Photographing The Brewer House (Sunny Gables) in Lawrence Township, NJ

A landmark house has been altered from its original form

There’s another house on my front burner as of last week—a beautiful and very unique gothic revival Victorian in Lawrence Township near Princeton. I actually discovered it last year at this time on my trips to The Gulick House, which is nearby. It sits alone on a rather large tract of land and is both enchanting and impressive. One can only imagine the 12-foot ceilings and tall arched doorways within. I was there two days in a row last week but only got some cursory pictures pending speaking with the owner. I’ve posted one of one here. I needed to get up a bit closer than the road to get the tree branches up and out of the way and frame a good composition. This required standing on the edge of property at the end of the driveway, so I wanted to get the owner’s permission.

However, it appeared they didn’t want to talk to me, and I guess I can’t blame them. If I had strangers walking up my drive I think I would prefer not to talk to them…but if you own a landmark historic house I guess it should be expected to some degree. In one of the photos I hastily made (I felt out in the open and like a thousand neighbors’ eyes were on me) there appears to be a historic registers plaque next to the front door. Anyway, I always respect the owner’s right to privacy, so I’ll try and shoot it from the road.

brewer house in lawrence, NJ
The Brewer House in Lawrence, NJ 2014

The house appears in a book of historic Lawrence houses, which states that it was built in the 1870s and renovated in the 1990s. I’m still hopeful I may yet be able to photograph the interior…I’ve written a professional letter introducing myself and describing my project which I’ll leave in the mailbox of each house I need closer access to. The owner can then choose to contact me or not.

UPDATE – November 2019

This house has since been sold to a new owner who has made some dramatic alterations and additions to the house. A new wing has been added on the left side, thereby negating the original historic plan and possibly affecting its historic registers status…I’m not sure about the latter but I was shocked to see what was done. The beautiful windows and the fenestration on that side of the house (and possibly the dormer windows? I don’t remember…) have been lost forever as a result. It’s really a shame to alter a house like this from its original form if it’s not necessary for preservation. The addition, in my opinion, is just ostentatious and unnecessary. If you’re going to purchase a house like this then it should be preserved as is. The house has been well cared for and its condition as of 2014 when I photographed it looked to be in fine order.

Unfortunately, this means that Lawrence has lost one of its very notable historic houses. I’m surprised the Historic Preservation Advisory Committee (HPAC) allowed the changes, but I think their concern and oversight is with the Route 206 corridor, the historic preservation zone. And legally, you can’t tell an owner what to do with their property.

I will drive by there and get a new photo of the alteration.

Author: jamestcallahan

James T. Callahan is a commercial and fine art photographer based in Hillsborough, New Jersey. His specializations are in product, industrial and architecture. His fine art work takes a poetic look at the American Landscape through 19th Century architecture, historic and abandoned railroads and the American Small Town. You can see his work on his website at www.jamestcallahanphotographer.com, and on Instagram at www.instagram.com/jamestcallahan/.

2 thoughts on “Photographing The Brewer House (Sunny Gables) in Lawrence Township, NJ”

  1. Hi James, I just stumbled upon your blog and I’m enthralled! Lawrence Twp is my hometown and I have always wondered/feared about the status of the Gulick House.. among other historic houses in the area. I’ve had a passion for architecture since I was very young and I partially attribute it to my surroundings growing up. I admire your photography and would love to share some of my knowledge of buildings in the the area (some more difficult to find than others) that you may be interested in photographing. I am thankful for your success in having the Gulick House approved (preliminary?) for the National and State Historic Registers as well. Any information on its current status? Also I am curious about the ‘…book of historic Lawrence houses’ you mentioned in your Sunny Gables post, I would love to know what book you’re referring to. Thanks in advance!

  2. Hi, Adam, and thanks for taking the time to read my blog! I would welcome your input on other historic houses in the Princeton area, particularly the harder to find ones you mentioned, as those are typically of most interest to me. I did receive approval for the preliminary historic registers application I submitted on behalf of The Gulick House in the summer of 2013. I subsequently sent a letter to Care One, the property owner, informing them of my nomination and offered to help them with the property in any way I could–finding a buyer, etc. I didn’t expect a response based on what I had heard from the State Historic Preservation Office, and didn’t receive one. I will revisit this at some point in the near future, as well as moving forward with the formal historic registers application. Currently, the house still sits unoccupied and decaying.

    The book with the historic houses of Lawrence was one I found at the Mercer County Library in The New Jersey Room, I believe. It has all of the historic homes in the historic district along Route 206, and includes The Gulick House. (The house is NOT officially included within the historic district boundaries, unfortunately). I think it was published by the Lawrence Historical Society. I don’t remember the name exactly, and a search on Amazon didn’t return it. You could contact the Historical Society to find out how to get a copy. It contains anecdotal information on each house, including The Brewer House (Sunny Gables).

    You can see more of my 19th Century House project on my web site at http://www.jamestcallahanphotographer.com. Thank you!

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