Arsonist damages vacant 140-year-old farmhouse

Trenton Times
24 March 1982

Arsonist damages vacant 140-year-old farmhouse

Staff Writer

PRINCETON TOWNSHIP – A deliberately act fire early yesterday damaged a vacant 140 year-old farmhouse that had been given to Princeton University 18 months ago by a retired professor.

The house at 181 Cherry Hill Road was ignited by an arsonist who probably lit a pile of twigs and paper outside near a wall, according to Chief Ray Wadsworth of the Princeton Fire Company.

The building, set back about 300 yards from the road, had been empty since its former owner, Professor Alfred Foulet, moved out and donated it to the university.

The blaze damaged the outside corner of the building near the point where the fire was set, and one room inside the house, Wadsworth said. There was water damage In the burned section of the house, and the fire also caused a chimney to collapse and fall through a portion of the roof. There were no Injuries.

THE FIRE was reported at 5:35am, by township Patrolman David Cromwell, who saw flames shooting from the house while he was on routine patrol. Within 46 minutes, 96 volunteer firefighters from all three Princeton fire companies had brought the blaze under control.

Damage to the house was relatively light. Wadsworth said, even though firefighters initially were delayed by having to run hoses from the nearest fire hydrant, about a mile away.

“We put a hell of a good stop on It,” the chief said. “I have to give credit to all the guys for a really beautiful stop.”

Foulet, 81, who retired from his Job as a professor of French In 1969, said the two story house was built around 1840 and was worth about $100,000. But the 60-acre estate that surrounds it is worth much more, he said.

“I feel very badly about this,” he said of the fire.

Foulet, who now lives in Princeton Borough, said the house “was pretty run-down.”

MOST OF the furniture had been removed, authorities said. But Wadsworth said the furniture that remained included a number of antiques. None of it was damaged, he said.

Although Princeton Township police said university security is responsible for patrolling the house and the surrounding land, they said only township officers had provided security there in the past. Following yesterday’s fire, however, the university stationed several security guards at the house, police said.

The university, located about three miles from the farmhouse, has no plans for the property, according to university spokesman Jim Merritt.

Wadsworth said the fire probably was set about two hours before the passing police officer spotted It.

“If there had been foliage on the trees, who knows who would have seen it,” he said.

An early morning fire that officials say was deliberately set damaged this vacant Cherry Hill Road house in Princeton Township yesterday. The house was given to Princeton University by a retired professor 18 months ago.

Staff photo by Pauline Lubens

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