would work the farm and have some sort of ownership over the place, but still had to pay all the taxes back to the crown.”

It has been a year process through research to get the house ready for the move and to learn it’s history. The efforts have been spearheaded by CHPS members Bob Dreyling, Karen Kelley, Bobbie Marlowe, Audrey Smith and Golisano.

Cranbury Township voted unanimously at at Sept. 9 township committee meeting to enter into a ground lease and license agreement with CHPS pertaining to the historic house’s new location.

“The vote really was about leasing a portion of the land in the park to operate the building. The society is paying for the house, the move and everything so it is not a burden on the town,” Golisano said.

Committeeman Matt Scott, who voted yes on the agreement, said this was an easy vote for him.

“This is a historic town and whatever we can do to preserve the historic buildings in town I am absolutely for. This is important to the legacy of the town and the fact that CHPS is preserving it is great for others to see,” he said. “I really appreciate what they do and this adds to what the organization is already doing with historic homes in town, such as featuring them with their annual Historic House Tour this month.”

Once the house is moved and stabilized there is a tentative 2-year schedule to renovate the building before it can be opened to the public. Smith said for the restoration some of the work the society feels can be done by volunteers.

“We look forward to working with people in town looking to donate or help and other historical societies over the next couple years,” Golisano said. “We will be looking for outreach and help as we continue to move forward to this renovation.”

For more information about the historic house and how to help, visit www.cranburyhistory.org.