Rolf Bauhan still has disciples in Princeton. The Princeton graduate (Class of 1914) designed more than 70 houses in Princeton and restored or made additions to more than 150 other buildings in town before his death, in 1966. In a biography of the architect, Emily Croll writes that “his work appealed to a nostalgia for life in a bucolic Colonial village.”
His first independent project, in 1923 or 1924, was a residence for John Gale Hun, founder of the Hun School. He also built the campus of the original Hun School on Stockton Street. Bauhan’s houses, built in the Colonial Revival style, are distinguished, writes Croll, by the way that they appear to have been expanded over a period of time. Appearing modest from the curb, a walk to their backyards reveals wings and attached structures that appear to be additions.
Many of Bauhan’s homes were designed for Princeton professors and alumni. David Covin is far too young to have commissioned a Bauhan house, but the Princeton alumnus, Class of 1991, who works on Wall Street, did buy one, on the corner of Elm Road and Hodge Road.
Covin lives there with his wife, Beth, a busy stay-at-home mother of three young children, who previously worked as a bond trader for Lehman Brothers.
“The longer we live in this house, the more we love it,” says Beth Covin. She praises its light-filled rooms, family-friendly lay-out, and sensible ceiling height — nine feet. “In newer houses builders put in two-story family rooms and 11-foot ceilings,” she says. “They’re noisy. I like this house because it offers privacy. It’s calm, peaceful, and serene.”
Covin, a graduate of William and Mary (1983), in fact, likes everything about the house, which she and her husband bought in 1998. Shortly after they moved in, they hired Princeton builder Lewis Barber to renovate it. Newly pregnant with her first child, Covin nevertheless thoroughly enjoyed working with Barber to achieve just the house that she wanted for her family.
More and more enamored with the house, she and her husband decided to build its mirror image just across the street. Members of her husband’s family were to live there, and did so for a short time. The six-bedroom, four-bath house is now on the market for $3.3 million, listed by Callaway.
The family’s relationship with Barber gave them the confidence that a Bauhan house could be built in the 21st century. The lot, a long, rectangular property of .67 acres had been occupied by what Covin describes as a “1940s pre-fab house.” Permits were applied for, the old house was torn down, and construction began in April, 2004. The Covins decided that they did not need an architect for anything but the code drawings required by the borough.
“Rolf Bauhan built these incredibly gracious, livable houses,” she says. “We just followed his lead. We wanted a house that would look like it had always been on Hodge Road.”
At the same time, she knew that the house would have to have the basics of a modern family house. In her view, that means five bedrooms and a three-car garage. That was Barber’s mandate, to build a “21st century Hodge,” to be respectful of the Colonial Revival style, but to create a modern floor plan.
Her own house is made of stone, but Covin, who has spoken with the original owner’s daughter, knows that each stone had been hand-picked by the owner. Duplicating it would be impossible. The new house was to be made of brick. New brick would not do, however, and Barber was able to find 25,000 old bricks that had once adorned a 19th century home in Upstate New York. Using skilled masons, he layered the bricks the way Bauhan’s craftsmen would have — alternating a whole brick with half a brick. Windows were placed symmetrically on three sides of the house, facing south and west, “where you would expect a window to be,” says Covin.
The sills and keystones are limestone, and the leaded glass in the fan window above the front entryway was made by stained glass craftsmen Covin found in Lambertville. The wide front steps are made of bluestone from the house that had been on the property, and the front door is an exact match of the one on Covin’s house. “I asked the people at Hamilton Supply if they could match my door, and they did,” she says, appreciating the difficulty of the task. Also difficult was the construction of custom railings in the house, a task taken on, says Covin, “by the only two guys who do it in New Jersey and Pennsylvania.”
The effect Covin and Barber sought has been achieved. From the outside, the house indeed looks as completely at home as any house on Hodge Road. In a few years, when the landscaping grows in, it will be hard to tell it apart from houses that have stood there for a century.
Inside, the house retains many elements of a Bauhan house, but with modern twists. There is a large kitchen, complete with center island, a second floor laundry room, an unfinished attic that could contain two more bedrooms and a bathroom, and, downstairs, a basement with 10-foot ceilings — the ideal space for a media room.
Covin tried to keep a 1900s feel to the bathrooms. They are white and their fixtures are simple. But there is a “humongous” shower in the master bedroom. There is also a free-standing bath tub that indeed harkens back to the era of the Saturday night bath ritual.
Out back, there is a terrace — Bauhan was very big on outdoor living spaces — as well as a heated three-car garage.
“Rolf Bauhan is famous for livable, beautiful, understated homes,” says Covin. She is satisfied that that is just what Barber has delivered. Does she ever consider moving across the street and settling into it?
“No,” she says, “but my husband has.” The brand new, efficient heating and cooling systems and the lack of maintenance headaches that come with a new house appeal to him.” But Covin will not be moved.
“I love my house,” she says of her Bauhan. “We were married here. We brought all three children home here.”
Now she has the added pleasure of looking across the street and enjoying her home’s mirror image — a fitting homage to Bauhan.