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   Paul Robeson House

PROPERTY INFORMATION

Historic Name

Paul Robeson House

Current Name

Address

108-110 Witherspoon Street

Tax Parcel

1114_17.02_55

Historic District

Witherspoon Jackson HD

Classification

Key Contributing

Number of Resources

1

Style

Italianate

Number of Stories

2

Material

Aluminum

Historic Function

Domestic

Current Function

Domestic

Last Entry Update

12/8/2015


DESCRIPTION

Setting

NW corner of Witherspoon and Green Streets. Residential block on the south side of Witherspoon, Princeton Cemetery on north side of the street. Mainly flat wooded lot with house set about 10' from Witherspoon St. sidewalk and built out to sidewalk along Green St.

Description

The house is a 2.5-story, 4-bay building facing east onto Witherspoon Street with a rear addition. Its key features are its cross-gable and thick molded eaves. The roof is clad with asphalt shingles and features a centered cross-gable on the east elevation. The eaves are clad with vinyl, and the frame walls are clad with aluminum siding. Fenestration consists primarily of replacement 1x1 double hung sash units, arranged mostly symmetrically. The main (east) elevation features a window in the cross gable, four second floor windows, and three wall openings on the first floor: a window, the main entrance (replacement door), and a picture window occupying the northern two bays. A set of concrete steps leads up to the entrance. The house was constructed a half level above the sidewalk, and a former entrance into the basement near the southeast corner has been converted into a window. The foundation is stuccoed. The end walls of the house feature two attic windows, two windows on the second floor, and one on the first. A 2-part, 2-story addition on the rear (west) elevation has a shed roof, aluminum walls, and a stuccoed foundation.


HISTORY

Built

1842

Architect

 

Builder

 

History

The house was constructed c. 1842.

James S. Green sold the parcel in the year 1841 to Spencer Sauck. Sauck died c. 1844, and the property was sold to James Burton, who then died c. 1847.

Anthony Simmons, a local black caterer, purchased the house from the Burton estate in 1847, and he lived here for 22 years. During his residence here, Simmons helped to found the Presbyterian school where Betsey Stockton taught. Simmons died c. 1868; in his will, Simmons left the property to the Witherspoon Street Presbyterian Church for use as a manse.

The best known Presbyterian minister who lived in the house was Reverend William Drew Roberson, who lived here with his family in the late 19th century. His son, Paul Robeson (1898-1976), famous black actor, athlete, singer and political activist, was born here. Paul attended the segregated public school on Green Street. When Reverend Robeson joined the AME Zion Church the family moved first to Westfield, then to Somerville. The Robesons retained many friends in Princeton, however, and returned often to visit. Paul Robeson’s book, Here I Stand (1958), contains an account of the family’s experiences in Princeton.

In 1936, the Presbyterian Church lost the title to the property, and it was auctioned in a sheriff sale. The Princeton Savings and Loan Association purchased it at the auction and owned it 1936-1949. Later owners were Millie Ellerbe (1949-1965) and Gladys Taylor (1965-2005). The Witherspoon Street Presbyterian Church purchased the property in 2005.

The basement at the corner was a lounge for African Americans who worked at the university. It served as a place for the Colored YMCA and was the location for Mr. David Graham’s Barber Shop.

Sources

The NJ Historical Commission, "Black Historic Sites in New Jersey," 1984; HPC information

DEED RESEARCH

Reference

Date

Grantor

Grantee

Price

Size

Notes

5238-127

11/14/2005

Gladys Taylor, 110 Witherspoon Street

Witherspoon Street Presbyterian Church

$ 435,000

Lot 35x94 ft; Same as the following.

1750-899

5/27/1965

Millie Ellerbe Estate

Gladys Taylor (resident)

$ 10

N.S.

Ellerbe had died 8/1/1954; same as following property

1081-221

11/15/1949

Princeton Savings & Loan Assn

Millie Ellerbe, widow

$ 1

N.S.

Same as the following property.

744-581

1/8/1936

Trustees of Witherspoon Street Presbyterian Church

Princeton Savings & Loan Assn

$ 100

Sheriff sale to recover mortgage of $4,831; part of following.

73-334

2/18/1869

Anthony Simmons Estate

Trustees, First Presbyterian Colored Church

$ 1,700

Lot 60x90. Part of the following.

M-199

6/8/1847

James Burton Estate

Anthony Simmons

$ 425

Lot 120x60. Same as the following.

H-241

9/1/1845

Spencer Sauck Estate

James Burton

$ 795

Lot 120x60. Same as the following.

D-153

9/4/1841

James S. & Isabella Green

Spencer Sauck

$ 90

Lot 120x60. Part of the following.

A-392

2/6/1839

William & Sarah Cruser, Somerset County

James S. Green, Mercer County

$ 200

14.15 acres

Entire Ferguson Tract.


LINKS AND ATTACHMENTS

UPDATE

If you have additional information or corrections to the existing information, send an email to ekim@princetonnj.gov.
Submitted information is reviewed by the Princeton HPC prior to updating the database.


PHOTO FROM 2015 SURVEY


2015 Photo
East (main) elevation


2015 Photo
East and south elevations


2015 Photo
East elevation


HISTORIC PHOTOGRAPHS

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