Urban Oasis

Trenton’s historic Cadwalader Heights, designed by Frederick Law Olmsted, features curving streets, unique homes, and people who lovingly restore them.

Within the urban bustle of Trenton stands a leafy haven known as Cadwalader Heights. The 31-acre enclave includes 75 gracious homes that are as varied as the people who live in them. Celebrating its centennial this year, Cadwalader Heights is an area like no other. “I never imagined we’d be living in Trenton,” says homeowner Natalie Featherston, “but now I can’t imagine living anywhere else.”

The name Cadwalader Heights dates to colonial times. Dr. Thomas Cadwalader, a prominent Philadelphia physician, moved to Trenton and was elected the city’s first mayor in 1746. His son, Lambert, who purchased a 240-acre estate there, served as a New Jersey delegate to the Continental Congress and later in the U.S. House of Representatives. Lambert’s son, Thomas, inherited the estate, which he passed to his sons, John (of New York City) and Richard (of Philadelphia). In 1873, the brothers hired Edmund Hill, Trenton’s leading civic booster, to market and develop the family property. Hill championed the creation of Cadwalader Park, a 100-acre greensward eventually designed by famed landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted—his only New Jersey project—whose credits also include New York’s Central Park and the National Mall in Washington, D.C.

“Fredrick Olmsted was an urban planner before there were urban planners,” says Glenn Modica, a Cadwalader Heights resident and author of the book Cadwalader Heights: The History of an Olmsted Neighborhood, published in October. Hill hired Olmsted in 1890 to design the park, and he also had a big role in the planning of the community, says Modica. In his trademark fashion, Olmsted laid out the streets of Cadwalader Heights to follow the existing curves of the landscape. “He followed the natural topography,” says Modica. “The hills, the trees, everything remained naturalistic.”

The home styles are varied—a grand Tudor stands next to a center-hall Colonial, which is next to an Arts-and-Crafts bungalow. Today’s inhabitants are equally diverse. “We’re a varied group here, but we’re all such great friends,” says Ann Christiano, who lives in a ten-room Dutch Colonial with her husband and two daughters. “Our house is by far the most modest in the neighborhood, but I have never been happier any place I’ve lived.”

The House On The Point

Majestically positioned at a triangular point where several streets intersect, the stately brick house owned by Jay Smith and Mark Williams (right) is the first one you see as you enter the neighborhood. Built in 1916 for newlywed Dr. Frederic Collier, the house is commonly known as Collier Place. Smith and Williams bought it in 1986, and have been painstakingly restoring it ever since. “It will always be a work in progress,” says Williams.

The pair re-pointed the brickwork and restored the expansive front veranda to its Georgian Revival roots.Inside, they furnished the 4,500-square-foot, two-and-a-half-story house in traditional Victorian style—an arduous task because of its size, even though Williams started collecting antiques as a young boy. Both men have careers as church organists, and the house frequently peals with sounds from one of their three organs, including an M.P. Moller reed organ.

The Oldest House

Natalie Featherston and Glenn Modica live in the first house built in Cadwalader Heights—a 1907 Dutch Colonial that still boasts its original shingles, along with all 84 original casement windows. The house was built by Frank Forrest Frederick, PhD, who was director of Trenton’s School of Industrial Arts as well as a noted landscape painter. On the third floor, Frederick designed an airy and spacious studio for himself with north light, ideal for Natalie, a well-established oil painter, who has reclaimed the space. The couple moved in just three years ago and jumped right into the fray: Natalie is chair of this year’s Centennial Celebration; Glenn, a historic preservation consultant, just published

The Biggest HouseThe castle-like, 22-room Tudor that is home to Sally Baxter and Joe Giglio is the largest residence in Cadwalader Heights. Built in 1928 for the astronomical sum of $35,000, the house has a history as rich as its gold-leafed, barrel-vaulted foyer. It was a gift from Isaac Goldberg, founder of famed Goldberg’s Department Store, to his daughter and her husband, William Julian, a dentist.“It was state-of-the-art, luxurious living when it was first occupied in April of 1929,” says Sally. Extravagant details include the sweeping spiral staircase in the entry, the floor-to-ceiling carved sandstone fireplace in the living room, a marble fountain in the slate-floored solarium, and an Italian marble fireplace in the breakfast room. Joe, a financial planner, finally has the wall space to hang his extensive collection of art and photography. Sally, an interior designer, claimed the expansive third floor for her office.

The Roebling HouseBeverly and Jason Kidder live in what’s commonly referred to as the Mary Roebling house. (Mary’s husband, Siegfried, was the great-grandson of John Roebling, who built the Brooklyn Bridge.) Mary went on to become president of the Trenton Trust Company and the first woman governor of the American Exchange. By 1957, she was one of the ten richest women in the nation.

The Kidders bought the Craftsman-style bungalow in 1999 and furnished it largely from their shop, the Decorator’s Consignment Gallery in Hopewell. Authentic Craftsman details abound, from the signature triple-square pillars on the wide front porch to chestnut bookcases and intricate woodwork in the second-floor family room. Beverly painted a mural of vines on all four walls of the family room herself. “It’s like living in a tree house,” she says.

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