JA Sweeton House..Can you see it?

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hypnoraygun
Posts: 562
Joined: Wed Mar 22, 2006 1:28 pm
Location: Missouri

JA Sweeton House..Can you see it?

Post by hypnoraygun »

So in planning my Trip to Philadelphia and area. I see the JA Sweeton House is not very far. (Cherry Hill, NJ) From my FLW field guide it says the home is not very viewable. Has anyone seen this house? The book also says that an Architect owns the home. Is there a chance they visit this site!?



Does anyone else know about the other New Jersey homes? Thanks for your time!

DRN
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Location: Cherry Hill, NJ

Post by DRN »

The Sweeton house is set back a considerable distance from King's Hwy. A small suburban office building and parking lot has been built between the house and the road. The house accesses the road through the parking lot and is separated from the parking lot by a hedgerow.

I visited the site on a winter day, and was able to see that the house is very close to the hedgerow, but is not very visible through it. From the edge of the parking lot you can see the carport and not much else. The cantilevered asymetrical gable of the carport is neat to see though.

njrktect
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Joined: Wed Oct 18, 2006 10:49 pm
Location: NJ

Sweeton House

Post by njrktect »

DRN is correct-- The house is accessed via the parking lot for Princeton Health Care building, to the left rear off King's Highway, on the east side between Church and Chapel.



The current owner is actively trying to sell it. The owner of the office building wants the land for expansion of his building and parking. That would likely be a death knell for the Sweeton House... :cry: Someone should spread the word in case there's a Wright fan out there with some deep pockets. (I'd live there if I could sell my place....)



Contact me for a link to recent photos of the house.



Know anyone who wants a 1500 sf house on heavily wooded 1/2 acre?

other than the loss of almost all Wright-designed furniture and the loss of the stained glass (by the current owner no less!), the house is amazingly intact. It needs maintenance since it has been vacant for several years. Still, it is a nifty example of Wright's later Usonian house prnciples.

njrktect
Posts: 4
Joined: Wed Oct 18, 2006 10:49 pm
Location: NJ

Post by njrktect »

update:

it is my understanding that the negotiations for the sale of the Sweeton house to a private buyer who had planned to restore it have fallen through.

a few nagging issues undermined the best efforts of buyer and seller to come to mutually agreeable terms.



so now the house needs another "friend of Wright" buyer... the alternative appears to be a developer with little reason to save or restore the house.



here are some photos of the house I took in mid October 2006. other than the loss of all but one piece of Wright-designed furniture and the art glass, it is in pretty good condition...

It is very small (only about 1450 s.f.) but with a surprisingly lovely view into the heavy woods that are undeveloped in this older residential neighborhood. the unfortunate lack of street presence and frontage only makes the house location more surprising and delightful.



crossing fingers...



michael

Ed Jarolin
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Post by Ed Jarolin »

Thanks for posting the pictures. Any idea what price the owners are asking?

njrktect
Posts: 4
Joined: Wed Oct 18, 2006 10:49 pm
Location: NJ

Post by njrktect »

This is not intended to reveal any private information, but as part of our efforts to elevate interest in saving this house, I am posting what little I know about the failed negotiations to purchase the Sweeton house. None of the following is to be taken as 'gospel', and if anyone does become involved in trying to purchase the properrty, do not assume any of it will be true for those negotiations. (Sorry for all the weasel language; I don't need anyone pointing legal fingers at me!)



The owner had said he wanted over $400K. He also made loud noises about wanting to sell to someone who appreciated the house as a Wright-designed home and would pledge to restore it. As such he implied that the price could be lower ... He also said (for whatever reasoning) he would also consider a lower deal if most of it was paid 'cash' up front... (?)



The sale price apparently was $350K.

(I am not privy to all of the details or contingencies involved.)



There are two known issues with the property:

There's an abandoned or very old oil fuel tank buried in the yard that needs to be removed/replaced. That was effort was part of the intended sale price.



The septic system needs to be updated/replaced. The property apparently does not qualify for municipal sewer service... (though I am not aware of the reasons for this statement). This was NOT part of the negotiatated sale price.



The well-developed suburban neighborhood is a mid-level mix of 25 to 50 year old residences, probably with an average value in the neighborhood of $225K - $275K, with some being higher due to house size, lot size, and desireability of location. The immediate environment for the house is a mixed matter-- the immediate 3/4 of the lot faces undeveloped and undevelopable, heavily vegetated land, with residences and a church beyond. It's very serene and pretty for an intensely developed suburban lot. However, the other 1/4 of the lot is hemmed in by a low rise office buildling facing a major suburban artery. Access to the house parcel is 200' back, thru a parking lot and a hedgerow. Views in that direction (the front) are not the best. But this must have been somewhat anticipated as there really are no significant windows facing the front! Personally I find nothing truly offensive about the setting, and once you are inside the house, the rearward orientation is very special.



If anyone knows of an investor, or couple, or even a small business that might be interested, have them contact me thru this forum ASAP.

I don't know how long this house will survive if it is sold to the office building owner...



thanks.

michael

JimM
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Location: Austin,Texas

Post by JimM »

I hope this house is saved. It looks really beat up but salvageable.



The ceiling looks odd; maybe sprayed on at somepoint? The painting has been done with almost no sanity. This house could look alot better than it does; and an office of some sort sounds like it would fit the location. From the photos it looks like the home office of a very busy person with no inclination to tidy up once in awhile-which never helps when trying to sell a house-clean it up and keep that developer away!

njrktect
Posts: 4
Joined: Wed Oct 18, 2006 10:49 pm
Location: NJ

Post by njrktect »

The house could indeed look a lot better, especially if it was empty! It has not been occupied in years and the clutter has been sitting unmoved for a long time. I think the current owner had his office there but I believe he is retired now. The last users apparently lived and worked there. I'll try to get more on that recent history...



Other than the usual Wrightian design issues (sagging but stable roof cantilevers, bowed but sturdy window header, minor cracks in concrete floor), there's nothing really wrong that a little maintenance wouldn't fix.



The current owner patched a leaky roof (flashing I think) sometime in the past two years; a 4x8 patch above the dining area adjacent to the kitchen and chimney may be visible in some images. I don't know if someone altered the ceiling finish at some point, but that is something worth researching to find out what things originally loooked like.



There is another forum member who had posted privately that his wife's mother used to live in the area and was a family friend; she recalls playing with other kids in the house when she was younger... I bet she could provide some interesting recollections!

Deke
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Post by Deke »

I never thought I'd say this, but perhaps it's time for thie FLW house to be put down mercifully. It would cost $100K's to get it back up into shape. That cieling texture isn't right (I've never seen a white cieling in a usonian before), and the masonry looks off...was it painted? FLW would have a coronary if he saw all that clutter. Not many photos of the exterior, but it doesn't seem to be a very significant design. What year was this done it? Probably easier to take the plans and build a new one.



Deke

hypnoraygun
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Post by hypnoraygun »

Put down? Come on now!



(By no means is this a personal attack on Deke or anyone else who has an opinion about tearing this place down.. Let me just say that at the start..)



Just because something is going to cost a lot of money, or require a lot of work, is that a reason to tear it down? Why couldn't this be bought, made into a non for profit park/visitor center? Then you could start raising money to fix it up? Obviously I don't know one thing about how to do that, but I am just throwing out ideas. And of course the money to buy it in the first place has to come from somewhere. What does the Conservancy think? I hope they are stepping in somewhere.



Do we trash a Picasso that is dirty and damaged? NO, we restore it, treasure it, give it attention, and breath a collective sigh that it was found and now being saved. Here is a work of art that isn't hidden, it is right in front of our eyes and people don't appreciate it. It may not be the most outlandish design Wright ever put out, but does that make it less important?



This could be an educational center for youth. You could teach them about art and architecture, and then maybe one day another great architect will be born from their learning.



I am surprised an architectural firm from Philadelphia isn't stepping up to buy this. Do they know about it? It could be an office for someone.



If they tear this down, we are becoming complacent about history, architecture, and Wright's Legacy.



Can't someone step up and save this place?



That is my opinion. And you know what they say about those.

Deke
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Post by Deke »

No offense taken, Hypno.



And, of course, I'm being overly dramatic...just the site of that mess of a house turned my aesthetic stomach.



Here's a wacky thought...can we get 350 people to pony up $1000 each and buy the house collectively? We could restore it ourselves and scratch that itch we all have to restore a FLW home.



Deke

JimM
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Post by JimM »

Deke wrote:Here's a wacky thought...Deke


If you can find 348 others...sign me up!



I have limited resources, but I am concerned this house will most likely disappear. I just can't believe no one locally is stepping in to save it; apparently it's overpriced for a the area, but not as a parking lot.



It is not listed for sale area on the Conservancy site, and there has there not been a peep from them, probably because it is not a trophy house. The demolished, unrecoverably altered Carr "shed" got more press than this late usonian.

hypnoraygun
Posts: 562
Joined: Wed Mar 22, 2006 1:28 pm
Location: Missouri

Post by hypnoraygun »

Deke wrote:
Here's a wacky thought...can we get 350 people to pony up $1000 each and buy the house collectively? We could restore it ourselves and scratch that itch we all have to restore a FLW home.


I would totally be in too! That is exactly what my girlfriend said we should do. I'm down. 3 down, 347 to go.



I believe njrktect told me that the Conservancy spoke to him or a potential buyer about the home.. So I know they know about it. Unless my memory is going. Which could be a possibility also.

DRN
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Post by DRN »

to njrktect:



I sent you a PM. Please check your inbox.



Thanks, DRN

SDR
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Post by SDR »

You will look at a LOT of houses before you see another with that frameless glass detail at the ceiling -- and so much of it ! I suspect that Wright would have wanted a sand-plaster (or coarser ?) texture to the ceiling -- which this could have, from what I can tell.



The siting of a house with its back (front) to the street or public side, and the private or view side to nature, is classic Wright. . .



SDR

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