Back on Dec. 18, Joseph Bonaparte’s Point Breeze estate was sold by Divine Word Missionaries for $4.6 million as part of a three-way deal with the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection, the City of Bordentown and D&R Greenway Land Trust.
Bonaparte was the older brother of the famous French war general and emperor Napoleon and the former King of Spain.
The historic 55-acre property built in 1816 that runs along Crosswicks Creek and the Delaware River will now become a state park.
Bordentown City Mayor James E. Lynch called Point Breeze becoming a state park a “once in a lifetime opportunity” for the city and a “win-win” for all parties involved.
The city purchased approximately 5.44 acres of the property for just under $1.66 million in their portion of the deal. It includes a couple of mid-20th Century buildings that Divine Word had created over its time on the property.
Lynch said the city plans on moving their City Hall and police headquarters to the buildings. One of the buildings currently has a well-maintained gymnasium that holds two basketball courts that Lynch said the city will look to make into a community center for residents.
“It means everything for our city,” Lynch stated. “It’s an incredible piece of property. Tons of open space for walking trails. A lot of office space. Handicap accessibility. Everything is lined up very well for the future.”
Divine Word, the largest Roman Catholic order, has owned the estate since 1941.
D&R Greenway Land Trust purchased one acre of land and the 1820 Gardener’s House, the only original structure from Bonaparte’s estate, for $275,000 in the transaction.
The rest of the more than 52 acres of land will be used as a new state park facility in New Jersey.
Before the sale went through, Lynch said the three priests who lived on the estate were “strong cheerleaders” for the city, helping purchase some of the estate.
“They wanted to leave this property the way they found it,” Lynch said one of the priests told him.
D&R Greenway Land Trust, a non-profit preservation and care organization based in Princeton, will do some renovations to the Gardener’s House and make it a living museum.
The non-profit organization has had prior experience working with the City of Bordentown, helping create Lime Kiln Alley Park in 2004.
President/CEO Linda Mead said it was only natural to be a part of the deal for the historical preservation of Point Breeze and looks forward to working with the Bordentown community again.
She added that the organization plans to work with members of the Bordentown Historical Society on helping recreate the vegetable gardens surrounding the property of the Gardener’s House back when Bonaparte was alive.
“We want this to be the gateway to the community,” Mead said. “It’s a perfect way to learn more about the history of Bordentown and the Bonaparte estate.”
Mead said she has spoken to the historical society in regards to the museum as well as asking members to be docents for future tours of the Gardener’s House.
Bonnie Goldman, co-president of the Bordentown Historical Society, said members of the historical society are excited about being involved in the restoration of Point Breeze with the D&R Greenway Land Trust.
“We will have a supportive role in helping with the museum, creating trails and the Gardener’s House,” Goldman said. “It’s wonderful that we will have a state park in Bordentown for our residents.”
Peter Tucci, an attorney at Fox Rothschild LLP and a Board of Trustees member for both D&R Greenway Land Trust and the Bordentown Historical Society, is an admirer of Bonaparte.
The New Hope, Pennsylvania, resident has collected “all kinds of things” that belonged to Bonaparte, including letters and furniture.
Tucci believes the state park and having a museum in the Gardener’s House will provide great amenities to local residents and make the site a national place for those around the country to visit.
“It’s going to be wonderful to replicate the nature trails, the gardens and all amenities on the estate,” Tucci said. “There will be Bonaparte artifacts on display in the Gardner’s House and facts about the estate on the trails. It’ll be nice for people locally in Bordentown and around the nation to come see because it’s so universally historical.”
Lynch sees future events being held by the city regularly at Point Breeze.
“What a great attraction to have for the city,” Lynch said. “You’re going to see a lot of events happening there. We’re very excited about it.”