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This article by Barbara Fox was prepared for the July 3, 2002 edition of U.S. 1 Newspaper. All rights reserved.
New Life for the Old Mill at Mapleton Road
Literally a stone’s throw from Route 1 is one of Princeton’s
most bucolic office enclaves, Millstone Park, formerly known as Aqueduct
Mills. Situated by the aqueduct that carries the Millstone River over
the Delaware and Raritan Canal, this little office community on Mapleton
Road has its roots in pre-Revolutionary times.
Then several mills tapped the power of the river to grind grain, saw
lumber, and process wool. Now companies in historic buildings leverage
their Princeton location to carry on commercial activities of the
21st century — Internet technology, land planning, lobbying, political
consulting, and labor law.
"Five buildings remain from the vanished community of Aqueduct
Mills," says Constance Greiff of Heritage Studies in Rocky Hill.
"They are the Benjamin Gray House, the general store, the house
at the corner, and two barns, one on either side of Mapleton Road.
The rest of the community was inundated by the building of Lake Carnegie."
GenuOne, an Internet security firm, occupies the offices — including
the general store — formerly owned by architect Jerry Ford of
Ford Farewell Mills & Gatsch. The general store had been moved from
elsewhere on the property to be the architects’ drafting room. The
Regional Planning Partnership (formerly MSM) is in the house on the
corner of Route 1 by the old stone wall. The front of this house is
considered to be the oldest of all the Aqueduct Mill buildings. A
small barn on this property is used for storage.
Across the street, the Benjamin Gray House has been renovated and
converted to office use. Its owners are partners in Capital Public
Affairs, a lobbying firm, and Jamestown Associates, a political consulting
firm. They occupy the top two floors and lease the first floor to
an employment law practice, Zuckerman & Fisher.
"It’s a great building," says John Clarke of Clarke Caton
Hintz, the Trenton-based firm that designed the renovations. "It
has a lovely setting, and the offices look out over the Millstone
River. So you have Route 1 access in a romantic setting. It has a
lot of inherent character, and office use is preserving the building."
The address is Princeton, but the municipality is Plainsboro. "We
could have torn it down and built a new structure, but we have an
historic feeling for the neighborhood, and we wanted to work with
the community," says Steven E. Some of Capital Public Affairs.
Michael Hanrahan of Clarke Caton Hintz was the project architect,
and Paul Goldman of Commercial Property Networks represented the partner/owners
for leasing the first floor and is now leasing the barn.
A 5,000 square feet addition at the rear doubled the size of the building.
The clapboard exterior has been restored and painted in the bright
color known in this area as "university yellow," and dark
green shutters will be added soon. Paneled double doors, painted green,
are flanked by elaborately milled white trim. A wide porch rims two
sides of the building, and a ramp has been installed on the third
side. Though the offices have electric heat, central air, indirect
lighting, and modern landscaping, other amenities carry the patina
of age. If the mandates for Class A can include the one-block walk
to the D&R canal, original wooden windows, and gas fireplaces, then
this is Class A space.
"The addition looks just like the original," says Robert Yuell
of the Plainsboro Historical Society. "They have done a tremendous
job of maintaining the integrity of the building. I give them very
large credit for that. Restoring and adding to a building is much
more expensive than tearing it down and building new."
Many of the wooden ornaments — brackets at the roofline and handsome
trim on the porch — were missing. "Through photos from the
historical society, we developed our plans to put those ornaments
back, and we had brackets made to match," says Michael Hanrahan,
the project architect. "We look at an existing structure for design
cues as touchstones for whatever work we plan on doing." A student
tour of the Roebling project, designed by Clarke Caton Hintz, determined
Hanrahan’s professional future. After graduation from the New Jersey
Institute of Technology in 1996 he worked on the Pemberton train station.
two minor league baseball stadiums, the Hunterdon County administration
building, and the interior restoration of the historic Hunterdon County
Names associated with this property are embedded in the township’s
history. Plainsboro Historical Society records show that Josiah Davidson
built the first mills in 1746 and that they were purchased three years
later, along with 100 acres, by Jacob Scudder, after whom Scudder’s
Mill Road is named. In addition to the grist mill and saw mill, carding
and fulling mills served the home-based weaving industry. The carding
mill straightened wool fibers so they could be spun more easily, and
the fulling mill beat woven cloth to raise the nap on the cloth.
When Scudder died in 1773, the mills were inherited by one of his
six children, 34-year-old William Scudder. He was a lieutenant colonel
in the New Jersey Militia and used his business to provide American
soldiers with feed and grain. But about the time that the British
troops met Washington’s army at the Battles of Trenton and Princeton,
the British burned the mill and Scudder’s home.
In the early 1800s this area became a transportation hub worthy of
the Regional Planning Network that has offices here now. The toll
road that is now Route 1 was chartered in 1804, and the 44-mile Delaware
and Raritan Canal was completed in 1834. The aqueduct that helped
the Millstone River traverse the D&R canal was considered an engineering
feat for its time, and the mills acquired a new name: Aqueduct Mills.
In 1839 the Camden and Amboy Railroad, built parallel to the canal
from Trenton to Kingston, could transport products from the mill.
By this time, historical society records show, the little hamlet had
grown to 15 houses, a blacksmith shop, a wheelwright shop, a general
store, a distillery, and a one-room schoolhouse.
In 1857 the mills were in such bad condition that owner Azariah P.
Hunt had to rebuild them, which was so expensive that he lost the
property. The next significant sale, in 1866, was to Alexander Gray.
Gray and his family lived in an 1850s Greek Revival and Italianate
style house that was torn down to make room for Ruby Tuesday’s. Its
components, rescued by a preservation-oriented architect, are stored
in a barn in Ringoes, ready for the next owner to reconstruct (U.S.
1, August 26, 1998).
Sometime between 1850 and 1873 Alexander Gray’s son
Benjamin built a three-story house next to his parents. (One historian,
Cynthia Hinson, believes that both houses were built at the same time).
It is the Benjamin Gray house that has been integrated with the adjacent
two-story rooming house into one office building.
In the 19th century, the two-story house was merely a rooming house
for mill workers. Both Gray houses shared a similar fate in the 20th
century. The Rockefeller Institute for Medical Research, which occupied
most of what is now the Forrestal Center, bought them as apartments
for researchers, and Princeton University offered the apartments to
its graduate students from 1948 through the 1980s. Allowed to deteriorate
through the 1990s, the Benjamin Gray House was structurally sound
but uninhabitable due to infrastructure problems.
Across the street, Ford Farewell Mills & Gatsch moved to the Carnegie
Center, and Jerry Ford sold his 3.5 acres with almost 8,000 square
feet of office space to Rob Lyszczarz, the owner of Re/Max of Princeton
on Alexander Road. The property was marketed as the Offices at Mapleton
Mills, and the deal closed this spring.
Earlier the three-partner buying team of Lawrence B. Weitzner, Adam
Kaufman, and Steven E. Some had looked at that side of Mapleton Road
for their two firms. "Of course the Route 1 corridor is the hottest
commercial market in the state, and we were looking for something
close to Route 1 if not on Route 1. Princeton is close to Trenton,
where we do our business, and the three of us live in the Princeton
area," says Some. "We searched for several months and originally
looked at the Ford Farewell property." But it was hard to imagine
putting two companies into that one building.
"My partner tapped me on the shoulder to ask `What about the building
across the street?’ Lo and behold," says Some, "Princeton
University put it on the market, and we immediately concluded it was
the property for us, for our own business and for an investment."
The new owners could take advantage of an incentive tax credit for
preserving an older structure. "Under this abandoned and forlorn
structure was a magnificent piece of property," says Kaufman,
who learned to value what is old from his antique collecting parents.
"Given the proximity to Princeton and the lake, this was an undervalued
"The roof was shot, and the infrastructure was not functional.
We had to take a 4,200 square foot vertically integrated residential
building and turn it into a 10,000 square foot horizontally integrated
office building. Now we see drivers on Mapleton Road slow down and
give it The Look," says Kaufman.
Still untouched is the 5,000 square-foot barn that awaits the appropriate
tenant. "We are very excited about the barn, which is going to
be preserved and renovated," says Some.
Capital Public Affairs has 4,000 feet on the second floor, and Jamestown
Associates has 2,000 feet on the third floor. The 4,000-foot first
floor was built out to the requirements of the law firm, Zuckerman
& Fisher. "We are happy they are with us," says Some, "and
that they were very patient." The construction took much longer
than expected and some details remain to be finished.
From "gleam in the eye" to move-in time took 18 months. "We
expected to be here a lot sooner, but when with a building more than
150 years old, you get a lot of unexpected surprises," says Some.
"Would we do it again? Yes. We believe in this. We knew it would
be an extraordinary project."
200, Benjamin Gray House at Millstone Park, Princeton 08540. Elizabeth
Ortiz, manager of administration. 609-514-2600; fax, 609-514-2660.
Founded in 1993, this full service government relations and affairs
company has more than 75 corporate, healthcare, and trade association
clients. It moved to Mapleton Road from Albany Street in New Brunswick.
A Republican and a Democrat share joint leadership but both say they
are bipartisan with regard to the way they do their work.
Some, the son of a clothing manufacturer, is a native of Jersey City
who graduated from George Washington University in 1976. He has held
positions in the Reagan administration, including special assistant
to the U.S. Secretary of Labor; he had worked for Ogilvy & Mather’s
Houston office for various oil companies and as media director for
the American Conservative Union in Washington, D.C. He chairs the
New Jersey Commission on Holocaust Education.
Kaufman is the son of an engineer and a commercial artist. A Rutgers
graduate (Class of 1979), he had been chief of staff to Joseph V.
Doria Jr., former Speaker of the New Jersey General Assembly, and
he had also worked for the New Jersey Dental Association. He has been
active in the New Jersey politics for many years.
The firm monitors issues ranging from utility deregulation to state
tax policy, and it also has some clients for website and database
development. Among its more than 75 clients are the Chauncey Group
(a for profit arm of Educational Testing Service), Berman Development,
Reed Elsevier, Schoor DePalma, University of Medicine and Dentistry
of New Jersey, United Services Automobile Association, Metropolitan
Life, New York Life Insurance, and VoiceStream Wireless. For now,
at least, WorldCom is one of their clients.
Benjamin Gray House at Millstone Park, Princeton 08540. Lawrence B.
Weitzner, owner. 609-514-0088; fax, 609-514-7339.
The political consultants moved from 3131 Princeton Pike in Lawrenceville
and have a new phone and fax.
Benjamin Gray House at Millstone Park, Princeton 08540. 609-514-0514;
fax, 609-514-0614. E-mail: email@example.com
George W. Fisher and Elizabeth Zuckerman have moved their law practice
from Lenox Drive in Princeton Pike Corporate Center to the Benjamin
Gray House at Millstone Park. Phone and fax are new. Jacqueline L.
Tillmann is the third attorney in this firm, which does employment,
discrimination, and civil litigation. "We have gorgeous offices,
with a fireplace, windows that open, and a beautiful view," says
Zuckerman, who lives just five minutes away.
This suite also has offices for Ryan Stark-Lilienthal (who focuses
on immigration law), Ruth Larson (who does civil litigation, especially
negligence defense), and Richard Shapiro (who focuses on education
fax, 609-919-3707. Www.genuone.com
Formerly Certus, this company was acquired by GenuOne in November,
2001. This location is a development lab, working on technologies
to secure against counterfeiting and intellectual property theft.
Road, Princeton 08540-9538. Dianne Brake, president. 609-452-1717;
fax, 609-452-2321. Home page: www.planningpartners.org
Formerly the MSM Regional Council, the non-profit planning and advocacy
group works in the Mercer, Somerset, and Middlesex region.
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