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Cranbury Township

Middlesex County, New Jersey

Cranbury Town Hall is located at 23 North Main Street, Cranbury NJ 08512.
Phone: 609‑395‑0544.

Neighborhoods

The Drexel-Govett Historic District [†] consists of several dense blocks of mostly residential rowhouses located in West Philadelphia between 39th Street and 40th Street, bounded by Baltimore Avenue at the south and Delancey Street at the north.

Built in the late nineteenth century during the heyday of West Philadelphia development, this area is a valuable component of the "Streetcar District" history. The buildings have remained residential (the only exception is identified below), serving today as apartments for University of Pennsylvania students and others. They reveal the considerations of the noted developers and architects of their day for style, size and continuity in the neighborhood. The southern border of the Drexel-Govett Historic District is defined by the convergence of Woodland and Baltimore Avenues and the trolley line running along the north side of the Woodlands Cemetery. Flanked on the east and north by institutional buildings, and on the west by two-family twin houses, the Drexel-Govett Historic District serves the same purpose today as it did in the 1880s: high-density housing along public transportation for a growing neighborhood with a high standard of architectural qualities.

Anthony J. Drexel is well known in Philadelphia history as one of the primary bankers in the United States. Annesley R. Govett's first two names appear to be interchangeable. He is listed as Robert A. Govett and also Annesley R. Govett. He was a lumber merchant and a builder involved in three major projects between 1868 and 1878.

The Delancey Street brick rowhouses are in the Second Empire style. Most distinctively are the mansard roofs on the houses. A few existing roof materials suggest that they were originally roofed with fishscale slate. The third floor windows in the mansards are pedimented with brackets, and the wood cornices are incised with decorative star shapes. All windows and doors have stone sills and lintels, and where original trim can be seen, it is carved with consoles. Front doors had transoms, but it does not appear that any original windows or doors remain. Nearly all the houses presently have shutters, but it is clear from the variety that most have been replaced or added later. The shutter hinges appear to be original

and intact.

The twin buildings at 301 and 303 S. 40th Street are also designed in the Second Empire style but constructed of fieldstone rather than the rowhouse brick. They have a similar cutwork pattern in the cornice trim, but the doors and windows have arched lintels.

The remaining buildings fronting 40th Street and the twins on Baltimore Avenue (Nos. 3949-51 and 3953-55) are also Italianate or Second Empire and constructed of stone. This is in keeping with the many Italianate and Second Empire twin houses in the immediate vicinity, particularly Woodland Terrace south of Baltimore Avenue. The 1865 twin Italianate mixed-use property at 421 40th Street has been attributed to the builder George W. Allen and architect Samuel Sloan.

The Pine Street red brick row houses on the north side are high-style late-Victorian structures with neo-Greco elements. All have arched stone lintels over doors and windows with ornate incised carving. The cornices are heavily bracketed. Several front doors attest to an arched two-panel style door.

The rowhouses built by Drexel on the south side of Pine and the north side of Baltimore are in the Queen Anne style. Their distinctive features include decorative metal cornices, three decorative brick courses delineating the floors, flat stone lintels and sills on doors and windows, carved wood frames around doors and windows, stone basements up to about 4 feet, decorative ironwork over the basement windows, and transoms over the front doors. Some of the details are similar between the two streets, but other features are different, probably reflecting a slightly more ostentatious fa´┐Żade on Baltimore Avenue than on Pine Street. Curiously at 3937 and 3939 the two patterns were reversed on first and second floors. All the rowhouses on Pine and Baltimore had brackets with finials separating the individual homes, and on Baltimore Avenue, a brick pier between every pair of homes. All of the row houses are mirrored pairs, i.e. the front doors are paired. in Two semi-detached structures, 3949-51 and 3953-55, on the 3900 block of Baltimore Avenue, attributed to Samuel Sloan (1865), are Second Empire, built of stone, similar to the corner twin buildings at 401 and 403 S. 40th Street. The district's residences were constructed over the course of two decades and demonstrate the evolution of architectural style from the earlier Italianate/neo-Grec and Second Empire buildings to the later Queen Anne aesthetic. The Drexel- Govett Historic District provides a glimpse into the nineteenth-century speculative development occurring throughout West Philadelphia by two notable architects/firms: Samuel Sloan and G. W. and W. D. Hewitt.

While contained within only a few small blocks in West Philadelphia, the Drexel-Govett Historic District provides a significant reflection of the larger development patterns that spread west from the Schuylkill River. This particular development showcases the transition of styles from the earlier Italianate, neo-Grec, and Second Empire buildings of the 1860s and '70s to the high Victorian Queen Anne architecture popularized throughout Spruce Hill. Financed by one of West Philadelphia's most prominent individuals, Anthony J. Drexel, along with lesser-known developer Annesley R. Govett, the district features two of Philadelphia's most talented architects and firms: Samuel Sloan and G. W. and W. D. Hewitt. The Drexel-Govett Historic District merits listing on the Philadelphia Register of Historic Places for its association with two significant individuals and their shaping of the West Philadelphia environment (Criterion A); the distinguishing characteristics and architectural styles embodied by each row and individual structure (Criterion D); and the prominent architects who designed those buildings.

Adapted from: University City Historical Society, Drexel=Govett Historic District, nomination document revisions of 1982 nomination, 2022, National Park Service, National Register of Historic Places, Washington, D.C.

Nearby Towns: East Windsor Twp • Hightstown Boro • Monroe Twp • Plainsboro Twp • Robbinsville Twp • Roosevelt Boro • West Windsor Twp •