Fire razes $ 1M-plus township residence / Krosnicks focus on rebuilding

Princeton Packet
26 May, 1989

Fire razes $1M-plus township residence

By Barbara Preston
Staff Writer


The fire alarm did not work. The homeowner dialed 911 not knowing the emergency hot line does not exist in Princeton Township.

The fire hydrant closest to the house was damaged and did not function.

Arthur and Evelyn Krosnick’s $1 million-plus home at 1141 Stuart Road was fully engulfed in flames when Princeton firefighters arrived Tuesday morning.

“That house was gone when we got there,” Fire Chief Mark Freda said. “There was no way to save it.”

“We are lucky that the neighboring houses did not catch on fire,” he added. He pointed out that ashes and sparks from the fire were traveling up to 150 feet in the wind.

The damaged hydrant did not really make a significant difference, according to Chief Freda. It took firefighters only four minutes to hook into the next closest hydrants and to get water on the flames, he noted. That is the average time, he said.

“Obviously, somebody hit that fire hydrant (with a vehicle) at some point” and did not report it, Chip’ Freda said.  The one-story, three-bedroom, hexagonal home contained an art collection valued at “millions of dollars” by the owner and some 100 pieces of priceless handcrafted furniture.

Much of Dr. Krosnick’s lifetime work and research burned in the fire, Mrs. Krosnick said.

The doctor is an internationally known diabetes specialist who is the director of the Princeton Diabetes Treatment and Education Center. He is also editor in chief of Clinical Therapeutics, an international journal on drug therapy.

Mrs. Krosnick is a freelance designer and the executive director of the Greater Princeton Youth Orchestra.

The Krosnicks lived on Stuart Road for nine-and-one-half years. Now they are staying, at the Hyatt Regency Princeton and later plan to rent a house at Canal Pointe in Lawrence Township until they can rebuild their home.

Mrs. Krosnick was working in her kitchen Tuesday morning while a plumber, Bill Cliver, ’32, of Bristol Township, Pa., was fixing the hot water heater in the basement, she recalled.

Suddenly, she heard a popping sound, she said. The plumber’s acetylene torch apparently backfired and caught fire, according to Princeton Township police.

The plumber ran up to the kitchen to obtain a portable fire extinguisher, but, by the time he returned, the basement was filled with smoke and flames, Mrs. Krosnick said.

Mr. Cliver of H&A Perotti, Inc., Bristol, Pa., was later treated burns on his hand and hair at the Medical Center at Princeton. He was released the same day.

The housekeeper, Audrey Perna, escaped from the burning house without injury.

Mrs. Krosnick was waiting for her fire alarm to sound, but she never heard it. So, she ran to a neighbor’s house the call the fire department, she said . “Our alarm system burnt out completely before any sound could be made,” she said.

Smoke and fire; sensors were recessed into the ceiling and wall panels throughout the house, according to House Beautiful’s Building Manual, winter 1981 issue. The manual ironically featured the Krosnicks’ house in the front page as an example of a home with a system that guards against fire and burglary.

The sensors were to signal Honeywell Protection Services, which would alert the local fire department, which relays fire information to the fire department, said they were notified about the  fire from a neighbor.

Once Mrs. Krosnick made it to her next door neighbor’s house, 911 was dialed, not knowing the number was not used in Princeton.

There was about a 10-minute delay from the time the fire started until the fire department was notified, Chief Freda said.

Then, it took the firefighters four minutes and 30 seconds to arrive at the scene and another four minutes to get water onto the fire, the chief said.

About 50 firefighters helped battle the flames while neighbors brought bucketfuls of orange juice for them to drink. Princeton’s three volunteer fire companies responded as well as fire companies from Lawrence Township and Kingston.

Firefighters had the flames under control by 1:30 p.m., Chief Freda said. Firefighters stayed at the scene, in the rain that began later in the afternoon, until 7:25 p.m., he added.

“The roof and walls had caved in and it was difficult to get to the little pockets of fire,” he noted.

Firefighters kept surveillance over the fire scene throughout the night, he said. They returned to squirt down the embers at 10:15 p.m. and stayed until 6:45 a.m., Chief Freda said.

Princeton fire marshal Theodore K. Cashel warned Princeton residents never to call 911 in an emergency. It is a waste of time, he said. Legislation was recently passed in New Jersey that will enable the entire state to hook up to the emergency hot line in the next year or two. Meanwhile, only certain towns, like Trenton, have the service.

The emergency telephone number for Princeton Township is 921-2100 and for Princeton Borough, 924-4141.

Staff photo • Barbara Preston

Firefighters battle blaze that destroyed Arthur and Evelyn Krosnick’s $1 million-plus home in Princeton Township on Tuesday.

Photo • Dennis N. Symons Jr.

This fire hydrant, the one closest to the Krosnicks’ house, was damaged and did not function when firefighters arrived to fight the blaze Tuesday morning.

Drawings show part of the interior of Arthur and Evelyn Krsonick’s Stuart Road home. The one-story, hexagonal structure contained an art collection valued at “millions of dollars” by the owner and some 100 pieces of priceless handcrafted furniture.

Princeton Packet
26 May, 1989

Krosnicks focus on rebuilding

By Barbara Preston
Staff Writer

Evelyn Krosnick squinted Wednesday when she viewed a heaping pile of charred rubble, what was once her million dollar-plus Stuart Road home. But she dismissed the ugliness and in-stead imagined a new house, similar to the home that had burnt this week.

It was then she knew that the Krosnicks would rebuild, she said. In fact, Mrs. Krosnick and her husband, Arthur, speM part of Wednesday visiting their friend, furniture maker George Nakashima in New Hope, Pa.

Fire leveled the Krosnicks’ home Tuesday maiming, destroying 110 pieces. of woodwork and furniture handcrafted by Mr. Nakashima. The American Craft Museum in Manhattan currently has 54 of Mr. Nakashima’s pieces on display. The museum answering machine describes him as “one of America’s finest master woodworkers.”

“The house was a tribute to Nakashima,” Mrs. Krosnick said.

The Krosnicks visited Mr. Nakashima at his studio Wednesday. It was his 83rd birthday.

“I think they are interested reordering.” Mr. Nakashima by telephone. He added that Krosnicks are dear friends of his.

He noted, however, that he could not repeat some of the furniture, such as an 8- by 4-foot, two-board walnut dining table with rosewood chairs.

“So much of what we do relies on the boards (the wood),” he said. “Every piece is different.”

Mrs. Krosnick, however, has a positive attitude.

“We are going to start all over again,” she said.

Architect John Randal McDonald, a student of Frank Lloyd Wright, designed the former one-story, three bedroom, hexagonal home, which was set on a woodedhillside.

Mr. McDonald agreed to design her the same house but with a few minor changes, she said.

It will be “Melody Woods. Number 3,” she said. A friend of hers already agreed to construct the Krosnicks’ new house on Stuart Road, she added.

The Krosnicks had fire insurance.

Princeton Township building official Elizabeth M. Jablonsky noted that Mrs. Krosnick already hired a contractor to start clearing the burnt debris off the lot.

Ms. Jablonsky had visited Mrs. Krosnick to express her regrets that her house had burnt down.

“We were just standing there hugging each other and saying, we’re going to do it again, we’re going to do it again,” Ms. Jablonsky recalled.

Meanwhile, Dr. and Mrs. Krosnick are staying at the Hyatt Regency Princeton until they can make arrangements to rent a house at Canal Pointe.

Mrs. Krosnick intends to eventually move into a trailer on the Stuart Road lot to supervise the re-construction of her house, she said.

“I lived in a trailer there and supervised before (in 1980),” she said, “and I will do it again.”

Mrs. Krosnick said that she will resign her seat as executive director of the Greater Princeton Youth Orchestra so that she will have time to organize her life. She said musician Jim Banks will take her position.

A plumber’s acetylene torch sparked the house fire Tuesday morning. The fire was reported to the Princeton Township police at 11:21, n.m. Princeton Fire Chief Mark Freda said that call came about 10 minutes after the fire began.

“That house was gone when we got there,” Mr. Freda said. “Them was no way to save it.”

Mrs. Krosnick added that she misses her house,

It is truly a death in our family,” she said.

“Every morning when I got up felt I was in heaven,” Mrs. Krosnick said “The house had such a spirit that it was alive with us.”

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