The Livingston Avenue Historic District was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1996. Portions of the content on this web page were adapted from a copy of the original nomination document. [‡] .
A settlement known by various names had been established at New Brunswick since the late 17th century, although the city of New Brunswick was not formally chartered until 1731. Between 1696 and 1723 the settlement was called Inians Ferry, after the ferry that John Inians had established on the banks of the Raritan River at the site of the present-day Albany Street bridge (McCormick 1964:84; New Brunswick Times 1908:10; RAM 1986:16-17; Snyder 1969:171; Wall n.d.).
The city was settled by a variety of ethnic groups, including English, Scots, Scots-Irish, Germans, French Huguenots, and Africans (who were slaves). In addition, a number of Dutch immigrants from Albany, New York, settled there during the 1730s; present-day Albany Street derives its name from this settlement. New Brunswick's 18th century economy was based on its position at the head of deep-water navigation on the Raritan River. During the first quarter of the 18th century, it became an important port and transshipment point between central New Jersey and New York. It remained a port and market town throughout the 1700s and, as trade and commerce increased in the latter half of the 18th century and beginning of the 19th, New Brunswick became the commercial and social hub of the Raritan River valley. By the mid-1820s, steamboats were running regularly along the river with stops in the city (Anonymous 1873:10-11; Barber and Howe 1844:311-312; Gordon 1934:195; Lane 1939:179-199; New Brunswick Times 1908:6; RAM 1986:17-19; Wacker 1982:6).
Both the Delaware and Raritan Canal and the New Jersey Railroad reached New Brunswick in the 1830s. The canal, which ran from the Delaware River near Bordentown to New Brunswick, was chartered in 1830 and completed in 1834. Once it had been established, it became possible to ship goods through to New York without selling or trading at New Brunswick. While the use of the canal as a shipping route contributed to a decline of the city as a transshipment point, it also generated industrial growth, providing the city with large quantities of anthracite coal from Pennsylvania, as well as abundant water power. Railroads, too, helped to make New Brunswick an attractive residence for manufacturers. The New Jersey Railroad was completed between Jersey City and New Brunswick in 1836 and, around 1839, the Camden and Amboy Railroad Company completed a route from Bordentown through Trenton to a connection with the New Jersey Railroad at New Brunswick (Benedict 1925:239; Barber and Howe 1844:310; Lane 1939:274, 290-291; Snyder 1969: map 10; Wall 1931:88-91).
The two main roads in late 17th and early 18th century New Brunswick were the Upper Road (present-day Route 27), which ran to Trenton, and the Lower Road, or George's Road, which ran to Burlington. According to Charles Deshler, the Lower Road diverged from the Upper Road near Inians' Ferry and ran southwesterly to Burlington, where it crossed the Delaware River and rejoined the Upper Road at Bristol (Deshler 1880:4). John Inians improved this road between 1686 and 1695. A portion of present-day Livingston Avenue (approximately from Suydam Street to New Street) was once part of this route. During the late 17th and early 18th centuries, most of New Brunswick's settlement was located near the river, south of Queen Street (present-day Neilson Street) and east of Albany Street. By the mid-18th century, the most important streets in New Brunswick were Albany, Queen, Peace, Burnet, Little Burnet and Water Streets; a few buildings had been established on Church Street as well. The upper class tended to live along Little Burnet Street; most dry goods stores and shipyards were located on Burnet Street; and a number of general stores came to be located on Church Street. The Henry Guest House is the only structure surviving on the avenue from the 18th century (Benedict 1925:17, 62; 1929:167; Clayton 1882:433, 650; New Brunswick Times 1908:26; RAM 1986:18; Wall n.d.; Wall and Pickersgill-1921:293).
In 1804 the Trenton and New Brunswick Straight Turnpike Company was chartered. The turnpike — present-day Livingston Avenue and parts of Route 1 — was completed in 1807. It ran in a fairly straight line from Trenton to New Brunswick, where it intersected George Street, directly connecting these two growing commercial centers. The portion of Livingston Avenue which runs from Suydam Street to Hale Street and beyond was built at this time; the earlier part, between Suydam and George Streets, was subsumed by the turnpike and improved. The turnpike company stayed in operation until the mid-1830s, when the Philadelphia and Trenton Railroad Company, planning to build a railroad along the route, bought up its stock. Only five miles of railroad tracks had been laid down when adverse legislation caused the project to be abandoned. From this time until the late 1860s or early 1870s the road was named Trenton Avenue (Benedict 1925:158-159; Benedict 1929:175-177; Lane 1939:150; New Brunswick Times 1908:34-35; Wall 1931:90; Wall n.d.).
The majority of cross streets along Livingston Avenue were planned and mapped during the 1830s, as part of a real estate venture by Abraham Suydam and his New York partner, James Lorimer Graham. (New Street and Drift Lane, which became Drift Street in 1872, had been laid out in the mid-18th century). In 1836, Suydam and Graham, having bought up most of the farmland within city limits, employed Daniel Ewen to draw up a plan for developing the city. The resulting map was approved in 1837 and, eventually, much of New Brunswick was developed according to its scheme. Suydam and Graham's land speculations, however, were not successful, since their property was heavily mortgaged and taxed, and very little in demand at the time. Livingston Avenue's cross streets were not laid out and officially opened until the middle of the century (mostly during the 1850s and 1860s), when more and more industries were being established in the city. Around 1870 the avenue finally acquired its present name, in honor of Dr. John H. Livingston, a former president of Rutgers College who owned property on the avenue (New Brunswick Times 1908:35 37; Benedict 1925:194-195, 1929:178-179).
In the mid and late 1800s New Brunswick's economy changed and, accordingly, so did its residential and commercial neighborhoods. By the 1870s, the city was known for manufacturing rubber goods, wallpaper, hosiery, shoes, carriages and machinery. Noxious fumes were produced by the rubber industry and, in general, the development of factories transformed the waterfront area into a less and less desirable residential neighborhood. The city's industries were established near the canal, between Water and Neilson Streets, but its commercial center shifted from Hiram Market, near the river, to George Street between Livingston Avenue and Albany Street, The city's population also changed during this time, increasing dramatically from 11,300 people in 1860 to 17,000 in 1873. Many of these new residents were Irish and German immigrants who worked in, and lived near, the city's factories (Benedict 1925:239; Lane 1939:274; McCormick 1980:v-vi; New Brunswick Times 190:35-36, 42).
The development of New Brunswick followed the course of most American cities at the turn of the 20th century. The continued migration out of the center city in the direction established during the last quarter of the nineteenth century was a pattern that had completely reshaped most cities by 1920. This movement was hastened by the industrialization of older parts of the city and the resulting pollution and slums (Barnett 1986:107). The financial district generally remained the core of the older city while small office buildings, department stores, and theaters grew beyond the core. Continuing outward, but in the same sector, grew the midtown area, a mixture of hotels, office buildings, shops, and often, universities. Typically, beyond an established boundary grew the fashionable city neighborhoods.
Though on a much smaller scale, New Brunswick's development assumed this same configuration. The "downtown" district sits along the Raritan and is bisected by the Pennsylvania Railroad line. With the arrival of the manufacturing industries, the wealthy began constructing large houses to the southeast, past George Street (the established early/mid 19th century boundary) toward Mill Run Creek. Livingston Avenue, which runs perpendicular to the Raritan River, was the widest and longest street, and became in the 1880s, the new prestigious address of New Brunswick's upper class. Far enough away from the manufacturing district, close enough to the commercial center of the town, and within walking distance from the railroad, it was a desirable residence for many of the city's most noted people. Local businessmen and professionals, as well as wealthy New York bankers and merchants, built houses along the wide avenue. By the turn of the century, middle class as well as upper class individuals had populated the street.
Contributing to the spread of New Brunswick's urban center and the ensuing migration of the population outward from the "downtown" was the transition into the automobile age. It was the automobile and the construction of local trolley lines which allowed for the development of the Livingston Avenue Historic District. Scattered throughout the district are numerous carriage houses and garages which remain as a testament to this transition.
As more people migrated away from the downtown area, greater need arose for commercial and service buildings closer to the residential Livingston neighborhood. These buildings were primarily constructed in the intermediate zone which lies between the downtown and the Livingston district. Specifically, along George Street and down Livingston past Monument and New Streets to Morris Street. Above Morris Street on Livingston sits the 1925 Elks Lodge building. Above New Street to George Street are a 1920s hotel, theater, and YMCA, and a 1924 small office building.
Within the Livingston Avenue Historic District, several buildings were constructed between 1900 and 1929. These buildings, however, were not commercial structures, but were residential support buildings and public institutions that contributed to the area's quality of life. In 1903 the public library was erected from contributions of Andrew Carnegie. Sixteen years later the Roosevelt School replaced the 1876 Italianate school building. The United Church of Christ was raised in 1929. During the 1920s, large apartment houses had become fashionable residences in cities and were being rapidly constructed across the northeastern United States. Most often, these apartment houses were designed in the popular revival styles of the period, incorporating restrained facades, and familiar interior axial plans. With the rapid swell in population, two of the Livingston Avenue Historic District's large apartment houses were constructed, the Livingston Manor, and its neighbor across the street, the Brunswick Arms. These apartment houses represent the final period of development within the district and stand as intact examples of the use of the Classical Revival style in the popular multi-residential structures. With its classic brick facade with terra cotta highlights, and its intact interior lobby and corridors, the Livingston Manor stands as a good representative example of the Classical Revival style. It is interesting to note that the exteriors of these larger 20th century structures individually retain a very high degree of integrity with minimal alterations.
As the area above the Mill Run Creek surrounding the Livingston district developed to capacity, surrounding neighborhoods in New Brunswick began developing within the established boundaries. To the west, above the railroad line and southwest of the Mill Run Creek grew Franklin Township. Below the rail line, and along Mill Run, North Brunswick Township sprouted. Across the Raritan, Piscataway Township and Highland Park expanded.
Population growth steadily continued in the first thirty years of the 20th century, with a notable spurt occurring between 1910 and 1920, as confirmed by historical census information. The 1900 federal census recorded a population of 20,006 for New Brunswick. Between 1900 and 1905 the number rose by slightly more than 3,000 persons. The period between 1905 and 1910 yielded a negligible increase with the number being 23,388. During the 1910 to 1920 period, however, a burst of nearly 10,000 additional persons were recorded with the count being 32,006. In other words, the population grew by almost 50% in a ten year period. This surge prompted the swift construction of the numerous large residential and commercial buildings in the district and in New Brunswick during this period. Population growth then tapered, with the onset of the Depression which all but halted the construction industry in New Brunswick and in cities across America. The 1930 federal census recorded a population of New Brunswick of 34,545.
Livingston Avenue, and New Brunswick, were dramatically affected following World War II when Route 1 was constructed to the east of the city, drawing traffic off of the avenue and from the center of town. The avenue's character, which had begun to change in the 1920s (see discussion below) firmly shifted from that of a well-regarded middle and upper-class address to an urban street of primarily offices and apartments.
Persons Significant to the District
In the 1870s Livingston Avenue was an abode of the privileged. By 1929 it was still their home, but they had been joined by many of the middle class. The occupations of the avenue's residents during the intervening years indicate that it had gradually shifted from the home primarily of the wealthy in the latter three decades of the 19th century, to a mixed neighborhood of wealthy, professional and middle class individuals during the first three decades of the 20th century.
The three pre-1880 residences surviving in the Livingston Avenue Historic District — the Henry Guest House (58 Livingston Avenue), the Edwin Elberson House (90 Livingston Avenue) and the Jacob W. Janeway House (184 Livingston Avenue) — were constructed, and occupied in the 1870s, by men of wealth. Edward S. Vail, who owned the Guest House in the 1870s and 1880s, was a New York attorney. Janeway, who built his Italianate style house around 1875, was associated with the enormous Janeway paper hangings manufactory. And Elberson, who probably raised his towered Italianate villa around 1875, was a businessman and rubber manufacturer. Also standing in the district in the 1870s were two dwellings that have since been razed. The Van Dyke House, an immense dwelling that stood on the southeast side of the avenue between Suydam and Seaman Streets, was raised around 1870; it was designed by architect Frank Lent (Listokin 1984:351-352,476-477). A mansion labeled the Millard F. Ross House in a 1908 publication, the Second Empire style of which indicates a pre-1880 construction date, stood at the northeast corner of the avenue and Townsend Street (New Brunswick Times 1908:17). Ross was a wholesale coal dealer.
These residences were followed in the 1880s by houses that were also constructed or occupied by men of substance. In that decade dwellings were raised by the following men: Alfred J. Buttler, a sash and blind manufacturer (77 Livingston Avenue); David Fitz Randolph Runyon (99 Livingston Avenue), co-owner of a wholesale grocery concern; Peter H. Suydam (67 Livingston Avenue), owner of a grocery; Stephen Howell, a lumber dealer (61 Livingston Avenue); James Holman, owner of a building concern (103 Livingston Avenue); Robert M. Pettit, a New York businessman (144 Livingston Avenue); James Deshler (151/153 Livingston Avenue), a vice president of a rubber company; and two attorneys, Charles H. Runyon (155 Livingston Avenue) and Henry B. Cook (59 Livingston Avenue). Pettit and Charles H. Runyon were listed among New Brunswick's "prominent people" in 1908 (New Brunswick Times 1908:112, 116). Pettit was also a director of the New Brunswick Trust Company and a manager of the New Brunswick Savings Institution. Deshler was the president of the New Brunswick Trust Company, and on the funding committee and a manager of the New Brunswick Savings Institution. Peter P. Runyon was a director of the National Bank of New Jersey. All in all, they were substantial figures in the community.
Some individuals who were likely of more modest means were also living on the avenue in the 1880s. A conductor with the Pennsylvania Railroad, Alfred V. Bergen (183 Livingston Avenue), had raised his Colonial Revival style house by about 1888. John B. Drury (86/88)Livingston Avenue, the editor of a Christian publication, was renting half of the eclectically styled townhouse he was later to own.
By the 1890s more members of the middle class had moved to the avenue. Insurance agent Nelson T. Parker (109 Livingston Avenue), salesman Andrew Terhune (149 Livingston Avenue), bookkeeper and accountant Jasper F. Cropsey (57 Livingston Avenue) and real estate salesman Joseph Fisher (161 Livingston Avenue), built houses on the avenue during the decade. They were joined by, among others, Rev. Alan H. Campbell (146 Livingston Avenue), and Byron D. Halstead and Ralph Booth, a Rutgers College professor and a factory manager who occupied a double-house (121/123 Livingston Avenue).
Owners and professionals still predominated during the decade, however. In the 1890s the owner of a jewelry business, William A. Miller, Jr. (173 Livingston Avenue), and businessmen from Jersey City and New York City, John A. Dixon (191 Livingston Avenue) and L.D. Lindley (193 Livingston Avenue), built houses on the avenue. They were joined, at houses that had changed hands, by the owner of a wholesale coal company (Millard F. Ross, 77 Livingston Avenue), a brick manufacturer (William F. Fisher, 109 Livingston Avenue) and a wholesale leather dealer from New York ( Robert M. Clare, 142 Livingston Avenue). Millard F. Ross, along with wholesaling coal, was additionally a director of both the New Brunswick Fire Insurance Company and the New Brunswick Trust Company. Also in the decade, two more lawyers (W. Edwin Florance, 187 Livingston Avenue and H. Brewster Willis, 185 Livingston Avenue) and a civil engineer (George W. Kuehnle, 137 Livingston Avenue) built houses on the avenue. One of the lawyers, W. Edwin Florance, was mayor of New Brunswick from 1908 to 1910 and a director of the New Brunswick National Bank.
Most of the new dwellings built on the avenue between 1900 and 1920 were still raised by owners and professionals. Occupations of residents on the avenue during these decades, however, indicate that it had become more mixed economically. In 1903 Frank L. Hindle, a dentist (131 Livingston Avenue), built a Colonial Revival style house on the avenue. He was joined at existing dwellings by five doctors, three lawyers, a prosecutor, a veterinarian and an electrical engineer. Hindle and one of the doctors, William M. Moore (75 Livingston Avenue), were listed among the city's prominent men (New Brunswick Times 1908:112, 113). The co-owners of a wholesale coal company, the brothers Harry Ross (152 Livingston Avenue) and Robert E. Ross (156 Livingston Avenue), built immense eclectically fashioned residences next door to each other in 1907. The following year a brick manufacturer, Alexander W. Pettit (175 Livingston Avenue), and the proprietor of a business college, John W. Wilson (177 Livingston Avenue), raised their homes. In 1911 Otto O. Stillman (111 Livingston Avenue), the owner of a jewelry business and a director of the People's National Bank, built his house on the avenue. Moving to the avenue in the 1910s were H.J. Rolfe (187 Livingston Avenue), the president of a building materials company; Peter P. Runyon (99 Livingston Avenue), the co-owner of a wholesale grocery concern; Charles D. Ross (173 Livingston Avenue), the vice president of the Middlesex Guarantee and Trust Company, and secretary and director of the New Brunswick Fire Insurance Company; Adolph Hanauer (86/88 Livingston Avenue), the owner of a grocery; and Chester W. Wood (137 Livingston Avenue), the branch manager of Swift & Company. Stillman, Rolfe, Runyon and Wood were among the city's "prominent people" in 1908 (New Brunswick Times 1908:111, 113, 114, 117). Runyon was also a director of the National Bank of New Jersey.
Individuals more likely of the middle class who built houses in the district during the first two decades of the century included William O. Pettit (186 Livingston Avenue), a baker; Solomon Slonim (182 Livingston Avenue), a jeweler and silversmith; and Garrett Dreier (163/165 Livingston Avenue), whose business was sporting goods. They were joined by a superintendent of a life insurance company (71/73 Livingston Avenue); a tailor (90 Livingston Avenue); and two reverends (149 and 175 Livingston Avenue).
By 1929, although still quite a fashionable address, the avenue was no longer an address predominantly of owners and professionals. Many middle class individuals were living in its houses and some offices and boarding houses had appeared, as well as two major apartment buildings. Owners of businesses and "prominent" men continued to live there, as did no fewer than five lawyers and seven doctors. They were joined at the houses, however, by a deputy marshal, a tailor, a salesman, a sealer of weights and measures, two real estate salesman, a foreman, a baker, a letter of rooms, a singer, the proprietor of a boarding house, a clerk, a foreman and a salesman, among others. Additionally, there were numerous individuals, few if any of whom were likely of the upper class, who lived in the Brunswick Arms Apartments and the Livingston Manor, both of which were raised at the close of the decade. The only house built within the Livingston Avenue Historic District in the 1920s appears to have been built around 1929 by Harry Grossman, whose business was listed as "clothing" in the city directory.
The Depression and World War II effectively ended building activity on the avenue for more than 15 years. By the end of the War, the avenue's present pattern of use was set. The first floors of the residences were converted into professional offices; the upstairs floors in residential use, converted into apartments.
Architectural Significance of the District
The properties of the Livingston Avenue Historic District span the major American architectural styles of the late 19th and early 20th century. They represent the Italianate, Second Empire, Richardsonian Romanesque, Queen Anne, Eastlake, Beaux Arts, Gothic Revival, Colonial Revival and Neo-Classical Revival, as well as the transitions in between. The only important style that is not represented in the district is the Bungalow style; the less popular Period Revival style is also essentially absent. The major non-residential properties have retained their setting and forms and have been little altered through the years. Many of them are fine examples of, and embody the distinctive characteristics of, a number of styles, most notably the Richardsonian Romanesque, Queen Anne, Beaux Arts, Neo-Classical Revival and Gothic Revival. The residential properties have also retained their setting and forms and many original details, which are most heavily concentrated at porches, roofs, shingling and chimneys. Many of the residences have, however, been altered by the addition of aluminum or vinyl siding and new sash. As a whole, though, the residences along with the non-residential properties embody the distinctive characteristics of the prevalent styles of the late 19th and early 20th century, particularly the Italianate, Queen Anne and Colonial Revival and the transitions between them.
The earliest styles surviving on the avenue are the Italianate and Second Empire. The distinctive mansard roof of the Second Empire is found at the Moore-Saulsberry House, probably built in the 1870s; the circa 1887 John B. Drury House (86/88 Livingston Avenue); and the ell of the circa 1880 Alfred J. Buttler House (77 Livingston Avenue). Italianate style features, such as crossetted or entablature-topped surrounds, and eaves underpinned by panels and brackets, are found in differing combinations at the circa 1870 Jacob W. Janeway House (184 Livingston Avenue); the circa 1875 Edwin Elberson House (90 Livingston Avenue); the circa 1883 Peter H. Suydam House (67 Livingston Avenue); and the circa 1880 Buttler House (77 Livingston Avenue). The latter two houses are particularly notable later examples of the style, the Suydam House for its brick corbeling and the Buttler House for its floriated brackets.
The eclectic nature of American architectural design late in the 19th and early in the 20th century is well expressed at the Buttler and Drury Houses. The Buttler House features Queen Anne style bays, varied Eastlake style panels and Victorian floral ornamentation, along with its Italianate brackets and rear mansard roof. Its southwest porch, adorned with floriated brackets, turned posts and a balustrade with a repeated, cutout, floral motif, is perhaps the finest Victorian porch in New Brunswick (Heritage Studies 1980:7A-I33). In addition to its mansard roof, the Drury House features such Italianate and Victorian style eclectic adornment as a rusticated stone basement; projecting bays; metal cresting; pilastered, paneled and bracketed dormers; incised brownstone imposts; brick segmental arches; and inset segmental-arched and paneled front doors.
Many houses retain the distinctive forms of the Queen Anne style — projecting bays, stepped-back facades, varied rooflines, towers — even though they have been aluminum-sided or have had their sash replaced. As a whole, they are a catalog of the style's most common elements. These forms, and others, are found at such houses as the mid-1880s Byron D. Halstead House (121/123 Livingston Avenue); the circa 1885 David Fitz Randolph Runyon House (99 Livingston Avenue); the circa 1887 Robert M. Pettit House (144 Livingston Avenue); the circa 1888 H. Brewster Willis House (185 Livingston Avenue); the circa 1889 James Deshler House (151/153 Livingston Avenue); the circa 1890 Nelson T. Parker House (109 Livingston Avenue); the circa 1890 Andrew Terhune House (149 Livingston Avenue); and the circa 1897 John A. Dixon House (191 Livingston Avenue). Packer's house has a wood and slate shingled tower, a picturesque roofline and a bayed and stepped-back facade. The semi-octagonal tower of the Pettit House is a noteworthy example of that popular Queen Anne style motif. The curved, shingled, dynamic gables of the Halstead House, along with the turned posts and fan-like carved brackets and sunburst ornament of its porch, are also fine examples of elements of the style. The wooden stringcourses and panels of the Terhune and Dixon houses are also understated examples of the Eastlake style that often accompanied the Queen Anne.
The most vibrant and picturesque example of Queen Anne style architecture in the Livingston Avenue Historic District is the circa 1893 brick carriage house that stands behind the Nelson T. Parker House (109 Livingston Avenue). It is probably the most ornate and largest carriage house in New Brunswick (Heritage Studies 1980:7A 18). Although converted into apartments, it retains its varied wall and roof surfaces and materials, including a pointed tower, slate shingles and rough hewn stone stringcourses and details.
The former Livingston Avenue Catholic Church (80 Livingston Avenue), built in 1894, is the only example of the Richardsonian Romanesque style on the avenue and, essentially, in the city (Listokin 1984:306-307). It is a fine example of the style. Faced with the rusticated stones, and pierced by the rounded Romanesque arches, that define the style, the church has two round corner towers and a large central rose window. Jersey City architect Louis H. Giele designed the building and Tiffany is credited with designing the baptistery window.
The merger of the Queen Anne style with the Colonial Revival, a common occurrence at the close of the 19th century and the opening of the 20th, is also well represented in the Livingston Avenue Historic District. Among the houses that illustrate the mingling of the Queen Annes' bays and varied roofs and wall surfaces with the Colonial Revival's columns and dormers and Palladian windows are the circa 1883 Charles H. Runyon House (155 Livingston Avenue); the circa 1893 William A. Miller Jr. House; the circa 1893 E. Edwin Florance House (187 Livingston Avenue); the circa 1899 L.D. Lindley House (193 Livingston Avenue); and the circa 1911 Otto O. Stillman House (111 Livingston Avenue).
The two most illustrative examples of the merger of the styles are the Harry Ross House (152 Livingston Avenue) and the Robert E. Ross House (156 Livingston Avenue). The two largest residences in the Livingston Avenue Historic District, they were raised side by side around 1907 by two brothers. The two large corner bays of the largely similar buildings are their most prominent Queen Anne style features. Their other decorative features, predominantly Colonial Revival in style with perhaps some early Bungalow, include Ionic porch posts; large hipped roofs; dormers; front entries enframed by Doric pilasters; oversized exposed rafters; and buff colored brick foundations and chimneys. The Harry Ross House features a wraparound porch supported by Ionic columns. A monumental, two-story, Neo-Classical Revival style, Doric portico rises at the front facade of the Robert E. Ross House. This is the only pronounced Neo-Classical Revival style feature found at the district's residences. The terra cotta pilasters of the circa 1928 Livingston Manor are an example of the style at a considerably larger residential structure, one of the district's two apartment buildings.
The Neo-Classical Revival style is also found, not surprisingly, at the avenue's largest public building, the 1919 Roosevelt Intermediate School (83 Livingston Avenue). A massive masonry building, the school is fronted by a monumental portico of four Ionic columns. Another common style of architecture for public buildings of the period — the Beaux Arts — is handsomely represented at the 1903 New Brunswick Free Public Library (60 Livingston Avenue), which was designed by George K. Parsell. Virtually unaltered both outside and inside, the library features the rusticated raised basement, full-height columns and other classical regalia — particularly a triangular pediment complete with classically robed figures — common to the style. Inside it retains its original metal shelves, a vaulted coffered ceiling with stained glass skylights and paneled Doric piers. Columns and piers, and their classical associations, were certainly viewed as appropriate by the city fathers for these two temples of knowledge.
Many of the Livingston Avenue Historic District's later residences utilized the Colonial Revival style. Taken together, they suggest many varieties of its expression. The style is largely found at the residences raised from the very end of the 19th century into the early teens. Primarily found at the southwest end of the district, these residences illustrate not only a popular style, but the continued movement and development of New Brunswick out from the Raritan. Among the typical Colonial Revival style features of the district's residences are the front and side gable dormers, fluted pilasters and Ionic capitals of the circa 1896 Joseph Fisher House (161 Livingston Avenue); the semicircular and triangular pedimented dormers of the circa 1903 Frank L. Hindle House (131 Livingston Avenue); the Ionic porch columns, hipped roof and gabled dormers of the circa 1908 John W. Wilson House (177 Livingston Avenue); the deep gambrel roof, pent eaves and large dormers of the circa 1909 William O. Pettit House (186 Livingston Avenue); and the Doric porch columns, pent eaves and Palladian windows of the circa 1912 Garrett Dreier House (163/165 Livingston Avenue). The front gambrel roof of the circa 1895 Alan H. Campbell House (146 Livingston Avenue) marks it as the only Dutch Colonial Revival style house in the district, perhaps odd in an area where Dutch-settlement surnames still abounded.
The Livingston Avenue Historic District's single-family and double-family residences were joined just prior to 1930 by two H-shaped, brick apartment buildings raised across the avenue from each other — Livingston Manor (116 Livingston Avenue) and the Brunswick Arms Apartments (119 Livingston Avenue). With the onset of the Great Depression and then World War II they were the last major buildings raised in the district. Both buildings are large structures rising five stories above raised basements. The brick facade of the circa 1928 Livingston Manor is modestly finished, its adornment provided by four fluted, engaged terra cotta columns and a terra cotta entablature draped with swags at its entrance. Terra cotta belt courses embellish each elevation above the 1st and 5th stories. A variety of original window types exist including 10/1, 6/1, 1/1 wooden double hung windows, as well as paired casement windows. The brickwork of the circa 1929 Brunswick Arms Apartments is quite elaborate. The corners and tops of its front elevation and bays are marked by projecting stretchers and projecting glazed headers mark its front bays. Further adornment is provided by the decorative grillwork of its front fire escapes.
The final historic style handsomely represented in the Livingston Avenue Historic District is the Gothic Revival of the Livingston Avenue United Church of Christ (120 Livingston Avenue). Built in 1929, the stone building displays the arches and tracery of the style in molded concrete.
Integrity of the District
The Livingston Avenue Historic District survives as an intact and representative example of a late 19th/early 20th century, upper/middle class neighborhood which as an entity characterizes the growth and development of New Brunswick and thus meets National Register criterion. The district is distinctive in character and coherence, distinguishing it from the smaller, more modest houses in New Brunswick's northwest and southeast neighborhoods, from the modern houses in the southwest part of the city, and from the commercial buildings in the city's northeast corridor. The Livingston Avenue Historic District embodies the distinctive characteristics of several periods of construction and a number of architectural styles, and therefore, meets National Register criterion.
The Livingston Avenue Historic District possesses integrity of location, design, setting, materials, workmanship, and association. The buildings within the district retain a high degree of integrity aside from some modern upgrades such as aluminum siding, modern roofing materials, and modern window replacements. Although some of the district's resources lack individual distinction, primarily due to alterations in cladding and fenestration, they attain significance when viewed as a whole. Virtually all important American architectural styles from 1870 through 1930 are represented in the district. Some are represented by a particularly fine individual example, others are represented by a group of properties that, as a whole, exhibit their characteristics. The major non-residential buildings are remarkably intact and little altered. The residential buildings retain their overall form and scale and retain many of their original architectural details. For instance, the Italianate style residences are distinguishable by their brackets and corbels; the Second Empire by their mansard roofs; the Queen Anne by their L-shaped plan, turrets and bays; the Colonial Revival by their columns and pediments, dormers, and Palladian windows. A high standard of workmanship in original design continues to be evident in the porches, chimneys, and brickwork.
In addition, the Livingston Avenue Historic District possesses a high degree of integrity of setting. The district's location, along a wide, tree-lined busy thoroughfare, near the downtown has been preserved. Several objects such as the iron fences and carriage stepping stone clearly speak of the period of significance. The numerous carriage houses and garages reflect the transformation into the automobile age. Livingston Avenue continues to be one of New Brunswick's premier addresses. It remains an avenue of varied use with churches, a school, a library, and buildings that house offices, apartments, and single family dwellings.
Finally, the Livingston Avenue Historic District possesses integrity of association. The resources of the district are directly associated with the people who were instrumental in its development. The upper class establishment of substantial, architecturally distinguished houses remain as a testament to the first campaign of building, and the subsequent construction of middle class houses at the turn-of-the-century including the later apartment buildings clearly depicts the evolution of the district from large single family residences to fashionable multi-family dwellings.
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‡ Marvin A. Brown, revised by Cynthia A. Rose, Noble Preservation Services, Inc., Livingston Avenue Historic District, Middlesex County, New Jersey, nomination document, 1994, National Park Service, National Register of Historic Places, Washington, D.C.
Livingston Avenue • Morris Street