John Notman: All the Presidents’ Houses

Historic photograph of Prospect House and its gardens, showing two ladies with parasols

Exhibit Info

This Exhibition Is No Longer Showing


John Notman: All the Presidents’ Houses


May 16, 2024 - July 11, 2024


Princeton Room (Lobby for Reunions Weekend, May 23-26)


John Notman, one of the foremost architects in Philadelphia and New Jersey during the first half of the nineteenth century, is well known for his Gothic and Italianate designs of churches, cemeteries, and estates. In the Princeton area, Notman designed four villas which now house the leaders of several of Princeton’s most important institutions, Princeton University and the Princeton Theological Seminary. All of the villas were commissioned by members of the Stockton family. They traced their lineage to the establishment of Princeton, and were considered to be among the most prominent families in the area.

The first generation of influential scholars and industrialists sought to establish their place in 19th-century society. Their John Notman-designed estates were just the thing to convey this. We can draw parallels with the development of wealth and prestige in late Federalist America and Notman’s influence on Andrew Jackson Downing and, later, Frederick Law Olmsted. Notman took a page from his mentor William Henry Playfair in Edinburgh with his Italianate designs, including classical elements such as balustraded balconies and campanile towers. And just like Playfair, he also promoted the early adoption of a Gothic villa design. We can see both of these forms in the following houses, remarkably still standing and occupied in Princeton.

Lowrie House (1848-1849) – home of Princeton University President
Springdale (1851-1852) – home of Princeton Theological Seminary President
Prospect House (1851-1852) – once home of Woodrow Wilson, and other PU presidents
Fieldwood/Guernsey Hall (1853-1855; landscape plan 1846)- home of Allan Marquand, founder of the school of Art & Archeology at Princeton University

New Jersey Council for the Humanities logoThis exhibition was made possible with support from the New Jersey Council for the Humanities, a state partner of the National Endowment for the Humanities.


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