Fire destroys Lambert home

Princeton Packet
13 February 1980

Fire destroys Lambert home

by Tom Lederer
Staff Writer

The hilltop estate house of Grace B. Lambert was devastated by a fire last Thursday. It quickly burned through the cedar shake roof down through two stories and destroyed many priceless possessions of the Lambert family.

Five-foot-high flames from the roof of the Province Line Road home, Pink House, were easily visible from Rosedale Road as Princeton Township police responded to a fire call at 3:55 p.m. Police immediately sounded a general alarm.

THE FIRE destroyed a collection of rare and first edition books of American authors, about 75 percent of the furnishings, and some 19th century paintings, but the staff of the estate has not been able to determine yet exactly what was saved and destroyed, according to Mrs. Lambert’s secretary, Laura Stabler.

Rescued was an important and extremely valuable collection of French impressionist paintings.

The late Gerard B. Lambert headed Lambert Pharmacal Co., which was to become the present Warner Lambert Co., and was an avid yachtsman and
collector. The home contained many racing prizes as well as collections of American Indian and Mayan artifacts and Chinese porcelains.

Plans have already begun to rebuild the house, built in 1949. The original architectural drawings were saved.

Princeton Fire Chief William Shields said that hot wood embers from the central fireplace chimney caused the roof to catch fire. Mrs. Lambert, 80, was preparing tea for the Rev. John Crocker Jr., rector of Trinity Church, who later arrived to find the roof in flames.

The fire was first spotted by an estate employee, Tim Moran, who was walking Mrs. Lambert’s dogs outside. Employees were alerted and the police notified. As police and fire engines raced to the scene, employees at the house worked frantically to remove possessions from the third and second floors.

The recent dry weather had caused the shingles to be extremely flammable, and the flames quickly spread across the entire roof of the main building, according to Chief Shields.

FIREMEN WERE hampered by a

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Fire destroys Lambert home
(Continued from page 1A)

lack of water pressure, though a hydrant was located about 100 feet from the house allowing them a quick in fighting the fire. The Elizabethtown Water Co., was notified to boost water pressure 12 minutes after the fire was called in, but in-
sufficient water was a continuing problem.

Princeton’s aerial snorkel was set up in front of the house and a pumper was dispatched to the rear to tap water under the thickly iced swimming pool. But problems with suction hampered the firefighting effort from the back of the house until a second pumper was moved to the pool.

Firemen also strung out about a mile of hose up the long entrance drive and down Province Line Road to a hydrant on Rosedale Road.

Water was cut to the Educational Testing Service and Squibb in a further effort to increase water pressure. Several calls were received from people reporting that the Bunn Drive water tower was overflowing because of the high water pressure. The
Pennington Fire Department was requested to bring in its water tanker for standby.

Firemen, police and employees raced to save possessions on the ground floor as water poured in on the upper stories. Some employees were already packing books in cardboard boxes as firemen fought the blaze. Little was recovered from the upper two floors.

A LAWRENCE Township fire unit was assigned to fight the flames on the servant’s wing, and the Montgomery Township department, with expertise on obtaining water from lakes and streams, was requested should more water from such sources be needed, according to Chief Shields.

The fire was declared under control about two hours after firemen arrived. More than 100 police and firemen were at the scene, according to Chief Shields.

Firemen remained at the house until 3 a.m. to combat any flareups and returned the next day to put out a small fire.

Mrs. Lambert, who reportedly took the fire in stride, has hired architect William Short to plan the rebuilding of the house. The original architect, Harrie Lindeberg, was known as a gentlemen’s architect, according to Mr Short, and designed many fine estate homes in New York particularly Long Island. He was also the architect of the Lambert s first home. Albermarle, which now is the home of the Princeton Boychoir School.

Photo Captions:

AN EARLIER scene of the firefighting effort at the rear of the Lambert estate. Pumper at left was unable to draw water from a small swimming pool, and a second pumper was later brought around to replace it. Firemen were hampered by an inadequate supply of water.

ONLY ABOUT one-quarter of the furnishings in the Lambert estate were saved from the fire that raced along the ceder shingle roof of the home. A nineteenth century painting by a Lambert ancestor once hung over the living room mantle.

A DRESSING table mirror and crystal lamp are raced out of the Lambert home as firemen, police and employees struggles to recover items from the ground floor before flames reached down to that level.

WHILE MANY books were recovered, a valuable collections of particularly valuable rare and first edition volumes of early American authors was lost to the fire. Scene is at the rear of the home.

FRESH FLOWERS and a cut glass vase lie strewn on the ground as former Princeton Fire Chief William Anderson dumps books on a table recovered from the Lambert home.

A FIRE that started on the roof of the Lambert home on Province Line Road destroyed the roof and second and third floors of the sprawling brick home. Firemen axed through the ice of the small swimming pool at the rear of the home to tap the water below. (Tom Lederer photos)

THOUGH MANY items were saved, the vast majority of furnishings on the upper floors were lost.

PRINCETON’S AERIAL snorkel sprays water on the servants’ quarters at left, out of the picture, as the roof in the foreground continues to smolder. View is toward the front of the home.

Princeton Packet
13 February 1980

Aid eases loss

To the editor:

You really learn how many truly fine people there are when a disaster comes. During and after the fire which destroyed my home last Thursday, I was shown what friends we have in our community.

I am so grateful to the fire companies of Princeton, Lawrenceville and Montgomery and their backup companies, to the Princeton Township police and in particular Lt. Anthony Pinclli, the Princeton Rescue Squad, Bohren’s Moving and Storage working into early morning hours and for days afterwards, R.F. Johnson Electric, James Tamasi Plumbing and Nassau Oil who refueled the fire trucks.

All the above and so many friends and neighbors have made my loss easier knowing what a special community I live in.

Mrs. Gerard Lambert

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