Tusculum Historic Estate

The History of Tusculum

Named for the country house of the great Roman orator, Cicero, Tusculum means “wisp of incense,” an alluring scent that can sway men in many a way. Princeton University used Tusculum to entice John Witherspoon to become the president of their esteemed school, just the way the Roman empire had wooed Cicero with the gift of his country house. The lure worked, and John Witherspoon became the sixth president of Princeton.

A respected scholar, orator and early patriot, President Witherspoon may be even better know as a Signer of the Declaration of Independence. This formidable player in United States history was a close friend to Benjamin Franklin and George Washington and George and Martha Washington were known to break bread together with Witherspoon at the Tusculum estate. (To be a fly on the wall during those political discussions!)

Witherspoon’s original home included approximately 5,000 square feet of space, with a study, kitchen, drawing room, parlor and two bedrooms.

Good Bones, as They Say

In 1998, the estate underwent extensive restorations intended to extend the life of this amazing property for the next 100 years. Damages were pinpointed and corrected, and new roofs of split cedar shakes were installed on both the house and barn. Past renovations were undone, and the home was restored to its original intentions.

Princeton architect T. Jeffrey Clarke wrapped the original home on three sides with new construction, designed to blend seamlessly with the existing architecture, while adding all the amenities modern homeowners expect. The restored home, together with the magnificent stone barn, make a perfect setting for entertaining. Guests have ample room for mingling, with plenty of pockets for more intimate conversations.

Can Play Host to the Most Delicious of Menus

The gourmet kitchen can play host to the most delicious of menus, with two workstations with sinks and dishwashers; a SubZero refrigerator; built-in microwave; Kinawa Rose granite counters and a beautiful new pewter grey, insulated, gas-fired, cast iron AGA stove and oven — a culinary workhorse, if ever there was one, extremely fuel-efficent stove and an English country house tradition since 1908.

Down below, the basement has been finished out with a 2,000-bottle custom mahogany wine cellar perfectly calibrated for a spectacular wine collection. It adjoins a tasting room, complete with a cigar-mitigating exhaust fan, a fireplace, and a rare Palladium red granite countertop with marble bubbles.

18th Century Home Meets 21st Century Living

The new construction envelopes the original home and brings modern living to a historic setting. The Terrace Room acts as the transition between the structures, with the exposed Argillite shale from the exterior of the old house creating one wall in the room. The addition houses all the private living spaces and five bedrooms, all with adjoining or ensuite bathrooms.

Behind the scenes of the beautiful spaces is a brand new structure with top-rate plumbing, electrical, surround sound, security, internet, and cable. The meticulous work has been done, the historic restrictions handled, the permits pulled and approved. This home is ready for living. Better yet, it is completely free of any restrictions on the interior. Make it yours — exactly as you wish.

Magnificent Stone Barn

Constructed around 1837 by Commodore Stockton, the property’s embankment barn has been named one of the 10 most interesting buildings in New Jersey. It’s considered a hybrid of architectural traditions, making use of English, Dutch, and German elements. It has Dutch anchor beams and semi-elliptical louvers for air flow, with a cider mill and press in the back space. The barn originally could hold as many as fifty cattle, and today it can host a party for hundreds with ease. The stone has been re-pointed and the wooden shingled roof repaired, guaranteeing additional decades of use, be it for husbandry or parties.

About Princeton, New Jersey

The home is made of Argillite shale, the same stone used in Princeton University’s legendary Nassau Hall. It’s only one mile door-to-door from the Hall, and deeply connected to the university as the home of its sixth president, John Witherspoon.

Princeton University, charted in 1746, is the fourth-oldest college in the US. More than 1,110 faculty members instruct about 5,200 undergraduate students and 2,600 graduate students. It is one of the most highly regarded universities in the country, with an unparalleled commitment to scholarship.

While Princeton is best known as the home of Princeton University, many important organizations and companies call it home as well, such as Siemens Corporate Research, Bristol-Myers Squibb, and Dow Jones & Company. The property is utterly convenient to everything you could need, with the town center and Junction train station just minutes away. The town has a population of only 16,000 but has the culture of much larger community.

Approximately 50 miles from New York City and Philadelphia, Princeton has a charming, small-town feel, with good restaurants, a vibrant intellectual atmosphere, and easy access to the hub of Manhattan.

Tusculum Estate Features

  • Built in 1773 for Princeton’s 6th president, a Signer of the Declaration of Independence
  • Listed on the National Register of Historic Places
  • No restrictions on future interior remodeling
  • 9,235sf total // 5 bedrooms // 4 full and 2 half bathrooms
  • 5,000sf meticulously restored original house
  • 6,665sf seamless addition with full modern amenities
  • Cape Cod-style cottage with 2 bedrooms and 1.5 bathrooms
  • Restoration & additions by Princeton architect T. Jeffrey Clarke
  • Ideal for entertaining
  • Bluestone patios and porches
  • Gourmet kitchen // Wine cellar and tasting room
  • 2-car garage // 11-bay garage for cars and equipment
  • 23.34 acres with improvements and pond
  • Nearly 60 acres of conserved, protected land maintained by the Friends of Princeton Open Space surrounding the property
  • Apple, cherry and peach orchards
  • Argillite shale barn // Considered one of the 10 most interesting buildings in NJ
  • 18-century corn crib // spring house
  • Farmland assessment for lower taxes
  • 1 mile from Princeton University, the town, and the train to the Junction
  • Tennis court

Historical Significance of a John Witherspoon Home

  • Home to a Signer of the Declaration of Independence
  • Home to the sixth president of Princeton University
  • Owner was a close friend to Benjamin Franklin
  • George and Martha Washington dined at the home
  • Listed on the National Register of Historic Places

Property Buildings

  • Original 5,000sf main house + 6,655sf addition
  • Magnificent stone barn
  • Restored caretaker’s cottage built in 1933
  • 2-car garage
  • 11-bay garage for cars & farm equipment
  • 18th century corn crib
  • Original spring house, restored in 2011

Main House

  • 5 bedrooms // 4 full and 2 half baths
  • Yellow pine throughout original first floor rooms
  • Pumpkin pine harvested from upper floors
  • Oak flooring throughout much of the addition
  • 10 fireplaces
  • Custom-made cast brass ceiling fixtures throughout, many a direct reference to David Rittenhouse’s Orrery Dumb waiter from basement to second floor // designed for easy conversion to elevator
  • Surround-sound throughout home
  • Fully wired for cable & WIFIState-of-the-art security system w/cameras and 24hr monitoring
  • Custom Lutron zoned scenic lighting system for interiors
  • Outdoor lighting designed by Genie House of Brandston Designs
  • Indoor lighting in brass and bronze designed by Howard Brandston and executed by A.W. Pistol
  • Central heat & air // humidifiers // Air and water purifiers
  • New 14,000kw generator (2012) // New sump pumps (2012)

Original Home – First Floor

Rod and Reel Room

  • Originally John Witherspoon’s study
  • James Madison tutored in French in this room
  • Working fireplace with original 1830s Vermont marble mantel
  • Original built-in cabinets
  • Dolphin fish chandelier and sconces in solid brass designed by Howard Brandston and Jim Hasler

Coat Room

  • Originally John Witherspoon’s bedroom
  • Fireplace mantel, circa 1810
  • Dolphin fish chandelier and sconces in solid brass designed by Howard Brandston and Jim Hasler

Dining Room

  • Original sitting room & kitchen
  • Yellow pine flooring harvested from Maryland wharf
  • Installed with hand-hewn nails

Sitting Room

  • Originally a kitchen commissioned by Witherspoon’s second wife
  • Hearth bricks made on-site
  • Built-in corner cupboards and large bookcase

Original Home – Second Floor

Drawing Room

  • 2 fireplaces with new granite surrounds and marble mantels
  • Greek Revival window details // Original panels under windows
  • 1835 firebacks
  • Pine flooring from Maryland wharf
  • Described as “commodious” by Martha Washington in one of her letters

Pantry (New)

  • Wet bar with small refrigerator
  • Cabinets above and below counter
  • Marble flooring

Powder Room (New)

  • Tile floor
  • Pedestal sink
  • Aamsco-designed Art Deco mirror
  • Greek Key tile floor design & mill work

Backgammon Room

  • Original solid wood chimney breast with four built-in cabinets either side
  • Originally a small bedroom
  • Original flooring
  • Original paneling, including a solid piece of wood above Scottish fireplace
  • New Orrery-inspired shooting star fixture

Quilt Room

  • Original built-in cupboard
  • Originally a bedroom
  • Original flooring
  • Original hearth stone and brick
  • 1830s mantel
  • Wall opened to expose original lathe and hand-hewn nails

Main House Addition – 1st Floor


  • Cherry cabinets with birch interiors by Beco and J&L
  • Woodworking
  • Kinawa Rose granite counters
  • 2 dishwashers, 2 sinks with disposals
  • New, pewter grey AGA stove and oven
  • Sub-Zero refrigerator
  • Built-in microwave
  • Laundry housed at the eat-in end of the kitchen

Butler’s Pantry

  • Wet bar
  • Filtered water ice maker
  • Small refrigerator
  • Serving counter with glass cabinets

Family Room

  • Built-in bookcases with glass-paneled cabinets
  • Pocket door to Terrace room
  • Brass shooting stars ceiling fixture based on Orrery
  • Fully wired for cable & surround sound

Terrace Room

  • Transition area that blends the original home with the new addition
  • Random-width oak flooring
  • Windows with old glass
  • Doors to bluestone patio
  • Coffered ceiling with Federal star fixtures

Guest Suite 1

  • 5 windows // carpeted floors // large closet
  • Full bath with hexagonal tile floors
  • Tile wainscoting
  • Corian vanity

Guest Suite 2

  • Large closet // window seat // built-in shelving
  • Full bath with tile floor
  • Pedestal sink and large shower stall

Main House Addition – Basement

Wine Cellar & Tasting Room

  • Holds 2,000 bottles
  • Mahogany racks by J&L Woodworking
  • Controlled temperature & humidity
  • Gas fireplace with built-in cigar smoke exhaust fan
  • Cabinets with leaded glass doors
  • Rare Palladium red granite countertop with marble bubbles
  • Surround-sound speakers

Exercise Room

  • Elevated model train track
  • Special track lighting

Main House Addition – 2nd Floor

Master Bedroom Suite

  • Features a rose window (1 of 3 in the house)
  • Tray ceiling and a barrel vault ceiling (1 of two in the house)

Master Bedroom

  • Large walk-in closet with custom shelving
  • Access to upper deck
  • Access to private sunset deck
  • Shooting star light fixture
  • Stark carpeting with custom borders

Master Bathroom

  • Green marble bathroom
  • Kohler whirlpool tub
  • Large shower stall
  • Heated towel rack

Master Suite – Studay 1 and 2

  • Built-in shelving
  • Built-in bookcases with cabinets
  • Linen closet
  • Random-width oak floors in Study 1

Bedroom 1

  • 5 windows, carpeting, large closet
  • Tray ceiling with barrel vaulting
  • Shooting star light fixtures
  • Rose window
  • Access to upper deck of South American mahogany

Shared Bathroom

  • Hexagonal tile flooring and surround
  • Linen closet & cosmetics closet
  • Private water closet
  • Double sink with Corian countertop
  • Built-in medicine cabinets with nickel fittings

Bedroom 2

  • Built-in shelves and cabinetry
  • Double closet
  • Custom lighting

Main House Addition – 3rd Floor

  • Renovated garret
  • Home theater with drop-down screen and video equipment
  • Rose window
  • Exposed beams
  • Approved skylight by Historic Commission

Embankment Barn

  • Considered one of the 10 most interesting buildings in NJ
  • Made of Argillite shale, the same stone as Princeton’s historic Nassau Hall Built by Commodore Stockton, circa 1837
  • NJ hybrid barn with English, Dutch, and German elements
  • Dutch anchor beams
  • Semi-elliptical louvers for air floor // Pine threshing floor
  • 2 huge Dutch doors
  • Originally housed 50 cattle
  • Can be modified for horses
  • Old cider mill & press in ground floor back space
  • Stone recently re-pointed
  • Wooden shingled roof recently repaired
  • Featured in BARN: Preservation & Adaption by Elric Endersby
  • New roof of 32″ shingles (1998)
  • New louver windows
  • Glazed windows with old glass, doors and staircase
  • New 1/3 of Upper Level floor in 2001
  • Electrified with security and fire protection in 2001


  • Cape Cod style
  • Built in 1933 // Fully renovated in 2002
  • 2 bedrooms // 1 full and 1 half baths
  • Living room, dining room, kitchen
  • Unfinished basement // Slate roof
  • Oil heat // Central air
  • Wood-burning fireplace
  • Ideal caretaker’s home

The Grounds

  • Long driveway lined with Zelkova trees
  • Apple, cherry, and peach orchards
  • Fishing pond
  • Hard-Tru tennis court
  • Foundation for in-ground pool
  • Acreage for sheep grazing
  • Acreage for growing hay
  • Farmland assessment provides tax benefits


This property is listed for sale by Callaway Henderson Sotheby’s International Realty (0120171) – 4 Nassau Street, Princeton, NJ, 08542 (609) 921-1050. Listing agent Judson Henderson, a licensed New Jersey Broker Salesperson (9231366). Concierge Auctions, LLC is a marketing service provider for auctions, is not a brokerage, and is not directly involved in selling real property. The services referred to herein are not available to residents of any state where prohibited by applicable state law. Concierge Auctions, LLC, its agents and affiliates, broker partners, auctioneer, and sellers do not warrant or guaranty the accuracy or completeness of any information and shall have no liability for errors or omissions or inaccuracies under any circumstances in this or any other property listings or advertising, promotional or publicity statements and materials. This is not meant as a solicitation for listings. Brokers are fully protected and encouraged to participate. See Auction Terms & Conditions for full details. ©2008 Sotheby’s International Realty Affiliates LLC. All Rights Reserved. Sotheby’s International Realty and the Sotheby’s International Realty logo are registered (or unregistered) service marks used with permission. Each Sotheby’s International Realty office is independently owned and operated. Neither Sotheby’s, Sotheby’s International Realty Affiliates LLC nor any of their affiliated companies is providing any product or service in connection with this auction event.