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Fate of historic William Gulick House in Lawrence Township remains undecided

William Gulick, who was a wealthy farmer, built a house in the Italianate style in 1855. It was later remodeled in the Colonial Revival style in the 1920s. It is included on Lawrence Township's list of historic properties, and was suggested for possible inclusion on the New Jersey and National Registers of Historic Places in 2013.

The historic William Gulick House is not in immediate danger of being demolished, despite the presence of construction equipment in front of the three-story house on the corner of Lawrenceville Road/Route 206 and Province Line Road.

Property owner Care One Management Inc. has dropped its appeal of Lawrence Township’s denial of a request for a demolition permit, according to a letter to the township from attorney Guliet Hirsch. She represents Care One Management Inc.

“On behalf of Care One Management Inc., we hereby withdraw the referenced pending appeal of the denial of the demolition permit, said withdrawal being without prejudice,” Hirsch wrote in the Dec. 21, 2021 letter. “Without prejudice” means the issue may be brought back.

Care One Management Inc. operates assisted living facilities and nursing homes, and has been seeking to build an assisted living facility on the property since 1997.

William Gulick, who was a wealthy farmer, built the house in the Italianate style in 1855. It was later remodeled in the Colonial Revival style in the 1920s. It is included on Lawrence Township’s list of historic properties, and was suggested for possible inclusion on the New Jersey and National Registers of Historic Places in 2013.

This is not the first time that the William Gulick House has faced potential demolition. Care One Management Inc. attempted to demolish it surreptitiously in 2002, without obtaining a demolition permit. Township officials obtained a temporary restraining order in Mercer County Superior Court to prevent its demolition.

In 2013, the company applied for a demolition permit and was advised to seek permission from the Lawrence Township Historic Preservation Committee. The application was denied in 2015, and then-Construction Official Anthony Cermele refused to issue a demolition permit.

Care One Management Inc. appealed Cermele’s decision to the Lawrence Township Zoning Board of Adjustment in 2016, but formal action was never taken – and that’s what led to the December 2021 letter to Lawrence Township officials.

Now, Care One Management Inc. has hired a contractor to perform soil testing on the site. The construction equipment, which was present on the site for a few days earlier in May, was needed for that purpose.

“Soil testing is usually a preliminary action taken by a developer to determine the buildable locations on a lot. To date, Care One has not indicated a timeline for submitting a redevelopment plan for the site,” Municipal Manager Kevin Nerwinski said.

If such a redevelopment plan is submitted, it would be the fourth one proposed by Care One Management Inc. since 1997. The company has fought a long-running battle to build an assisted living facility on the property.

The saga of the William Gulick House began in 1995, when it was purchased by the Lawrenceville Realty Co. The plan was to subdivide it into three lots, but it was scrapped in favor of a proposal to develop the site for an assisted living facility.

In 1997, a developer applied for a use variance for an assisted living facility that would have incorporated the William Gulick House into the facility. A use variance was needed because assisted living facilities are not permitted uses in the Environmental Protection-1 zone.

The Zoning Board of Adjustment denied the use variance application, and the company filed a federal lawsuit in U.S. District Court that was ultimately denied. The board approved a revised plan for an assisted living facility in 1999, but the plan did not go forward.

A third use variance application was filed in 2005 by Care One Management Inc. that called for tearing down the house and building a 150-bed assisted living facility. A public hearing was never held on the application.

The Zoning Board of Adjustment quietly voted to deny the application in 2011, after township officials asked for the denial because of  the inactivity by the applicant. The William Gulick House has continued to languish.

Over the years, would-be preservationists have stepped forward with plans to save the house, but none of the proposals have come to fruition.

In 2005, the William Gulick House was highlighted by the National Trust for Historic Preservation on its online magazine’s website. Preservation New Jersey placed the house on its list of the 10 most endangered properties in 2007.

The William Gulick House was built by the wealthy farmer in the Italianate style, which was considered very fashionable in the mid-19th century. The basic form of the house, with its broad gable or peak in the middle of the roofline, is one of the hallmarks of that style.

The round-arched windows above the front door – on the second and third floors – combined with the decorative brackets under the roof, also are key features of the Italianate style.

“(It) is generally viewed as Lawrence Township’s best high-style example of Italianate architecture,” according to “A Guide to Lawrenceville’s Historic Landmarks” booklet that was published by Lawrence Township.

The house also features a variety of Colonial Revival alterations, such as the doorway with its semi-circular fanlight, according to the booklet.

The Colonial Revival architectural style was popular in the 1920s, and it was not unusual for houses to be updated to reflect the then-current style.

The first-floor ceilings inside the William Gulick House are 12 feet tall. The second-floor ceilings are 10 feet tall and the ceilings on the third floor are 9 feet tall. The ceiling height in a typical house is 8 feet.

The walls are plaster and the flooring is hardwood. There are numerous fireplaces, but the original mantels have been removed from many of them. The house was damaged by fire in 2011.

It is not known when the house left Gulick family ownership – William Gulick died in 1890 – but the property has changed hands many times over the years.

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