The Proprietary House
The Proprietary House was constructed between 1762 and 1764 by the British architect and builder John Edward Prior for the Board of Proprietors of East New Jersey with the intent of providing a two-story dwelling of suitable style and prestige to entice the royal governor of the provinces of East and West Jersey to settle in their capital city, Perth Amboy. One of the unique features of the original design was the use of white bricks at the first floor level in the east façade of the building (behind the porch in the view above), while the remainder was faced in red brick. The house was rented to various officials until 1773 when it became the residence of William Franklin, the last royal governor of New Jersey and the son of Benjamin Franklin. A loyalist, William Franklin was arrested from the house in June, 1776, and later imprisoned in Connecticut, never to return to the house. Occupied by squatters and vandalized as a symbol of the British government, the house lay in ruins by the end of the American Revolution. After the war, the house was sold to a private individual who reconstructed the structure as a residence. In 1809, the property was sold to a group who added a third floor and one of two projected wings and converted the building into a fashionable summer resort hotel. During the nineteenth century, the building alternated between public and private use, and served as a ministers’ retirement home during the 1890s when the above photograph was made. Used as a rooming house for most of the twentieth century, it was purchase by the State of New Jersey in 1967. Subsequent renovations during the 1970s and 80s removed the porch and cupola, renovated the exterior, and remodeled the interior to house rental offices and a museum devoted to the history of the house and its significance.
As a principal and project manager for John G. Waite Associates, Architects, PLLC, Robert A. Petito Jr. managed the preparation of a historic structure report for the Proprietary House Association. The report documented the history, existing conditions, and problems of repair, and presented recommendations for long-term care and restoration strategies. The report included a phased strategy for implementing future maintenance and restoration work that will incorporate work performed in the past, and that will integrate structural and life safety upgrades in a manner that has minimal impact on finished work.
In the early twentieth century the original site was subdivided, and Kearney Avenue was extended in front of the house. Following the work in the 1980s, the façade was stabilized and repainted white. The original house comprised the basement, first and second floors seen in this view looking northwest.
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