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Joseph Horner House in Princeton is named one of the 10 most endangered historic places in New Jersey

The Joseph Horner House, an iconic entrance to Princeton. File photo.

Preservation New Jersey has announced its annual list of the 10 Most Endangered Historic Places in New Jersey. The list spotlights irreplaceable historic, architectural, cultural, and archeological resources in New Jersey that are in imminent danger of being lost. The Joseph Hornor House at 344 Nassau Street is on the list for 2024.

Horner House was built in the 1760s by the grandson of one of Princeton’s Quaker founders. The two-story, brick, side-hall house originally had a one-story kitchen wing. In the early 20th century, a second story was added on top of the wing. The house is an anchor to the Local, State, and National Register Jugtown Historic District, and occupies the northeast corner of the historic crossroads of Nassau and Harrison Streets in the Jugtown section of Princeton. Nassau Street is also part of the Lincoln Highway National Register District. The corners of this historic crossroads retain two other Pre-Revolutionary buildings and an early-19th-century building.

A proposed housing development for the site includes adding a four-story structure to the rear that would amass and surround the historic structure. Historic preservation experts say they are seeing a growing trend of historic structures being demolished and major changes being made to integral features of structures and streetscapes. They say more attention is needed regarding the impact of historic districts through compliance with existing preservation standards and guidelines at the local, state, and federal levels to preserve historic sites.

“Preservation New Jersey supports and encourages the development to comply with preservation standards and guidelines, as it will set the precedent for other new developments in the Jugtown Historic District and in other historic Princeton neighborhoods,” the group said in a statement announcing that the Horner House was on the 2024 endangered list.

The Joseph Hornor House prominently occupies the northeast corner of the 18th
Century Jugtown village at the Nassau and Harrison Streets crossroads – the historic
and iconic northern entrance to Princeton. The Jugtown Historic District National
Register Nomination cites the District as a “visually cohesive entity” and the Joseph
Hornor House as “the single most important and pivotal building at the Jugtown
crossroads.”

The group Save Jugtown notes that Preservation New Jersey’s naming of the Joseph Hornor House highlights the conflict that arises from incentivizing massive development without considering its impact on the historic buildings and streetscapes of the local, state, and nationally-designated Jugtown Historic District.

According to the group Save Jugtown, in 2020 the Princeton Council adopted an affordable housing overlay zone without notice to neighbors or residents, to promote housing developments with 20% affordable units that loosened zoning regulations to allow four-story additions, in conflict with provisions of the Princeton Historic Preservation Ordinance that warrant appropriately scaled and visually-compatible new construction in historic districts.

Members of Save Jugtown say that under a development proposal for the Horner House, a four-story, 20,000-square-foot addition of 15 apartments 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 town’s historic preservation ordinance and National Park Service guidelines for the treatment of historic properties.

“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,” the group SAVE Jugtown said in a statement about the project.

For future incentivized inclusionary development in the Jugtown Historic District, Save
Jugtown has had informal discussions with Princeton Council members about creating 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 Princeton Historic Preservation Commission will review the development
application for the Hornor House on Monday, May 13 from 5 to 7 p.m. and Tuesday, May 14 at 5 p.m. in the municipal building at 400 Witherspoon Street. The Princeton Planning Board will review the application via Zoom on Thursday, May 23 at 7 p.m.