Drumthwacket of Princeton, New Jersey

354 Stockton St.
Princeton, NJ 08540
(609) 683-0057
The History of Drumthwacket

Sited on land that witnessed the 1777 Princeton battle for American independence, Drumthwacket is the stately home that is today the official residence of the Governor of New Jersey. Drumthwacket is one of the most fabled and elegant of America’s executive residences, and in its history lie the stories of three unique families that made immense contributions to New Jersey’s, and America’s, history.

The property upon which Drumthwacket stands was once owned by William Penn, the Quaker who founded the colony of Pennsylvania. In 1696 William Olden acquired the property; in 1799 Charles Smith Olden was born in the little white homestead by Stockton Street, called Olden House, that had been built forty years earlier.

Charles Smith Olden, who gained his wealth in business ventures in New Orleans, began the construction of Drumthwacket in 1835, possibly using a design by architect Charles Steadman. For its name he borrowed two Scottish Gaelic words that mean “wooded hill”. Including only the generous two-and-a-half story center section as we know it today, it originally consisted of a center hall with two rooms on each side. Typical of the Greek Revival style, the house has a large portico with six detailed Ionic columns.

As a gentleman farmer and businessman, Olden was active in community and political affairs. He was treasurer and Trustee of the College of New Jersey (now Princeton University) from 1844 to 1850. He served as a state senator, and was elected governor in 1860, becoming the first governor to live at Drumthwacket. He was an ardent Libraryopponent of secession and supported throughout the Civil War the leadership provided by President Abraham Lincoln.

Industrialist and banker Moses Taylor Pyne purchased Drumthwacket from Olden’s widow in 1893 for the sum of $15,000, beginning its enlargement and transformation into an estate that surpassed anything previously built in Princeton. His immense wealth enabled him to add both wings to the house, in 1893 and 1900, which were designed by Raleigh C. Gildersleeve, including the magnificent paneled library. He added hundreds of acres to include park-like landscaping, greenhouses, bridle paths, a dairy farm, and formal Italian gardens. Click here to read the complete history of Drumthwacket's gardens.

OfficeA Princeton University graduate, Pyne was a Trustee from 1884 until his death in 1921. An extremely generous benefactor, he influenced the affairs of the University and was intimately involved in the effort to have Woodrow Wilson made President of Princeton University in 1902.

In 1941 Abram Nathaniel Spanel purchased the house and twelve surrounding acres from Pyne’s only grandchild, Agnes. A Russian immigrant, Spanel was an ingenious scientist who had founded the International Latex Corporation. His rubber products were critical to the success of the war effort; his engineering staff lived at Drumthwacket and many of his patented inventions were conceived in Gardenwhat is today the Music Room. The Spanels lived in a modern and less elaborate style; nonetheless, the house continued to be the cultural and intellectual center it had been when the Oldens and Pynes were in residence.

In 1966 the Spanels sold the Drumthwacket estate to the State of New Jersey with the intent that it be used as the official residence of the Governor; however, it was not until 1981 that funds were raised by the New Jersey Historical Society to begin to accomplish the task. In 1982 the Drumthwacket Foundation was formed, accepting the responsibility of restoring, curating and preserving the magnificent house and grounds, which are listed on the National Register of Historic Places.


print page

Copyright © Drumthwacket. All rights reserved.